In this episode of Blended Fatherhood, host James Ferris discusses the challenges that blended fathers face regarding their relationship with the other father of their children. He begins by discussing the insecurity and jealousy that can arise from the presence of the other father, as well as the thankless job of being a step-parent in such a situation. To conclude, he talks about the importance of communicating with the other father, as well as between the two spouses, in order to make sure that everyone is on the same page and that the feelings of jealousy are addressed. He emphasizes that it is possible for blended families to have healthy relationships with the other parent, and that communication is key to achieving this.
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[0:00:23] James: Hello and welcome to Blended Fatherhood. I'm your host James Ferris and today we have a pretty serious topic. We're going to be talking about the other guy or possibly other guys because as you probably know, in a blended relationship your wife has had a previous marriage maybe or just has a previous partner where she had a kid with. Either way, there is another guy and we're going to talk about it because it is a pretty big deal and it's something that can kind of irk you really bad and just make you feel a lot of either jealousy or just insecurities, which are not the best thing to have in a blended family.
[0:01:05] James: So there's three things that we're going to discuss today and those are going to be your insecurity or your jealousy in regards to the fact that your wife has a previous relationship that you have to deal with way more often than anyone really wants to. And then the second thing is going to be the thankless job that you're in. And job usually is something that can come across as a bad thing. Like it's just a job, it's work, whatever.
[0:01:34] James: But it's more of the idea that like, hey, I'm in this situation that I don't really get a lot of praise and how are you going to deal with that? And then the third one is just communicating with the ex spouse or ex boyfriend or whoever the other guy may be and how you go about those situations, because that can be tough, especially if you have things in the first category like you are jealous. How do you communicate to them? Or how do you communicate with your spouse about those feelings? Because I know for me those three things were kind of pretty important and they can affect a lot of how you approach the kids and how you approach your relationship with your wife.
[0:02:09] James: So the first thing is are you jealous? Now, jealousy comes in a couple of different forms. One is the idea that you're jealous of the actual guy and that they had a relationship and you're jealous of that relationship. The second one is are you jealous of the relationship that your now kids have with their dad and you want that type of relationship or you want that relationship between them and yourself to be the same.
[0:02:34] James: So let's talk about the second one and kind of skip over the being jealous of your wife and the relationship with the ex because they don't have that relationship anymore. It's not the same. And if it's relatively going towards the same, then that's another problem that is completely different. That's just a relationship problem. So it's not necessarily about being a father in a blended family. So again, let's talk about the second one and that has to do with the relationship between your step kids and their father or maybe the experiences that your wife has had that are firsts that are not firsts because this is not their first marriage. And maybe this is your first marriage, or even if not, you have to deal with this in both different ways. Because if it's not your first marriage, it's not their first marriage. You're bringing stuff to the table that kind of has to be unpacked and create new memories.
[0:03:21] James: So second one, let's talk about that. So a great example is that my wife has kids with another guy, right? And we have a child together now. That's my first child. That's my first biological child. That's not her first biological child. Her first biological child is with some other person. So am I a little jealous of that? Yeah, a little bit. But I have to be aware and say, okay, no, she had past experiences. That's okay.
[0:03:52] James: It shouldn't affect the way that I approach either my kids or my family and stuff. But again, I do need to be aware that, hey, if I'm thinking this is something that I'm saying to them, is this why am I being affected by the fact that this is a first or am I feeling down on myself because this wasn't a first? Another example is when the father gets brought up by your non biological kids and you have to think through what emotions are going to appear in yourself.
[0:04:25] James: A good example would be when my son, at night, inevitably he's going to come in and he's going to be, I don't want to go to bed. Why do I have to go to bed early? My oldest sister, she gets to stay up, whatever. And then he's going to be like, can I call my dad? And mind you, it's like 830 and his bedtime is nine and we're going to be like, yeah, it's fine, call your dad. That is something you do not have to deal with if you're not in the blended family. Right.
[0:04:52] James: But the other thing is that as the guy or as the father, he's like, can I call my dad? It's like a constant reminder that, hey, there's someone else that fills your shoes. It's not you. Right? And that can be kind of tough. I took that to heart a good bit at the start of a relationship. It was pretty tough. And even now sometimes I do because I'm like, man, and I just have this gut feeling of like, oh my gosh, really?
[0:05:24] James: Yes. Who you want to call? Come on, man. And that's a real feeling. That's real life. Those are not bad feelings to have. But you do want to make sure that you don't accidentally act on those feelings in a negative way towards the kids because it's not the kid's fault, period. It's not. And you as the adult have the responsibility of saying, you know what, I'm not going to do that. I'm not going to act that way. But real life, you might feel a little betrayed and it might get to you. And that's just a conversation you have to have completely with your wife and just with yourself and be real like, am I jealous?
[0:05:58] James: If you're sitting at the dinner table and there's a phone call and you see that name pop up, if you were not in a blended family and that happened and their ex's name popped up on the phone, you would not feel happy. I know for me, I'd be like, what is I'd be taking aback. It would not be a good conversation and your wife probably knows it wouldn't be a good conversation and you do. But in our situation as fathers of blended families, we are put in that situation all the time, right? They call, ask a question, something, or they have to call them, tell them something about that happened with your son, daughter, non biological kid, whatever.
[0:06:42] James: Doesn't matter. It's going to happen. And so does that make you jealous every single time? And if it does, you need to have a conversation with your wife and talk through how to have some appropriate boundaries to make it so it's less jealous. And then you need to work on some of that sort of jealousy because when it comes down to it, you're married to your wife, period. So you win, right? The other guy doesn't. Now there is that sort of tie because of the kids.
[0:07:10] James: That's not the kid's fault. And you're in their life for a specific reason. And it's not to be someone who tears them down because they have another dad or that you feel jealous of their dad, right? That's not your job. And you're in a special place to be in relationship with them that could be super productive if you're not super jealous and kind of beholden to that jealousy. And you think about it every time you interact with them.
[0:07:40] James: So be aware, talk with your wife and there are situations that are going to come up that are going to be super rough. This one hasn't affected me yet. I'm not sure if it will. But I know other people where they're the stepdad and their stepdaughter is getting married and they're not the one who walk them down the aisle, but they raise them the majority of the time, right? And it's like this, right, that the biological father just has, that the stepfather might not just have.
[0:08:18] James: And that can be a little odd and weird and totally awkward and really backwards. And so you are taking on this selfless role and you have to live in that. And realistically, the biggest thing and best thing you can do is just be selfless and kind of put yourself aside because you're sacrificing for the betterment of your family. And that involves having a good relationship with both their dad and their relationship with their dad.
[0:08:48] James: So don't let jealousy kind of crowd the issue. Just be aware of it. Take some breaths and move on past that the second topic I wanted to talk about, and this one's going to be short because the third topic is actually the really important one is the idea of you getting praise and a respect for a position you're in. That is a very difficult one and you feel like you should get a lot of respect and a good amount of praise, but you don't.
[0:09:17] James: So a good example is the sort of job analogy where you got picked for a job, you got hired for the job, but the person who was in the position that you took over is kind of already still there. They haven't really left and all the other coworkers are just like, I like that guy a little better. He still kind of works well in that job. So what are you doing here? It's not going to feel good. And that's kind of the position you're in as the father of a blended family, right? If you have a wife that has brought in kids, they have a dad, so they don't really need you to be their dad.
[0:09:57] James: Now they might have a dad that has totally gone away and has kind of left them in the dust. And so you are their dad and there's very much like a bigger tie of like, oh, you know, I can be your dad, I can be your father figure. But even in those instances, you still feel a little weird because that relationship that is absent from their actual biological father is going to affect a lot of different things and it's going to make you feel a little bit like disrespected. So the main premise here is that it's not your job to feel validation from the kid saying, hey, you're my dad, right? That's not your job. That might come and it'll be awesome and it'll be amazing and super fantastic when it does happen, hopefully.
[0:10:48] James: But don't say that it needs to happen for me to feel like I'm doing and making a difference because that's not the case. Your validation should come from you and the idea that, hey, I'm trying the best that I can to have a relationship with these kids regardless of what they think or how they feel about me. And that's the best kind of love you can give and the best thing you can do, because it says to them, hey, you might not act this way, you might not respect me, you might not be thinking me as your actual father or anything like that, but I'm choosing to love you regardless. And that's a really good way to be a good role model to them.
[0:11:30] James: The third and final thing I want to talk about in regards to the other guy is the idea of communicating with them and how to communicate with them and how the communication should go for your family with them. So my dynamic is totally different than yours, and I think any blended family's dynamic is probably going to be a little bit different although they will share some common similarities. One of which there is another guy.
[0:11:56] James: There is another person that is attached to one or multiple of the kids in the family that is not you. And you have to kind of communicate with them because the kids having that relationship is important and it is still their biological kids. And so it is again important that we're communicating. So again my situation is that my wife has two kids with two other people. So my daughter has a dad and my son has a dad. They're not the same people and they have their own different relationships with their fathers. So my daughter's relationship with her father is totally different than my son's relationship with his father.
[0:12:37] James: Now we have full custody. I guess they live with us full time and so there isn't really a back and forth kind of moving around of the kids every week or every weekend or every other week or however other different custody agreements go. And so the communication in regards to living spaces is very minimal. But my son from time to time does go and hang out with his dad on a weekend. My daughter hasn't done that. She's had a dinner with her dad a couple of different times and that's a whole nother story.
[0:13:13] James: But there is some amount of communication. Now the most communicating I have done has been hey here is my son's baseball schedule. It'd be great if you could come for a game and mainly that that's it. Or hey this is what he's thinking that he wants for his birthday. Just want to give you a heads up. Or because I'm the school teacher that my son goes to the same school he'll be like hey I'm going to pick him up from school.
[0:13:41] James: I'd be like great, let me know when you're here so I can walk him out. Those things, those are super basic symbol communication stuff and those are really good things to have because it limits the amount of contact. And so there's a couple of different things that I do want to talk about that just kind of do a baseline of communication in general that I think are really good rules to follow that have nothing to do with a very specific dynamic and can apply to anybody's situation.
[0:14:10] James: So the first thing is setting appropriate boundaries between the ex spouses or the ex boyfriends or whatever and yourself and the newly blended family in general. So a couple of simple rules are there should be minimal contact between the ex spouses so your wife should not have a lot of contact with her ex husband or ex boyfriend or whoever it is. Realistically the only communication that should be have is talking about the kids because that's the only thing they should have. If there is anything else in that that's a little fishy and you should probably talk to your wife about it.
[0:14:47] James: And really you just need to be having these conversations with your wife. Everything else besides talking about the kids and possible discipline, physical health and emotional health and some logistics is kind of out of bounds because it just means that there's a relationship there that shouldn't be there and that's not good for the marriage as a whole. Right. You and your wife should be the primary source of everything in the family and the relationship, and that relationship is sacred. So both you and your wife should be making it very important and sacred. So make sure there's minimal contact between the exes.
[0:15:22] James: And really this is just on you as the father, to be like, hey, why are you talking to him about that? I think that's kind of inappropriate. I feel uncomfortable and you don't have to do it in a jealous way. Like, again, we already talked about jealousy, so if there is portions of it that's like, hey, this is not about the kids, that'll elevate some of that jealousy and you should, A, be aware that that might make you jealous, but B also just say, hey, this makes me uncomfortable, that needs to stop. I'd really appreciate if only communication is about your kids.
[0:15:54] James: Okay, next is contact, like actual physical contact, not necessarily just like over the phone and stuff should only happen at specified times. Now this could be court ordered, right? Like you could have a visitation in place or different living arrangements, and those are very specific and that's when they should be happening. They should also only happen when it's mutually agreed upon. They shouldn't be showing up at the door.
[0:16:20] James: Again, as the father, you're the one who's leading this family, so you should make sure that that boundary is set in place. Like, hey, I know you want to see so and so and so and so, or tell your wife to let her ex know this, and you can't just be showing up at the house and those sort of things. Now, I didn't do any of these things, if I'm being totally honest. I mean, I didn't have any contact between the exes and myself, really, and my wife doesn't really contact them all except for the kids, so I don't have to deal with that.
[0:16:50] James: But I was not super specific at the beginning of relationship saying like, hey, they're only allowed to hear at specific times, and that's just because I wasn't so worried about it. But if you know that you're not going to like it if they were to show up or you would want to be aware that they're going to show up, you need to tell your wife ahead of time. Okay. Next thing is there should be little or no contact between you and the ex.
[0:17:15] James: Except for when you're at a function where they both are. Right. Maybe later down in the relationship, but when you first get married and you're first starting, you don't need to be taking parenting responsibilities and other things and coming to them and being like, hey, so and so did this at school. That's not really your job. That should be on your wife's job because those are the kids now. And again, that might feel really weird because you're the father, you're the leader, but you're leading from a source of restraint and you're leading from a source that is supportive, which is a really good type of leadership because it's also leading by example and showing your step kids and your future kids and your wife a good example of setting boundaries and knowing, hey, I'm not supposed to handle that because it's more appropriate if you handle that because you and their ex need to have those parenting decisions. It also tells your step kids that, hey, I respect your father, whoever they may be.
[0:18:23] James: Now, it could be that they don't show up for visitation, they don't do anything, they don't call, nothing, and they are very much gone. They're not in the picture, or they're in the picture a very small amount. And if that's the case, then some of this you don't necessarily need to do completely. But it's important to know that all those decisions should still be happening between those two parents. So when something like, really bad happens, they need to know, and you need to not kind of push that away and be like, they don't ever talk, they don't even call. Why would we tell them?
[0:19:06] James: You're being respectful. Okay? And being respectful is important because regardless of your relationship with your step kids, regardless of their relationship with their father, the biological tie is still something that's important and that does affect them, okay? So if you're trying to cut into that tie a little bit, you're only damaging yourself and your relationship with your step kids. Yeah. So the last thing has to do with getting everything in writing.
[0:19:38] James: So you might have a high conflict or low conflict ex that you are dealing with as the father. And if they're high conflict, meaning they're trying to create drama, if you have everything in writing, it's really easy to call people out on them, changing what they're trying to say. If it's not in writing, it's really easy because people forget, people will change their minds, whatever. But if you have it in writing, it's really easy to be like, hey, no, you said this.
[0:20:09] James: That's what we're going by. And so we're going to go by what you had in writing. Right. The other thing, too, is that you need to be firm but respectful. So that usually means keeping things short, informative, and to the point instead of kind of waxing and waning about a bunch of different information. And you can do this in writing. You can do this over the phone. But again, keeping it in writing usually is a little bit more helpful.
[0:20:37] James: The next thing is you don't want to put them in the middle. So that, again, you're inserting yourself in between them and their parent or their father. That's putting yourself in the middle. You don't need to put the child in the middle. So a couple of things this means is, like, don't talk badly about the other parent or other stepparents or anything, especially in front of the kid. Maybe you can talk to your wife about it. That's great. Do it all you want. Don't don't sit in front of the kid. Don't whine mope gripe about their parent.
[0:21:06] James: Don't do it. It's not a good idea. And it's harder than you think it is. I know there are times when I'm like, I just want to pick up the phone and I just want to call them and I want to chew them out because what they did was ridiculous or they made my daughter or son mad or sad. And it's just come on. I don't know how many times. Again, we get to the point where he's like, I want to call my dad. And I'm sitting here going, this is not going to end well.
[0:21:33] James: And I just I'm really mad about it, and I want to say something, but I shouldn't. It's not my place, really, even though it hurts and I care about my son's well being, it's not fully my place to do that. So, like, I'm saying that that is hard, right? Because you want to you care about their feelings, you care about their relationship with you. You care about their mental health and stuff like that.
[0:21:59] James: But it's not your place. Your place is to be supportive of your wife when they're dealing with their ex. Don't hesitate, though, to ask for support. Right? This is again why I'm doing the podcast, why I think it is important. Because you need to know, like, you need help, I need help. Talking about it has been helpful. Hopefully listening to it has been helpful. Giving you different information or just kind of going from, oh yeah, okay, I guess that makes sense.
[0:22:29] James: Or, oh, I guess I did insert myself in the middle, and that's why that blew up. It's a good refresher. It's okay to ask for help. I know we as dads fathers, we don't really want to ask for help. We're like, no, I got this. I can do this. And that's not always the best option. Sometimes it's easier just to be like, hey, I have no idea what I'm doing, so I guess I need to go ask for help. That's an okay thing.
[0:22:58] James: At the end of the day, the important thing that you want to happen is that you want the relationship with the X or X's to be all on the same page. You don't necessarily need to like each other, but everybody's on the same page. Everybody is aware of different issues, and everybody is communicating effectively. For the kids and the betterment of the kids because it's not about you and it's not about them.
[0:23:33] James: It always has to come back to what is best for the kids. And as the leader of your family, you have to make the sacrifice for them, regardless if they are your biological kids or not. And that is a hallmark of being a good leader, of being a good father, is being able to put what you want aside for the betterment of your kids, your step kids, whoever it may be. That's where you want the goal to be. Now, I'm not saying that is easy.
[0:24:06] James: It can be quite difficult at times. There have been times where I have been so angry and I can't do anything about it. And I have to put that aside because it doesn't help my son or daughter to be angry. It doesn't help them. And so overall, that's what you're fighting for. That's what you want to show to your kids that you can put things aside, you can be selfless and be a good role model for them in these tricky situations because they can get really tough.
[0:24:37] James: And I think you can do it, and I totally believe in you to do it. I hopefully believe in myself. I'm sure there'll be a situation in the future where I'm going to have to come back and listen to what I just said and show some restraint, show some leadership and show some selflessness. Because again, it's for the betterment of the kids. And when everybody's communicating, everybody's thinking that, hey, this is better for the kids, that is when things can move forward. The second somebody starts getting a little selfish, then things start to unravel in not the best way.
[0:25:10] James: That's kind of it for those three topics. I just kind of want to end with a couple of different stories from my life that are kind of interesting and have to deal with the other guy. So here we go. I think one of the first times that I met one of my wife's exes, I think it was the father of my daughter, and he came to the house. Man, I was so nervous. I was going through a bunch of different things in my head and I was like, man, I don't know who this guy is.
[0:25:43] James: This is so weird. Like, I have to meet somebody who has been in a relationship with my wife, had a kid with my wife, who knows what, right? And it's just kind of like it's awkward, it's weird, and it's not something you can fully prepare yourself for. I mean, if you've been in a previous relationship where you've met their ex, you know that feeling. If you've never been in that before, then you don't necessarily know that feeling and it's a really weird feeling.
[0:26:20] James: Also, at this point, I've heard a little bit about him from both my wife and my daughter, right? And so you have a bunch of different emotions. If you care about your daughter and you care about her relationship or your son or whatever, you care about the child's relationship with her biological father. And sometimes it can make you angry if the relationship is not good. Sometimes it can make you jealous if the relationship is amazing.
[0:26:48] James: And you have to think through those things and you have to kind of prepare yourself to like, what is your response going to be? And my biggest advice would be just to be like, I'm just meeting someone new, and try to erase some of that background. Because if you're angry at them because the relationship is not good and you want to punch them, which is a legit response, like you could feel that way, punching them is not going to get you anywhere. It's not a good thing. So don't do that, don't do that.
[0:27:19] James: But you still have to say hi, shake their hand. And you can just need to lead by being respectful, right? Because again, you're leading by restraint, you're leading by example. And if you show your step kids how to deal with their biological father and when they grow up and they realize, man, that was an awkward situation that my stepdad put himself in. And he handled it with respect, he handled it with dignity, and he was very good and he didn't lash out and that sort of thing, that is a great example for them in the future.
[0:27:55] James: And that's what you want to be because again, you're a father, you're leading. So if you're putting yourself in a situation where you're constantly showing them, hey, I'm immature, or this is how you act, and it is an immature reaction, that's what you're showing them as going to be future adults, and you don't want that to happen, right? So you need to lead by being respectful, understanding that they have their own relationship and you do not want to put yourself in the middle and then being there for them if they ever want to talk to you about it and just have an open ear as well.
[0:28:30] James: Another funny story that has to do with kind of the other guy was we were at our son's baseball game and they showed up and him and his, I think his now wife, so I guess my son's now stepmother. I'm not really sure how the relationship is, but either way, they showed up at the baseball game and they're wearing like slacks and button up, and she was wearing a dress and we were all sitting here going like, this is a Little League baseball game, this is weird.
[0:28:58] James: But they spent the majority of the baseball game just like so far away from us, and it was a little awkward, but it's like, again, you don't need to act like that. We're all here for our son. It doesn't matter. There's nothing that needs to happen. And I. Can't tell if that was because of him being weirded out by me or maybe his stepwife being weirded out by my wife. Either way, there is a dynamic there that was like, this is odd, and to this day, he has never stepped foot in the house.
[0:29:31] James: I wouldn't mind if he did. Maybe my wife would mind, but I wouldn't. But he never has. He usually just stays in the cul de sac and picks up my son from there. That's it. Again, minimal contact. I don't really need to be his friend. I've texted him a couple of times to say, like, hey, this is the time, whatever, these sort of things. He's picked him up from school, which I work at the school that my son goes to.
[0:30:04] James: So I've seen him there. It's very small, very minimal. It doesn't need to be anything super drastic. Thank you so much for listening to this episode of Blended Fatherhood. Next week, we're going to talk about discipline and showing restraint and deferring away from actually disciplining your step kids right off the bat, and how you can have conversations with your wife about how to discipline kids and how to be that sort of silent partner in the discipline conversation, which will be difficult from a father's perspective because most of the time you want order in your household, and if you're not the one who's dictating that order, it can feel a little weird.
[0:30:58] James: Again, thank you so much for listening. If you have any questions, comments, please send me an email at email@example.com. I'd love to hear for you. I'd love to answer any and all questions. See you next time. Bye.