My husband and I have been together for almost 2 years, and married 6 months. I am 39, previously divorced, and my husband is 41, previously divorced. My husband has 3 children, son 19, daughter 12, by his double ex as he calls her, (they were not married), and a son 10 by his ex who he was married to. My H was with both for 10 years each. His daughter was a welcomed “oops”.
They tried to reconcile several times and she got pregnant and kicked him out for the last time and he found his ex wife and they married 7 months later. So both his first 2 children, especially the daughter have been around the ex-wife her whole life, since she was 3 weeks old.
My husband and I were a result of an affair. Both he and his ex are much happier with the people they are with now and both agree it was the best thing to have happened. The problem is his 12 yr old daughter. Since we got together, she has refused to talk or have anything to do with my husband’s ex wife. She would tell stories of how she was mean, wouldn’t do anything with her,and the D would hide in the car and wouldn’t look at the ex stepmother when we would pick up their son, and good riddance to her basically was the daughter’s attitude.
It has been a center of a few arguments between my husband and his ex wife with her saying that it is us that is keeping his daughter from her and her family. (btw, we live next door to the ex-wife’s parents, the ex talked him into buying the land and building right next door to them a nd with this economy, he’d lose too much of his equity to sell right now).
The D’s bio-mother is a greedy b#!%#h and CANNOT get out of the past. Constantly complaining about the things he did/didn’t do. My husband’s ex didn’t work & refused to work so they were always financially strapped. The child support for his first 2 was behind. Since I moved in with my ex in November 2010 thru December 2011, even when we were both laid off for 6 months during that time and only my husband was collecting unemployment, i made a point to make sure she had her support. every week, but 1 – fourth of July, it was our wedding weekend, we just got the kids for the summer and we only had $42 to our name for the week.
Anyway, she refuses to acknowledge that he is in fact caught up and beyond the court order arrearages and we asked her to redo the order so he can apply it to the arrearages since. She refused. that is another story to talk about. (Bio-mom and I got along great until this past week and all the stories. the bio-mom repeatedly stated how happy she was for us and how glad she was that my H has me in his life and the kids lives).But now that the holidays are over, the D got all her presents, she’s back to her not wanting to come to her Dad’s.
So the D told her bio-mother, the double ex, a bunch of lies, like i walk around 1/2 naked all the time, that we wont let them sleep in our room any more because we told her we might have sex. So because of the lies and the support issue, her mother is threatening to not allow her over any more, etc. Which is a court order violation. (The 10 & 12 yr olds slept in our room on their own mattresses on the weekends because we live in the country and it scares her. basically a ploy. but every other weekend for 2 nights we could deal with. the whole summer, no, so they were told no way sleep in your own room, they refused and sleep in the living room since the summer).
My husband told the ex-wife the crap that was going on with the daughter and her bio-mom and she asked their 10 yr old son and he said no to the 2 items I mentioned and then my husband gave the ex his daughters cell phone number and according to her, they talked for a couple hours!! the ex stated that the daughter wanted to visit, stay the night, she missed her, etc etc. The daughter knows her ex-step-mothers boyfriend she lives with. Her own bio-mother’s best friend has a kid by him and the daughter remembers how awful he was to those kids and constantly says how much of a bad man he is and the alleged awful things he did. So she NEVER wants to see him or go over there and tells the 10 yr old all of this and he lives with the guy!
So, here I am, absolutely FED-UP with my SD and her lies. She is like her mother and loves to create drama and do whatever she thinks will be in her best interest, regardless of what is said or done. its always what can you buy her, what can you do for her, where are you going to take her, where we are going out to eat. VERY materialistic little girl. We try to have structure with her, but when her own mother and grandparents spoil the crap out of her and give her whatever she wants, its very hard to try to “structure” things within a weekend, every other weekend. (btw, we have a great relationship with the 2 kids grandparents, so much that they came to our wedding!)
I told my husband that I am so angry that I wished like hell i recorded all of the conversations that we have had with all that the daughter has said and play it for the ex-wife so she will hear the other side, the side that we get. Then, I even said that I don’t care if she comes around anymore. That was wrong of me to tell him that, but its the truth. He has a hard time with his daughter as well, feels the same way sometimes. But, its Daddy’s little girl, and she has been able to get away with a lot.
So, here I am, I decided that I didn’t want children long ago, I had my tubes tied at 35. I refused to date anyone with kids and ran the other way so I didn’t have to deal with it. Now i have 3 step kids and the daughter is the worst. I dread the teens with her. But i fell in love with their father, hard. Soul mate kinda love.
No one I know has step kids, can’t talk to family or friends.
My husband says this happens every so often and just go with it. Well. I can’t. I don’t know how to handle the situation. I was even going to go so far as to plan my whole weekend away from the house so i don’t have to see or deal with my sd.
The worst, i have to pick her up on my way home tonight for her to stay the weekend. I’m dreading the crap her bio-mom might say to me. I’ve tried to “reason” with her and say hey its in the past, lets leave it there, but she wont. So i am learning, I cannot fix it/her. I tried the whole keep friends close and your enemies closer thing, but i cant stand the bio-mom’s persona. I don’t know how people can be that way!!
what do I do???
1st time SM and fed-up!!
Dear Sister Stepmom, just got and read your letter. You are in a heck of a complex situation. I have a few thoughts I’d like to share. This is not going to be a complete reply but I will spend as much time as I can today to offer some thoughts. I just want you to know that I know this is more involved than I can hope to resolve with you via my reply.
I absolutely encourage you to find other things to do during the weekends she is there, even if your hubby is uncomfortable with that. You have a right to be treated well and to set some boundaries. The key is to determine which boundaries are about you and which are about “should” boundaries you believe in. I wrote them all down to see which ones I was trying to enforce because of my views of right and wrong and those which truly impacted me.
As Stepmoms running a house it is easy to want (to expect actually) that things will be run by our standards. This is natural. However, with other bio-moms, ex’s involved and the unconscious hold parents have over their kids-plus the manipulation expertise of kids-having your home (and the people in it) behave as you wish is not likely to happen in all the ways you want. Reflecting on this, then finding a way to accept this will ease a huge part of your stress. There will be anger and pain to feel and release.
Look at how things impact you directly. Focus on those things and see if you can find ways to set boundaries for YOU. Have you read my articles about “Turning Frustration into positive action”? “boundaries for nice people?” “overfunctioning?” There may be some ideas there for you.
You’re in a hard place. Your hubby is lucky to have you. I understand the sole mate kind of love, my husband moved in with me on the first date!
If you could find a way to let go of her issues (which means giving up on changing them-at least for now) perhaps you could focus on YOUR well-being and what you need. Can you look at this as a 2-phase process? Get yourself back to feeling strong, grounded and well-being fully restored first then turn back to the situation. Make sense?
When you pick her up tonight-are you open to trying something new?
If so, try being your natural happy loving self, with no desire to connect or challenge or resolve anything-pretend she’s your cab customer and you are going to bless her with a safe ride and the pleasure of your company for the time on the car. Then when she gets out, you turn your attention to something else!!! Can you try that?
I can promise you she will try to “hook” you. Guarantee she will sense the detachment and try to get a rise out of you via a reaction to something she says or does. Right now your emotional storage container for stress is full so it could be easier for her to “get” you, luke in the past EXCEPT that now you are ready, grounded in your strengths and u willing to lose your calm to a wounded spoiled manipulating child, right?!?! It is very empowering and not laughing as you watch her childish tactics get more and more dramatic can become a new challenge.
As you watch her actions, try not to smile as you see how she has to ease her own anxiety to be in control (because so mug of her life has been at the mercy of others) by bullying you. In some way that makes her feel a cheap hot of power and distracts her from her own try feelings. Believe it or not-her behavior is a twisted defense strategy to regain some emotional safety. Once you are feeling better and stronger you may be able to feel compassion for this little creatures creative and limited by what she’s seen choices. But that’s for later.
If you can…Give her kind replies that are non-reactive like “oh really” or “how about that” or “is that so” so you can interact without feeling you have to give her cold shoulder (which you’re likely to get criticized for later).
Have your read my post about “lovingly detaching and ignoring your stepkids?” I think it’s still at op of general BB. This will give you more tips.
Sometimes, in our sincere desire to connect and create a family circle we unknowingly give away our power and this is what can feel so bad! Here we are grown-ups and our lives are being stressed out big time by kids! Infuriating at so many levels.
Wow-this is long huh? You still there?
I guess I’m replying to you now via my cell phone and ahead of the others. Shhh about that! Once I get started it’s hard to stop helping others who are open to growth and insights like you.
You’re right we can’t change others but we can teach them how to treat us and set and hold boundaries that model self-respect and kindness. My couch used to say “nothing changes until we do.”
How would things be different if you pulled away lovingly by turning over as many issues as possible to your hubby and focused on you and the two of you? Good boundary about the bedroom-btw.
It’s a complex power struggle as I see it and the SD is playing on her Dad’s heart fears and guilts- so far there’s nothing I’ve found that can wake them up (the dads) to the cruelty of that kind of manipulation. They need to be willing to feel the pain, the Hurt and the anger of being so badly and wake themselves up. In the meantime, you can be a healthy beacon for them all modeling self-care, responsibility and kindness to others.
How does this feel to you?
There is tons of info on the site, have you joined the bb? If not yet, register (it’s free) then email me your selected screen name and I’ll activate you ASAP!
In spite of all the madness around you, there are things you CAN do to take care of you and your marriage, taking yourself out of the fray of dysfunction. Consider making it your goal to rediscover your true happy loving well-being, resist getting hooked by the others while they do their “desperate defensive dances.”
I’m glad you found me and the site.
You can do this!
Let me know if you have question or want clarity about anything I’ve written.
Love and light to you sister Stepmom, Cathryn
1st Time SM writes back:
Hi Cathryn –
Thank you so much for your letter. There was so much insight there that I had to take a bit of time to read it and reflect. I have looked into Alice Miller’s work and though I have not yet started reading, I can see that it may bring much more insight into my present situation. Most interesting I found was the information on narcissists. I have always told my BF that his ex was a textbook narcissist (no emotional love or connection to anyone, husband and children included is not for her benefit), and I guess I stepped into this relationship trying to be the exact opposite. The giver, the dependable one, the one to always keep trying, the one to love unconditionally. Though I have never told my BF this, I can also see now that him mother is a narcissist (though, I would not say to the same degree as his ex).
He has spent his lifetime trying to please his mother and then spent 15 years trying to please his ex. I guess for him, I am easy. I think that maybe I started this relationship willing to give too much and as time has passed, I have given on even bigger and more important thing. I didn’t take that job because it would separate us; we can’t move to a nearby city because we need to be there for his mother; we don’t have to get married because he just got out of a horrible relationship; we don’t need to have a child because….. On the last point he always just says “because” or “I can’t imagine starting over now”. That is really just code for “it would upset the children”, and there I am again having my life dictated by the people who I give and give for, to get anger, cruelty and rejection in return.
A little bit of an update on our situation…We have been speaking to a therapist, who I think is okay but not fantastic. I am willing to give it time and see how it progresses. One suggestion he made was that the BF have a talk with his mother, essentially saying that I am not going to go away, and so even if she is not in line with our being together, she can’t be against us (and especially not when speaking to the children and trying to influence the children). While she agreed and he said the talk went well, I am not holding my breath. I have been victim to her whims for 2.5 years now. One part of the conversation that put me in a bit of an emotional tailspin was her telling the BF what the stepkids told her about why they are unhappy. I guess I should be happy to have some insight, but the insight hurt me to my core…in brief, they said:
(1) Their dad is a different person – Yes! Yes! He is a different person. He is a different person because he is happy and has a partner who loves him and whom he loves and who shares his life with him. (2) I am always around and in the center of things – While I don’t think this is true, it hurt me that they want me not to be around. This is my life too. The place they live is the place I live (more often than them actually). Am I supposed to disappear and not live my life because they have never had to share their life with their father with someone else? This is the only life I have…the only home, the only love…this is not a game and I have given everything to focus on THIS life. (3) That I am trying to buy their affections. Strangely enough, this comment hurt me a lot. One of the core beliefs that the BF and I have always had is to give the kids experiences, not “things”. For the holidays, their primary gift were things that lined up with their experiences (a camera as the daughter has taken a keen interest in photography and a saxophone as the son has begun playing and must share at school – both are also things which were specifically asked for). The gifts were not just from me but from the both of us. I guess for them to say I was trying to buy their affection hurt, because for me it was not the money spent at all, but the time I spent researching and hunting to find these things (we live in Mozambique as well, so getting them here was another story!) and the lack of appreciation or caring…instead it was turned into a negative. Something to use against me….
So, for now I have decided to stay in the relationship, hoping that our counseling will help us through this (or out of fear of starting my life over again?). I have no guarantees of my future, I have no guarantee or marriage or a child. I just have the daily love I am given when I come home in the evening and the peace we have (when the kids are away at school). I guess for now, I am deciding that this is enough (though I know my heart is heavy for those things).
I am sorry that my brief message turned out to be not so brief, just wanted to touch base and let you know what I decided.
Cheers, 1st Time SM
It is good to hear from you. I always wonder what happens to the women I reply to. It is nice of you to give me an update.
Sounds like you’ve made a LOT of progress. Good work!
If your suspicion about the narcissism around you is true than please get the book “the wizard of Oz and other narcissists” by Eleanor Payson ASAP! It will help you AND your husband in many many ways! If his monmouth and ex are narcissists (sounds like they are) he’s been emotionally brainwashed and it explains why he was unconsciously attracted to his ex…and then to you BIG TIME for healing relief and love for a virtually depleted heart and mind.
Narcissists raise little narcissists OR they raise those of us who are raised to serve them…like me and maybe you.
Chances are big that one or both of your parents is/are narcissistic. I would have argued with that for my folks cause I thought all narcissists were all flamboyant and obvious about wanting attention. Turns out there are covert narcissists out there (both of my parents) you could have knocked me over with a feather! My idealized view of my folks was shattered last Feb. and the Alice miller and Payson books are the 2 that helped me understand what was happening, why I tolerated and kept seeking to be treated as a servant to those I love (as expression of love) AND they helped me and my husband find a path out of the conditioning that has literally dictated our every choice!
This is big stuff!
If it turns out either of your parents have the narcissistic qualities, or to find out, read “trapped in a mirror” by Élan Golumb. You’ll know within 15-30 pages if this is going to help you. Those 3 books are so marked up and dogged rated my husband and I had to get our own copies!
You are in the verge of freeing yourself and the little girls you used to be. I hope your hubby is ready to be freed as well.
About the stuff your stepkids said…it’s cruel AND they are playing off their grandmother (cruel of her but she’s only concerned about making herself feel better and she’s actively teaching her grandkids to feel better by blaming others for this feelings (classic Narcissist move).
Read pages 47-61 in “The Four Agreements” for a perspective on how to not take things personally AND have deep lovinglykindness for yourself. It’s likely the little girls you used to be (emotionally) are trying to get from your stepkids what they didn’t get from your (their) parents. This is painful!
Can you give yourself the loving compassion, patience, attention and approval to this little girls you used to be and live them big time-as if they were physical little girls who came to you with their story and looking for comfort?
This realization that WE have the ability to comfort ourselves as the wise women we’ve become is the beginning of a huge shift. You’re ready!
The books will be your map.
You are about to be freed of the conditioning of your childhood. Grieving is a big part, I’m just coming out of it and can tell you 100% that it is worth the angst and effort to get here. Give the title girls you used to be the hope and live they can’t get anywhere any more. YOU are the only one who can give them the compassion and healing they didn’t get when growing up.
My best wishes to you in your courageous journey of healing and growth. Thinking of you, Cathryn