53196 Quotes About Too Late

Should Stepdad Get Parenting Time? Part 2

UPDATE!

Jim continues to badger Brian, as does Jim’s son (who derives his income from Brian’s dad).  This sudden interest in Brian is a little odd, since Jim is suing to force Brian and his mom out of their home AND asking the court to award him, a wealthy man, attorney fees.  

Brian remains nonplussed.  This story will be updated as appropriate.

Dear Robin:

I was in a ten-year relationship and marriage with a man (“Jim”) who recently left the marriage abruptly.  

I’m not sure exactly what put the final nail in the coffin of our marriage, but the last fight we had was because I could not believe my son Brian was not invited to my stepson’s rehearsal dinner.Jim waited until over week after he left to say anything to my 15-year-old son, and when he did, he texted him goodbye and told him “take care of your mom.”

He has been gone for two months and recently told me it is my duty to facilitatate a relationship between him and my son.  Given his historical treatment (ignoring) of Brian, I found the idea odd.  This was the biggest issue for me during the marriage.  I begged him for years to spend time with Brian but for years he refused.

So should I make this happen?  

My kid doesn’t ever want to see him again and Jim is blaming that on me.  So what do I owe Jim and Brian in this situation?  What is the right thing to do?

Dear Cathy:

Ordinarily I would encourage you to help make this happen.  Ten years is a long time to be in a child’s life, and losing a stepparent, especially so abruptly, could have negative repurcussions for Brian.

Like I said, ordinarily I’d side with Jim on this one.  But there are details that matter in this case.  Readers, here’s the rest of the story:

Cathy’s son was five when Jim came into their lives. The two biggest problems Cathy had in the marriage were: 1) how Jim treated Brian, and 2) how Jim’s kids treated Cathy and Brian (and Jim).

How Jim Treated Brian

  • Over the years Cathy begged Jim to, just once or twice a year, spend some quality time with Brian.  Jim refused.
  • Brian expressed sadness and disappointment to his mom repeatedly over the years and each time she’d again make efforts to get Jim to have a relationship with her son.  Each time he became furious, said “I’m not his father,” and made it clear he would not do anything with Brian outside seeing him with Cathy during her parenting time.
  • After their last fight about the subject, Jim insisted he was “doing his very best.”  Cathy asked him to please describe what that meant, and he said, “I drive him to school most days when he is with us.”  Brian’s school is directly on the way to Jim’s office.
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  • When Cathy expressed her shock and dismay that her son was not welcome at her stepson’s wedding rehearsal dinner (paid for by her husband), her husband said, “You are insane if you think he should be invited.  It’s for close family and members of the wedding party only.  And you are really crazy if you think Brian should have been in the wedding party.  What’s wrong with you?”
  • As mentioned above, Jim texted Brian after being gone for over a week and told Brian to “take care of” his mom.  This was very upsetting to Brian, who then felt that his mother was now his responsibility, as opposed to the other way around.
  • Jim is now attempting to force the sale of Cathy and Brian’s home, even as his income is ten times higher than Cathy’s, she would not be able to finance a new home, a move would require a move of her business, and any home she could rent would cost double what her mortgage is and fall outside Brian’s school district.
  • When Brian found out Jim had left the marriage, he was first upset, crying to Cathy, “just because Jim doesn’t love me doesn’t mean I don’t love him!” Within a week, however, Brian noted that Jim’s absence was remarkable in how little had changed in the home and Brian’s life.
  • During a lunch with Cathy, Brian said, “Mom, at some point you will fall in love again.  Can you promise me one thing?  Can you promise that if you bring someone into our lives, he will care about me?”  At that point Cathy realized what ten years of neglect had done to her son, and her sadness at the end of the marriage became overwhelming relief, combined with the guilt of having raised her child in a home in which his stepdad showed her son the affection one would show a houseplant or a surly cat.

Cathy’s frustration over Jim’s attitude towards having a meaningful relationship with Brian was compounded by the fact she made it a top priority to repair Jim’s broken and dysfunctional relationships with his three adult children, none of whom were interacting with him on a regular and normal basis when Cathy and Jim met.

Oven ten years she worked tirelessly to change that.

She made innumerable meals, planned trips, arranged golf games, welcomed one into her home for over a year (her idea which Jim passed off as his own), and urged Jim to keep working on making his relationship with his kids better.  

During his ten-year relationship with Cathy, nearly every single time he saw his children was arranged by Cathy.

She was succesful, so much so that at their wedding Jim’s middle child thanked Cathy for “giving us our dad back.”  Unfortunately, their gratitude did not extend to actual kindness towards Cathy or Brian.

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How Jim’s Kids Treated Cathy and Brian

  • Over ten years and countless celebrations put on by Cathy for Jim’s kids’ birthdays, special events, holidays, and the like, the kids never offered to celebrate anything of Cathy’s or Brian’s, unless they were invited to do so at Cathy’s home with all the work done by Cathy.  At Brian’s 8th grade graduation and birthday party, Jim’s kids arrived 90 minutes late, ate quickly, and immediately left.
  • Cathy and Brian’s birthdays were usually ignored, although sometimes acknowleged by a text message.
  • For the year that one of Jim’s children lived in their home, he showed constant disrespect for the house, Cathy, and extended no effort to help in any way or spend time with Brian, despite the free ride and having all his meals prepared and cleaned up by Cathy.  Cathy asked Jim to speak with his son about his behavior and attitude, multiple times, but Jim was too weak when it came to his kids to discuss anything with them that might be uncomfortable.
  • Two of the three children got married and did not include Brian in the wedding, even though all other siblings on both sides, along with other family members, were made members of the wedding party. Even being in charge of the guest book was apparently too much to ask.
  • When the kids would, once or twice a year, see their dad without Cathy making the arrangements, neither Cathy nor Brian would be invited.
  • Over ten years, none of the kids ever asked Brian to do something with them.  Not once.
  • See discussion of weddings above.  In my entire life, I have never heard of a stepchild being excluded from a wedding event.  I can’t even wrap my head around that one enough to adequately comment upon it but I encourage readers to do so.
  • After Cathy and Jim separated, the middle son wrote an ugly letter to Cathy saying that her expectation they have any sort of relationship with Brian was “unnatural,” “unrealistic,” and finished with this doozy: “I never had anything in common with him, and frankly, he didn’t ever seem all that interested in me.”  
  • In the same letter, that son said the only reason he and his siblings were “kind” to Cathy and Brian is because their dad “was” in love with Cathy.  He opened the letter by mocking Cathy’s sharing of her family history with them over the years.
  • The only communication to Brian after the separation came from Jim’s youngest son, who just so happens to earn his income from Brian’s father (long story) and had never reached out to Brian to express interest in spending time with him over the ten years of the relationship, including the year they lived together.  

Over 1,300 words were sacrificed to describe Cathy’s situation so I’ll make the advice short and sweet.  

Cathy, you stated:

So should I make this happen?  

My kid doesn’t ever want to see him again and Jim is blaming that on me.  So what do I owe Jim and Brian in this situation?  What is the right thing to do?

Should you make this happen?  

No.  

What do you owe Jim?  

Nothing.  

What do you owe Brian?  

The right to make his own choices about with whom he spends his time.

What is the right thing to do?  

Tell Brian if he wants to continue his “relationship” with Jim you are absolutely fine with that.

Brian is old enough to deliberate the value of a relationship (loosely termed) with Jim and make his own decision.  

What puzzles me is: why now?  What’s Jim’s angle?  Is he lonely?  Does he feel guilty?  Is this a negotiation tactic?

Whatever the case may be, this is neither your responsibility nor choice.  Brian appears to be voting with his feet already.  The fact that Jim blames this on you shows that he cannot accept how much he hurt your son over the years because that is an indictment of him as a human being.  Honestly, I find that sad.  

Your son expressed a lot of love towards Jim, more than his own children ever did, and his absence may be hurtful.  But I’d think twice before facilitating this relationship.  You don’t want to teach your child that someone can act so hurtfully towards him for a decade, only to be welcomed into his life for the first time emotionally upon leaving his life physically.

I’d LOVE reader comments on this.  Fire away!  What do you think?

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This Post Has 35 Comments

  1. Ralph

    I think Brian is of sufficient intelligence to make his own decision on whether to maintain a relationship with Jim. But in this case, the horse is already out of the barn, and Jim made HIS decision on whether to have a relationship with Brian long ago. Too little, too late at this point.

    And Jim’s grown kids? Shame!

    At this point, Brian’s feelings are paramount.

    Brian knows what to do.

    1. Robin DesCamp

      In defense of the kids, I am told they were raised in an emotional desert by parents who despised each other. So there’s that.

  2. First Client of DBD

    The part about the wedding can’t be true – this is a fake letter! Busted, Robin!

    1. Robin DesCamp

      You might be right – that’s pretty outrageous. Still, it comports with history in this case.

  3. Proud Bonus Dad

    “Doing his best” to be a good stepfather and spend quality time with Brian was driving Brian to school? On the way to his office? I have been a stepfather for 7 years and they have been the most rewarding years of my life. I am honored to have a parenting role, along with the kids’ mom and dad, and can’t imagine my life without them. If their mom and I divorced I would very much want to continue our relationship, but that’s because I deserve to. This guy doesn’t. Good riddance!

  4. EF

    Robin – I completely agree with your advice for Cathy. Brian is old enough to decide on his own if he wants to see Jim… He should not be forced to have a relationship with someone who has neglected him for years. As for Jim… his motive is a mystery… Is he wracked with the guilt of being a substandard stepfather? Doe he truly miss Brian (doubtful)? Does he regret his hasty exit from the marriage? Cathy and Brian should go full steam ahead into their new life… Where I am sure they will be much happier and find more fulfilling relationships.

  5. Shelia

    This is a tough one. The kids are so often caught in “step” situations. Their parents chose each other, not them, and there is no biological imperative connecting them. I go for treading lightly, but ultimately, be kind, especially the adult step children. It costs them nothing to be more inclusive of Brian, and it clearly means a lot to him.

    As for Jim- not unless it is important to Brian. I say that Brian’s preference on contact should control. Jim lost his right to vote.

    1. Robin DesCamp

      The step kids have no interest in being inclusive of Brian. He’s over it. It was painful for a long time but not anymore.

  6. Cousin Eddie

    Wow. Just wow. Had to re-read some of that a couple of times.

    Brian should be able to make up his own mind. He should also be confident enough to call (or text) Jim to discuss the matter. Jim walked out on Cathy and Brian can walk out on Jim. Brian should take the first step in formally terminating the non-relationship. He should also explain that it’s his decision and not Cathy’s. It will be a tough call, but it will be worth it in the long run.

    Go Brian!

  7. Small Town Girl

    Unfortunately, I believe Jim’s motivation for interaction with Brian is completely selfish. There are probably people around him asking how Brian is doing and he realizes he looks like a schmuck for having no idea how to answer, since he bailed! Robin, I agree with your advice (and every comment) that her son should be able to decide what he wants to do and that she should support him either way. No one wants to be with a person that they know doesn’t care about (or for) them. It is a good life lesson not to waste time chasing someone to try to get them to like you. It sounds like Cathy has a good head on her shoulders and they are lucky to have each other. Good riddance to the creep!

  8. Stepmom, too

    Oh, this situation makes me so sad for Brian.

    I think I’d give Cathy a little different advice, but that may be because I’m paranoid about being misjudged or having my actions mis-described. I’d have Cathy text both Jim and Brian together, and say, “Jim, you’ve told me that you’d like to have a relationship with Brian now that we’re divorcing, and that you think it’s my job to facilitate that. Brian is a very responsible 15, and I believe it is up to him to decide who he wants to spend time with and develop relationships with. Brian, if you want to have a relationship with Jim, I’ll do what I can to help. If you don’t, that’s your decision.”

  9. Stepmom, too

    I left out, “and I’ll support whichever decision you make.”

  10. Echinachea

    I can’t disagree with your advice to Cathy or with any of the other commenters. What a ridiculous situation–NOW he wants a relationship with a kid he ignored and neglected the for most of the ten years! I have more to say, but want to make sure this comment posts–having some connectivity issues!

  11. Echinachea

    My hunch is that Brian, who sounds like a bright and sensitive young man, will not be very enthusiastic about a rela with someone who treated his mom in such a shabby and unfeeling manner. He still should have a chance to exercise free will in the matter. I also think Jim is acting out some guilt issues, and could easily get over his desire to appear interested as time goes on. His own adult spoiled brats are another story. They neglected their own dad for years and now are supporting his bizarre behavior towards Cathy and her son, neither of whom deserve all this crap. Enough out of me–I stand with Cathy and Brian, no matter what

  12. Elvina Bergmann

    After ten years and the end of the marriage he wants a relationship with the 15 year old–sounds conniving and manipulative to me. What’s in it for him?
    And the adult children were so consumed by their own lives, jealousy, hatred, when their father re-married that they treated a youngster so horribly rather than accepting and being happy and proud to call him their Bonus brother?
    Sounds to me the best and healthiest part of this very sad situation is that Cathy will be divorced from an unfeeling, insensitive, and dysfunctional family that never included her or her son. There is life after divorce and much better men and their families to meet in the future who will treat her and her son extremely well–and like family.

  13. Dad

    Jim’s own stepchild was not invited to the rehearsal dinner? How exactly did the couple getting married sell that one? Traditionally the parents of the groom pay for the rehearsal dinner – I know this from experience. Cathy, if you are listening, was that the case here? If so, my biggest question is, why didn’t dad say: I won’t contribute to your rehearsal dinner if Brian isn’t welcome?

    Cathy: there are a lot of good guys out there. I’m one of them. I have a stepchild from my wife’s first marriage (she passed away last year). He always has been and always will be an enormous part of my life. I will never date a woman who doesn’t understand and support that. I wish you the best. Also, do you live in Portland? 😉

  14. Jenn

    NO. Jim’s an ABFT and always will be. NO, NO, NO! He’s up to no good… and Brian has suffered enough.

    1. Robin DesCamp

      What is an “ABFT?”

      1. Signal Mixer

        Part of the new, expanded character set for the Myers-Briggs personality test?

  15. Larraine Howell

    I think the most important point that is being overlooked here is that Cathy married a man who had no feelings nor would ever have for her son, I cannot stress enough how much this pisses me off, what was she thinking? How any man or woman could welcome into their lives anyone who would have such blatant disregard for their own child, their own flesh and blood, the one person who should have been the most important to her is beyond my comprehension! This was her child, he had no say in having to live day in day out with a man who ignored him and showed no affection for him whatsoever. The fact that she wrote asking you should she try to facilitate a relationship between her son and the cold hearted douche to me beggars belief. For ten years she let her child down, FFS don’t torture him after the fact also. You may think my response to Cathy’s behaviour is rather harsh considering she is now a divorcee again but for the sake of her son I am glad of it. She was thinking only of herself, I would have kicked that SOB’s ass to the kerb years ago, her son deserved so much more than what he has had to endure over the last ten years, for him my heart breaks. I hope he has a wonderful life ahead of him, he certainly deserves it.

    1. Robin DesCamp

      I don’t see that as the “most important point” because it is ten years in the past. However, I agree it is an important point for Cathy to remember going forward. She probably assumed he would change and fall in love with her child over time. She may have been fearful of being alone and made a poor choice in partner as a result. You are correct, though: she should have ended the marriage (or better yet, not married Jim at all) many years ago, when it became clear that Jim and his children cared only about themselves. Cathy carries an enormous amount of guilt about this, by the way, so try to have compassion. She probably felt trapped in the marriage and terrified of her son having to experience a second divorce in his childhood. That may explain why she stayed so long, despite being so desperately unhappy.

  16. Robin DesCamp

    I love that some of these comments are coming from the same company where Jim works. That’s so interesting!

  17. Howard Circk

    The opening meme of “there are two times in life- now and too late” says it all. The now teenage Brian needed to be welcomed and loved over all the course of this ten years of the marriage–not now because it is too late! It sounds like Cathy sacrificed too much for Jim and his ungrateful family while her own son suffered from all of their selfishness and disinterest in him. Very sad indeed. Hope Cathy realizes she did more than enough and she and her son were treated unreasonably. Not including him in the rehearsal dinner was over the top lack of good breeding, manners, and absolutely gauche. I’m sure there are etiquette books for them to have consulted–and undoubtedly not inviting or including a step brother would have been a huge faux pas. What a bunch of Neanderthals. Cathy, brush yourself off, keep your head high and move on. This “family” of Jim’s is not one I’d ever want to be a part of. You and Brian deserve to be treated better. Good luck to both of you.

  18. Debbie

    NOW… at the time of divorce… the step father wants to spend time with his step son… the boy, now teenager he neglected for ten years? HE IS A DAY LATE AND A DOLLAR SHORT. Nuff said. Tell him go to pound sand. The irony of what I just said lol!

    1. Robin DesCamp

      The irony! Because: golf!

  19. Win her heart through her heir

    You don’t give a lot of facts about Jim and Cathy, but I’ll make a couple of inferences based on the facts you did give. Jim drives to an office and has the flexibility in hours to take Brian to school, which suggests that he’s an executive, likely a high earner, certainly not a 9-to-5 hourly worker. He and Cathy can afford to golf regularly. His income is 4x Cathy’s, which suggests that even though Cathy earns less than Jim she is no slouch herself, and might be able to work more but for the time she’s put in to raising Brian and providing a home and entertainment for Jim and his children. Jim has two married children and Cathy’s son is a teenager at home, meaning that Jim’s children are 10 or 15 years older than Brian and by extension Jim is 10 or 15 – maybe even 20 – years older than Cathy. His children were out of the house, or nearly so, when he and Cathy married, so she wouldn’t have had a lot of time or opportunity to spend time with them, but it sounds like she did anyway, for Jim’s benefit. By contrast Brian lived at least part of the time with Jim and Cathy from kindergarten-age onward, so Jim had a lot of opportunity to spend time with Brian. Jim rightly wouldn’t expect to take away from the parenting time of Brian’s father, but would have had opportunities during Cathy’s parenting time to participate. I have the impression that Cathy’s and Brian’s lives are more comfortable financially because of Jim’s earnings, but that Cathy and Cathy’s ex have the ability to more than adequately provide for Brian.
    Here’s what I don’t understand. If Brian is 15 then Cathy is maybe 40 and Jim is maybe 55. His first marriage ends and he finds a woman 15 years younger than him who can work, raise a son, keep house, entertain at home (maybe with customers of Jim? Good for Jim’s career), and still makes time to get Jim’s children involved. I can understand why Cathy might eventually get fed up with Jim and leave — she doesn’t really need him — but why, unless Cathy is a Gorgon or a Grinch, would Jim ever leave Cathy and give up what she offers him. If I were Jim, I would have spent the last ten years building a relationship with Brian, because through Brian I would lock in Cathy’s affections for ever. And if I weren’t married, I would ask you for Cathy’s phone number – she sounds too good to be single for long.

    1. Robin DesCamp

      OK, I know what a “grinch” is, but what is a “gorgon?”

      1. Win her heart through her heir

        In Greek mythology, the Gorgons were three sisters who had snakes instead of hair, and were so frightful that anyone who looked at one would be turned to stone. Medusa was the most famous of them.

        1. Dad who cares

          With Jim being so much older than Cathy, and on his second marriage, it’s highly unlikely he that he chose to marry a Gorgon. The accepted pattern for executives who take a much younger woman as their second wife is that they marry a woman who is somewhere between attractive and drop-dead gorgeous. The person who’s going to be happiest about these events is Jim’s first wife, who will come to understand that the problem with their marriage wasn’t her.

  20. Dad who cares

    One possibility that Cathy may not have thought of his that money might be so tight with Jim that the cost of one more person at the rehearsal dinner is meaningful to him. He picked a crappy way to go about saving money, but that might be why he wanted to keep Brian away. It’s a bit of a stretch, but Cathy might want to consider whether Jim has a gambling problem or has lost a lot of money in some business venture that he hasn’t told Cathy about .

    1. Stepmom, too.

      And that might explain why he is trying to sell the house.

  21. Reformed Step Daughter

    People who treat their stepchildren like second class citizens most of the time, then brag on them to their friends when it makes them look good, are disgusting. I know from experience. Sounds like Cathy AND Brian need to just distance themselves from Jim.

    1. ssirish

      Agreed 100% Sounds like my father-in-law’s third wife. Doesn’t work for more than 2o yrs-he pays for everything and is very generous but his first born son, his wife and children aren’t invited vacations, included in family events or on the family Christmas cards. Seriously?

  22. NANNETTE COBB

    Absolutely no relationship the boy has been subjected to enough rejection. He had 10 years time to move on hopefully this young boy has a better role model.

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