Direct Answers – Where Do I Stand?

I've been living with my man eight years in a common law marriage. I love him. He has two girls, teenage twins, and he is a great dad. They live with their mother, who uses them as pawns to hurt their dad. She doesn't buy them anything, so he, in addition to paying child support, has to.

Through the years we have done our best to make the twins happy and contented. I get along well with them, but they are possessive of their dad and he spoils them rotten. When they are with us on alternate weekends, it's all about them.

He buys them expensive stuff, which doesn't bother me, but it makes me feel left out. He even bought them each a car. He makes plans with them and expects me to accept it. Sometimes I don't want to, but I keep my feelings to myself.

While the twins hang all over him, he has problems with my son living here and I have to listen to him complain about that. Recently I had plans for a particular summer weekend, and now he informs me the plans will be cancelled because of the girls.

What do I do? Get mad or bottle it up? Am I being childish and selfish?

~ Jeanine

Jeanine, even though you call your relationship a marriage, it's not the equivalent to a man who falls in love, gets down on bended knee and asks a woman to be his wife. It's more like extended dating.

If he had taken you as a bride and your child as his own, you would be a new family. A blended family. But that's not the model he followed. Instead, he followed the model of a hierarchy. I am the breadwinner. It's me and my biological children first.

After his children, there's you. After you, there's your son, in whom he has little interest. You are not like a husband and wife united in love and respect, in unison making the best decisions for their children and in unison guiding, leading and parenting.

You told us you love him, and you told us he disrespects you and your son. What you haven't told us is that he loves you.

The real question, which you didn't ask, is what would be his reaction if you spoke up? You wrote out of fear, but you don't want to name that fear. Your real question is, what is my position in his life? Am I loved as a wife, or am I the chief cook and bottle washer?

After being together eight years, you hope you have enough standing to complain. But you aren't sure. Unlike a university professor with tenure, you could get fired.

When you first came together, he had young children and a household to manage. Now the girls are eight years older and on the verge of independence.

If you speak your mind, you can find out where you stand. But if you speak your mind, you have to be willing to suffer the consequences. This has nothing to do with being childish or selfish. The issue is whether he respects you and your son.

With a calm mind, analyze the situation. Talk to someone about your legal relationship to him. Think of the worst case. If you two part, you'll need a job, resources and somewhere to go.

If you are sure of your standing, stand up to him. If you aren't, you may be fighting an unwinnable battle. A battle which ends, as battles often do, with some people being homeless.

~ Wayne & Tamara

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