Dear Dr. Love, I have a question for you. . and I hope somehow you can give me some helpful advice. I live in the Northeast part of the US. . . and have been divorced for 7 years. I raised my beautiful daughter all my myself. . . . and shared custody of her with her mom (who lives only 10 miles away)I’ve been very lonely. . . . devoting my whole life to my precious daughter. I have no family left. . . my dad died several years ago from cancer and my mom died when I was only 13 months old.I tried the online dating service called ‘The One and Only’. After a year of not too many ‘hits’ a woman from Washington state wrote me. At first I nearly dismissed her because she told me she was still married but considering divorce. She told me that her husband was never home (always travelling all over due to his job and their relationship died years ago)I took a chance and developed a friendship. . . . eventually she got the courage to divorce him and she moved all the way to my town in the northeast. She has 2 kids (5 yr old girl 7 yr old boy) and the dad moved to within 50 miles of us so he could see his kids.We dated 6 months and really cared for each other and decided to marry. . . and did.I had a lot of reservations with her kids. My daughter is 10 and quiet. . . her kids are nice but very precocious. My daughter is starting to like her but my wife at times gets miffed at the pressure of her kids and sometimes snaps at my daughter. My daughter gives it right back. My daughter never used to be like this. . .This fall my wife decided to let the kids live with their dad because they wanted to and wanted to go to school where he lives because they disliked the school in my town. Now she misses them since she sees them only Fri nite, Saturday and the dad picks them up on Sundays at 7.My problem is this: She feels that I give my daughter more attention than her kids. . . she expects me to give to hers whatever I give to mine. I disagree. She even told her ex to stop child support (which was a big mistake) it shifts the burden all on me. . . now I must support all of us. . even though her ex works PART time.If I buy my daughter a dress. . . she says I must talk to her first and discuss it. I think this is rediculous. I am responsible for my daughter and buy her whatever she needs (within reason) Now my wife thinks I should ask her ‘permision’ or at least dicuss what I plan to buy for my child before I buy it.Last week I purchaed my daughter 2 flannel dresses (that were on sale) and my wife got upset! She says she feels ‘excluded’ if I do not discuss it with her first. If I buy my daughter a pair of gloves. . . she feels I should buy her kids some too.I think if she can tell her ex to stop child support. . . he can buy his kids the clothes or she can do it. My #1 priority is my daughter and I told my wife this before she stepped one step out of the western state she came from!If I get a dividend check from my company. . . or a bonus check. /. . she feel it is hers too and wants me to pay off her debts with this money. I helped her tremendously last yr when she moved here. . . gave her on the order of $6000 free of charge so she could live and feed her kids.Am I being unreasonable. . or is she?Please advise. Blending families is hard work. . . but I am willing to do what I can to make this work! Thank You. . Merry Christmas and God bless! -Bucky
Thanks for the excellent question. I have a lot to tell you about what’s going on and I hope that you keep a very open mind. You will need to open every fiber of your mind to make this blended family work.First of all, you are a loving and devoted father, which I commend you for. I know that you have made it clear that your daughter is number one in your life. Only one problem. In order for a woman to be happy in her relationship with a man, she needs to feel that she is her husband ‘s number one girl.Now, I know you told your wife up front that your daughter will always be your number one, and your lady friend married you anyway. I suspect that she has her own issues that stem from her having felt insufficiently loved in her first family. And, I also sense that she unconsciously chose you in order to repeat this familiar pattern.As you know, people repeat the painful scenarios of childhood, hoping to achieve a resolution. In this case, she is hoping that you will come around and make her feel first.Also realize that your wife is emotionally bonded with her children, and when she wishes for you to care for them, emotionally and materially, she is actually talking about herself. She wants to feel taken in and adopted.When you do more for your daughter than for her children, or when you make expenditures for your daughter without talking with her, she feels second-classed, wiped out, hurt and unloved. Even in non-blended families, it is important for husbands to learn how to make their wives feel considered and ‘brought in’ to all decisions big and small.That includes discussing expenditures together. Most couples achieve this sense of unity and collaboration by establishing a common budget. In doing so, both of you decide how much will be allocated to the various budget categories.One of the categories might be clothing for the children. If you can agree on an amount in the clothing budget, then, so long as you stay within the agreed upon budget, you may not need to check with her before making every little expense.Realize also that the only way to solve your problem is to understand your wife’s feelings, and give her the kind of responses that make her feel loved. That is, she needs to have the feeling that you consider her and that she is your number one woman.When you speak about your daughter being your only number one, I have the sense that having lost your mother as a young child is affecting your ability to fully connect to your wife. It’s as if your unconscious mind is attempting to make up for what you lost due to your mother’s death through your intense devotion to your daughter.When you shower your daughter with love, your unconscious mind, through the process of identification, feels that you are being nurtured as well. The problem is that in giving to your daughter the mothering that you lacked, you are excluding your wife.Even if your daughter is your number one child, why can’t you make your wife your number one spouse? Why does your love for your daughter need involve second-classing your wife?If you are ready to make more emotional room for your wife, then you will consult with her on expenditures and check in with her often to find out how you are doing and to find out if she is feeling special enough, considered, etc. In addition to your talking to her about her feelings, your wife needs to become more in touch with her own feelings, thoughts, wishes and fantasies.Deciding to have her ex. stop child support, without consulting with you, was a no no. Just as you can no longer make unilateral decisions, neither can she. I think that if you get her talking about why she had her ex. stop his support, you will find that your wife has tremendous rescue fantasies.She is hoping that you will take care of her and her children (who are unconscious extensions of herself) the way her first family never did. She clearly is dealing with feelings of emptiness and emotional deprivation that go way back.So, as you can see, by making your daughter first, you, unknowingly, keep ripping open your wife’s childhood wounds.My basic message: If you want your wife to feel happy with you, give her the feeling that she is your number one. You can still be good to your daughter, and see her as your number one daughter, but you must make room in your heart so that can see your wife as your number one wife.I also think you need to revisit the question of supporting her children. She needs to own the feelings, thoughts, and fantasies that lead her to make this decision. You must tell her that if you are going to agree to stop making unilateral decisions, so must she.This is a tough problem. It will require lots of soul searching, talking, and persistence to resolve.