You are here

How do you all cope?

CastleJJ's picture

I am not new to steplife. I have been with DH for 8 years, married for 2 years. SS was 10 months old when DH and I met. BM is classic NPD. See my previous post for more back story. I have witnessed BM's verbal and emotional abuse, complete disregard for boundaries, and use of false allegations, lies and antics as a means to win first hand. I have watched her use SS as a pawn in her sick games and I have watched SS suffer in the process. I cannot fathom anyone wanting control so badly that they are willing to hurt their child in the process, weaponizing them against their parent. I have 9 years left in stephell and I have only barely survived the last 8 years. My issue isn't with SS, he is wonderful and I love him very much. My issue solely stands with BM. 

I have gone to counseling. I have disengaged from BM. I have cut all communication and exposure to BM. DH and I have gone to counseling to sort out our trauma together. DH has put very strong boundaries in place and maintains those boundaries. He does all pick ups at BM's house out of state. He never leaves the car. He set the boundary that BM only picks SS up at our apartment clubhouse. I am never present for exchanges. All communication is limited to email only. DH is excellent with the BIFF method and ignores the crap. DH maintains our household with as little interference from BM as possible. And... DH does all the parenting when SS is here.

Yet, I am always feeling the need to brace for emotional impact when SS calls DH for his court ordered twice weekly calls or when SS visits for 6 weeks of the whole year. Every communication from BM makes me panic, even if I don't know what it says (full on heart racing, palms sweating, thoughts racing), like I am always waiting for the next fight. I spend most of the year preparing for the feelings surrounding SS being here and then leaving, and the grieving process that goes with that, knowing it will be months until we see him again. I grieve on the phone when SS tells us that he is doing nothing with BM, because she never does anything with him, just wanting to have him with us instead. I grieve when SS does do fun stuff with BM, wishing he could experience it with us too - like trick or treating, snow days, weekend trips, etc.  All the normal parenting stuff that DH and I miss out on with him. 

DH has gotten good and suppressing it. It all bothers him but he is good at accepting the things he cannot change and moving on. 

My question is, how do you cope? How do you cope with the gnawing feeling that you have let this child, who you love so very much, down? How do you cope knowing that you and DH spent months preparing for a court case, gathering evidence and figuring out strategy because it is your only hope for change only to lose? How do you cope knowing DH has gone to court (and spent too much money) to fight and try to right the wrongs for this child, only to have the system fail and BM get her way because BM begged, cheated, lied and stole her way to victory? How do you cope with that fact that the judge only ruled in BM's favor because BM is a BM? How do you cope when SS cries during a visit about wanting to see you more while saying that BM won't let him, knowing you are powerless to change it? How do you cope with the petty emails that BM sends about "wanting to coparent and ensuring SS's best interests" when you read between the lines knowing she means "controlling and keeping SS away from DH"? How do you bite your tongue when you just want to give this woman a piece of your mind? How do you cope and not let these feelings and this trauma fill your headspace all day everyday? How do you not let every little thing impact you, not make your blood boil, and move on? 


advice.only2's picture

You disengage and focus on things in your life that you can control. You come here and post knowing you won't be judged or ridiculed for your thoughts and feelings. You learn to let go of what you though things would be like and embrace them however they are.

CastleJJ's picture

DH and I are planning for a baby of our own for next year and we are both so excited to be able to be parents and actually do all the parenting things we have missed out on with SS. 

CLove's picture

I have no bios, and Im too old, but my coping is that I live my best life, while she can sit there like a poisonous troll under her "bridge" being a miserable sop.

I remind myself how fortunate I am. 

I also vent HERE Biggrin

tog redux's picture

I never felt guilty and like we failed SS. I did feel sad and cried a lot early on when SS would come into our room crying about how BM had told him to lie about DH. Gradually though, SS turned into a liar and manipulator himself and I felt less and less sympathy for him. He is now 21 and I feel exactly ZERO sympathy for him, he has chosen his path.

I did have a bit of PTSD, IMO, and would react to BM's communications and any contact from her. When SS PAS'd out at 15, those were less and less, and now, freaking finally, Child Support is done and we are rid of the crazy bitch once and for all.

BUT, whenever I hear the ring tone DH had back then, my blood pressure goes up. So - PTSD.

You have to detach emotionally and stop feeling like you somehow could change this. You can't, and you never could. It was always going to go badly with this BM. 

CastleJJ's picture

Sometimes I wish SS was more of an A**hole so it would make it easier. But he's not. He is the sweetest kid and you can tell he is so conflicted by all of this. He doesn't understand why things are the way they are and I see that it hurts him. 

I definitely have the PTSD which I have been working on. I cannot wait for CS to end and for BM's reign of terror over DH to be over. DH said when SS ages out and CS ends, he is blocking BM on everything and we are going on vacation lol 

tog redux's picture

My SS was sweet and conflicted early on too. That changed, and once he started lying to everyone about DH it was easy to not feel sorry for him anymore. 

CLove's picture

Spot on! Same here with BM, and her consistent threats of "taking him back to court to increase the child support". Dh promises to block BM as soon as CS ends and all is settled in that area.

Your SS sounds like SD14 Munchkin. She is very conflicted too. I just really try to emphasize that she doesnt have to choose who to love, she can love us all.

thinker's picture

Having a baby together helped me cope in my marriage - it provided structure and legacy.  I felt like less of an outsider. That said, I still have really hard days.  I get angry at the secret phone calls, secret financial support - just all the things that remind me that I'm an outsider and have no input over the situation.  I cope by distancing myself from his ex and their kids, much like you've described, though in our case the skids are older so it's easier to avoid his ex entirely.  I have had to build more of a seperate life than I would have liked, too.  For example, I rely more on friends and family members for emotional support than I do my DH.  I make more of an effort with my sibling and friend relationships, because step life has taken a toll, and I want a support system that is completely independent of DH for times when our relationship is struggling because of step life, or for the possiblility that our relationship will end because of step life.  Finally, I have avoided financial interdependence with DH, just to protect myself in case (i) DH ever again puts us in a bad spot financially due to his adult kids; or (ii) I need to leave the marriage because step life has just become unbearable.  I still grieve, but not for the reasons you describe.  I grieve mostly that our marriage doesn't and can't meet my original expectations.  On those days, I look to my nonDH suppport system, or I spend time with our kid, or in nature, which usually makes me feel better. 

CastleJJ's picture

Thank you for your input. I am hoping a baby will really help fill the void DH and I both feel. DH and I both want to be parents so bad, so we are excited for that next step. I am fortunate that my DH was never married to BM - they dated on and off in their teen years and she tricked him into getting pregnant. He was never allowed to be involved in anything so he said it will all be new to him. He has always made me feel like the priority and BM as a nuisance he has to encounter. He only pays his court ordered CS, nothing more, nothing less. He does not have that guilty Dad syndrome. He isn't trying to win over SS by spoiling him or buy his love. He said that he will have a relationship with SS or he won't, but all he can do is remain consistent, do his phone calls and visits, and let the cards fall where they may.

thinker's picture

Your DH sounds rock solid.  I bet having a baby together will probably help so much with the void and longing you both feel. You've done all you can with SS, and your DH has already proven to you what he's made of!  

ndc's picture

In your case, I think all you can do is take solace in the fact that you and your DH did everything you could do.  You put SS first, you tried to get more custody, you spent the money, you went to court.  You can't help that the system is broken and BM lied.  I'll bet things are better once you have your own bio.  We have 50/50 and the skids are pretty good kids, but I still found that annoying stuff with BM and skids annoyed me less once I had DD.

1st3rd5thWEInHell's picture

I dont like my stepkids so I rarely ever feel bad for them. SS18 was kicked out by BM1 and now lives in a shack....i provided groceries for him last month but thats as far as feeling bad goes for me....BM1 loves playing mind games with her kids and idc, thats her parenting style...When they were little, she would weaponise them. BM2 often attempted to weaponise her kids against their dad as well but it got her nowhere....


I really couldnt care less whether they have good relationships with their parents or how they feel existentially....After the shit they put me through, they dont deserve good parents or good attentions lol

Maxwell09's picture

Very relatable down to the general age of our stepsons. My SS9 has been asking BM more and more to spend more time with DH and our family. She repeatedly tells him "no" and after 8 years of the constant "no's" hes starting to fight back. We used to step in and tell him he didn't have a choice in the matter, but we stopped because BM was constantly trying to alienate him from us saying we were trying to "steal" him from her and take her time with him. So now we just tell SS he has to ask his mom if he wants to stay with us. He has to learn to speak up for himself and respectfully tell her how he feels. Now we are the point where she can dig her heels in and keep teling him "no" making her the bad guy making him miss out on literally every family event that lands on a weekend for another 8 years or start giving in occasionally. She's only making her own relationship with him worse and THAT is how we cope. She will get hers and apparently we won't even have to wait for him to hit his teens like I origninally thought. 

CastleJJ's picture

My SS doesn't feed into the alienation but he is also too scared and intimated to stand up to BM or question her. We used to ask SS if he wanted to see us more and he used to say "BM told me I can't handle spending more time with you. She said I can't handle being away from her that long." SS has never even considered the possibility of seeing us more, he just goes on what BM tells him. He also believes BM and her GF are his parents and often refers to them as his "parents." Its hard telling if he sees DH as a parent at all or as just another family member. It's also hard to tell if the alienation is working or not. DH and I are just set on being consistent in exercising visitation and phone calls and not bad mouthing BM. If he asks questions, we will always be honest and if he starts to think about things, we will encourage him to think about why things are the way they are. Ultimately, the alienation will either succeed or fail. I'm thinking it will succeed because I'm starting to see some narc tendencies in SS (like having to be the best and constantly arguing with everyone, always having to be right.)

CajunMom's picture

I did everything possible and more to be a positive in SKs lives, especially the two minors when we met. One simply cannot combat Parental Alientation that is not only being done by the BM but also the adult SKs. Add in the courts were of llittle help. Like you, we spent way too much money on the BS. While I feel sorry for their outcomes, I had NO part in that mess and I sleep well at night.

What I AM learning to cope with is the aftermath of the SK/BM chaos of the past 15 years. That's brought it's own challenges that I'm working though now.

Wicked stepmo.'s picture

I went through this with Dear Neice. Had custody of her when she was baby. Over the years it would switch. There were times when BM would violate the CO. Times when I would get custody again and then back to BM.

DN did suffer some through those years even once contemplating suicide. What I know is you have to pick and choose your battles. When she was in dire need I did fight for her. When the situation was bad but not by court standards I had to cope and teach her to as well. 

She came back on her own when she was old enough full time. She was an anxious mess at times from the abuse. But she has worked through that and is doing well. She had to learn as an adult she had the right to be assertive and she could stand up to her mother when she was gaslighting her.