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My husband lost his wife almost 8 years ago to cancer and was left with 2 young children ( ages now: daughter 13, son 11). I have a 9 year old daughter. We have been married for a little over 6 months.

I live in the house he and his wife built together. I attend the church he and his wife attended( her childhood church) along with her parents. I have lunch with them almost every Sunday. I celebrate all major holidays with her parents.

I feel I am living in her shadow everyday. I am struggling... This is the extremely short version of our issues.

Before we were married I communicated my discomfort in living in "her" house. After a few discussions I gave myself a pep talk that "I can do this". I moved in to clean out her things left in"my" closet ( not just her clothes and jewelry-love notes and cards from my husband). Her things in the bathroom. Her things in the bedroom bookshelves.

After a few months, I found the wedding pictures were still in the living room. Pictures in every drawer I open.

My husband felt remorseful about the closet/bathroom. Not so much on the other things. More so irritated and "I just haven't gotten around to it".

Again, this is just the beginning. Thoughts?







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Hi Sasha, welcome to Marriage Builders. There is not a simple one line answer to this because what is lacking here is the skill and the ability to negotiate and resolve problems. In order to resolve this problem, 2 things must take place: your honesty with your husband about your feelings and the ability to negotiate solutions. We call them the policy of radical honesty and the policy of joint agreement.

Pretty much the success or failure of every marriage is very contingent upon the latter because the inability to negotiate solutions that make you both happy will eventually erode the love in the marriage. You can avoid all that if you can learn to negotiate mutual decisions. If you would, get this book: His Needs, Her Needs and read about these 2 policies and come back and let's discuss.


"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena.." Theodore Roosevelt

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Thank you Melody for your response. I have been totally open/honest with all of my feelings about EVERYTHING. The problem is his unwillingness to negotiate which has created resentment among other feelings.

I will buy the book.Thanks

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Originally Posted By: sasha1
Thank you Melody for your response. I have been totally open/honest with all of my feelings about EVERYTHING. The problem is his unwillingness to negotiate which has created resentment among other feelings.

I will buy the book.Thanks



Sasha, so he knows how you suffer over this and is unwilling to make any changes?


"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena.." Theodore Roosevelt

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Thoughts?

Well, a few.....

It's time to consider doing what you chose not to do before marrying this man. (And by the way: There's not a whole lot of expression in your note of how much you and he were in love before marrying - but a good explanation of the relative closeness of the ages of your children. Efficient childcare cooperatives do NOT readily translate into strong marriages! But, let's move on.....)

You and he should have (and now MUST) decide on the parameters of what your NEW CONJOINED life are going to, and distinctly different from those of the OLD SEPARATE lives you led before. It is highly probable that hubby thought marrying you did NOT entail finally closing the book, open for over seven years, of his prior life with his bride. Your pre-marital protest-then-acquiescence confirmed his impression. Then you did the worst possible thing and decided to "sacrifice" your true happiness to "get on with it". (Violation of a key MB principle: "Sacrifice" by one spouse leads inevitably to resentment and damage to the union - but you know that already.)

The house, existing as it is, and without prior firm agreement to re-do it, has remained at a point of stasis that you would like changed. Well, you immediately approach another key MB principle, the Principle of Joint Agreement (POJA). There are several articles on this site that explain POJA, but in short, the overriding concern would be that if both spouses do not agree, then no action is taken.

This is where your error prior to marriage makes its impact. Had you and prospective-hubby had this house-redecorating talk before your "I do's" the reality would have been, "If we cannot enthusiastically agree, then we do not move forward on the marriage." Now, however, the dynamic is "If we cannot enthusiastically agree, the house remains as it is!"

To make the change NOT work against your marriage (which is where you are today) you must have him agree - with enthusiasm, not resentment - that the decor needs updating. You must appeal to hubby's desire to see you happy (assuming that sentiment outweighs his comfort with keeping memory of wife #1 fresh and vibrant) and put aside the warmth of his current sense of attachment to the momentoes, and build anew set of memories with you.

One of the things you can work with is HIS resentment at having to "voice agreement" without really planning to follow through. His failure to follow another MB standard - the Principle of Radical Honesty (PORH) - has led him to being emotionally dishonest, and that likely bothers him.

So start there. "Honey, we seem to have reached a point of conflict on all the paraphernalia still displayed of (name). I know how much she meant to you, and I know how you want to make our marriage strong and successful, so perhaps we can find a way to satisfy both your needs in this matter....."

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I wanted to point out the default position, do nothing until there is an enthusiastic decision, applies to things that have not happened. For example, if she wanted to go on a vacation and they could not decide, then nothing should be done until it is.

This is entirely different because the condition already exists that makes her unhappy. So it is very different. This is something that he puts before his spouse and anything that is placed before his spouse will come between them. And that won't change. She won't be able to just accept it.

Sasha, I would write Dr Harley at the radio station and see if he can influence your husband to put your marriage first. If he can't do that, then you don't have a marriage. The fact that your husband wants you to suffer on his behalf means that he doesn't care.


"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena.." Theodore Roosevelt

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the condition already exists that makes her unhappy.

Mel, you and I are not disagreeing on this, to wit:

You must appeal to hubby's desire to see you happy...and put aside the warmth of his current sense of attachment to the momentoes, and build a new set of memories with you.

My take on their situation, however, is that the husband in this situation has not had her discontent adequately explained to him, to give him the opportunity to address this as a responsible adult, looking to strengthen his new marriage. The poster danced around the need for changes before the wedding, and tries to portray herself as "surprised" that the pictures are on the wall and in drawers.

Such "coyness" is what got them in this state. She and he owe each other their honest opinions and feelings.

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Originally Posted By: NeverGuessed

My take on their situation, however, is that the husband in this situation has not had her discontent adequately explained to him, to give him the opportunity to address this as a responsible adult, looking to strengthen his new marriage. The poster danced around the need for changes before the wedding, and tries to portray herself as "surprised" that the pictures are on the wall and in drawers.

Such "coyness" is what got them in this state. She and he owe each other their honest opinions and feelings.


Sasha1 is my sister. smile On more than one occasion she has told her DH that she's not happy living in the same house/attending the same church, etc. Several of those times he's seemed "surprised" and will say he didn't know she felt that strongly about it.

Last edited by StrongerMe; 02/05/13 09:06 AM.

me - 44
WH - 44
married 19 years
2 daughters - 15 & 13

D-day: 11/19/2012
Didn't find out until years later - A with coworker, 2008 & again in 2010 or 2011
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My point is that the default position of do nothing does not apply here because doing nothing will destroy their marriage. If he refuses to change the situation, they won't have a marriage. When a spouse refuses to use the POJA, the marriage won't make it.


"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena.." Theodore Roosevelt

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Sasha, is it his intention to put his deceased wife before your marriage? Because that is what he is doing.


"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena.." Theodore Roosevelt

Exposure 101


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sasha1 Offline OP
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MelodyLane: I asked we sell my former home and our current home and buy a home together as a new family. I have expressed my feelings of living in "her" house over and over again. He has relayed to me numerous times that he wants me to make changes and make it my home. I have told him that the house is what it is and no matter what changes are made it is still the house he and his wife built together.

There are issues with our daughter(his 13 y.o.) as well. She "freaks" out with any change which then paralyzes me to an extent to make many changes. I have expressed that if we had a new home these issues would not exist. I have told him the importance of ALL of us making the same changes and starting over together as a new family.

We have painted our bedroom and are using my bedroom furniture. We moved my dining room table a few weeks ago.

According to my husband the main reason we aren't getting a different home is for financial reasons. His house is paid for and since the market is so poor we will lose a lot of money.

Last year he expressed an interest in buying a beach house. I expressed to him I would much rather have a new house as our full time residence instead of a beach home. Once again, he said financially it doesn't make sense. WHAT??? We have now bought a beach house (cash BTW).

I don't know if his intention is to put his deceased wife before our marriage. I do feel that he puts himself before our marriage.

I love my husband.

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Hi Sasha, one of my sisters is involved in a situation like your husband. She lost her first husband to a stroke about 10 years ago. When she remarried, her current husband realized the delicate position he was in: wanting to create a new life with my sister, but not wanting to disrespect the fact that her first husband was a part of her life and a part of her kids' lives, especially the oldest.

My sister also realized the position her 2nd husband was in, and has done a good job of balancing his needs for wanting to create a new life with her while at the same time allowing her kids to hold on to memories of their father.

There was some resentment at first towards her current husband by her oldest daughter; she felt that her step-father was in some way replacing her biological father.

What helped bring the blended family together was my sister and her 2nd husband having a child together. The child was unplanned, but as he has grown, my sister's children from her first husband have accepted their step-father more and more.

I'm not saying you should necessarily have a child with your husband. Just want to point out that your husband may feel that he his somehow caught between competing interests from you and his kids.

I hope he understands that in order for your marriage to be successful, he has to make it (and you) his number one priority. If so, he may simply need a little help in dealing with his children and the conflict they may perceive between you and the memory of their mother.

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I had a similar situation when my wife moved into the house I had shared with my xWW. She did not want to live in another woman's house, but for financial reasons, we could not sell it. Her house was simply to small for any more than 2 people, and both of our houses were upside-down. She told me if I repainted and let her decorate it would be acceptable. I didn't want to repaint, but I her happiness was worth it.

We ended up figuring out a way to move since I really didnt like the house my xWW picked out either, and found something we both love.

Financially you are in a great position if the house is paid off. You may lose money compared to what you paid, but all of the other houses in the area took a similar hit. So you may still be able to pay cash for an equivalent different house, or maybe spend a little more and get a bigger one. Maybe sho him some comparible listings as well as some ideas of what you may like. Some people (me included) need to see the numbers on paper to make a decision.


As far as the photos go, I think this is something that should be POJAed. I think it is important to let the children remember their mother, so maybe the children can be allowed to have photos of mom in their rooms, and maybe a nice framed picture of the kids with mom somewhere in the house as a tribute. My wife allows my daughter to have a photo of mom in her room, even though my daughter never took us up on the offer.


Me DH33
Her DW33
DS3

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I hope you don't mind me popping in amongst this group of veterans which I am not. (disclaimer) Sorry you are dealing with this special kind of white elephant (WE). Most here are dealing with other kinds of white elephants including myself. There is a learning curve to managing these 'rooms' w/WE and Dr Harley's plan can work for you too.

Can you/and DH create a special place in your current home or on the property of your home to immortalize the deceased spouse and the family memorabilia in a special honorable way? It seems the deceased spouses stuff is too effusive and flattens the affectionate environment you have with your new husband. This could be the first step prior to undergoing a serious re-decoration of your marriage home. Could 'hold' memories in a room, corner of a room, wall, cabinet, tree, garden space etc. It could be very fun and a very meaningful and connecting experience for you new family. I appreciate there are other off putting things like the church experience, but you could start here.

One could hire a sensitive interior designer and start the planning to include the 13 year old and her needs to stay connected with her Mom during this changing/hormone raging time in her life. This action step might be a great transition strategy while this young lady comes of age and comes to appreciate who she is. In other words, create a step by step design process to transform and create a safe space for your marriage while not becoming a threat to his daughter and the ebbing frail memory of Mom.

I have never been in the kind of situation you are in with a DH daughter w/deceased spouse, but my daughter was once 13 years old and I was working w/a designer back then. It had been a stressful time for our relationship. I asked the designer to work w/daughter. This became a defining experience for my daughter. She has become a design pro herself today and can understand and work w/these situations.

This would not mean you are less important
and you would not be sacrificing because you and your husband would decide together on a 'design' plan. That is if you were OK w/continuing to live in this home.
Frankly a good design can re-fresh and work if you gave it a chance or allowed a professional to help you. It seems no matter if you would move to a new home or remain in this existing home, the object is to shrink in an honorable but edited fashion the space this deceased wife is holding and spread yourself around to commingle in your home w/husband rather then the other way around. If it were me I'd hire a outside designer to manage mine and DH vision but also manage the details that would help and support his daughter mature and go forward in life. I stress this outside intervention because it might help you 'see' differently as well as take you out of the 'bad cop' space you potentially place yourself in when you yourself attempt to make the home less old memory driven. Certainly it was insensitive of your husband to let it all go and expect you to do the deed ---to make the home over at this time in his daughters life.

I hope you and your husband can make this work. I also know the MB coaching can be a great source of help to customize a plan. These types of outside help can seem expensive up front but could potentially save both you and your husband a lot of money and other resources but most importantly your marriage.

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If the house is paid for, how can you lose money by moving?

If it used to be worth 300K and now is 200K, that means all the other similar homes are 200K also.

Right now you are battling inertia...instead of making him sell and move into a new house when you got married, you have to make him move out of, in his mind, a perfectly good house.

Also get his input into having a corner that is devoted to his wife without having all of her stuff/px everywhere.

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I am so touched by all of you taking this time for me. To KeepLearning: I don't think the daughter feels I am replacing her mom. She feels I am replacing HER. She was only 5 when she lost her mom.

I absolutely think it is important for the children to remember their mom and I try to be sensitive to that. There is a dedicated place for pictures. It is at the top of the stairs on a fairly large bookshelf. I have even placed a picture of the children with their mom I found when I was moving my daughter's things in. What is troubling is a family picture that is on the shelf. Also on the top of the shelf are 2 containers with flowers from her funeral displayed. I have to see this everytime I walk upstairs and believe it or not the family photo was visible from the driveway until 1 month ago. He moved it down a shelf when I mentioned in counseling it can be seen from the driveway.

A 50x50 family picture hangs in the son's bedroom that can be seen by the daughter from her room as well. ( While difficult I have let this one go). I worry this makes it even more difficult for the children to move forward. I found a picture of our daughter with her mom when she was a baby I gave her to put in her room. My point is I am trying...

Let me also make it clear. The photos aren't simply of her with the children. The photos are wedding, honeymoon and other couple pictures. While the photos are difficult there are larger issues here.

My husband's unwillingness/excuses for not making any changes in his life or his children's for our new life is very hurtful. I then have to deal with photos, cleaning out her belongings(this is a TERRIBLE feeling), live in her house. What is expected of me as a wife and stepmother?

Myself and my daughter moved from our home, changed our church, changed our routines, changed our traditions for our new family.

I cannot think of a time when he thought about me first. That is a problem....

Thanks again to everyone.

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I'm sure there will be more experienced help coming to you here shortly. You were in a better position to negotiate w/your husband before you committed to the marriage and the move. I have been married 33 years but also made the mistake to 'sacrifice' and not negotiate as described here in MB. I did not understand how hurtful this would be for me and undermine our marriage. My husband still has difficulty seeing it for what it is as it became so common place it seemed normal. Creating a new normal is significant work and does not get easier. You have given your husband a chance to deal with his deceased wife's stuff and be considerate of your feelings and he is failing to care for you and is remaining inert.

Perhaps you need to write a nice letter. Tell him the truth whatever it is. ie you did not understand he had not 'let go' of his deceased wife, you did understand but now comprehend how damaging it would be, you are repelled by all the reminders and so on... whatever you need to say. Then tell him you are going to move back to your former home with your daughter so he can take the time to 'let go.' At this point you have to protect yourself from the pain this situation has caused you.

The fact is it was his job as a father to help his children over the 8 years to move forward. And its his job to place the various personal momento's away. And perhaps in your case selling and purchasing a home together is the next step and an extraordinary precaution (EP's) your husband needs to now take. EP's are non-negotiables to protect a so-called wayward spouse selfishness. Your DH has wayward qualities.

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Sasha, you need to contact Dr Harley and get his advice. The advice to have a child is dreadful advice and I assure you that would not be advised by Dr Harley. Having a child adds as much stress to a marriage as an affair. Your marriage cannot sustain any more stress than what is there.

The basic problem is that your husband does not put your interests FIRST. HE expects you to suffer on his behalf, which means he doesn't care. In order for a marriage to be successful, integrated lifestyles must be achieved, and that is not occurring here. He has to put your marriage FIRST.

Marriages with step children have an 85% divorce rate, so I wouldn't take a cavalier approach if you want the marriage to work. It is free to email Dr Harley and ask for his advice on the radio.


"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena.." Theodore Roosevelt

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A reminder to posters to help this poster find Marriage Builders solutions. I see a lot of folk wisdom and personal opinions being posted, rather that Marriage Builders concepts. Thank you.

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Originally Posted By: sasha1
I am so touched by all of you taking this time for me. To KeepLearning: I don't think the daughter feels I am replacing her mom. She feels I am replacing HER. She was only 5 when she lost her mom.

I absolutely think it is important for the children to remember their mom and I try to be sensitive to that. There is a dedicated place for pictures. It is at the top of the stairs on a fairly large bookshelf. I have even placed a picture of the children with their mom I found when I was moving my daughter's things in. What is troubling is a family picture that is on the shelf. Also on the top of the shelf are 2 containers with flowers from her funeral displayed. I have to see this everytime I walk upstairs and believe it or not the family photo was visible from the driveway until 1 month ago. He moved it down a shelf when I mentioned in counseling it can be seen from the driveway.

A 50x50 family picture hangs in the son's bedroom that can be seen by the daughter from her room as well. ( While difficult I have let this one go). I worry this makes it even more difficult for the children to move forward. I found a picture of our daughter with her mom when she was a baby I gave her to put in her room. My point is I am trying...

Let me also make it clear. The photos aren't simply of her with the children. The photos are wedding, honeymoon and other couple pictures. While the photos are difficult there are larger issues here.

My husband's unwillingness/excuses for not making any changes in his life or his children's for our new life is very hurtful. I then have to deal with photos, cleaning out her belongings(this is a TERRIBLE feeling), live in her house. What is expected of me as a wife and stepmother?

Myself and my daughter moved from our home, changed our church, changed our routines, changed our traditions for our new family.

I cannot think of a time when he thought about me first. That is a problem....

Thanks again to everyone.



As previously noted Dr Harley says that remarriages with children have an extremely high divorce rate.
Unfortunately it sounds like you live is a mausoleum rather than a romantic marriage.
I encourage you to email the radio show for advice.
My opinion isn't worth much but I think he will advise you to separate if your husband is unwilling to follow the policy of joint agreement.

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