Quarantine Madness or Was This Bound to Happen?
This is my first post--I just found StepTalk after searching for counseling. I am so excited to be here! And this is going to be a long post...
My DH and I have been married for almost 8 years, and together for 10. My SD was very young when her BM decided to separate from him. When we initially started dating I didn't see much of the kiddo. Then, her BM got a little crazy--moved to Texas (where she is from), remarried a Coastie and ended up in Guam. At this point, my SD was 3 and my future DH was rightfully depressed, and enraged at her actions. However, if I'm being honest, I was happy that it seemed the kid would mostly be out of the picture. It's hard to meet the person you want to spend your life with only to find out they have a small child. Well, perhaps not surprisingly, his ex ended up divorced and back in Texas.
From then on, starting when my SD was 4, she'd come to stay with us for a period of time over the summer. It was difficult for my husband to fly out to see her in TX because we were both finishing up at college and had very little money. Summers were fine, and honestly, probably very hard on my SD. We did our best, but it was never going to be more than just fun hang time. My future DH hated feeling like "an uncle." I mostly just liked the lack of commitment to parenting. Eventually, we did get married, and eventually, his ex moved to where we lived which shocked us both. At this point, my SD was 7, and in 2nd grade. We started a week-on/week-off schedule.
I also did some counseling at this point. I did not want to up my commitment to my SD and I did not want to interact with his ex. I felt angry and powerless--the distance had suited me very well. At this point, my DH and I were getting close to wanting to have our own children and had recently bought a home. I didn't want to bail now--so I tried to figure out how to be a good stepparent. I worked hard to be loving and beyond that, just shouldered much of the responsibility because that is what our schedule at the time allowed for. I realize now, 5 years later, I'm still resentful of this arrangement and schedule, but have generally accepted that this is what I agreed to.
Fast-forward to 2020 toilet paper shortages and Quarantine--
So here we are now. My SD is 12, and my own daughter is 4. We have also decided to have one more child and I am pregnant.
The relationship between my DH and his ex is, though not hostile, lacking in any ability to co-parent at all (I suppose this is why they are divorced). I thought it may become more functional when his ex decided to move closer, but not really. For instance, his ex does not consult my DH about giving my SD anything, and she's become not only spoiled and ambivalent but heavily addicted to social media and her phone--privileges my DH thinks should be monitored or not available at all for her age. When he tried to set screen-timers, his ex removed them, and he gave up instead of talking to her about it. This is generally the way it is for everything--my DH and I have higher expectations and more rules than his ex--which are constantly undermined due to the inconsistency between them.
We've always managed through it because, in spite of this, my SD was usually well mannered, and a good student. However, after my daughter was born, and even with repeated explanations about what it means to be a half-sister, and how the two are scientifically related, my SD struggled to believe they were sisters, or family at all. It got to the point where we sent her to a counselor. She was constantly crying and angry. After about 6 months, my SD came around to my daughter and it seemed smooth sailing for a bit.
However, in our current moment, this issue has re-emerged and expanded. We live in an area that has been in remote learning since March. We're sensitive to the fact that my SD is 12 and at the peak of needing both tons of social time and exercise from sports--neither of which she can have at the moment. Her only close friend is an extremely negative influence and even cyberbullied her over the summer. Time spent with this friend has lead to refusal to do school work, extreme attitudes, and clear exposure to non-age appropriate games and content. Part of this looked like recently deciding she hates my DH for having a "perfect" family without her and saying she never wants to come over again, accusing me of being mean and hostile (I am strict about rules), and deciding once again that my 4 year-old is not her sister...but that the new baby will be somehow? Now she has been allowed to continue this tantrum for almost three weeks, neither parent has enforced the schedule and she still is saying hateful things about our entire family. Beyond that, because of quarantine, neither parent is willing to encourage her to find a better friend or to simply take away her phone.
My DH has oscillated between extreme hurt and rage. He has explained several times the many aspects of these allegations that are not true, and my SDs BM is not fueling the fire, but supporting our POV as well (however, she doesn't have other children and literally gives my SD whatever she wants (to the point where she no longer wants ANYTHING) so she ultimately is 0 help.)
Throughout all of this--the years of stepparenting, of giving my time and money to support my SD, of making space in my home, of feeding her, and shopping for birthday gifts and Christmas gifts--I have accepted the ups and downs. I have accepted my SDs moods and attitude as what I reluctantly signed up for. I've accepted that my DH and his ex will never be able to functionally coparent. All the while I've been counting down the years until she's out of the house and I feel like I can have the life I dreamed of again.
However, I've now reached my breaking point--possibly because of quarantine--possibly because of pregnancy--but mainly because this situation was always going to end up like this and I was incredibly naive not to see it.
When my SD texted she never wanted to come over again, I felt hopeful. I felt excited. NO, I don't want to see my DH in pain, it's not like that...but from the beginning, he has always been afraid of being the bad guy, which has meant catering to my SD constantly. Even now, as she lambastes him with horrible rude comments that should be responded to with the removal of privileges, and outright punishments, he still worries that she will hate him forever. I'm like look--you've done everything to include her in our home and make her feel loved and she is still treating you (and the rest of us) like trash, apparently it doesn't even matter if you're a "good parent" or not.
I'm. Just. Over. It.
I'm done watching my SDs emotions rule both of her parent's decisions. I'm done treating her like an equal to my own daughter when she refuses to acknowledge they are related, and outright says she hates her. My daughter is 4 and has done nothing but shower her in affectionate obsession. I'm done with my values of respect and contribution within a house go ignored because my husband won't enforce them with my SD. I'm done being a silent third-wheel in this situation. I'm done keeping the peace. I'm not going to wage a war, but if shots are fired...I'm firing back.
I no longer want my SD to be a part of my family. This does not mean I don't want her to have a relationship with her dad, or even her sisters if she acts appropriately toward them. I've told my DH that I'm sick of this and very hurt by my SDs actions, trying to explain how her rejection of my daughter is also a rejection of all the years I've put into raising my SD as well. He does agree that it isn't fair, but at the same time, won't truly acknowledge my say in the situation and our lives relating to my SD.
At this point, I can only hope my SD gets her wish to never see us again. Every other weekend would be fine too. I'll pay money--I used to hate child support--but now, fine, take my money and get the hell out of my family. I don't need the drama or the emotional manipulation, or to share my home with a spoiled brat who can't see that she has two loving and amazing homes--something so many kids are out there dreaming of and may not even have at one home.
Maybe this seems harsh, but that's why I'm here--I need to say these things and be honest about my feelings somewhere, and there isn't anyone else in my life who would understand or not judge me. I can barely talk to my DH about it anymore because I know that while in quarantine, and until he feels like life is back to normal, nothing will be decided. I think the best relationship we can have with my SD is one that involves less involvement. She deserves the stability of a home-base and it will be easier for everyone if that is her mother's house.