Cathryn's Mailbox
Stepmoms wrote in, Cathryn replied​.
Cathryn's Mailbox
2 Youngsters I can't control.

3 yr old SS crying all the time!

A bio-mom worried about new stepmom in her daughter's life- can we help?

About ready to throw in the towel!

About to become a step parent and am terrified!

Bio mom badmouthing me to my stepson & he repeats to me & my kids.

Bio-mom back & I'm hurt by her impact-what can I do?

Bio-mom doesn't want me present at any of my skids school events.

Bio-mom is online stalking & has issues w/ pictures of skids.

Bio-mom physically assaulted me & telling skids it was the other way around?

Bio-mom used me, I drew a line, she’s angry--now what?

BM doesn't want her kids, then does-what's going on?

Clarifying Mission Statement for SMOMS-revised

Dealing w/ bio-mom who doesn't want to get along with me?

Dealing w/ Deceased Bio Mom's Extended Family

Dealing with SD at my young age

DH finds out he has a daughter-I feel terrible

DH sets no Boundaries for SD20-what to do?

DH w/3 bio-kids not trying to bond w/ my 2 bio kids.

Do I love my ss? I don't know.

Does the BB help or hurt with issues?

Don't know where I went wrong

Ever Feel Like Leaving?

FDH feels guilty about leaving BM & allows her to excessively call/text/email him.

Feeling like invisible parent to stepson- help!

Feeling like the enemy in my own house: Teen SD

Feeling resentment towards my SS & can't connect

From BB- A Ritual for you & your beloved

From BB: Self-awareness can hurt...why is that?

Help w/situation that dad, biomom & skid all agree on but I don’t feel is best

Holiday traditions? Some ideas from sister SMOMS

How can I find the right balance & Boundaries?

How can I handle my SD8 who loves negative attention?

How do I cope w/DH's need for perfect family when I'm more realistic about it?

How do I deal with a lying SD, her bio-mom & the ex-step mom?

How do I deal with all the hurt and anger?

How do I help her understand that chores and rules don't mean that I don’t love her?

How do I stop SD from lying to me, DH, BM, and BM's boyfriend?

How to accept bio-mom's "bad" choices?

How to deal w/ unkind skids, ex-wife, MIL costing me my relationship?

how to deal w/SD choosing bio-mom for school play?

How to handle bio-mom who keeps asking for more $$$?

How to handle it when skids away Christmas Day?

How to help ss, when BM encourages him to lie?

How to help when bio-mom returns

How to let go of the single life I thought I saw going to live versus being SMOM?

How to make transition easier for skids?

how to step back in after stepping out?

Husband still feels guilty, his kids in their 30’s

I am frustrated with my skids 99% of the time...help!

I feel jealous of DH's ex & unheard by DH-Help!

I feel left out & sort of invisible w/ grown SD’s

I really love my FDH, but really wish his daughter didn't exist?

I want a better relationship w/ teen stepson

I want a Closer relationship w/ stepdaughter

I want my bed back

I would like to know how to change my attitude towards my new inherited family

I'm at the end of my tether... Stepchildren don't seem to like me.

If you're in the mood for SMOMS Pep Talk-read this!

Invested so much love, time, energy & $$...seems it's never enough

It's too much work- I need help from DH & Family!

Jealous of sister-in-law & Skids-what can I do?

Just jealous or maybe time to leave?

Local support stepmom groups???

My DH doesn't understand why my feelings are hurt

My husband stays at his mothers when he has his daughter for the night.

Need better coping skills but..how to do so…

Not a step mom yet but need some guidance

Open for your Questions in March 2015

Right now, I HATE being a Stepmom!!!

Self-Pity-it's an emotional numbing,energy draining tactic

Someone to talk to when things come up or whenever?

SS5 keeps throwing his BM in my face! Help!

Struggling w/ a jealous stepdaughter

Stubborn DH and sexually active teenage SS

teenage step daughter & car...Ugh!

the problem is my partner...why is he fighting my efforts?

Transitions and Coparenting Struggles

Trouble coping w/BF's newborn & ex.

Venting Guidelines- A Requested approach

What are reasonable expectations?

What are these letters?

What boundaries do I need to set with husband and sd?

What can we do about the rage! I "Lost it" last night. Help!

What to do about disrespectful 20 yr/old SS

What to do when Bio mom starts turning step daughter against me?

what to do when step child stops saying I love you?

When bio-mom sends stuff from life w/your DH?

When BM causes drama, how to prevent that impacting my relationship w/ the skids?

When to call it quits? What to do?

When winning more important to bio-mom than getting along

Why do things Skid's say bother me so & what to do?-Updated!

Why does it bother me that my skids don't recognize how much their father does for th

Why does my ss's rudeness bother me so?

Why does my stepson Idolize his bio-mom????

Why don't I matter in the family?

Why so jealous? What about irrational fears?

When winning more important to bio-mom than getting along
This is a post I wrote but wanted to keep on the BB for future. There are some wonderful replies to the original post. I've not included them here as I didn't have permission but you can search on this thread name and read the on-going conversation if you wish. Thanks to all who replied and offered their comments. CBD

When the “dynamic” with Bio-mom becomes win or lose-it’s a sad situation.

Over the years I’ve noticed something about our situations where the bio-mom and/or skids refuse to get along and wanted to share with you all. I'm interested in what you all have seen relative to this dynamic. I call it a dynamic for lack of a better word.

What I see in so many situations is this, the SMOM tries so hard to help everyone get along and to do all the right things and to be as kind and understanding to everyone involved and somehow it ends up turning into a situation where the bio-mom (and maybe skids) look at everyone getting along as the SMOM winning and them losing.
Conversely, they also seem to be elated when things don’t work out, supporting the view that they feel whenever things don’t work out, they are winning and we SMOMs are losing. Has anyone else noticed this?

When the bio-mom is Hostile (meaning she’s not a bio-mom willing to act civil or kindly in word and deed) she often makes her kids (our skids) aware of her feelings about the situation or event or action. We all know that mothers can make their feelings known without saying a word, right?! Well, if a bio-mom looks at everyone getting along as SMOM/bio-dad winning and them losing, then they’re going to encourage (overtly or covertly) their bio-kids doing anything that keeps us all from getting along.

After 13 years of me trying every communication technique I could find or think of and doing all the kind, thoughtful, polite and compassionate things I could think of to show my skid’s bio-mom that I was going to be an ally, not try to be his mom and wanted to work together to raise her son-she still refuses to acknowledge me at all. Even called me the "non-entity" in early years.

When my Happy Blended Family died, (April, 09) I realized all the times I had thought, “She won, she has kept us all from getting along and being happy (even civil) in the actions of co-parenting her son. While I have no idea what she thinks or feels, I only know what she has said and done and now as I look back...I see how this all became, for her, a win/lose game. In my enthusiasm for the happy blended family dream, it never dawned on me that the only outcome that was acceptable to her was us all NOT getting along. She won. I lost my dream.

So, with that realized, what can we learn from this? If any of this rings true for your situation then maybe you can shift somehow to avoid my fate. Maybe it will help you look at your skids’ disagreeable behavior with a bit more compassion when you realize they are so controlled by the invisible thread to their bio-moms. They are torn, so unfairly into choosing sides at a deep level they are not even aware of.

Maybe it will make it easier to “Take Nothing personally” when the skids are hurtful to you because you’ll realize they may be looking at “happy, respectful and joyful” as a mysterious loss for them, reinforced by their mother. They could be believing (and fearing) that if they get along with you, they are going to lose the love of their mothers. If their mothers are Narcissists, they are right.

Human nature...nobody likes to lose. Some people refuse to lose. So, they keep the melodrama and bitterness alive no matter how kind or fair or helpful bio-dad and stepmom are behaving. The bio-mom will distort things until she feels she has a legitimate complaint.

As I have been reading so much about disrespectful teens, I’m also reminded that many of them will get kudos, camaraderie and maybe much needed attention from a hostile bio-mom looking to "win" (feel better) with each unhappy moment created and or retold to them, from time at Dad’s house. Sadly, sometimes it's the only way our skids can get their mother's full attention. How sad is that? I know this to be true for many hostile bio-moms but it never occurred to me that there was only one outcome they would accept (not getting along) is the one goal we were/have been/are doing everything we can to create...Happiness for all.

It’s a “no win” situation-if this is the case for you. What can you do differently?

First of all, it’s about seeing if this really is the case for you. If it is, it’s about re-thinking your plans, your actions, your reactions and your interpretation of everything that happens. Given that you have full control over these things, this is a very empowering step.

Very importantly, it’s about honoring the grief and rage that most likely will come up for you as you stop trying so hard and accept that your dream is un-achievable with the people involved. This was huge for me as I realized I was doing, trying, enduring painful interactions because I really did think it was just about overcoming specific objections and miscommunications.

When I woke up to the truth, I felt such grief and humiliation at how naive and “played” I’d been. But the grief and the rage will pass (which is good for your physical and emotional health) and then you will ease into acceptance. It’s like going through the 5 stages of grief. Sometimes we just get stuck in the bargaining phase because they were still, “in the game.”

I didn’t realize it was a "no win" situation until 13 years into it.
The good news is that 13 years or 13 weeks into this relationship, you can change your strategy and help yourself (and DH and Skids) big time.

Once acceptance settles in, it’s time to look for a new dream and a new way to help yourself, husband, kids and skids given the situation that you do have. The dream will be different. It will involve changing the focus of your energy, actions and your feelings will be impacted-no question. However, you will find a new dream that doesn’t involve the cooperation of a hostile bio-mom and will definitely involve a change in your interactions and relationship with your skids and their bio-mom. The ages and attitudes of your skids will all be factored in as you create a new plan, a “No Lose” plan for yourselves.

This whole situation was a real eye-opener for me. My ever present, much worn and taped together “Pollyanna glasses” (or goggles) were ripped off me after I fought valiantly for all my 53 years (at the time.) In my whole life I’ve never met people whose actions made me feel so terrorized, so angry, hateful, bitter, cruel or hurt. I know exactly why stepmoms of history, fables and present become wicked and evil.

I worked hard to justify and rationalize all their hurtful behaviors. Why? Because I had to in order to keep MY Happy Family Dream alive. I tried so hard to numb/fight off the grief that was just below my awareness by doing, trying and doing. I bet you know how this feels. I fought giving up because at some level I guess I knew if I stopped trying-the Happy blended family dream was dead...and turns out, I was right.

To finally let in that some people could be so mean-spirited, so oblivious to their impact, so narcissistic, so willing to do long term emotional damage to their own children, so seemingly OK to not follow rules or agreements, so unwilling to EVER be wrong or apologize or lose an argument and so utterly bitter to people they either once loved or never knew was sadly (for me) a big shock to my “glass half full/Pollyanna/everyone has good inside them somewhere” Self. However, it waking up process/awareness was a very necessary step for my own personal growth, well-being and my marriage.

We have a new dream now, my dear husband and I. It’s based on what we can control and it’s now a whole new ballgame whenever bio-mom or skid come into our world.

Here are some questions you may want to reflect on. There is emotional gold in your answers. Our situations are so complex and unique and yet there are many similarities as well.

Ask yourself these questions if you feel it might be time to get a different dream:

Why was it so hard to let in the reality of the situation?
Why do I fight so hard to do all the “right things” to help my skid?
Why do I think I can help heal a wound I didn’t inflict?
Why do I make the setting the house rules, teaching manners, chores and skid’s life lessons more important than being my husband’s most reliable, ever-supportive loving fan?

Why do I keep trying for a Happy blended family dream when hostile bio-mom made it clear from the beginning she was not interested?

These are all questions with profound and healing answers.
May you have your “Happy” dream in one form or another, as soon as possible.

Most Sincerely, Cathryn

Copyright 2010 Cathryn Bond Doyle

Note Added 2012: PS If you suspect that bio-mom, or anyone else in your life may be a Narcissist or have narcissistic tendencies-rush right out and get the book, "The Wizard of Oz and other Narcissists" by Eleanor Payson. It's a jolting explanation of Narcissism and how crazy-making it can be to interact with one. The book explains the syndrome and is filled with practical suggestions. ( I liked it so much, I narrated the audiobook for the author. See the link for FREE Chapter one in the article lists.) It also helps you deal with the reality that the narcissist in your life is NEVER going to self-reflect or take responsibility for anything they do as it would undermine their survival strategy. It's very helpful in future interactions and profoundly sad for everyone impacted by the Narcissist.


Part 2- Discussion from Bulletin Board after first posting this article.

These are the replies and follow-up conversations to the original post. Thanks to everyone for your comments.

BUNNY WROTE:
Wow. Just wow. I'm getting to this stage of acceptance myself these days. My skids' BM is WAY hostile! My skids will always have "issues" because of it. There is only so much DH and I can do.

And I can live with that now! Thanks so much for posting this!
bunny

SLIGHTLYSANE2006 WROTE:
It is absolutely amazing how much I needed this right now. Literally, about 20 minutes ago, my DH received a text from BM. It was the usual hostile, hateful, crap spewing lecture we get ever weekn about something completely random.... I crawled into bed ready to cry and scream all at the same time. I said to myself, "when is she just going to be NORMAL?".... The answer is.....get ready for it......ready???? NEVER! She is never going to be normal. It seems the more she realizes I'm not the b****h she wants me to be, the more she hates me... somehow, I win something by getting along with her family, spending a good day with my family or plainly, by just being me....thank u for this! I needed.....more than I can explain.... this article tonight.

CATHRYN WROTE:
Dear Slightlysane2006, You are very welcome. If you want to read more about my battles with the hostile bio-mom in my life please take a look at 2 Smommentaries, when you get a chance. The one about the movie, "Miracle", where I compare Hostile Bio-moms with the Russian Hockey team (we SMOMS are the USA team and the one titled, "DO we want to be right or happy?" I chose to edit that one after hostile bio-mom's new husband complained about me sharing my experiences, but you will get the picture when you read it.

So sorry what you are experiencing! Man oh man, it always felt like emotional terrorism. They could strike at anytime and we would be attacked and have to deal with their stuff. Hang in there, we can all help each other find new ways to build invisible defenses that, while they will not stop the attack, they will minimize or eliminate their negative impact... ahh, now there's a happy thought. Sleep well and I look forward to getting to know you better over time here. So glad to be of help. Sincerely, Cathryn

BALANCE WROTE:
I am past that part of the process....I have accepted that she is insane (she was diagnosed, even) and has a huge family history of crazy. It's little wonder the skids act the way they do. My issue is...I am still uncomfortable with how I now lead my life....it feels wrong to not fight, try, work for it and do more. But I KNOW, intellectualy, that those children are in a loyalty bind that they cannot shake, so I focus on life skills (be kind, here's how to use the washer, take out the trash).

It still is not....OK. It's not OK that these hostile, broken children come and create tension. At the root of how I feel is this: BM broke her children. She raised them in her narcissstic, needy image. DH escaped, but in doing so, he left the children with BM. I truly think that as teens, they are beyond repair, except in small ways that will serve them well in life. We try to teach the lessons that they need, but the children are resistant and our influence is limited. SS is more together than SD inside, but his outside life is chaos. SD is trending strongly toward just being plain narcissistic; what normal child steals repeatedly from a church?

So my struggle is with accepting not only that BM is sick, and has twisted her children, but how to live in that place, and protect myself, DH, my bios and this incoming ours baby from BM's influence through the skids. The thing that makes me feel the worst is court order or not, I would not want to be any more involved with the skids than we are. DH agreed to this limited time and high dollar figure, and even when BM offers more time, it's not in our budget (in the bank) or budget (in our hearts) to constantly fight that battle.

I feel like I am failing to fight a battle that everyone knows I cannot win, and that there is some loss of dignity and irresponsiblity in my failure to fight.

I came back to post one more thought..

For me, it's like I don't have the ability to parent the skids..so I cannot parent them out of the things BM instills in them. As DH is still scarred from living with BM, there are many times he reacts with a "not my problem" where his kids are concerned, when BM creates drama in her own home. I initially wanted DH to step up and do more for the skids, but that was actually worse - he was terribly stressed out, it was not making the kids feel better, it was fueling their entitlement and game playing....a dinner in the middle of the week required sixteen phone calls with BM, SD demanding to be brought a gift, and SS preferring to be with his friends. DH was ... in a worse place the more he tried, and so were the kids.

More than that....more than I cannot parent those kids. I cannot support DH in parenting them more, due to how much I love him and the trade off is.....if he is off parenting the skids and dealing with BM, my bios get less of his wonderful, loving influence. When he returns home is a shell, less happy, often quiet, as his kids are not pleasant to be around most of the time.

At work, I have learned that when managing people, follow the 80-20 rule. Spend 80% of your time helping the performers....it's easy to spend 80% of your time on the "problem child" employee to "try to help them" but it never works. Better to manage them out.

I feel crappy that I prefer to follow the 80-20 rule in our family....let's spend 80% of our time on my bios and our bio....these are the kids we can really parent and reach and influence.

PS I am glad I am not alone in feeling this way, but I think it will ALWAYS disturb me, the effect a hostile bio mom has on a blended family AND my inability to work as much as I do, parent my kids, have some friends, spend time with DH, volunteer, etc....leaves me with so little to battle due to BM. The skids lose, but at least we are not all losing. Cathryn, I don't know if that was one of the points of your post at all or if I am totally going left, but I am in “save those you can and do your best for the others” triage mode a lot of the time.....And StepWidow YES my goodness it happens the same way here - DH ROCKS as a parent to my bios, but his kids? Not so much...permissive, coddling, etc! Even THAT makes me feel badly sometimes; my kids get a great stepdad, and his kids get this semi effective sometimes-dad. Ugh.

PARTOF6 WROTE:
Oh, how I needed to read this tonight! I am just on the verge of the acceptance phase of grief over my step-family dream. I did it all. All the time. I gave and gave and gave, and no matter what I did, it was NEVER enough. BM is a narcissist. Realizing this has finally led me to where I truly believe that there is nothing I can do except support my husband in not reacting to any of the B.S. BM has told the kids to lie and hide all her dirty little secrets - so much so - that I cannot believe one word that anyone says. Just today we found out that she's been leading us along, lying straight to us about SS getting held back. She told DH that they needed to come to an agreement and she was unsure, blah, blah, blah. Well, we finally got an email back from the principle and he basically acted like we were dumb. That the decision had already been made, and if we wanted to know why, we needed to ask BM! I just wanted to scream!!! How the heck can DH get an answer from someone when all they do is lie? She wasn't even honest to begin with. BM is all about winning. She wants to be the hero, even at the expense of her own children. I worry, I cry sometimes, but I refuse to curl up in a ball on the floor of my closet one more time!! I will no longer second guess my own intuition out of fear, obligation or guilt. I tried to be a friend to BM. I helped out whenever I could, but she takes and takes and never once gave back. And not only that, but she lies to us, about us, and no matter what we do, her expectations are never met. It is impossible for BM to say one nice thing about DH, even when he meets all her ridiculous demands. Its just not worth it!

CATHRYN REPLIED TO BALANCE AND PARTYOF6:
Dear Balance, You wrote:
"I feel like I am failing to fight a battle that everyone knows I cannot win, and that there is some loss of dignity and irresponsiblity in my failure to fight."

I feel like I really understand what you are saying AND I hope you will rush out (Partyof6 too) and get that book. The One, "The Wizard of OZ and other Narcissists" by Eleanor Payson. It will help you understand that it is NOT about you and that what you are feeling is due to your ability to have compassion, self-reflect, care about your impact, take responsibility for your actions, care for others, etc. Isn't it ironic and sad that those of us who have many good, loving qualities are usually the ones hurt most by the narcissists? You will se that what you are feeling (and how horrible it feels) often compels people to do more for the narcissist, thinking it will ease their own discomfort.

You are in the healing and free-ing process right now. It is taking courage to feel as you do. It is also part of the grief phase and the part of us so willing to "DO" something, anything to bring about the peaceful calm that we work so hard for. Is this making sense?

As my husband and I studied the book we also worries about all the children with Narcisisstic Mothers for all that you mentioned. Their fate is to become narcissists or, best case, sadly, only develop a few narcissistic tendencies. The skids with narcissistic mothers are VERY lucky to have you all in their lives as it gives them a chance to see a different way of being mothered (which will impact their parenting behaviors) AND it will help them see other ways of caring for and interacting with others. It is a great thing that you have shifted your attention to life skills as that is often one thing that is least likely to trigger the Loyalty conflict-good use of your caring energy.

Accepting, that there is no changing the Narcissists is a tough one. Understanding that their refusal to self-refelct or care about their impact or even entertain a thought that they could be wrong or at fault closes all doors to growth and change. For many, if people don't like it, they just find other people who do and frankly, there are so many kind people who get reeled in not understanding what's happening, that they never run out of people to "Command."

The book talks about the over and covert Narcissists and this description and understanding is also very helpful. She talks about what is it about US, the ones interacting with them, that leads us into feeling badly when we pull away-this was very valuable to us and may be for you all as well.

Many of us were raised to be good and kind and caring about others. It's not a coincidence that so many men, who married narcissists are attracted to and marry us-they are emotionally brutalized and starved from the ex's and experiencing the warm bath of lovingkindness from us is very appealing (and healing) for them.

Please give yourselves lot and lots of gentle encouragement recognizing that as you accept (and all that this process involves) this out of control person being in your lives (at some distance) you are going to heal the parts of you and change some beliefs (like me and my Golden rule strategy) so that you will never again fall into this situation. We are becoming wiser from the interactions, lost efforts and painful or infuriating interactions. It doesn't really make up for the past yet it will give you new strengths and talents from this day forward!!!

Good Luck with your process and thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and feelings. It really is going to free us all. If your husbands read the book, they may have waves of grief and anger pass through them as well for chances are they gave and gave and gave and still got repeated sliced up, never knowing what was going to come at them, and as they reflect on the many "crazy-making arguments that they most likely never-ever won with this Narcissistic Person. There is a lot of healing that comes from understanding how and why we experienced pain and rage in the past. I sure hope you ALL find this true for you and your beloved husbands.

Stay in touch. Sincerely, Cathryn

AMMAMAMMA WROTE:
Cathryn,

Your last post struck such a nerve! When you were describing the Narcissist, it was the BM here to a TEE! OMG, I have never been able to put a word to the things that have gone on in our house...well I have called her a sociopath...but sometimes the 2 go hand in hand.

Thank you for this. I am going to buy the book this weekend!

AGNES WROTE:
I also wanted to add in my experience & a book that might help.

The Book: Dealing with the Crazy Makers in Your Life. Setting Boundaries on Unhealthy Relationships by Dr. David Hawkins

For whatever reason this is a HUGE issue with my bm. It's stupid to me because I have nothing in common with her or her interests. At first, I did make myself out there about things I knew she seethed about. I guess it made me feel like I was more in control & my way of getting back at her for causing so much constant upheaval & turmoil in MY life that really did not involve her. Now, I just don't care... it's been almost 10 years so really, it's kinda goofy for me to even care. Let her think what she wants about me, I don't care. I tried to change for her & the kids to not rock the boat, I tried everything. In the end, I felt lonely & empty cuz the person I had become was no longer me. I tried to be friendly with her & "co-parent" at her request & it would always end in blood shed (not literally) & back to competition. So I just don't engage with her in any way. Competition... over.

I originally bought the above book because bm was again playing reindeer games & really causing problems between homes. It had been many years & really there was no need for it. Now, we really keep bm at a distance as much as possible which isn't working out so well right now since we are in the middle of a custody change. Once everything is taken care of legally, I'm sure it will be a little better.

Our bm causes HUGE amounts of drama & issues that really are or were never issues for a decade. It's like she's trying to put on a Mother of the Year show for herself. (Which is funny cuz most people who know her end up saying SHE DID WHAT!?!?? at least once a week) I don't want to be mother of the year, or her friend, or their mother... I do want to be free to be me. Seriously, I have asked my dh hundreds of times over the years, does she not know how horrible of a person she is? Does she not understand the impact of her words & actions? We are in the middle of a custody change right now. Mainly because ss has had no rules or boundaries for the first 12 years & when he was getting so out of control, she tried to lay down rules & let's just say it didn't go over so well. Truth be told, no, bm has no clue how mean & nasty of a person she is. We would always take the high road & be the better person & keep our mouth shut. Here we sit doing the same exact thing with sd. At almost 40, bm had no clue ... dh leaving, no friends, even her family is once a year event, fired from jobs for her attitude, still, no clue. Until now.... apparently, she is seeing the icky parts of herself in the kids. Their attitudes, how they treat their friends, their entitledness; its having to look herself in the mirror.

BETHONE WROTE:
Cathryn,

Thanks for that. It came at the right time.

The BM I live with is, I believe, a sociopath. (I don't know why it seems to matter to me what the heck she is--I think it helps me understand that her only motive is winning. Period.) She is charming as heck, attractive and makes a great presentation when she doesn't hate you or wants something from you. She is a master manipulator and she, I believe, is training SD to be the same. (SD15 tells us that only her mom understands her, only her mom can give her advice without making her angry, only her mom...) When things are going BM's way she is easy to deal with, but heaven help us if she decides we have taken something from her or have something she deserves (like happiness). I have spent years watching my DH be bowled over by BM emotionally, financially and legally. To his credit, once he realized what was happening, he fought for his time with SD. DH has told me he needs me to guard over him, that he doesn't see her ways until it is too late; I truly felt the same. I appointed myself the family guard dog. If I had not been around to point out all the negatives about BM, being perpetually in defensive mode, I think our lives would be much different. I do not think BM would try to hurt us less, or SD would be less conflicted about her feelings for me, but I do think DH wouldn't accuse me of hating BM (and by default hating SD). And I wouldn't constantly get told that I am "negative".

To be fair to ME, I have done what I could do. I too, at first, believed BM might settle down and see that the more love in SD's life the better. When SD told me the other night that I "stole" all those years from her mother when I was caring for, loving and teaching SD, I cannot tell you how I felt. Foolish. Humiliated. Stupid. Angry. And incredibly sad.

Right now I am counting the weeks and days until I can get in to see the counselor. I have, it seems, finally hit SMOM rock bottom after 11 years. When my loving DH compared me to dangerous radiation that he had to protect SD from--just a little sneaking through the blinds, he said, but still deadly--I felt completely humiliated and defeated. Right now I am grieving and trying to get through one day at a time without looking more like a fool.

Thank you for all the support you give us. Just maintaining this site all these years is a great gift.

Hugs,
Beth

P.S. Agnes, I am looking for that book.

P.P.S. My ex-husband is a narcissist. He bled me dry and I left him after 23 years of marriage. I didn't even realize what I had let him do to me until I was gone. And then this man who said he couldn't live without me tried to destroy every other relationship in my life under the guise of how much he loved me and how hurt HE was. What a disgusting display. So while I think my BM does not fit that category, I do understand the behaviour and the damage done. Now a sociopath--sheesh, the only advice anyone gives regarding them is to stay the heck away from them.

ROSELUVSPR78 WROTE:
I can't stop crying as I type this... this was exactly what I needed to read at this moment, and yet I still feel pretty lost. The BM in our lives is also a narcissist, and I'm just now taking stock of how much of myself I've given up in the past ten years in order to try and make things "work" in our stepfamily. I have been the proverbial glue keeping this whole group together, and I just can't do it anymore. Today, I believe, was my breaking point. After doing outside chores for five hours, then running errands for two, only to come home to a husband and SD who had done nothing to help me around the house, and a BM (picking up her daughter) who decided to make me the butt of a particularly cruel joke (one that DH and SD actually laughed at in order to appease BM), I lost it. The sad thing is, my version of "losing it" didn't even include the requisite temper tantrum, because I can't lose my cool like that in front of SD. I just got right back into my car, drove away, and returned home to the silent treatment and a DH who chose to work overtime in order to get out of the house and away from me. I now am on my own for the next 36 hours and I am tempted to take this opportunity to take the next one-way flight out of this. I feel like I'm waking up to just how much of a punching bag I've become, and just how hog-whipped my DH and SD are by BM. I can't be held hostage anymore by this situation, but at the same time, I don't really know how to even begin to bring this up to my DH or SD, knowing full well how cold their reception will inevitably be. I need normalcy, and I don't feel like that will ever happen in this marriage.

AGNES REPLIED TO ROSLUVSPR78:
roseluvspr78 ... I implore you to please leave yourself more open to change when it comes to dh. I'm not saying there will or won't be change in him... but please give him room to surprise you.

4 years ago... I was the LAST person to think my dh would ever change or even remotely choose me as opposed to bm or the skids. After only 1 year of marriage & 5 years of dating... I moved out. With the exception of a couple trips to the ER, it was pretty well no communication for 9 months. But within those 9 months... he figured out exactly what I brought to him, the kids, & even to bm. He finally figured out that bm would be like this no matter who he was with, it wasn't my issues, they were hers. 1 year after moving out, I moved back in. I would not change one bad situation we've been thru, I would go thru every horrible second of it if it put me right where he & I are today. We have hobbies together, he's my best friend in all of the world, finally, I feel peace, calm, & centered; & so does he!!

Sending HUGE {{{HUGS}}} to you dear... if you need to talk I'd be more than happy to share my email. This is a big step for you. Take care of you... <3

KARMA WROTE:
I have known from day 1 that BM is a piece of work and the skids will always have issues because of her, but that is something FDH refuses to accept. He thinks he can make up and correct all of BM's short comings and raise his children as if her "stuff" didn't exists. Do any of you ladies out there have an words of wisdom on how I can be there for FDH when he realizes this isn't practical or how I can help him to realize it isn't pratical in the first place?

ROSLUVSPR78 WROTE:
Agnes, thank you. In the 36 hours that DH was at work, I read almost all of Cathryn's essays, as well as some archived threads relating to my issues. I was able to not only put myself in DH's shoes, but also to gain some clarity about what I needed to say to both DH and SD in order to help them understand where I was coming from. With an unpredictable and hostile BM, so much more communication is needed than in a more "normal" family dynamic, which has actually served us well in other areas. Oftentimes, we may start off talking about how to cope with BM's narcissism, and then somehow end up talking about a whole host of other things that wouldn't have come up otherwise. Since my last post here, one of those family talks did happen- probably the most important one to date. We are more of a team than ever, and once again I have Smoms to thank!

KARMA WROTE TO ROSLUVSPR78:
roseluv, that's GREAT you feel like a team!!! I know when I feel like a team with FDH and the skids I feel so much better about life. Unfortunately I still feel like the outsider most of the time, but I'm hoping that will happen less frequently the more time goes by. Besides, if FDH gets this new job I won't see the skids nearly as much as I do now so FDH and I will have time to build our family and when the skids come around they will have to fit in with us, not me fit in with them. I hope that makes sense...it's sounds great in my head! LOL

JULIA ROSE WROTE:
On Cathryn's recommendation, I ordered the book The Wizard of Oz and other Narcissists from Amazon. It came yesterday and I read about half of it last night. It proved what I have been feeling for the past few years..my own mother is narcissistic! I am 40 years old and have FINALLY realized that I AM NOT CRAZY I won't go into too much detail, but I will say that the book has really opened my eyes to what I have been thinking. My mother has constantly told me I need professional help if I didn't agree with her ideas/opinions on something. She is what the book refers to as "covert" type narcissism. Not many people "see" what I "see" in her. My husband finally "got" it when my parents were out here visiting us for the month of May. It made me feel good that someone else can "see" it and know what I've been trying to say!

The book also proved that my husband's ex-wife has what the book refers to as "overt" narcissism. It's scary how similar she and my mother are..the differences are that BM surrounds herself with people & friends and has to be the "life of the party" (my words) where as my mother will do things "behind the scenes" but she'll get very upset if she isn't recognized for what she does.

I am excited to continue reading this book and to at least be able to understand myself better.

Thanks, Cathryn, for the suggestion!

CATHRYN WROTE:
Dear BethOne and Julia Rose...and sister SMOMS,

I just read both of your posts and just wanted to urge you to be very, very gentle with yourselves as you become more and more aware of what has been happening to you (with SMOM stuff and Julia Rose, as a child of a Narcissist.) While there's a freedom, almost joy that comes when we figure something out about ourselves, our patterns, our behaviors and of the impact of the way others have been treating us; there's also the anger, pain and the grief that usually comes up as well so...please, please find comfort and love and compassion wherever you can.

It's an exciting time AND it's a time to treat yourselves the way you'd treat a loved one after complex heart surgery...tender, patient, lovingly. I know your situations are different yet realized I was going to tell you both the same thing so pardon the combined note.

For all of us...As we put down the banners and pom poms and strategic blueprints and action plans all designed to bring about our happy blended family, we begin to feel the underlying flow of the feelings that got pushed back in the process of our efforting. This is a natural human reaction to stress, kind of like emotional shock protection. It allows us to continue "the fight." As we begin to slow down or "Push in the clutch" on our efforts, we become more and more conscious of what we're feeling what we're needing and usually all the places our boundaries have been violated, only we were too busy trying so hard for the sake of the "Cause" that we brushed these feelings away like annoying flies at a fireworks show.

The phase in the emotional process of "waking up" to what's really been going on is like what happens when our arm or leg wakes up after it falls asleep. It falls asleep when we're doing something else (people rarely say" OK now I'm going to put my arm to sleep for a bit") but when we decide to move, "yiikes, we have a numb, non-responsive limb (get's our attention big time). Because we've learned about this physical phenomenon and most of us have experienced it, we know what's coming next....yep, the "Pins and needles" part. Ouch!!!. We brace, we breathe, we endure, we stroke our arm or leg to get things moving faster-all the while knowing that this is a temporary phase of the waking up process. Nobody goes, "Yiikes, I don't want those Pins and needles, it's too painful-I've got to put my limb back to sleep fast!!" We endure it, lovingly KNOWING it's going to pass and then our arm or leg is going to be fully alive and healthy and functioning as it should.

Well, you know where I am going with this, right? Whenever we make the conscious choice to look at what's happening in our emotional lives, to look at what isn't working for us,what's causing us pain or discomfort, we're going to discover patterns and beliefs that were, when we first employed them (early childhood) very effective at keeping us feeling we could survive whatever was happening. Problem is that rarely do we realize we've employed these tactics or realize they are attempting to numb some feelings. They are such a part of us we don't realize we even have a choice about how we behave, think, react to some things. It becomes unconscious until we uncover it again.

So, as we uncover true needs, true feelings and feel the stowed away pain, grief, rage, hurt, sadness, humiliation, shame, guilt, etc. we're going to enter the "Emotional Pins and Needles" phase of healing. As we do this consciously, knowing there are going to be some pins and needles, when it happens, we can mobilize all our lovingkindness and tend to ourselves in whatever ways we need, knowing it's going to pass and we're going to emerge healthier, more alive and wiser than ever. This realization that the painful feelings will be followed by healing, relief and more room for joy, love and wisdom, makes it easier to endure. Yet, it will still require courage! What you two, and many of us are doing takes great courage and our efforts will be rewarded...KNOW THAT.

The emotional pins and needles are the reason so many people don't do the emotional work to heal after a traumatic experiences, that includes our childhoods. They believe that numb is better than authentic emotions and they fear the pain, grief, etc will destroy them so if/when they get a glimpse of revived previously numb feelings but because they don't know (and trust) the healing process, they refuse to continue, get defensive, lash out, shut down all in an attempt to choose numb. It's hard to watch in a loved one. It's a common survival strategy for many, no most people.

However, here at SMOMS it's my hope that we can help each other get through the process and come out on the other side. As we become aware of where we've been numb or blinded, and where we've been hurt, abused, neglected, etc, we can help each other remember to be tender and gentle, to keep breathing and have faith that the pain will pass and that we'll feel healthier, stronger, more alive and more able to see the world and those we love more clearly...it's one of the ways wisdom is gained in life.

Part of this process requires confidence. Confidence that we can handle whatever happens to us, trusting in ourselves and our process. I'm working on another piece about this, but let me say that I'd like to introduce a new SMOM term to the group. StepWidow came up with it in one of our "conversations on PM" The term is "Smomfidence" As Mr. Rogers used to say, "can you say Smom-fi-dence?" LOL

Smomfidence is believing in yourself as a woman in a tough role, believing you can find a way to take care of yourself. It's believing that whatever happens, you are wise enough, strong enough, creative enough, brave enough, kind enough and loving enough to deal with whatever happens and that you can create a solution for whatever is needed at any given time.

If I had audio, I'd sing you the altered version of the song Julie Andrews sings, "I have Smomfidence" as she was approaching the Von Trapp mansion of her new assignment, in the Sound of Music. Do you remember that?

Please know that I am NOT making light of anyone's process!!!!!!! I don't know how everyone feels but I do know pain, rage, deep depression, humiliation and neglect and the struggle to keep the faith when you feel you are about to go under (whatever that means for you). I'm just wanting to encourage everyone to stay on their path of growth and emotional discovery because while the transformation process includes a wide range of feelings it WILL bring you the peace, joy, aliveness, well-being, safety and inner knowing that so many of us strive for.

This is long, I know. I just felt inspired to share what I was feeling. Use it as you will. Cathryn

JULIA ROSE WROTE:
Cathryn,

I read your response quickly and plan to read it again later tonight when I have a chance to soak it in. I appreciate your compassion.

I do have a question that I'm not really even sure if you can answer but I thought I'd throw it out there anyway.

I see in myself some "learned behavior" traits that I inherited from dear ol' mom. I have recognized a few of them growing up and have fought hard to not be like her, especially with raising my own daughter, and there are a few that I am recognizing even now as I get older.

My husband's ex-wife is very narcissistic. There were so many examples in the book (and I'm still only half way through it!) that were so "her". There were also a few examples in the book that I thought "oh my..that's how DH acts!" My DH was married to his ex for 10 years and they had 2 children together. I am starting to question whether my DH has some inherent traits as well.

So my question is this: Could some of BM's narcissistic traits have been picked up through the years by my DH? Sometimes I wonder if he is still fighting for his voice to be heard or if he feels his opinions are the only ones that count.

To give you a little back story on me; my DH and I met when we were teenages, started dating a couple years after we met and were together for 2-1/2 yrs. We broke up because we both were going through emotional difficulties and it made it hard to relate to each other. He moved away about a year later and then met and married BM. She left him after 10 years of marriage and he and found each other again. My daughter and I moved to where he is and he and I got married.

He seems like a different person than when we were together 20 years ago. I realize time and experiences do change people, but I'm wondering how much of these changes have to do with living with a narcissistic wife for 10 years.

I appreciate you taking the time to read this and would be grateful for any insight you could offer

CATHRYN REPLIES TO JULIA ROSE:
Dear Julia Rose, You ask very good questions and the short answer is "Yes, absolutely." Sometimes children of narcissists will pick up some narcissistic tendencies, in order to cope. The same is true with people who live with narcissists. What is also true is a dynamic, sort of like an emotional rubberband. Since your husband dealt with this crazy-making woman for so long, he had to learn some coping skills (makes sense). He also had to repress a whole lot of feelings (rage, grief, humiliation, sadness, fear, etc) in order to allow himself to rationalize staying connected to her. You had to do the same things as you were growing up!

So it would also make sense that some of his repressed feelings and coping strategies might "leak" out since you are not crazy-making. Does this make sense? It is kind of like the story about "the Boss, yells at the worker, the worker yells at the mail boy, the mail boy comes home and screams at his little brother and the little brother kicks the cat" kind of thing. Hopefully your husband will read the book as well for people who have love Narcissists have had to deny so many of their own needs and that has a back-firing, hurtful impact. Goodness, this is a lot to digest and there is so much more to it.

As for you.... Julia Rose (such a pretty name, even if it is a screen name), as you read that book you are going to begin to understand more and more about yourself. It's a good thing AND it's important to remember what I said in the earlier post. One way I learned for processing emotions is "Recognize, acknowledge, forgive (yourself) and change. This could be helpful for you as well.

I'd like to encourage you to gift yourself with another very impactful book. The title is "The Drama of the Gifted Child." It's by Dr. Alice Miller. It's going to explain a lot, trigger a lot and having studied Dr. Miller's work almost full time for over 6 months, I can tell you it has the potential to help you see things, you've never thought to consider, in a new way and much more clearly. I've read all 9 of her books a couple of times and plan to try to carry on her work as best I can. (She passed away in April,09)

What's her premise? In an extremely tiny nutshell...Her belief is that, from the moment we're born, we have feelings. And that even though we can't remember them anymore, they were real and they are remembered and held in our unconscious (or subconscious depending on your beliefs) She believes we have feelings even when we we don't understand their cause, feelings we can't express and some that are so painful, scary or infuriating that, in order to survive, our tiny brilliant minds repress them and as we get older, cause us to give the situation another meaning that allows us to accept the experience so we can survive.

As we get older, and especially when we have our own children, these now suppressed feelings rush forth, now that we are in the powerful position of parent usually without us realizing what is happening. for you see, emotions don't just go away or dissolve, as much as people wish they did. They are all energetic "charges" that need to move. (This is a huge topic so we'll pursue if you read it and want to know more.) It could be another thread is you are interested.

Overall, what you and your husband could use is a commitment to giving each other more love as you choose to seek out more self-awareness so you can help each other heal. You two can create a safe, loving "cauldron" in which you two can cook and stew with these newly realized feelings, issues and behaviors. I realize we are getting into some deep stuff. I know what I'm talking about and I know it is possible to get through all the "gunk" because my husband and I have been through this, in a very intense process, over the past 2 years. We've been able to uncover, understand, learn and love all kinds of things about ourselves and each other in a very compassionate supportive way. You can do the work on your own, of course, and it will have an impact on him too. If he is open to growing, it will be soooo worth the effort.

OK, if you are still awake, I'll say good-bye for now. Happy to continue, it's an important topic for me. Feels like you're about to take off on a tremendously healing journey. I'll help as I can. Take Care, Cathryn

JULIA ROSE WROTE:
Thank you for your response. What you wrote makes total sense! I have been "numb" for so long and I'm tired of it! I know my husband is tired of it. When he and I are arguing, it usually just turns into him yelling and me just sitting there. Growing up, I would have to sit and listen to my mom yell at me for literally hours and I was never allowed to respond. If I tried to tell her how I felt, she would tell me "no! that is not how you feel!". My learned "coping" skills where to shut her out and not think at all or to think about something else completely. She didn't care what I had to say anyway so why pay attention.

My husband is beginning to understand that when we are arguing and I don't respond, it's because I literally don't know what to say. When in a confrontational situation, my brain just shuts down.

I will look into the other book you recommended as well! I also ordered "The Curse of the Good Girl" as was recommended by other smoms. I should get that tomorrow!

Thanks again for your insightful response

~Julia

CATHRYN WROTE:
Hi Julia Rose, The Nice Girl Syndrome by Beverly Engel is also good, but the "Drama of the Gifted Child" is on a whole different level. As you begin to have more and more compassion for the dear, sweet, innocent little girl who you were, you will be able to feel her feelings AND give her the compassion and attention she didn't get from your mother. Dr. Miller talks about how much children need someone who can be a "helping witness" or an enlightened Witness". Be it a teacher, aunt, neighbor...someone who sees what the child is feeling and gives them the validation that their feelings are valid...it can make all the difference. You didn't get too much of that, probably, neither did I but you can give that little you ALL KINDS of loving attention and validation and it is going to change your perception of the world in a wonderful way, after the pins and needles phase passes through you. I'll be eager to hear more as you wish to share. Thinking of you, Cathryn

SMOM4 LIFE WROTE:
I showed this to my FDH last night, because this is our exact situation! BM is just going crazy that I'm in SD's life and keeping SD from FDH, and now were going to court over it. After FDH read this, he looked at me and said "our family" will always come first regardless what BM tries to do to change it. If later in life SD chooses to disrespect you, me, or "our kids" and causes problems in the family she will stay with her BM until she changes. Honestly I was so relieved hearing how he knows how important our relationship as a family is! This website has helped us GREATLY in communicating with each other and also my reaction towards BMs crazy ways. I have learned to let things go with BM and SD, and working on just making FDH happy! We have an upcoming custody hearing just to get visitation in writing, It's a sad thing, but FDH finally sees BM for the true devil she is, and won't give her the time of day anymore. Its such a blessing having peace in our home!

CATHRYN REPLIES TO SMOM4LIFE:
Hi Smom4life, I see by your signature that your wedding is one year from tomorrow so....Yahoo! and bet it is going to be a glorious celebration.

It was great to hear that your FDH is so open and supportive of you...what a difference that is going to make for you all. I'm excited to say that our new "Advice for Husbands" page is under construction right now in hopes of being up before the end of the month. His willingness to read stuff is great! :-) I smile at the thought of your new dream!
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