Question

My partner and I have a daughter that is almost five. He also has a seven-year-old daughter from a previous relationship. My issue is that I spend more time with his seven-year-old, who has a mother, yet I care for her more than he does on numerous occasions when it’s his time with her. Caring for my child is plenty I’d like to take on but adding another just feels it’s out of my responsibility when that child has a mother of her own. How do I confront him on feeling he needs to take more responsibility for his child than myself?

Answer

It’s tough when you see a real need and feel conflicted about how to respond. There’s no doubt his seven-year-old daughter is blessed to have your presence and support in her life. However, his absence during his parent time with her is hard for you to keep supporting and enabling. Let’s talk about how to respond to these strong emotions you’re experiencing.

Even though resentment is one of those emotions that can eventually become toxic, paying attention and responding to it early can actually improve your life. Resentment is nothing more than a deep feeling of unfairness that, if left unchecked, can turn into disgust and contempt for the other person. I don’t know how long you’ve been feeling this way toward him, but now is the time to do something about it.

The Savior warned against contention when he visited the American continent, but don’t believe for a minute he was conflict avoidant. In fact, he encouraged us to reconcile quickly with our adversaries.[i] I believe that when we try and stuff down our initial resentments, we run the risk of creating more patterns of contention. Instead, we can use those feelings as a signal that it’s time to confront whatever isn’t working and seek reconciliation.

Your question doesn’t seem to be about whether or not you have enough capacity to take on more childcare. Instead, it’s about your relationship with your partner and how unbalanced things feel. Even though this little girl is part of your family and you’ve been willing to care for her, there are some unspoken expectations that you parent her while he does other things. You’re likely feeling disregarded for the lack of accountability you need him to show to both you and his daughter. Your unrest with the situation is a call for you to make the call that you need something to change.

While you can certainly approach him and ask him to be more available to his daughter, my guess is that past attempts haven’t produced any changes. When your requests for change aren’t considered, it’s time for a new strategy. Are you clear on how much time you can handle parenting her without him present? If so, you can let him know you’re only available for the amount of time you decide and then let him know he’ll either to spend time with his daughter or find another arrangement. You are in charge of doing something different if he carries on unaware. If you keep doing the very thing that sparked resentment, your misery will only grow.

If he doesn’t want to make time with his daughter when it’s his parent time, he’ll either have to find someone to care for her or work out a better schedule with his ex-wife. Even though you both have a relationship with his daughter, he has to ultimately be responsible for her care if he’s not going to spend his parent time with her.

If you’re someone who struggles to have hard conversations, addressing the issues that cause resentment will feel like you’re doing the wrong thing. Don’t trade easy peace for the real peace that comes when we do the hard work to reconcile our differences in our most important relationships.

Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at [email protected]

If you’ve broken trust with your spouse and want a structured approach to repairing the damage you’ve created, I’ve created the Trust Building Bootcamp, a 12-week online program designed to help you restore trust and become a trustworthy person. Visit www.trustbuildingacademy.com to learn more and enroll in the course.

About the Author

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples, pornography/sexual addiction, betrayal trauma, and infidelity. He is the founder of LifeStar of St. George, Utah (www.lifestarstgeorge.com) and Alliant Counseling and Education (www.alliantcounseling.com). Geoff is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, the host of the Illuminate podcast, and creates online relationship courses available at www.trustbuildingacademy.com. He earned degrees from Brigham Young University and Auburn University. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.

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[i] See 3 Nephi 11:29 and Matthew 5:23-25