I think it’s important for Tom to be happy and close to his daughter. I think his being happy will keep our daughter and me happy. So I am willing to move, and I think I will love the West Coast. The problem now is that my parents will only get to see our daughter when/if we’re able to fly her out for summer vacation with them. I know my mom is hurt. She has made the eight-hour drive to us many times and us to her. She loves our daughter and is broken by the thought of her being so far away.
Am I right to want to make this move with my husband? How do I convince my parents it will be ok? None of us are rich, and flights and trips are not easy to do. I know we struggle now, but for the love of my husband and “my red-headed step-child,” I am willing to try and make it on the West Coast. Who knows — maybe things will be better there. Any advice or tips? — Stepmom Going the Distance
Well, yes, of course you’re “right” to want your husband to be physically close to his daughter. But there are several things you need to think about and discuss — and, frankly, convincing your parents that whatever decision you make is “ok” really shouldn’t be the top priority; you’re a grown adult with a family of your own. THEY are your priority. That said, of course it’s beneficial to your daughter to be driving distance from her grandparents. And it’s beneficial to her to have stability in her life and not have to be yanked around every few years to follow wherever her half-sister is being moved to. Why is your husband’s ex moving again after just a few years, and why is she moving to the other side of the country? Does she or her partner have a job that will require continued moves? If they get to the West Coast and decide, for whatever reason, they don’t like it, are you going to immediately follow them wherever they move to next? Might it make more sense to give them six to twelve months to get settled and make sure they’re going to stay put before following them out there?
As for your parents, are they in a position where they might be able to move to be closer to you? If they’re retired or close to retirement, maybe moving with you could be a solution. If that isn’t a possibility, I think your idea to send your daughter to be with them in the summer is a good one. I grew up moving around every few years and I never lived in the same country as my grandparents (until I started college), but I spent every summer with them, and, because of that, I was very close to them. Maintaining relationships across great distances is challenging, but it can be done. Technology makes it especially easier to keep in touch and have “face time” with long-distance loved ones in a way we weren’t able to have years ago. Maybe the person you need to convince that it’s “going to be ok” is you, and to that all I can say is that it will be. You’ll figure out a way to make it work.
I do want to caution you about taking this out on your stepdaughter, though. A few phrases and comments in your letter sound suspiciously like little jabs, and I’m not sure if it’s a matter of tone being lost in translation or if there’s a current of resentment you’re aiming toward her. This situation is NOT her fault. She’s just an 8-year-old girl whose parents are no longer together, and she’s being shuttled to different homes around the country. This is all probably hardest for her. Please remain compassionate and loving with her, and remember that if she had her choice, she’d probably like to live in one home with both parents and not have to keep moving around. But, just like it will be for all of you, it’s going to be ok for her, too — as long as everyone continues treating one another with respect and making the kids’ needs a top priority.
Their story was heartbreaking to me, as I myself was taken away from my father from a young age and only had the chance to see him once before he passed away. It took a lot of time for me to accept his passing and to correct my “daddy issues.”
I was very excited for their reunion, helped him get her birthday gifts, and pitched ideas for fun activities to do. I’m a planner by nature; I like to have events organized and wanted to make these as fun as possible so that the little girl develops fond memories and feels excited for future outings with him and me. However, I noticed that my husband wanted to come up with ideas on his own, and I found that he would only include me in his plans at the last second or inform me at the last minute that he was going to be seeing her.
Likewise, he and his ex would exchange messages and not mention them to me at all or not unless I asked if there was any news from them. I started feeling like I’m a nuisance, like a third wheel. I don’t know if it’s the pregnancy hormones that are hitting the sensitivity button, but I’m feeling rejected by him, and I feel like I don’t belong. I just want to feel included in his plans. I try my best to make his life easier and in return I feel like he doesn’t care.
Am I being selfish? Unsupportive? Jealous? I feel horrible for the way I feel–I just want all of us to be happy. I know his daughter loves spending time with him alone, which is understandable since she missed him for seven years. — Feeling Rejected
I think the last ten sentences of your letter here are key. This little girl is only now being reconnected with the father she hasn’t seen in seven years. If she was two when they separated, I doubt she has any memory of him at all. They certainly must not have much of a relationship. Please, let them connect and bond and form a relationship on their own terms, without your help for now. It’s really sweet that you want to be such a part of this period, but it isn’t about you. It isn’t about somehow getting a re-do of your own childhood and the issues of abandonment you felt with your own father. This is about your partner and his daughter and their need to figure out where they stand with each other now, after what I’m sure has been a challenging seven years for both of them, likely filled with hurt feelings, confusion, and sadness. Let them work through those feelings. There will be room for you. There will be room for your baby-to-be. But right now they need space that belongs solely to them, the two of them, to figure out what it means to be father and daughter, what they mean to each other, before they figure out how you and a baby will fit into the relationship.
Related: If you truly feel like your partner doesn’t care that you try making his life easier — if that feeling expands beyond this situation with his reunion with his daughter, then you need to get to the bottom of that, stat. Have you always felt that way? Even before you were pregnant? If so, I’d say this isn’t about pregnancy hormones. But if this feeling is limited to the introduction of his daughter into your lives, then I’d suggest this is really about your feeling jealous and a little selfish, and you need to nip it in the bud, pronto.
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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.