Cracking under the pressure, unrealistic or am I a failure?
I am really struggling with a situation that has developed over the course of two years. I am divorced and live with my 4 children, we are very close and have an amicable relationship with their father, no dramas. My boyfriend of two years pretty much lives with us and gets on really well with the kids, they love him and he does them (I think), he is very caring towards them and because of the time we all spend together there's a close bond and lots of shared activities and fun times. They are all loving and affectionate and when we are together, someone looking in from the outside would probably think that we were a nuclear family. From day one they embraced him with open arms and he has had it very, very easy, compared with most of the stories that you hear about. Likewise my exh is fine, he causes no trouble. I feel very proud of what we have achieved there post divorce.
On the flipside, my boyfriends exw is controlling, abusive towards him and me, she lies, gossips and coaches the kids to hate me. Strange, when I didn't even know him until 4 years after they split (instigated by her). So there's no grounds for all that at all, I don't deserve it, neither does he. From day one, his kids have been cold, distant, the oldest one rude, dismissive. I have been asked to not attend events in case it upsets them or their mother. The kids will say behind my back to him, do we have to go there (to my house), can't we just spend family time with you and not her... etc. etc. All the usual things that year on the forums. So nearly two years in, my boyfriend has decided to spend alone time with them mostly, sharing with me and my kids only a few hours alternate weekends. He is scared to lose them, ignores the coldness and behaviour, yet I totally understand that. I understand it's not their fault. So everytime I see them, it's a big smile, helloo, sometimes a hug (even though the middle one pulls away), I ignore the rudeness if it happens and I plod on. No affection comes my way, no chit chat comes my way that I don't instigate. I am constantly putting in an effort to bond as I love my man and would dearly love to love his children. I support his decision to spend alone time with them, I try not to feel rejected, I try not to show it anyway.
I read somewhere that step parenting is different to normal parenting as there is no biological or familiar bond, so often the love/effort you give is not reciprocated. But the way to look at it is you give in one direction and receive in another. That totally hit the nail on the head for me! It was a eureka moment and I no longer felt bad inside, I give attention/affection to the children and I receive my gratification from my partner in his recognition of my efforts. A + B = D. Fantastic!
The reason for my post is that over the years there have been many arguments centred around the children, like most parents, to him his kids are perfect. However, I can see how frustrated he is with his life, the children at times and his dysfunctional ex. I am getting the blame more and more and starting to lose hope. If the oldest boy is in a mood and doesn't want to be near me of a day, the next day according to 'dad' it is my fault, because I didn't do this, that or say something else. He constantly picks holes in the smallest of things and even when we have a day when everything goes great, couple of day later he will critique something. He has spelt out that I am letting him down, that he wishes I treated his kids as he does mine. I have felt so low about this, unappreciated, how am I able to do that in the space of a few afternoons a month? His children give very little back, so is he being unrealistic or am I letting him down? Feel so down and totally at breaking point, after all the efforts I made over Christmas during which I thought we had a good time. I would try, try and die trying to bond with the kids as long as my boyfriend appreciates my efforts. But it's clear he doesn't or is it me? So confused.