I've been lurking and commenting on and off the past few years. I have some current relationship issues I'd like to get some feedback on to confirm some of my own feelings about it and perhaps get some new perspective smacked into my skull.
Sorry in advance for the long winded ness, I've a lot to explain and haven't posted much on my situations in the past few years...
- divorced 4+ years go after a 22 year marriage that started too young but we both knew was flawed and hung onto too long.
The ex went off the deep end and was involuntarily hospitalized a few times adding drama and extending the divorce process. The inner NJ that I always knew was there at times completely took over and splintered every relationship in her life, including friends, her parents and siblings, and of course our kids.
- 4 kids...all over age of majority now. Oldest two living independently, youngest two living with me solely now
- my career and much of my social activity has been derailed over the past 7-8 years after serious chronic illness has debilitated me and had me hospitalized too many times.
- during divorce process met and refriended an ex GF who was also going through a divorce simultaneously. We reconnected and became emotionally then physically involved again prior to divorces being finalized. All this despite the well founded one year rule consistently offered up here and that I'd also determined I felt I needed myself after such a long relationship was ending.
So, the woman and myself became a mutual support system for one another, agreed to see if after our mutual divorces the feelings still existed (they did), and have been in a relationship since a short time after our divorces were final. Heed my words here gentlemen......this WILL cause much strife with your exes and likely with your children!
Nevertheless, we both worked on establishing ourselves in our new lives separately and adjusting to them. I maintained the marital home with my then youngest two in high school and going week on week off schedule. The gf has three children of her own, two of which are adults, and set up a new home and also had 50/50 split. We tried to limit our times spent with each other to primarily when our kids were with the exes. However, we fairly quickly introduced each other to the children and started occasionally attending kids events in the company of one another.again, these were high school sports and activities....not family events.
Despite my misgivings and the well founded advice here our relationship with each other went pretty well. The turmoil that relationship caused between my ex and I (by extension my kids) was an entirely different matter. By this time I think I'd truly stopped giving my ex any rent free space in my head. Thie new gf made a determined effort to allow me space with my kids and myself when I said I needed it and also spent some time working on herself.
Fast forward to the following year..... I was having some acute medical issues which prevented me working which lead to some financial concerns with maintaining the home for my kids. The gf who is a medical professional had switched jobs to gain the flexibility needed to adjust to her new schedule as a single mom and was also struggling to maintain her household due to reduced income. Inevitably, the topic of her moving into our home which had two empty bedrooms and extra space was floated...by her. After some debate we agreed to try the arrangement. I consulted my kids who were 23,22,17, and 15 at the time about the decision process. Only the two youngest were spending 50/50 split time as the older two lived independently. Their responses at the time were that if it made me happy I should try it out. Despite my best efforts at being upfront and taking their opinions as the highest weighted factor I realize now in hindsight it was much too soon to ask this of them.
While they were receptive, this cohabitation has caused friction on more than one occasion. One of the biggest issues is that of the ex wife pressuring the youngest two boys to remove items from our home to her home that she "needed" or "forgot" when we separated the marital household years before. This process still continues to this day with her asking the now 25 year old to remove be some kitchen gadgets from my home while I was out of town with the gf for a birthday trip last year. The ex wife, despite having free reign to take what she wished during the divorce, and an additional time post divorce when she learned of the possible cohabitation still seems to feel that it's ok to pressure her sons into essentially stealing from my home whenever she decides there is something she may need that she knows was left here. I've addressed it with all of my boys individually, and with her on several occasions. It's not the value of the items as they are just "stuff" but rather her willingness to cajole them'into doing the wrong things to benefit her and "keep her control" over my life. She is a very toxic person who has little relationship with her immediate family to this day and doesn't see the harm in using her kids this way. Her defense is that there is now another woman living "her life, in her house, with her dog and kids".
So in addition to breaking the cardinal rules of beginning a relationship,too early, cohabitation within n a year of divorce, and not really taking the time to establish a new "me" before establishing a new "we", I have had the ongoing stress and drama of constantly trying to maintain boundaries for the ex while offering a "safe haven" and some kind of stable home life for my sons. Also, my medical issues have only allowed me to work in my businesses about 18 of the last 60 mos. After graduating high school both boys have eventually spent less and less time with the ex ( who has also now established a live in relationship with bf and own a house together) and now essentially live full time with myself and the GF in their childhood home except for a few semesters away at school.
As I mentioned I've had some chronic illnesses and pain that have pretty consistently thwarted my ability to work. I've owned several businesses that were successful and have basically allowed them to lapse due to these health issues. The new GF being in health care has been a tremendous help to me during this time as she has supported me emotionally, aided me in the processes with drs, treatments, and hospitals, and has enabled me to stay afloat financially by taking on half of the living expenses here since moving in 3 years ago. She literally saved my life a few years back when I became septic and coded while hospitalized with a 107' temp from a still undetermined infection.
To further add to the home life stresses and drama, my folks who are elderly became very ill a few years back. My only sibling lives across the country so when they became incapable of staying in their home independently I moved them into my home in a downstairs suite that requires few steps and enabled me to help them with dr visits, care, treatment, etc. GF was terrific and supportive of me through all of this. My dad ultimately lost his fight with cancer a year ago while my mother continues to have some very serious health issues of her own till this day. Throughout this all, the GF was great! Helping with care, driving on occasion when I couldnt, and supprting me through the process was extremely beneficial to me as I am still not healthy.
She has had some issues ongoing issues with the ex wife due to the previously mentioned intrusions by proxy into our home, the attempted poisoning of my boys minds, and some other behaviors by the ex who still feels she has claim and say over my life after 5 years. Also, her three kids are now living in the home with us ( two over 18 full time, one HS junior 50/50). It's a pretty large 5-6 bedroom home so there is physical space for everyone. Her kids and mine aren't friends, they don't openly fight or disagree, they just have disparate interests and act as roommates which is certainly fine and understandable as 4 of them are adults and have their own school, jobs, GFs, etc. Her youngest still splits time between her dads home and here. Her oldest two have chosen to stay here full time on their own. All of the "working adult" kids are asked to contribute a minimal financial stipend to the household bills......$50 weekly.
She has been great, patient, helpful, and understanding whenever I've asked her and many times when I haven't. We are both attempting to aid our respective children in becoming independent adults in the hopefully near future while supporting them and allowing them to make their own choices. She disagrees with some of the ways I handle situations with mine and I disagree with the way she does hers, but overall our philosophies are similar in this regard. So, this has lead to a few recurrent issues between us. She feels I'm too lenient with my youngest boys, now 21 and 19 while allowing them to make their own decisions and mistakes when it comes to college, girls, and even "gasp" marijuana use. I find fault with her willingness to financially support hers, now 22 and 18 when they aren't attending school or working. As I said, not major departures but the issues have caused some stress in the house.
She has mentioned a number of times over the past few years that she is amenable to the idea of marriage. I'm very cautious about that because of the unusual dynamic with me not truly being self supporting at this time and a healthy trepidation at having a third party, the state, involved in a romantic relationship again after having survived divorce once. I've been VERY upfront abouth my reasons with her from the very first discussion of a relationship and she still insists it's not a deal breaker to her, although it would help us both financially with me being added to her employer provided benefits and her gaining the writeoffs that I don't currently utilize due to having little consistent income.
So, last week, one year after losing my dad, myself still struggling with my own medical issues, and my mom starting the process of dialysis........she decided that perhaps it was best for her and her kids to move out and rent their own home again. Although I felt some of the tensions in our relationship due to the aforementioned stressors, this caught me by surprise a bit. So, after discussing it I found she had gone so far as to mention it to her friends and of course her kids, allow mine to become aware of it, submit an application, and bring home boxes to begin packing.
We discussed the potential move out. She insisted she still wanted to maintain our relationship but felt her kids needed more a place of their own, she needed some time and space away from any conflict with my kids, and a quiet dark place to sleep during the day when she works overnights. I don't sleep well or consistently due to chronic pain and tend to have the television running as background noise in our bedroom quite a bit when I'm laid up. She typically works 7pm to 7 am shifts 3-5 times weekly.
After discussing the issues, both of our concerns, and some possibilities to remedy them, she now seems to want to stay here and try to make some modifications to our routines to ease some of the stresses. We both still have a loosely defined 1-2 year timeline of wanting to relocate if life allows.
My intention when divorcing was to maintain the marital home here for my kids until the youngest graduated in 2015 then sell the home and downsize with a possible relocation to the warmer south due to not wanting, needing, or really being able to afford a home this size any longer. To be fair, her being here lightened the load financially enough that this was no longer a necessity in 2015. Also, my folks becoming ill and moving in here complicated that for me a bit as well due the care they needed and a deathbed promise made to my dad to take care of my mom as she's truly not capable of living independently.
So, the root of the issue then.......
I'm now questioning where our relationship actually is and may be headed as I've tried to make decisions and plan jointly with her while I took this as an impestuous decision she made independently without even really discussing with me. To be fair, she has said a few times recently that she's struggling to save any money due to the levels she contributes here towards her half of the bills (not unreasonable and likely only a few dollars more that she could rent a 3 bedroom home for independently). There have been times in the past 3 years when she was still working a different job when her income was short and I'd cover her, and in return when she had extra she would help me with medical bills of mine. Now she is back full time in a hospital setting and making more consistent money. So, I felt a bit cast aside due to this as I'm still very self conscious about my limited ability to work and generate income, and do other things a healthy adult male needs to to be fulfilled socially She insists it's not at all that, but that she was beginning to feel stress here due to the aforementioned reasons, not our relationship between us.
Due to the circumstances of us resuming our acquaintance and ultimately romantic relationship so near our divorces, I've always said open and honest thorough communication was a necessity to maintain trust and understanding. I've likely failed on that front as many times as I feel she has...
So, after all of this, I'm feeling a bit undecided as to how I should proceed. Should I embrace and encourage her move on her own again and see if that allows some of the household tensions to resolve themselves? Should I follow her lead and continue the status quo to see where it takes us as our adult kids find their own footings and move out and my mom gets care for her illness? I do love her, I feel like I could spend the rest of my life with her and she tells me she feels the same. We've known each other since 1988 and well before our respective marriages and divorces
I'm interested in your opinions and advice. I've learned enough about myself and interpersonal relationships to know at times it can take an outside perspective to aid in seeing the best course of action.
Also, I post this as a cautionary tale as I Ignored much of the good advice commonly given here and at times have felt it's been to our detriment as a couple, has affected my relationship with my kids, and most certainly the interactions with my ex.