Relationship Connection: My fiancé wants to hide me from his children and grandchildren

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Question

I am considering a second marriage to a man that has also been married before. I truly love him and have for more than a year. We are both “silver” divorcees – both married over 40 years. Between us, there are seven grown children and upwards of nearly 20 grandchildren.

We are both very active and also very involved in the lives of our children and grandchildren. Both families have strong traditions in terms of holidays, birthdays and family events. The grown children on both sides of our families are well-adjusted successful adults.

I’ve been told by my future fiancé that he never wants me to be involved in the lives of his children or grandchildren in any way, shape or form. His preference is that our marriage never includes any type of blending or inclusion by either of us with our respective children or grandchildren. He never wants to meet my children or grandchildren.

He has requested that I understand that I will be automatically excluded from every holiday, every birthday and every church event in his family and that my presence at such events would be unwanted. He intends to spend all holidays with his ex-wife and his children and grandchildren.

No one in either of our families knows we are dating. My relationship with my ex-spouse is very respectful, kind and considerate, as is his. However, his ex-spouse is a very manipulative and controlling individual. She has made it perfectly clear to him that if he remarries, that person would not be welcome at any of his family events and if she ever saw a picture of “her” grandchildren with “anyone” else, she would be appalled and would do all in her power to assure that any relationship with his second wife would be negatively impacted, if she could help it.

My future fiancé’s requests are sending out serious red flags to me. My perspective is the exact opposite of his. While I would never force myself into relationships with his children or grandchildren, I would like to believe that over time, we can be a part of each other’s families.

His feeling is that our children and grandchildren were our “first” family and that he has no intention or motivation to be part of a “second” family. He tells me his children would never want to meet me. He is making decisions for his children already and they do not even know I exist in his life. He wants a private marriage with no family members invited to attend. No public celebration.

Is it wrong of me to feel that the second wife will forever remain second best in his eyes and that his children and grandchildren have the right forever more to be his first?

I love this man deeply and want to share my life with him, but I’m so hurt by these requirements that I’m at a loss as to whether or not to take this next step in my life. Do you have any suggestions?

Answer

While I’m delighted you’ve found a satisfying relationship with this good man, I’m concerned that he’s not ready for remarriage. I don’t know how long he’s been divorced, but he is still having difficulty separating from his ex-wife. I share the same concerns you’ve expressed. You don’t want to start your new marriage in second place.

In all fairness, it’s healthy for a new spouse in a blended family to take second place as they slowly enter the new family system. It requires flexibility and patience as they assimilate into the new system. There are times when the children and grandchildren’s needs and preferences will need to be balanced with the needs of the new marriage. However, when your fiancé is already organizing around the needs and preferences of his ex-wife at your expense, this is likely a recipe for heartache.

I’m sure he’s completely overwhelmed with his ex-wife’s threats and the emotional chokehold she’s exerting on him. However, his plan is impossible to keep secret. Plus, do you really want to be the secret wife? A significant reason for marriage is to make a public declaration of love, commitment and devotion to each other and to each other’s families. It’s a new link in the chain that connects past and future generations.

Second marriages are difficult enough without having to keep a secret and constantly living in fear of being discovered. The security of marriage is to know that you have a safe harbor where you can throw off all self-protection. This will be more difficult to manage than either of you can imagine in your current state of infatuation.

If his ex-wife and children are likely to sabotage you with a formal introduction to his family, imagine what will happen when they discover down the road that he’s had a secret wife this entire time. It will slip out and create more problems than you’ll be able to manage.

Also, please recognize that he may not want you to meet them, but it’s important for you to meet them for your sake. In other words, it appears that he’s hiding you from them, but he may also be hiding them from you.

You will learn a lot about him by spending time with his children and grandchildren. It may seem extreme, but I’ve seen cases when someone marries without meeting the rest of the family and discover a completely different story than what they were told. If he wants to hide parts of his life from you, then those are the areas of his life you need to understand the most.

If his relationships with his children are so fragile that he can’t introduce a new wife to the family system, then you might want to ask some questions about why this is the case. His ex-wife may be territorial about sharing her maternal presence in the family, but why can’t he give his children the chance to grow and adapt to their changing family dynamics? Again, if the divorce is still too fresh, then perhaps you’ve arrived before they’re ready.

Of course, you can work out any arrangement you want, but please recognize that it will be very difficult to have a marriage that you can’t share with your children and grandchildren. It will be painful to know you can’t share in the most joyful aspects of family life. Instead, you’ll be hidden away from each other’s families like you’re a shameful secret.

There is nothing shameful about either of you finding a new companion and slowly connecting them to your families. It’s challenging, but it’s more challenging for you to know that you’re hidden away not just during holidays and special events, but every single day.

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, 2018, all rights reserved.

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3 Comments

  • DRT August 22, 2018 at 10:08 am

    Dump his butt! NOW! This guy is bad news.

  • LunchboxHero August 22, 2018 at 11:19 am

    I wonder what she would tell her best friend or her sister to do in a situation like this? That usually gives you your answer.

  • Redbud August 23, 2018 at 2:59 pm

    Haha! Sorry you can’t see this for yourself, but you are being used! Dump him and cut your losses, or you’ll likely suffer more later on down the road. I know it’s not what you want to hear, but the ending to this story is obvious if you don’t choose to end this. Tell him you don’t agree with him, and give HIM the ultimatum of take it or leave it!

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