Relationship Connection: My new husband expects me to mother his kids, grandkids

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Question

I recently married a man who has six grown children and 20 grandchildren. He’s a wonderful man and I’m grateful we found each other. We don’t have any children living at home. I have four grown children and eight grandchildren.

My husband’s former wife passed away several years ago and getting remarried was something that was tough for his children. They’ve been warm and loving to me, but I know that I can never replace her, nor do I expect to. He loves his children and grandchildren, but he’s not very good at keeping in touch with them.

He has asked me to keep track of all of their birthdays, send them cards and gifts, and keep up with their lives. My guess is that this was something his deceased wife kept up with and that she updated him on how everyone was doing.

When we first married, I worked hard to do this, as I thought it would help the family grow closer to me, but now it feels unmanageable. I feel like the gifts I’m sending are impersonal, as I don’t really know these families very well. I don’t see him making any real efforts to connect with his children or grandchildren.

I don’t feel like the family wants me in that role, but he wants me to act like their mother in this way. What is my responsibility here?

Answer

Your intentions of wanting to keep in touch with his family in the beginning of this marriage came from a sincere place of wanting these children and grandchildren to feel comfortable with you. That’s certainly one way to build closeness with them, but it’s not the only way. It sounds like you need to begin a conversation with your new husband about how these expectations are affecting you.

I’ll suggest some points you might consider as you approach him.

You appear to be someone who wants sincere and authentic relationships with your family members. These new family members are strangers to you and you’ve discovered it is important to you that your gifts and expressions come from a place of understanding and connection.

One could assume your struggle in sending these gifts is a lack of time or desire to be in touch with everyone. However, I believe your struggle is coming from the realization these gifts and sentiments don’t match the reality of your relationship with these children and grandchildren. If that’s the case, then perhaps you might build connection with each of them in a different way until you feel a more authentic bond.

When you feel you know each of them better, I imagine it will be easier to send notes and gifts from a place of real connection.

Another point to consider is that this is an opportunity for your husband to look at his relationships with his children and grandchildren. If his late wife was the relationship manager, it’s a wonderful opportunity for him to build individual relationships with each of these family members. I’m certain each of them will love having a personal connection with their father and grandfather.

Imagine how special this would be for his family if he took over writing these handwritten cards and selecting gifts for each child and grandchild. If he finds himself in the same dilemma as you, that he doesn’t feel he has much of a personal relationship with each of them, then he can explore how to improve that.

If your husband doesn’t show any interest in being involved, then maybe sending gifts and cards doesn’t work for him. Just because cards and gifts is how his late wife always maintained connection doesn’t mean it is the only correct way. Yes, the children and grandchildren may have come to expect it, but, as their father and grandfather, he now gets to decide how he will best bless his posterity. You can offer your input and ideas as you both seek ways to give and support the family.

It’s also important to make sure this approach is unified and fair to all family members. Is he willing to do the same for your children? This discussion needs to be bigger than just his side of the family. Your marriage will feel more peaceful and supportive if both of you have a unified approach to giving gifts to all of your children and grandchildren.

If your struggle is simply logistical, then don’t be afraid to ask for a different arrangement. Instead of delegating everything to you, perhaps he goes with you to select gifts or writes the cards while you wrap the gifts. There are plenty of ways you can send messages of love and connection to your children and grandchildren. It’s a lot of work to keep track of more than two dozen birthdays throughout the year.

I’m sure this was an area that he hasn’t had to think about and assumed it would continue forward now that he has a new wife. There is nothing wrong with slowing down and thinking through the best way to handle these relationships.

Stay connected!

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are his own and may not be representative of St. George News.

Have a relationship question for Geoff to answer? Submit to:

Email: geoff@lovingmarriage.com

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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5 Comments

  • Hataalii April 26, 2017 at 11:31 am

    I’ll be a bit more blunt here than Geoff was. Your new husband is ducking his responsibility, both as a parent, and a grandparent! He is trying to force you into the role that he himself is unwilling to fulfill.
    It’s high time that you called him out on this. You say he’s a wonderful man. But the fact is that he is not much of a man at all. Any male who refuses to have and keep a relationship with his kids and grandkids, isn’t much of a man. And for him to try to delegate​ this responsibility to you, is just plain irresponsible at best, and manipulative and low at worst.
    Give him the choice, either he takes responsibility for keeping up with his family, or it just doesn’t get done. I’m betting that he is a guy who has never been there for them, and isn’t about to change now.
    It also may be time for you to review your marriage to this “wonderful guy,” and see if you want to continue with this marriage. If he is so self centered, and manipulative in this area, he likely is the same in other areas of your marriage.

  • comments April 26, 2017 at 11:59 am

    Uhmm, no. You’re under no obligation to do such things, esp since these are not blood relations. As much a part of his family as you are you’ll never be as close as blood. But work out of it slowly since you’ve already dug yourself in, and by that I mean: move from gifts to just cards, from that maybe to just a facebook post. Then you’ll have wriggled yourself out of these silly self-created obligations.

  • ladybugavenger April 26, 2017 at 2:13 pm

    Stop it right now! It is all fake!

    My stepmom was the one that did the cards and gift crap and for 20 years I wondered if my dad cared and for 20 more years I knew he didnt (they were married 40 years) He used my stepmom as a catalyst to talk to me. My dad didn’t even talk to me, it was her. She was the one that told me, your dad loves you but he doesn’t like you. My dad, the coward, couldn’t tell me himself. I wanted an authentic relationship with him. Here I am 46 years old. My mom died last year on April 29th RIP mom. My step mom died 3 weeks ago. I hadn’t talked to my dad in 10 years…sure, he’s got lots of money and I definitely do not fall in that category…but, money can’t buy love. He couldn’t give me what I needed nor could my mom. Geeeeeze, hello people, some love and support is what I needed and that whole dysfunctional rich, church going people (my step mom and dad) couldn’t love a mess like me. I sent him a symphathy card after his wife’s death and lo and behold he wrote me back (there’s a start of a relationship) he also said in the card, sorry for the loss of your mother a year ago……you guys, when I went to California to take care of my mom, I was 1 mile from my dad. So getting a card from him when I’m 1430 miles away is good, it was authentic, it meant a lot.

    Anyways, you stop right now because the kids know it’s not authentic. And you know it’s not. Your husband is a coward.

  • Sapphire April 26, 2017 at 6:21 pm

    Some men aren’t into the warm fuzzy thing like women are. And he must be fairly old to have that many grandchildren. He may not be able to deal with it mentally… too confusing keeping track of that many people.

  • ladybugavenger April 27, 2017 at 6:20 am

    I don’t do the card and present thing either. I can’t keep up with holidays nor do I want to. I don’t like holidays. It’s a bunch of nonsense. So, my kids and grandkids get my love all year and random messages. Lol. Note to family: Christmas and birthdays are cancelled for 3 years, I’m broke 😍 Love LBA

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