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When DH's words of support DON'T support!

Lanette's picture

My DH recently said something to me that to someone else - someone unlike all us on this forum who've walked this path - might think was supportive.

Prior to accompanying my DH to visit my two grown SD's 27 & 34 over Thanksgiving, I raised my concerns over the visit with our couple's therapist. After being together for 17 years we are back in counseling to attempt to address ongoing SD issues!

My concern for the visit revolved around SD27 who still cannot accept that I am in her father's life. Prior to this visit I have tried very hard (too much so it seems) to connect with her. Each time, she returned my efforts with either apathy or a hovering feeling of disgust toward me. One time, while in a restaurant booth, she and my husband were sitting next to each other (it was I who prompted they sit next to each other to show my support for their relationship).

As I sat across from SD I could see an obvious morose expression firmly implanted on her face. So I excused myself from the table to go to the restroom. I planned to see what would happen to her expression during my absence. Sure enough - as looked around the corner where she could not see me - her expression had transformed to joy and lively animation as she cuddled up next to Daddy. Hmmm...

Anyway, our therapist recommended that I stop trying so very hard - that I become more of an observer.

At the end of four days I felt it went quite well. I didn't feel as damaged as I had in the past. There were a couple of times I felt hurt by her actions but I didn't get sucked into the drama as I had done previously.

The night before we left my husband took the SD's out for dinner. The plan was to finally express to them that I was not responsible for the divorce between their parents. I don't know how successful he was in communicating the message but in any event the evening was derailed by SD27.She told her father that during the entire visit I had mistreated her and that she never wanted anything to do with me ever again!

Wow! My actions sure caused a shift in the dynamics - which obviously made her very uncomfortable - and gave her the chance to once again, make me into a wicked stepmother. I knew in my heart that I hadn't mistreated her - I simply did it differently in an attempt to take care of myself.

I wish my DH could have seen this as clearly as I - but wishes don't always come true! We spoke to our therapist about it. She said that all of the rage she has toward me isn't really about me but about unresolved & complicated feelings about the divorce & subsequent events - which began when she was 10 yrs. old. She said in her opinion until SD27 sorted out this complicated stuff -- conscious & unconscious - with the help of a professional she would not be able understand what is really going on inside of her, and nothing would change.

My DH is the kind of guy that keeps his feelings to himself -- which drives me crazy because I tend to fill in the silence with my own fears. Finally, I prompted him to share some feelings, and he said, (I put in caps for emphasis - he was not yelling): "I BELIEVE THAT YOU BELIEVE THAT YOU DIDN'T DO ANYTHING TO HURT HER (SD)."

Honestly my friends, my 1st thought was, "Wow! He should be a politician" -- cause at first glance - in my mind - this sounded like a supportive statement. But to all of the cells in my body this felt more like "I believe that you believe that you didn't do anything to hurt her, but I believe you did in fact hurt her!"

If I hadn't been doing work on myself in individual therapy - I wouldn't have trusted the feeling in my body. I would have accepted this as "his way" of supporting me. But to me, it feels that he is continuing to straddle the fence. Trying to protect & support his grown daughter - without it really appearing that way to me - and meanwhile still leaving me not only unsupported - but the bad person - responsible for inflicting pain onto his daughter!

I desire & can handle honest feedback, friends. We are going to another couple's session today!

We will see.


sandye21's picture

Lanette, We are definitely in the same place as far as DH and SD. Why are we trying so hard to convince these men that it's not us? I've gotten to the point where I don't care what DH thnks or who he believes. He can go vist SD and her hubby by himself, and they are not allowed in this house until he can convince them to quit dishing out the abuse. Ask the therapist about checking out on having a relationship with SD. Neither she nor DH deserve you time. Cheryl

no fairytale's picture

I honestly feel for you. I go through the exact same issues with SD 24.
I feel it is a battle that will never be won.

Not sure if you feel this way but, I have begun feeling it is me against his family not one big family.
Especially when my DH says to me during one issue "I am on your side"
I DO NOT want SIDES I want us to be a family.

Let me know how counseling goes I have been thinking about approaching that idea with DH.

Lanette's picture

Dear No Fairy Tale - I totally encourage you to find a therapist that is a good fit for you. I started seeing my therapist on an individual basis 1 1/2 years ago. I am very fortunate to have found the right one. I went through two before finding this one. What is weird is that when I first encountered her I was a bit turned off but I hung in there and am so grateful I didn't allow a first impression to be a lasting one. It took 5-6 sessions before I knew for sure. Through her I also participate in a women's group. I had never before done this and I had no idea how very powerful it would be.

As to couple's therapy - I am always the one to lead the charge on that. I am fortunate that he goes - that he likes her - and that he feels safe. Men do not typically initiate the idea of couple's therapy. My ex absolutely refused to go which is always a red flag. But I still went even when he wouldn't.

So I took a different approach to couple's therapy. On the way there I told my husband that I felt we should take turns raising issues to explore. Even though I was dying to talk about what was on my mind. I've noticed that I am always the one to be thinking about the upcoming appointment - and eager to go, so I am clearly very vested in it. He actually forgot about the appt until I reminded him - which is why I suggested taking turns. Maybe he will be the one to bring up topics - rather than me always being the one to do the heavy lifting! Next week I will raise the topic of his choice of supportive words which didn't really support.

Let me know how it goes for you should you decide to find a therapist. It really can be a very precious process - even if it ends up being individual therapy.

NotReally's picture

Yeah, I would take it that way from my DH. I would take it as him saying I'm too clueless to realize I was being hurtful. You can only be responsible for your own reactions though. Even if she was hurt because you weren't acting in whatever way she wanted you to, that's on her. She's an adult and needs to realize that you do what is best for you.

I'm sorry Lanette Sad

Lanette's picture

Thank you for the support. Learning to do what is best for ourselves is a challenge sometimes. Being mothers, caregivers, peacemakers sometimes we forget to put ourselves first!

donna123's picture

Sorry I had to have a chuckle at how your husband reacted. You are correct that is a non-supportive comment foisted off as a supportive comment. It is a typical response from a guilty father. Let me ask you this. When his daughter said, “that during the entire visit [you] had mistreated her” did he have enough gumption to ask her how you had allegedly mistreated her? I am sure as soon as he heard the words “mistreated” from his daughter’s mouth his false belief that all SM’s are wickedly jealous of their pitiful helpless SDs that he crumbled and felt guilty for not protecting her against your alleged attacks. It is very difficult for fathers to accept that their daughters can be very competitive and nasty with a SM, so dad automatically believes it is you.

You will find, as I did, that when you ask SD what was it that I did that made you feel I was mistreating you, you will be met with the old standby “oh, I don’t want to get into it right now.” Why don’t you want to get into it? And how come you SD decide what we will and won’t get into after you have made such a provocative statement about me? Believe me, they don’t ever want to get into it because then they might slip up and admit to some of their true feelings which dad might not see as so sweet and helpless.

In the meantime your DH has a ton of work to do to even begin to understand how he is the one creating the drama by not establishing firm ground rules in your marriage and in your household with his daughters. Until he speaks up, she will continue doing what she does.

Lanette's picture

Okay Donna123 - I just ordered the book "Stepmonster" and it will arrive on Friday. I am new to this site and am reentering the drama of the stepfamily. I am so glad to see a book that finally might represent our honest experiences - and a greater widely publicized wisdom which wasn't prevalent 17 years ago.

Your words rang true, my friend!

oneoffour's picture

And at this statement you smile and say "You can think whatever you want to think. You can believe I accidentally offended your daughter. The truth is, nothing I did, do or plan to do will ever be good enough for her. The thing is, I don't need her approval anymore. I don't need her acceptance of me. I am your wife as long as you want me to be your wife. If your grown daughter cannot accept that, it isn't my problem. I will continue to be polite and civil. But I am not her step mother. I am her father's wife. She has a problem, not me. I am changing my internal channel to Comedy Central and away from Lifetime Drama of the Week."

Lanette, she can only hurt you if you allow yourself to be hurt. Now I know putting up barriers and defences is counter productive for open dialogue. But in this case you have no other option.

In future keep out of her way. If she visits, allow her all the time she wants with her father. Do what you want to do. Go on day trips to places you want to see. And if your DH accuses you of neglecting him and his daughters you just tell him they are his daughter, not yours. And you would love to spend time with them at their invitation. Cos you and I know this puts it all back on her to invite you along. She gets caught in the bad place ... inviting her nemisis along or looking bad to her father.

Remember, misery loves company.

sandye21's picture

I REALLY like this! I have already let DH know he can visit them anytime at their place or in a motel nearby. But I love the idea about the 'invitation'. It puts everything in THEIR court - makes them responsible for creating a mechanism for resolution. Sure love this site!

Lanette's picture

Dear oneoffour: If I were in to getting a tattoo I might consider tattooing your advice on my hand so I can have it at my fingertips!

In absence of that I have printed it and it will go in my notebook of notable and "to be remembered" pieces of advice.

Wow! What a powerful group of women! Thank you all.

LizzieA's picture

After 4 years I continue to be detached with very few interactions with my SKs, esp SD, 22. She is a difficult person, likely bi-polar, and can be volatile. My DH has insisted that I be recognized as his wife, which is a start. But I do not expect or care about having a close relationship with her. I have done a few nice things--made a baby book for her, given her a nice handmade quilt for baby, helped her make a memory board for cousins. But typical, we got along great making the board then she got pissy (she was visiting us recently) and never paid me back for her part of the supplies. 99% of the communication is with DH, who readily acknowledges her problems. If someday, she wants to be my friend, I can do a lot for her with my experience, wisdom and yes, caring. She is very troubled, after her pissy fit, I hugged her when she was crying. I actually felt affection and pity for her. But I mainly stay in the background and that is my choice.

After 17 years (you remind me of Stepaside), it's time to move on, SD! But I lay the problem at your DH's feet. He waffles with his guilt (he doesn't really believe he has the 'right' to have another wife you see) and doesn't force her to smarten up. He needs to have a come to Jesus meeting with her and say, "you may not like her but she is my wife and you will respect her and be cordial to her." And have your therapist work with you to explain that you are going to be "detached" it is the healthy thing and SD can just suck it up. She was just deflecting the issue back onto you rather than admit her own feelings and behaviors.

Lanette's picture

Dear stepaside,

As I was going down the posts of wonderful advice - I kept thinking the wisdom couldn't possibly get better! Well, you blew that idea out of my head. I have read and reread your wisdom. Thank you soooo very much!

I do have a lot of work to do. And it will take some courage to start speaking my truth to my husband - but you know what --I am ready for it... it is about damn time!

StillSearching's picture

What is up with the SD's and us? It seems like all of us with them are having problems...GRRRR. Mine is 17 and this makes me not hopeful that she will get better with age. :O

StillSearching's picture

That "girlfriend daughter" statement is very true Finey. And it freaks me out when I read some of theses "daddy girl" stories. It really is disgusting. And StepAside I am glad that you are good with your SM it gives me some hope!

llorraine23's picture

Wow, I really appreciate these posts. My husband and I just got into it this evening (again). Sigh....will this ever get better?

Lanette's picture

I know I said it earlier but I have to say it one final time! I too appreciate these posts. Sharing our experience and strength is a true blessing.

Thank you each and everyone!

anny1238's picture

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