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UPDATE: I give up

gtrmom's picture

SO I TRIED giving SD a taste of her own medicine, ignored her when she asked me a question. I am sad and disappointed to say that she didn't even notice. I broke down and spoke to DH tonight about what had happened today and to my surprise he didn't get upset. NO argument... YAY!!!!

I told him how I spoke to her... AGAIN... and how she just ignored me. He said that he understand how difficult that may be and couldn't imagine how that would feel. I told him that it hurts. I try and I try but it hurts to know that she is doing nothing to work it out.

I also realized something today, I don't think she thinks of me as another mom. She calls me mom because I am married to her father. I seriously doubt she wants to have a relationship with me. The more and more I try the more I realize that she MAY NOT want to have the relationship. I don't know if its because she misses BM, she hasn't seen BM since Nov 2011, or she truly doesn't want a relationship.

I want to disengage but I don't know how. I can't even leave my job on time. I like helping people, I am a social worker for homeless people at a shelter, I call into to work on the weekends that I have off and periodically during my time off because I want to make sure that my clients are doing well in the shelter. DH gets upset at times because I call before going to bed to ensure that all is well at work. I will continue to try, but I feel that I am giving up... SOON!


Bojangles's picture

Hi gtrmom, I am really feeling for you at the moment. It seems like the real issue is your stress over how to get close to your SD, and feel that she is respecting you as a parent figure now that you are doing the job full time. That I can completely empathise with: I know how hard it is to suddenly go from part-time stepparent to full-on full time, especially if you haven't had children that age of your own so you've got something to go on. My youngest SD moved in with us a year ago when she was 14 after getting herself in a lot of trouble. I did not want to feel that I had a child lodger under my roof over whom I had little influence, so I felt incredible pressure to try to establish some closeness and trust so I could actually parent her, as opposed to just go through the motions of practical care. DH is a lovely Dad in many ways but he works long hours, I was the one at home with her most of the time, and he does not find it easy it to relate to a young teenage girl, or tackle some of the issues head on.

Although she has 3 older sisters I had never had to have that kind of day to day parenting relationship with them so it was stressful and unfamiliar. I felt and still feel in a lot of ways, that if I couldn't establish the kind of mother/daughter relationship I had with my own mother then I would be failing, and although I realise on a conscious level that that is an unrealistic expectation, subconsciously that is still the standard I am aiming for. I used to lie awake fretting how to approach difficult conversations with her and then re-live the conversations for days afterwards.

The conversation you had with your SD about how you can't be close if she won't trust you and talk to you exactly mirrors conversations I have had with my SD. The trouble was that she was not actually close to anyone: so much of the emotional fallout from her parents divorce was swept under the carpet, with DH afraid to talk openly about what was going on and BM drowning her sorrows in alcohol that SD grew up pretty disabled in terms of communicating and managing her own feelings. I believe this is not uncommon with children who have grown up with parents who abuse drugs or alcohol. I saw a counsellor for a while to help cope with the stress of living with my SD, and she suggested I look at some information on attachment disorders to help me understand and rationalise some of SD's behaviour. SD is also seeing a counsellor. I don't know if this is in anyway relevant to your situation but this is one site I looked at:

Overall I am a terrible disengager because I am controlling and over-responsible but I do believe in stepparent fatigue and I think sometimes you have to take a break and back off to regroup for a few weeks. In my experience stepparenting relations can also run in cycles where you'll get on great for a while and feel you're making progress and then for one reason or another you get into a downer cycle where you feel at odds with them, and more often than not they get on your nerves or cause you anxiety. So what I do sometimes is just try to retrench for a couple of weeks: spend more time relaxing in my room watching movies, buy some nice things to eat, see friends and family, focus on my BD4 and BS2 and generally try to centre myself in MY life rather than as a support system for SD. Stepparenting is a marathon not a sprint, sometimes you need a rest stop and that doesn't mean you're quitting or giving up. You are already depressed and feeling like you are banging your head against a brick wall and you're not going to make any breakthroughs with SD in the short term, so give yourself a break, don't put yourself through any more difficult conversations with her for a few while, see your therapist, try to treat yourself. Wishing you all the best

Doubletakex3's picture

I agree with Jojobo to back off and let her come to you. When dynamics aren't working someone has to stop the cycle and give a new dynamic a chance to be created. Try reverse psychology. It was the only thing that worked for me when I was at that terrible age!