Let me start off by giving you a little background. I am new to this whole site, so please excuse me if my abbreviations are not correct.
I’m an almost 25 year old Smom. I have been with my husband for almost 5 years, married for a little over 2. He is almost 44 and is so wonderful to me in so many ways. He has 3 children. The oldest SS, is almost 21. He is from my H’s first marriage when he was like 18 or 19. It only lasted a couple of months before they split. The second SS is 18, and the youngest is 6. The second 2 are from his ex of 15-18 years. They were never married and the way I understood it was that he stayed for the kids. I have a really good relationship with the 18 year old, and the SS20 is not really ever around unless he wants something. My problem here is the SS6. The longer things go on, the more I am starting to realize that some of the problems may not even be so much him, but bio-mom & dad.
Bio-mom lived with my husband for some of the time that he and I were together. She finally moved out and I moved in. I didn’t really meet the youngest until probably 3 or so years ago. When I first met him and spent time with him, it was love at first sight. We got along great and I was constantly doing things with/for him. He really liked and wanted to be around me. His bio-mom was never really that much of a mother. He never stayed with her, and she was more consumed with losing my husband to me than she was her own child. So I unofficially assumed the role of mom. Husband and I got married, time goes on and SS6 & SS18 are now calling me mom. Now to the present.
Let me just add, I have had a really rough time the last 2 years. Between switching jobs, and being diagnosed with Endometriosis, having to file bankruptcy because of all of the medical debt, I have been really stressed. With the endo, and the fact that my husband (let’s call him Mike, I’m tired of typing “my husband” )has had a vasectomy, I may not be able to have my own child. My SS6 is the closest I might get.
Lately, like the last year or so, things have really been going to heck. SS6 is listening to me less and less, and now pretty much not at all. I am being left out of the loop more and more. I am really finding myself at the end of my emotional rope. Some examples:
1.) SS6 listening to me. This has been a BIG issue, and a big reason I have been stepping further and further back. When I ask SS6 to do something, he either doesn’t do it, ignores my existence, runs to wherever Dad is and hides behind him (not listening) or throws a temper tantrum. So lets say its a combo “hide-behind-tantrum”. He cries. I tell him that I am the mommy, and he needs to listen, he runs and hides behind dad. And let me add, these temper-tantrums are NOT just crying. They consist of hyperventilating, screaming, and repeating over and over the same phrase. At this point, Dad usually either laughs and says SS6 is being so stupid that its “almost funny” or, RIGHT IN FRONT of SS6 tells him that he doesn’t have to do it or says “Oh, come on Mommy…” So now SS6 knows, that all he has to do is run and hide behind dad and cry, and he will get his way.
2.) Respect. SS6 has NONE for pretty much any adult unless its dad. He stays with his bio-grandma (bio-mom’s side) during the day when we are at work. He cusses, yells and back-talks more than ANY 16-17 year old I have ever seen! He is not quite as bad with me, but that’s not saying much. Everything is an argument. He yells at me, rolls his eyes, walks away when I’m talking and speaks like a PMSing 16 year old. And the worst part is, he will do it in front of dad and dad either: ignores it, laughs, says “both of you guys just drive me NUTS!” or like 5% of the time will tell him to not treat mommy like that. When I was little, if I so much as LOOKED wrong, I would be punished. Either sat in a corner or slapped. To me, ANY level of disrespect is TOO much.
3.) Manipulation. This is just ONE example of how he has his bio-mom/dad wrapped around his finger. In the morning, dad takes him to g-mas until its time for school. Then dad leaves work, picks him up, and takes him to school. Then after school, dad leaves work again, picks him up and takes him back to g-mas house. Lately, his mom will pick him up when she gets off (around 4:30) and take him home. (Also, she lives basically across town) Then when dad is off work, between 5 and 6, SS6 wants him to pick him up so that he can come home and play with his friend. When his friend has to go in around 7 or 7:30 like MOST normal 6 year olds, SS6 decides he now wants to stay the night at his moms. On more than one occasion, myself and dad have told him no. That because he never actually STAYS there, that he can not go. He will con dad into using the phone to call his mom just to “say goodnight” and the next thing you know, he comes back with the phone and says “My mommy’s picking me up to stay the night.” First thing there, we said no. Then he went behind our backs and asks anyway. Dad does nothing. One time I think his response was “in a way, its kind of a blessing.” So mom picks him up between 8-10 (despite my thoughts, opinions or ideas, he still has NO bedtime). Then EVERY SINGLE TIME, between 10-12, he calls dad cell. It starts out whimpering. Then after several “no’s” it turns to crying. Then it turns to a drop down, freak out, screaming & can’t breathe session. So of course, dad gets up, and drives out and picks him up. They are just enabling him! They need to stop giving in and set some rules and then enforce them consistently.
4.) Mike has been keeping things from me. Something happened with SS6 about a year ago that 4-5 other people knew about, that he didn’t tell me. I only found out because I guess it was said to have happened again and dad was talking to bio-moms boyfriend about it. When I asked what was going on, he said “Well, there are alot of things that I just keep to myself.” Now my mind has automatically put up a HUGE wall between us, and I cant help but to keep thinking what else. I tell him EVERYTHING. And to me, that’s part of a marriage. You tell each other everything. So I am lost there too…
I just realized how long this is getting, so I will try to cut it short. All in all, I am having several disturbing thoughts and feelings in this situation.
Lost. Sad. Disrespected. Powerless. Infuriated. Mad. Angry. Distant. I am beginning to resent both SS6 and dad. I sometimes feel like dad would rather be with SS6 than me (and it was never like that before…) I feel like dad talks more to bio-mom than to me. They talk on the phone at least once or twice a day. I feel like maybe love ISN’T enough.
I feel like I’m not a good person because I find it easier to step back and let the “parents” handle it than to try and help. I feel like no matter what I do its wrong. Too little, too much. If I do it, its the wrong way, if I don’t then I should have. I slapped him on the cheek once because he was in the middle of screaming and hyperventilating when he screamed “I hate you!” Then he ran and told mom, grandma and aunt and they went on forever about how I “crossed the line.” (I would have been slapped or spanked had I acted half as bad)Now if I even grab his ear (which is what it takes to get his attention) he rips away and says “My mommy and grandma said YOU can’t touch me!”
I am at a complete and total loss. We are now fighting about alot of things. Him keeping things from me, me feeling like I have no control or say over a child that lives in MY house. I almost feel like it would be easier to give up. But when I do, his line is always “I feel like a freaking single parent. I do EVERYTHING by myself.” I am also pretty sure SS6 has abandonment issues. He usually wants nothing to do with anyone else but dad. One time he threw the BIGGEST fit EVER because he wanted to take a bath and I ran the bath water. He would not get in the tub until I let the water out, and dad came in to fill it up.
This is probably just about a 2% view inside to what my daily life consists of. I could go on and on, but I just need to throw some situations out there and get some advice so I can move forward. I am so close to throwing in the towel on everything. My marriage. My step-son. My everything. PLEASE HELP ME!!!
(P.S. Again, I am sorry that this was such a long letter, I just wanted to give as much background and as many examples as I could so that you could get a better idea.)
I can certainly understand why you would want to throw in the towel and head for the hills! There’s so much going on in your life right now. From reading your letter, only a couple of times, it seems that when so much is going on, stepping back as much as you can, to give yourself some breathing room for perspective is a good idea. (Have you read my article- “Feeling at the end of your emotional rope?” There’s a lot of ideas for you in this article.)
Because I understand that I’m only aware of about 2% of the situation, please take what I’m about to offer and sift and sort it through your heart, head and gut to see how you can use any of it.
Please check out the articles (Stepmom articles and articles at the top of the mailbox forum) about lovingly ignoring your stepson, sounds about right and a few others that may give you insights for your situation.
Here are a few tactical things to consider:
1. Ask your stepson to stop calling you “Mommy” because he already has a Mommy and ask him to call you something else. As stepkids get to the 6-8 year old space, they begin to see things, feel things that they couldn’t understand when younger. SOme of his rage about how his own Mommy, treated him feels like it is leaking out on you (the stable one). This isn’t fair but it’s human nature. What if he starts calling you Mama or your first name? Something that differentiates you from his bio-mom would create, however slight, the space between the 2 of you.
2. Stop doing anything you can for him and give up on him responding to anything you ask of him. Leave it to Dad. This may seem rash or harsh but from what you’ve said, you have become his punching bag and the person he feels HE can have control over. Kids sense the “Power over” and feel the rage of having very little control but rarely understand it.
If you explain to DH that you are not going to “fight” this anymore and that he is clearly the one your ss will listen to, then so be it. While your DH may not like it, given he already feels like a single parent, it sounds like he’s not supporting your authority in his son’s life and your ss KNOWS that. In an odd way, they are bonding over watching you NOT have the power. Does this make sense?
3. All the ways you believe a child should be raised are at energetic “war” with what your DH seems to be doing. This can be crazy-making for any Stepmom. We bring our beliefs about child-rearing and all the emotions from our own experience into our relationships and when things don’t go according to plan, rage, pain, hatred, fear, shame, self-judgments, etc will all rise to the surface. What to do with all these feelings is the challenge.
IF you want to understand what is happening, with this particular aspect of your situation, please read, “The Drama of the Gifted child” by Dr. Alice Miller. She changed the title to this because she believes all children are gifted-FYI. YOu are going to get a lot of insights into how to understand all the very real feelings that you’re having now. They are all trying to help you, believe it or not, so once you understand where they’re all coming from, you will feel much more empowered to trust yourself and your actions in these situations.
4. Can you get some outside support, counseling in any form, to help you see where you have the rights to stand up for yourself, what may keep you locked into a pattern that hurts you, etc? Our beliefs about who and what we should be and do as a wife are very powerful and hard to change until we understand them. Sounds to me, like you’re ready for some changes and so I encourage you to seek as much support as you can. If your DH would go with you, it would be terrific but it’s not necessary.
5. By any chance, is your ss’s bio-mom about the same age as your DH? I’m so sorry to hear that he’s been keeping things from you. Trust is a fragile thing and I understand why you are feeling badly. Sometimes the age difference gives people an odd sense of “better than” so you end up feeling like a child in your own marriage. I also understand that barrier you feel between the two of you. His actions are hurtful to the partnership. They are also likely to trigger every single childhood wound you’ve yet to heal. This can explain all those disturbing feelings and the Dr. Miller Book will give you some very good ways of dealing with them so please get that book…
6. Can you get away for a weekend, where you feel safe and re-group? I know this option is not available to everyone. When we can get a little rest, feel lots of TLC (if with others) or just safely (if alone) it can help renew our own well-being. Like you said, you’ve been through a lot over the past couple of years and this is why so many Stepmoms are suffering from varying degrees of post traumatic stress. Your DH laughing, while either you or SS are in pain is a classic reaction that does NOT help the situation at all. I often hear that they’re just trying to lighten things up but what it does is deny the reality of what you are both feeling at that time. It’s enraging and shaming to have our feelings laughed at.
7. There are lots of reasons why your ss6 could be acting out. I’ve written about some of them but it is not a complete list. I hope your DH will try to learn more about how to help his son while his son is still needing him. A coupe of therapists told us that behavior of children ages 3-10 is indicative of their behavior from 13-20 so it’s best to deal with the issues when they are still needing you. Sadly, many parents laugh at or rationalize doing nothing (out of fear, exhaustion, lack of understanding). IF only they could see that the energy spent now, is going to save everyone, including their child, so much trauma and energy as teens.
8. Reading option: “1,2,3 Magic”, By Thomas Phelan is a book about child-disciplining without the shouting. The feedback I’ve had has ranged from terrific to didn’t change a thing so check it out in case it makes sense for you two (you three).
9. From what you’ve written, this situation is out of control and you’re feeling as much rage and hurt as your ss6 probably is. This may help you have compassion for him as you are both in a power struggle. My experience is that no one truly wins a power struggle. People get scared or emotionally beated into submission but the energy often comes out in other ways. This is how passive agressive behavior is born. Please check out my articles about controlling behaviors, test and proving love as 3 that may help you better see what’s happening. As you can get a clearer sense of what’s happening, you will begin to see where you have choices. Choices that are going to take some courage, some belief in yourself and your rights to feel respected and not manipulated in your own home.
I hope you will consider taking some drastic steps to get yourself out of the line of fire with your ss6. I know it isn’t what you dreamed this would be, but it is what it is and you can see that trying to control him (understandable) is not going to work. We can only change ourselves and there are lots of ways you can change. The women on the BB can give you their perspectives as well. Perhaps you can write about more specifics with them to get ideas about each and every thing you’re dealing with.
You have a right to feel safe, happy and loved in your home.
You have a right to speak up and be heard when you aren’t not feeling that way. Here’s hoping that as you become more and more aware of what you’re needing, feeling and thinking, you can share this with your DH and he will rise to the challenges WITH you as you both do what you can to help his son.
May you find the courage and the support to help you untangle this situation so you can feel like your happy, energetic, loving self again,