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Tamara, Counselor & Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 1073
Experience:  20+ yrs Private Practice; Cert. Master Therapist; National Board Certified; APA Board Certified
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Why, as a recently remarried man, do I continue to make

Resolved Question:

Why, as a recently remarried man, do I continue to make choices that put my biological daughter above my wife and my new son?
Submitted: 6 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Dr. Olsen replied 6 years ago.
Hi, Welcome to JA. I am sorry to hear about your situation. Let me ask you a question before I offer an answer. It sounds like you are taking many responsibilities to your family. Are your ex wife and biological daughter in constant demand of your attention and time?
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
I guess there are 2 parts to that question; one involving my daughter and one my ex wife. As a note, I remarried a year and a half ago and have a 5 month old son with my wife. Regarding my daughter, I physically have her every weekend. When my daughter is here, she is demanding of my time and attention - which, if I allow it to happen, takes time away from my wife and son. My wife and mother, individually, have tried to explain, show and get me to see that any extra attention I give my daughter when she's here is inappropriate and detrimental to the health of my marriage and relationship with my new son. That being said, I have and am trying to see all this as objectively as possible in an effort to be a better husband and father to my new son. Apparently, I'm not doing a good job. I still continue to put my daughter's needs and wants before my wife and son.
In regard to my ex wife, since we have been divorced (about 5-6 years) she has made decision after decision that puts her own wants above our daughter's benefit. I feel as though when someone has a child that it is that adult's responsibility to put the child first. My reasoning being that the child did not ask to come into this world and it is up to the parent to do right by that child. My ex wife tends to do what is best for herself - and puts our daughters benefit second to hers. I admit that a ton of my time and energy revolves around keeping my ex 'in line.' It's exhausting for me and my wife. But, I don't know how to not put my daughter first. I just can't wrap my head around the concept despite what I've read, heard, etc.
My wife is incredible. She puts tons and tons of time and effort into helping me help my daughter. You would think that I would show my appreciation by putting my wife's needs first at least once in a while. Unfortunately and admittedly, that seems to not be the case. My wife is continually hurt by my actions. I'm trying to not perpetuate this putting-my-daughter-first decision making so I can do what everyone else says I should do - put my wife first.
Quite literally, my wife and I are on the verge of divorce. She no longer wants to be second to my daughter and feel as though, as she says, she's the "babysitter and the wallet" (as an example of where she's coming from).
The schedule my wife and I have is really tight - working full time and tag-teaming being with our son - then adding my daughter to the mix. My head is spinning, I can't make sense of what seems to be the juxtaposition of putting my daughter first vs putting my wife first. My wife says, and I agree with (at this point) that I'm a better father than a husband. It's looking like I'm heading for divorce #2 if I can't figure out WHY I'm doing what I'm doing and HOW to fix it.
Thanks, ***** ***** for any help on this.
Expert:  Dr. Olsen replied 6 years ago.
Hi, Thanks for your response. I will be back with my answer today.
Expert:  Dr. Olsen replied 6 years ago.
Hi there, Thanks for your response. I am sorry to hear about your situation. It sounds like you have difficulty meeting your wife and son's needs and wants due to many responsibilities. You and your wife may have little quality time for each other since you both work full-time and take care of your 5 month old son. You also love your daughter. You may be concerned about her well-being; her mother/your ex-wife does not treat her daughter as a priority to her own needs and wants. So, I can see why you may be protective of your daughter. You may try to give enough attention to your daughter when you see her. This is a very challenging situation for you. You have a limited amount of time and energy. You may not be able to spend quality time with everyone you love: your daughter, your wife, and your baby son. Perhaps, you and your wife are taking care of your son, your home and other routines after work. It is natural for your wife to want your attention, help and support for herself and her son. However, you do not want to ignore your daughter's needs and wants either. No one is right or wrong in this situation. YOU MAY NEED TO NEGOTIATE YOUR TIME FOR YOUR DAUGHTER, YOUR WIFE, AND YOUR SON WITH YOUR WIFE. You may already discussed this with the marriage counselor: For example, you may need to allocate time to your wife & son and your daughter each weekend alternatively. You may need to discuss, explain and get approval from your wife using a calender in advance. I hope you wife understands that you care about all of them - her, your son and daughter.
Please let me know if you have more questions or I have overlooked any. P.S. Please remember to click the green accept button. Feel free to continue the discussion even after you press the accept button; my goal is to get you the best answers possible. Warm regards,
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Thank you for your reply. I'm guessing by your reply that I didn't succeed in making myself clear about what I believe the crux of my issue. I don't believe it's a time management issue. If it were just that, this would all be much easier. I believe that it's a core issue internally. The significance of this is that no matter what the situation or the amount of time is, I continually make decisions to my daughter's benefit, very often to the detriment of my wife and son. It's like an internal tether that keeps me in the same place emotionally, as it relates to my daughter, that keeps me from acting on behalf of anyone else.
After doing research myself, the idea of "boundaries" keeps coming up. It's been suggested that proper boundaries between the parents and the children would be helpful - my wife and I standing together as a unit to parent the kids. For someone like myself who seems to have an innate draw toward placing my daughter first, it seems like approaching my situation from this angle would help me keep things clear.
Any thoughts / advice?
Expert:  Tamara replied 6 years ago.
Hi. Welcome to JustAnswer. I'm pleased to try to help you today.

Let me try to take a shot at this. It sounds like you are saying that you know better, but you just can't seem to make yourself behave differently. Therefore, I think this is an issue that needs to be addressed by you (by yourself) with a therapist. You need to be able to explore this situation in depth from both an emotional and a behavioral perspective so you can better understand what is getting in your way.

I totally agree that the issue is likely boundaries. People can have boundary problems for a multitude of reasons, so it's important to understand what those reasons are for you. My guess is that you feel you have betrayed your daughter by starting a new family, and you are trying to make that up to her when she is around by putting her first all the time ("don't worry honey, you're still first"). And because you love your wife, you can't tell her that you feel guilty - because that will hurt HER feelings. So you are stuck in the middle between the two women who are the most important to you - and you are putting the majority of the burden on the adult one (your wife) because you hope she can handle it.

I don't know the particulars of your situation but, in general, while I understand your wife's feelings - it is not reasonable or realistic for her to expect that you abandon your daughter and put her needs last. But by the same token, it's not reasonable for your daughter to always come first either. The truth is somewhere in the middle - but you're going to have to do some searching to find where it is. And you will then likely have two unhappy women, instead of just one - because neither one of them is going to get your sole attention.

So talk with a therapist a get clear on what's going on for you. Then take action to correct it as best you can. That's all you can do. Your daughter will need to understand that you have a new family, but she needs to fit into it - not be excluded. And you wife needs to remember why she had a baby with you - because you're a good father.

Best wishes, and please let me know if I can answer any further questions. Tamara
Tamara, Counselor & Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 1073
Experience: 20+ yrs Private Practice; Cert. Master Therapist; National Board Certified; APA Board Certified
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