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Dr. Michael
Dr. Michael, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 2177
Experience:  Licensed Ph.D. Clinical Health Psychology with 30 years of experience in private practive and as a clinical psychology university professor.
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Hi again, more to speak about with you, a continuation of our

Resolved Question:

Hi again, more to speak about with you, a continuation of our prior chat. Please let me know when you have time. Happy 2012
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Dr. Michael replied 2 years ago.
Hello. I believe I can be of help to you with this issue.

I will be available tomorrow a.m. until around noon, so please feel free to post your follow up question. Happy New Year to you as well!
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Hi, I just wanted to make certain that you would be replying and not another individual.

We spoke, previously, about the children of my spouse to be.

To start at the beginning just a bit, and then get to the solution, background.

We met in 2008. I was divorcing, and he was in a marriage, where both parties had agreed to see other people. I was concerned about the nebulous nature of things, so kept the relationship friendly, but distant.

There was always something there, and in 2010, we finally gave up the pretense and committed to the relationship.

Both my guy and his ex to be were in relationships. Both agreed to file for divorce at the end of 2010.

As you may recall, I have a daughter, who my spouse to be has had happy, ongoing interactions with, since 2011. We all have a wonderful time together, and my daughter has an equally happy relationship with her own father, so no boundary issues.

Another piece, our children reside in different states. My spouse to be is here in my home state when his children are with their mother. So, he spends half of his time here with myself and my daughter, and the other half of his time with his children.

He has two children, the same age as my daughter, two boys.

Sadly, in spite of having her own relationship and being the one who initially suggested the "seeing other people scenario" the ex to be has now cast herself as the victim who was cheated upon.

She had always had a difficult time relating to her children, and she was downright tantrumish and abusive in the marriage. So, the children were steeped in a climate of unhealthy destructive behavior.

The one child has never gotten on well with her, and still does not, and the other child has now begun to gravitate towards her because she is encouraging some activities that his father is not, namely leaving his regular school for four months to attend a sports academy. So, it is a whole litany of 'Mom supports me and you do not, I hate you" being directed at the father (my spouse to be.)

We agreed that given the mercurial nature of the children's mother, bringing up me and our relationship was not a good idea. In spite, of feeling this wat, my spouse to be feel guilty about hiding our life from his sons, and for having such a deep relationship with my daughter.

Back in October, the child who wishes to go to the sports school, broke into his mother's Email, and found a batch of highly explicit, sexual letters written by his mother. He became wildly upset, and so did his mother. She then demanded that my spouse to be tell his children about me. Given, that he was having difficulty with the notion of hiding our relationship, he welcomed the opportunity to share my existence with his sons.

It was a not too happy reaction from either, but the sports son really was upset about all of the deception.

We decided that the best thing to do was to have a few calls and casual mentions of me happen around the boys, just to normalize things a bit, and acclimate the boys to the notion of us. Well, each time he tried to speak to me on the phone, there were a barrage of remarks made by the boys. The one son spouting off things designed to tease his father like "does she know about all you ex wives" and "did you tell her that you have a meth lab in the basement?" (obviously, neither of these things are true.) The son who has been siding with the mother just remarks "oh it's the bitch." He, according to my spouse to be, has his mother's nastiness, and often sounds just like her in his speech.

We continued with these attempts, and after the calls their father would always talk with them about the inappropriateness of their actions.

Just last week, my spouse to be asked me to come to visit him at his home. His attorney saw no problem with my visit, but encouraged us to keep a low profile, which we did.

Well, the one son needed help with an important essay, and he wanted his father's help, and it was agreed that they would work on the project at a cafe, just the two of them. Given, that we know the mother's personality, we decided that she should know that I was there, but would not be with the child during the work, so there would be no room for later assertions of trying of dishonesty on our part.

Well, of course, she flipped out that I was there. "How dare you bring her here?" Then the other son chiming in with "I told you never to bring your slut here, and I f***ing hate you Dad." Angry texts and emails followed all day, night and into the next day.

The meeting with the other son still commenced. He wanted to meet me, so I came outside and said a brief hello after their work. His son smiled at me, shook my hand, and was clearly nervous. He then informed me that he had pranked me, and I found out that his prank was rubbing toothpaste all over a makeup case, and hiding a shoe. Neither prank really bothered me, but his father was concerned. So, he asked him about the pranks, and his son claimed that he was protecting his territory. When my spouse to be and I spoke on the phone tonight, he clearly stated, "did you tell her that the joke is on her because you have crabs," referring to his father, again not true.)

So, we have an ex to be brainwashing/buying the affections one child. One child who is curious about me, wanted to meet me, but makes odd comments. hen, we have one child who sees me as the Slut/bitch.

Fortunately, we all liv ein differing towns, so there really is not much need for a huge amount of interaction. We actually, could not interact at all.

The problem is that my spouse to be has guilt about having this "other family" behind his children's back, and I think he feels guilty for having this involved loving relationship with my daughter.

I was the child of a blended family, and my first marriage was one where there was already a child from a prior marriage. So, I have been on both sides of the issue. I can understand where many of his children's issues find their home.

So, here's the question, finally! We are engaged, though his children do not know, and I suspect that the notion would not be greeted with joy anytime soon. My daughter knows, and is thrilled.

What should we do with regard to my spouse to be's children? Should we just leave the whole mess alone? I know that it is hard on my fiance to live what he feels are two lives. It also hurts him that his one son, the one with the profane mouth, views this as abandonment. The notion of abandonment comes from his mother.

We spend our time together, and conduct our relationship only when the children are with their mother, so no one is taking time away from the children with father. Aside from the daily, moment or two call that is made to me in front of his children, there is no impingement on their lives and time with their father.

It was odd for me to be in my fiance's home and see not a picture or any bit of me present. We are engaged, yet I do not outwardly exist. I can only imagine what the boys would do to my picture, but that is another story.

How do we live and get on with our lives in this situation? We both want our life and are committed to moving forward, but we have at least two people (ex wife, and one teenage son) very devoted to destroying our relationship.

HELP! Also, please advise if you require more funds. I know that this is a nuanced and involved question.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Apologies for mistypes made in the above, but I had much to share. I was more intent in trying to fully depict things. I think that all made sense, but if you require clarification...
Expert:  Dr. Michael replied 2 years ago.
I'm still reviewing you post. Thanks for writing in. Will respond later today! Happy New year to you.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
I have had a difficult enough time getting my own mind around this situation, so no worries about needing time yourself to consider, thank you! Happy 2012 to you as well!
Expert:  Dr. Michael replied 2 years ago.


In the best of all possible worlds, parents would divorce but live in the same town and then expend all the effort they can to continue to be supportive parents to their kids. They would forgo dating and remarrying until the kids finish high school, or leave home. The outcome when the above doesn't occur is pretty much what you are experiencing right now. As you note, the parents live in different cities and the father doesn't really have much contact with his kids. the point is that you and your fiance are still having to battle the aftermath and effects of his divorce on his children. Kids almost never want a divorce and of course, they become angry, hateful and resentful of the parent they feel 'caused' the divorce (in this case, for his boys, it is he---the dad, who 'caused' the divorce and is to blame). So you have this layer of anger, plus the private belief and hope on the part of these kids that their parents might magically get back together someday. This magical belief is destroyed if he elects to marry you because then putting the family together again becomes impossible; another layer of anger is spawn.

However, only the father can really act in ways that might improve the relationship with his kids. First, he needs to have another heart to heart talk with his ex and explain that she is doing psychological damage to the boys by continuing to play the role of the victim . First, it will accomplish nothing, except stoke the fires of anger and resentment, which the kids already have plenty of. Second, SHE herself is dating and is doing nothing less than he is, as a single parent. The fact that she apparently hasn't met a decent guy she can really connect with and is mostly engaged in sexualized dating behavior is strictly her choice. he needs to make the point that, "When you demonize me for having a girlfriend and play the role of the 'victim', but at the same time, have highly sexualized relationships with other men yourself, you don't do yourself any favors as a mother and role model of mature women for our sons. What you need to do is demonstrate to the boys that you are accepting of the divorce and the fact you and I are single, stop acting out this double standard regarding my dating and your dating. I could just as easily play up and demonize you for your sexually explicit online behavior, as you are doing toward me, but that would not accomplish anything constructive for our kids. Acting as if neither of us have been dating so as to emotionally 'protect' our boys is no longer a good idea. They KNOW for a fact that you are dating and that I am as well. All of us are attempting to act as if a divorce never really occurred, but of course, it HAS and it is time to be living more honestly about your dating life and mine. And we probably need to make an extra effort to be even more emotionally supportive an engaged with your boys than we have been already."

It is also time for him to tell his ex that you are engaged now and that he is fully moving on with his life in the area of marriage; and that the healthiest situation would be for the boys to learn to get on well with his new wife, if this is possible. He then needs to meet with his kids together, alone and discuss these points. They are old enough to understand that both HE and their mother have been dating now and then because the divorce is a 'true divorce' and means they will never get back together again. He needs to lay out some specific ideas and plans for doing some things together over the next 3-6 months so they can anticipate specific activities with dates attached to them---beyond the normal visitation schedule. He also needs to explain that you, his fiance, will be involved in some of these activities. So 99% of dealing with this and trying to fix it with honesty and directness and love is up to your fiance. What do you think?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Much of what you have said makes a great deal of sense.

There has been an attempt to have these discussions with both the ex to be and the children. Neither the ex nor the one child wishes to hear it. It results in a barrage of profanity, insults, and flurries of nasty electronic exchanges.

The other son, apparently, has always been territorial. According to my fiance, he tried to interfere in the relationship of the parents as well. The children are twins, and the one who is now siding with the mother always used to be the favored child of the father, so I believe that his brother is now relishing that his brother now sides with their mother... So, he finally gets time with his father, and here I am. Though he has been more responsive to notion of me.

In truth, I believe that my fiance has been on the wrong end of too many violent exchanges to truly stand up to the ex, and he is too worried about alienating his son who for many years felt the the son rose and set with him.

The mother has already indicated that she would not allow her children to have any forced encounters with me, so its a case of no untied parental front as well. She knows that by accepting me, she has to give up victim role, and she does not wish to do so.

Can things go forward keeping things segregated? I just feel so confused?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
I need to clarify, the children of my fiance are shared equally 50/50, so the only time he is away from his children is when they are with their mother. He is not rarely there. Both parents have homes five minutes away from one another. I mention this because upon reviewing your reply to me I noticed this coming up in the first paragraph.

We were forced into mentioning our relationship, because the ex's mail was read. So, there was not the intent to bring things up to his children yet, but our hand was forced.

Customer: replied 2 years ago.
It almost feels as if the children do not want to face or accept reality, and their mother is encouraging this behavior/mind set.There is storied history of not dealing with things. (Read empty marriage for ten plus years that both sides admit as truth.)

The one child very much states that he wishes not to have things kept from him, yet, he does not want to acknowledge truth either. (This is the son who wants nothing to do with me.) The other son seems more willing to acknowledge the situation, but worries about his role being diminished by my presence. All of this is felt, in spite of previous assurances that neither of us is moving to one another's home town.

The plan has always been to continue the back and forth until all children are at university, and then we will live together in some new place. The problem is that my fiance does not want to be the one doing all of the traveling. That's why I was visiting him. This resulted in a barrage "how dare you bring her here."

It feels as though we cannot win, and we probably cannot not because ultimately a beginning represents an end.

My fiance very much wishes to integrate his lives, and feels guilt over the segregation. Yet, he fears losing the love of his children.

I think too, it is odd for him to have such different situations. With myself and my child things are happy, all get along, so the opposite of his other space. My daughter wants very much to meet his children and remarks often how happy she will be to have "brothers." The contrast between our children is huge.

Expert:  Dr. Michael replied 2 years ago.
I'll review your last few posts and then respond again late today. Thanks for your patience
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Thank you! It is a situation with many tentacles, so I understand, utterly!
Expert:  Dr. Michael replied 2 years ago.
You wrote: "It almost feels as if the children do not want to face or accept reality, and their mother is encouraging this behavior/mind set.There is storied history of not dealing with things. (Read empty marriage for ten plus years that both sides admit as truth.)"

Your fiance is at the stage in this process at which he needs to start interpreting the behavior of his ex, to his ex, and his kids' behavior, to them, when it occurs". He does this by stepping back a moment and doing what you are doing---understanding what the behavior really means, and what its FUNCTION is. In some of the statements I suggested that your fiance make to his wife and kids in the last post I wrote, I actually offered some of these interpretations of behavior. There is no single occurrence of this that will have full effect---it is something he must regularly do over the course of many weeks and months when he interacts with them. For instance, when his wife plays the victim role, he needs to immediately call her on it, e.g., "Once again, you are continuing to play the victim role in this divorce situation because it helps you externalize blame on to me for the divorce. You can't accept the fact that for at least 10 years before the divorce, the marriage was dying. So today, you still cannot move on with your life emotionally and take charge of your own life without being the 'victim'." When his son says derogatory things about you in his presence, he might say, "Look your are making these disrespectful comments because you can't face up to the fact that your mom and I are really divorced. My girlfriend is not to blame for the divorce---but your mom and I are. She is striking up relationships with other men and I am doing the same thing with other women. So stop blaming the women I'm dating for the fact that your mom and I are divorced".

The main point here is that he needs to start putting into words and laying 'on the table' what is really going on in terms of the purpose and function of some of this behavior. It will make it increasingly difficult for his ex and his kids to engage in it if it loses its purpose or function. Much of the kids behavior is designed to punish him for the divorce and break up of the family. He needs to acknowledge that, e.g., "You are obviously trying to verbally punish me once again for divorcing your mother, so why not just talk about what you are really feeling right now instead of saying bad things about my fiance?".

So the steps for him are to first, figure out what the purpose or function of the verbal or overt behavior is that is being exhibited by his ex or his kids, and then, framing a clear description of what is really happening and the function of the behavior. I'm suggesting this to approach to help make very clear and distinct and transparent what is really happening in his relationship with his ex and kids. They need to see that this is all a repetitive and unhealthy strategic game everyone is playing.

Now, I think you actually 'get it' because much of what you write about demonstrates that you've figured out what is really happening in these relationships and what the functions of the behavior are. So you could probably help coach him in doing this. What do you think?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
It is a logical and reasonable suggestion that you have posed.
Is it your belief that some of your suggested behavior commence for a given amount of time before attempting to meet his children again?
Also, how much freedom should the children have in not being part of meeting me? I ask because the one son that I have met briefly does wish to spend time with his father and myself, but his brother is nowhere near that place. Does one honor each child's wishes, and create a situation that is not equally balanced?
Also, should I avoid visits to the town of the children until a formal meeting has occurred? We did maintain a quiet profile when I visited, but it is ridiculous to think that we will not be spotted by someone at some point. I am uncertain how much this "hiding" feeds and encourages the denial type behavior, but I do not wish to be insensitive either.
An example, last night, we were both with our respective children for New Year's Eve. Obviously, it seems ridiculous not to share such a holiday. Sillier yet, I was afraid to call him, and force him to answer the phone in front of his children, or worse yet, not answer the call at all. He did call, but only after the son who has significant issues with me left the room. Am I wrong to believe that this is not healthy behavior?
It is such a complex mix with the children. One (my daughter) loving the idea of all of us as a family. One child feeling the exact inverse of what my daughter feels, and then another child somewhere between the two.
Given that our lives do not overlap that much now and will not for some time, I am uncertain of how to conduct myself, and what are reasonable expectations on my part. I really appreciated your prior suggestion, thank you!
Expert:  Dr. Michael replied 2 years ago.
Yes, I do think it would be a good thing for your boyfriend to commence the interpretive behavior with his ex and his kids for say a few weeks at least, before meeting his children again. Doing this will allow both you and him to gauge whether his new interactions with them are having any impact.

I would respect the child's wish to not meet you until he is ready. Now, he may not be 'ready' even up until a wedding actually occurs, but I'd still not force the issue. He will have to eventually reconcile having little or no relationship with his dad, versus accepting you because he will realize that you are going to be with his dad daily. He will have to com around to accepting the idea sooner or later and I would simply trust that he will, and really, must do so, if he wants any form of a relationship with his dad.

I would not avoid visits to the town the children live in with their mother. I would come and go there as you would, as comfortably as you can. You are right---it really is a bit silly to go to the town with the belief that it is best if you 'dodged' or avoided having people see you.

Eventually, you can all share a holiday together if it is structured and planned properly. Let me give you an example of how this can work over time, starting with 'baby steps'. Let's assume that the one boy simply doesn't really want to spend a holiday time with you and his dad but others are willing; his ex may or may not be willing. A big obstacle might be the the discomfort of spending the time at your fiance's home. So to keep the situation more 'neutral', you and your fiance invite all of the children (and his ex, if she wants to come) to a nice brunch at a nice local hotel. You try to reserve an area and bring everyone a modest but nice gift. You are now together at a nice, special place, without the baggage of deciding on whose 'territory' this is occurring in. All of the public of course, can see you all together if they wish, which is another very good thing. Now you could do this with say, a New Year's eve early dinner instead of Christmas eve or Christmas day. Again, you would probably have to start out with maybe having only the one son attend, and not the other, if he elects not to. But this approach really is the best way to initiate joint family interactions. What do you think?

You are also correct that at this point, it is not healthy behavior for your fiance to try to 'hide' his level of contact with you from the son who can't accept the fact that his dad has a girlfriend. As I've mentioned before, it really is time that he 'step up' and begin doing some of the things I've suggested here and in prior posts. Not much you can really do to help the situation if he won't. You should NOT call him of course, if he is too fearful of dealing with his own children about the call. Here again, he should be creating a situation in which everyone is being upfront and honest and truly, acting genuinely, without hiding about or avoiding.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Agreed, I have avoided placing my fiance in situations that back him into a corner, but it does truly fall to him to stop enabling the pretending, and denying. I am glad that you feel that it is safe to allow for one child to progress at a different pace than the other. For the next several years, I will not be a part of the daily lives of the boys, given geography. So, hopefully, by the time I am a daily part of their father's life there will be some time and wisdom... I truly do not believe that the mother of the children will be in a place emotionally to support any endeavor that makes our lives easier, in spite of her having her own relationships. So, I believe that she will most likely always seek to undermine. You are correct, it does ultimately come down to my fiance being able to stand up to nonsense, not buy into fiction/fairy tales, and believe in our union. If he cannot find it within himself to permit us a life, I guess that we truly haven't one...
Expert:  Dr. Michael replied 2 years ago.
I guess you need to have another serious talk with your fiance. Please feel free to share some or all of our posts with him if you believe it will help. Do keep me posted on what happens.

Please click on the green Accept button at the bottom of the screen. Happy New Year to you!
Dr. Michael, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 2177
Experience: Licensed Ph.D. Clinical Health Psychology with 30 years of experience in private practive and as a clinical psychology university professor.
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