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SM getting ignored at family events - Different perspectives

Petronella's picture

So I was reading a blog from a couple years ago (got there from the post history of one of today's new blogs). It's on a common topic - a new SM's relationship with her adult stepchildren and how much to expect. But a couple of the comments went off on a tangent and got me thinking. Blog is here:

https://www.steptalk.org/blog/stepaside-1987/dealing-adult-stepchildren-...

A poster (It's Goodluck, someone I like a lot actually!) comments from the adult SK's point of view, about how a stepmother would sit there at family gatherings and not say a word, just with this "smirk" on her face:

"A friend of mine who I grew UP with, parents divorced when she was very young. Dad remarried and mom also remarried. Anyway Dads new wife was just awful to my friend and so where the new wifes mean step sisters. Frieds dadas new wife would attend family events and SIT there all dolled UP, not one single hair out of place. She NEVER ever say one single word. All she did was have this smirk of a pasted smile on her face for several hours.

Gosh that was over 30 years ago and to this day I can STILL see that smirk on her face as if she is sitting across from me.
My point is don't be like that ugly step mom and her ugly step sisters
."

And another poster, TwoOfUs, another favorite of mine, responds:

"Weird that this woman was at her husband's family events and it was somehow totally on HER to initiate conversation...as the new person in the room. Maybe she was just waiting to see how long it would take for anyone from her husband's family to talk to her...and she was surprised and bemused to discover that it didn't ever happen. Sounds like your friend's dad came from a rude family."

Somebody else writes:

"100 dollars says his family tried and gave up."

And TwoOfUs responds:

"I'd take that bet. 100 bucks she sat there ignored for one too many get-togethers and she gave up.

My DH's family has been, for the most part, warm & welcoming to me...and I have reciprocated in kind. I feel very lucky, because I know many, many blended family situations where this isn't the case at all for the new SM.

When you're the new person in the room it's up to the hosts to make you feel included and welcomed. Everyone knows that."

Sorry I am not intending to single out any particular person for their old blogs or comments! I just was hoping to begin a spin-off conversation on this topic, of how new people especially stepmothers (and as in my case, stepmom's existing children) get treated by their DH's adult kids and other extended family. 

Personally I had a very unpleasant experience earlier in my relationship with my DH. We went to his hometown for a wedding and stayed with his parents, who'd always been very nice to me and my daughter. One of DH's brothers and SIL were also there and OMG they were so rude to me and DD! We sat there on the couch being completely ignored. I'm sure I probably had a "smirk" on my face too. It was mostly in an attempt to keep from crying or looking angry or making a scene!

Does anyone else have any thoughts on this topic of inclusion and etiquette?

Comments

tog redux's picture

I so far haven't felt excluded at any event - but in terms of the situation described above - who goes to a party and sits there saying nothing to see how long it takes for someone to speak to her? That's really weird, and not at all defensible, IMO.  

This board tends to always assume stepmothers are innocent victims of the stepkids, but sometimes they help create their own problems. 

Petronella's picture

That's good that you've never felt excluded. 

I certainly wouldn't advocate going to a party and not ever saying a word yourself! But I'll admit that I've had times where it almost became a game I was playing with myself. To see how many times I could try to speak to someone else and be rebuffed. How far they'd really go in ignoring me.

tog redux's picture

I guess in that case, I just wouldn't go anymore.

No, I'm lucky, I guess - DH's family has no issue with me and SS likes me. 

Petronella's picture

It was really this one brother and his wife. Everyone else has been fine. I absolutely told DH that I will never be put in that position again. He apologized to me and is still mad at his brother and SIL on my behalf, LOL

Petronella's picture

That's the plan! 

Actually if and when I see them again, I'll be scrupulously polite and see what they do this time. See what I mean - it's an experiment I'm running!

Petronella's picture

Exactly. It creates tension, makes the new person/outsider feel self conscious and doubt themself. And it's so unnecessary! Why the need to single out someone and exclude them? 

Jcksjj's picture

Turn it into a social experiment and in your head you're just a neutral observer seeing how things play out! That's what my game plan is for having to be around MIL at xmas. Like she's some alien species that I'm trying to learn how she functions lol. Still gonna have to psych myself to go there though.

advice.only2's picture

I'm a shy awkward person in big social situations where I don't know anybody.  I rely heavily on my DH who is extremely outgoing to help me through such situations.

i have been told countless times because I am pretty and I come across as aloof and cold, or stuck up.  When in reality I am dying inside because I don't know what to say or how to act.  
 

 

tog redux's picture

Yeah, there is that - social anxiety. I'm assuming the people in the story above knew this SM well enough to know it wasn't that, but it could have been. 

Gimlet's picture

I hate talking in social situations and would much rather just let others fill the space.  I tend to ruminate after the event and worry about everything I said. I completely get this.

I have to go to some fancy work party with DH this weekend and I am dreading it. 

advice.only2's picture

My DHs work party is next week and I am not drinking because of a diet and I am petrified of sitting there with nothing to help me loosen up.  I predict a long night of smiling uncomfortably and saying something stupid at the wrong moment and getting the looks.  

Gimlet's picture

I'm probably not going to drink either because it's such a fine line of being relaxed and then being a little too relaxed, which will feed my rumination and anxiety that I said or did something stupid.  I'll white knuckle it through the night and make DH take me for a nice cocktail as soon as we leave.  Gah. 

I will 100% say something stupid and also be wearing my best constipated smile.  Solidarity, advice.only.  I try to remember that most people don't care about me and won't remember what I say.  Right??  

Petronella's picture

Well I'm sure everyone on StepTalk is pretty, LOL. Definitely though, the fact that the SM in that story was described as "all dolled up, without a hair out of place," was interesting. Like it's a bad thing if SM is attractive or takes care of herself! 

notsurehowtodeal's picture

This is the advice everyone on this site always gives a SM when she has to attend a family event or an even with BM - look your best and just smile your way through it! And this woman gets essentially criticized for looking good. Maybe she has "resting smirk face" instead of "resting bitch face."

Petronella's picture

Stepmoms just can't win! Now the looks on our faces are wrong! Oh and I also liked the way this woman got called "Dad's new wife" over and over. Wonder how many years she'd been married to Dad at that point. 

somethingwicked's picture

I recall at a holiday party early on in our marriage where my DH's EX's brother ,(my DH's former BIL) was there b/c somehow he was loosely affiliated with DH's company.

My DH was  and still can be really dense,really unable to assess a social situation .

This former BIL was a weirdo,imho, and that was my opinion before I knew who this rube was. Found out after the event. But this guy was  like all over DH making conversation that was really animated .I thought he was drunk with something else on board . Then he turns to me ,looking me up and down and is like  in a loud voice "Oh so THIS is your new wife,huh?"  There was nothing nice or welcoming in the way he commented. I ignored his out streteched hand and said  in a low ,modulated voice staring directly in his face : "Yeah, I'm the new and improved model" then walked away.

DH followed in my wake.We enjoyed our time at the company party and later DH told me who the jerk was.I had a good laugh.

HoBag  burned up the phone for a time after that coz her weirdo brother probably shared.

But I get it when someone is outnumbered and out flanked at a social event that is comprised of hostile family or acquaintances. I think  the well coiffed SM was trying to disappear  with that frozen smile on her face into the cushions.

Being called or regarded exclusively as "dad's new wife " multiple times was not a complimentary observation but inflammatory trigger talk. 

Just like that weird  brother of hobag was making an inappropriate  and not welcome observation thinking he was getting away with some sly insult.

Nope.And I didn't even know who he was but the ahole fumes eminated . 

Aniki's picture

I give this advice because when I know I look good (hair, makeup, outfit are all working), I FEEL good. If I wear something and feel FAT in it? My confidence and feel-good vibe goes down. 

I KNOW I'm a nice person. I KNOW I've gone out of my way to try and make the skids feel comfortable around me. I KNOW I've gone above and beyond trying to do nice and thoughtful things for them. 

You know what? Most of the time, not one bit of that matters because we're the Evil Step Monsters!

So the "family" members can go right ahead and be crass, insensitive, rude, snotty asshats. THAT shows what kind of people they are and THAT type is not worth a pile of bear shite in the woods to me.

Aniki's picture

I'm a shy awkward person in big social situations where I don't know anybody.

That's me. And it's quite likely the smile I'm trying to maintain is an painful-looking as it feels. 

Gimlet's picture

I get really excited if there's a cat or dog there so I can spend all my time with my new fur friend.

Rearview's picture

I get you.  I believe in not putting yourself  in that situation.  Talk to your spouse and if its decided to go to a function then talk about ground rules,  1. Dont stay to long. 2. Spouse stay in close proximity to you as a buffer or conversation  assistant,  3. If its toxic dont go.  4. You dont owe anyone  an explanation  for how you feel. Everyone's  not a social  butterfly and THERE IS NOTHING  WRONG WITH IT.

Aniki's picture

I've been on both sides:

  • Tried to be polite and make conversation and gotten rude replies or shunned.
  • Sat/stood on the edges of the group and was deliberately ignored/exluded.

Petronella's picture

Wow Aniki, you know what I'm talking about! It's so awkward to be in this position! And gets worse as the evening progresses! Especially if there's no escape in sight! 

People who do that to the new person or outsider...are such CLODS. 

tog redux's picture

Yeah, I can't really imagine that happening with "family".  DH is not very close to his family, and I think if they mistreated me, he'd just never see them again. 

Petronella's picture

That is the correct way for a husband to behave! But too many members here have been gaslighted and told to just suck it up, it's just one day, you're too sensitive, get over yourself, stop making everything about you, etc etc etc. 

Petronella's picture

I feel the need to clarify that my DH is NOT one of these guys who does that. This was ONE incident that happened and he was aware of what was going on, apologized to me later, understood completely how I felt and honored my feelings, and has withdrawn from that brother and SIL as a result of that evening. 

tog redux's picture

That's good. My own siblings do some of that gaslighting to me, so I do know how painful it is. I lately spend as little time with them as I can without hurting my 85-year-old mom in the process. 

Aniki's picture

Yes. And CLOD is much too nice for someone like SD23. The ONE TIME I tried to join in the silliness? The comment I made was right in line with the others and I was blasted for being SNARKY. Well, then. You can all eff off and I will say nothing while I sip my wine/whiskey/tequila...

Petronella's picture

You can all eff off and I will say nothing while I sip my wine/whiskey/tequila...

Oh but then you'll be accused of SMIRKING!!

Stepaside-1987's picture

I have often been asked a question and then as I am asnwering the question one in particular will start walking away.  So I am guessing she feels she can at least say she talked to me.

I have gone and been ignored despite trying to be a part of a conversation.

I have gone and just sat there quietly because the conversations have been all about BM and BM family.  SO i feel it is wise to keep quiet in those situations.

I don't care if I walked in looking like Princess Diana - they would find something wrong with me.  I do my best and sometimes due to social anxiety I will take a valium before going to an event. 

95% of the time - I am excluded and I am never asked how I am doing, how my family is doing etc. so I believe in being the kind person I am and smile because I've been told by several outside of family I have a beautiful warm smile . 

Jcksjj's picture

I've only felt this from MIL, the rest of DHs family is more inclusive.

The first time I met her I was very thrown off because any attempt I made to talk to her was either flat out ignored or met with a kind of snotty "okay then" attitude. So I stopped trying to talk to her. Then when we were leaving DH had to carry stuff out to the car and she finally acknowledges me by saying "well jcksjj can carry this" and handing me a couple things - implying I was lazy/rude. Then when we were getting in the car after she said bye to DH she turns to me and says "well it was nice to meet you" in a sarcastic voice, again implying I was rude for not saying it to her first. As if I wanted to continue trying to talk to her when she jumped down my throat every time I attempted to? I dont think it was a SM thing in this instance though, because it sounds like BM got the same treatment and both my mom and my one bridesmaid who is usually really good in social situations commented on her attitude when they tried to talk to her at our wedding.

It hasnt changed at all since then, every time I'm around her its the same cycle of if I talk to her first its somehow rude or offensive no matter what, if she talks to me first and I respond the response is ignored or dismissed, and then she complains or gets offended that I ignore her. Set up to lose, basically. 

Another theme i see on here alot and can kind of relate to is BM is hated until there is a new person, and then all of a sudden shes not that bad.

Petronella's picture

Thanks for sharing! My MIL and FIL are both good most of the time, but boy do I ever understand the kind of person you're describing! Especially when they try to imply that YOU'RE the rude one! Interesting that both your own mom and your bridesmaid noticed something off about your MIL as well. See, it wasn't just the dreaded SM or second wife giving offense and making it all about herself! 

Another theme i see on here alot and can kind of relate to is BM is hated until there is a new person, and then all of a sudden shes not that bad.

I know that my DH's first wife absolutely loathed most of his relatives, and avoided spending time with them as much as possible. Part of this was because his parents don't drink and she couldn't handle that, LOL. But part of it was that she received some of this exclusion as well from the same sibling, which I don't think even BM deserved! Thank goodness though, none of my in-laws are pining away missing BM! She's never been mentioned in my hearing at all, LOL, and shortly after DH split from her, his parents told him privately that they'd never much liked her and felt she treated him and others badly. 

CLove's picture

My Dh's VERY large family REALLY dislikes BM, and always did. On several occasions from different people, mostly sisters, Ive been inundated with stories on how Toxic Troll would speak disparagingly of DH, how "he wasnt really my type", how she would arrive and ask "so wheres the booze?" how she would accuse him of being abusive and degrading towards her, etc.

The older ones are nice, but the younger ones are self-obsessed entitled jerks, so I dont really expect them to engage with me. Im 5.5 years in, however.

 

Im fairly outgoing with no social anxiety. But I definitely have felt "passed over" by select groups and factions within DH's family.

thinkthrice's picture

Chef's family seemed accepting of me; they seemed supportive of Chef, too, but have distanced themselves over the years.  Not sure if it is me or Chef they are objecting to  LOL!

shamds's picture

And met all his siblings and their wives/husbands and kids. Everyone was friendly and welcoming and asking about me etc and where i came from and what it was like etc.

even now my husbands niece and nephews regularly catch out ss on his crappy behaviour and shunning of us. To hubbys family, me and my 2 kids with hubby are their family but they don’t get the shunning treatment from ss because they see it as uncalled for and completely ridiculous 

when ss is rude and disrespectful, his uncles or cousins catch him out on it and his response is a smirk.. they just see him as such an evil person who enjoys emotionally abusing people

Petronella's picture

And met all his siblings and their wives/husbands and kids. Everyone was friendly and welcoming and asking about me etc and where i came from and what it was like etc.

Now THIS is how it should be!

shamds's picture

and asian hospitality is something asians pride themselves on. Its bad manners and etiquette to treat someone like shit and not with open arms. 

Even now alot of my hubbys niece and nephews are a few years or even 10 yrs younger than me as their mums married when they were 20 while hubby married his ex at 28 yrs old so we get along great. Can causally catch up and talk.

theres no negativity and we all have a great laugh and talk about he usual family, holidays, studies and work etc..:

anytime i see bad manners i am instantly reminded of my late mother. Growing up you just felt a negative vibe all of a sudden and she was giving you this stern side eye look which you noticed and that was code for “cut that shit out!” Even if we were barely rude or naughty, to my mum, we were disappointing her and her high standards of good manners and social etiquette.

i raise my kids to the same high standards too....

even niece and nephews marrying and their spouse sees the 1 caucasian woman in a brown skinned asian family say 50-60 people when we are all at a family event, they realise i’m a very easygoing and casual kind of person so its very easy to break the ice.

i jut don’t get it with families treating others like friggin arseholes.... then blaming and criticising them as the problem...

even now my inlaws are concerned of my young kids and how skids treat them because to them thats uncalled for and totally unacceptable by someone who should be leading by example but somehow my toddlers model better behaviour than others

shamds's picture

and asian hospitality is something asians pride themselves on. Its bad manners and etiquette to treat someone like shit and not with open arms. 

Even now alot of my hubbys niece and nephews are a few years or even 10 yrs younger than me as their mums married when they were 20 while hubby married his ex at 28 yrs old so we get along great. Can causally catch up and talk.

theres no negativity and we all have a great laugh and talk about he usual family, holidays, studies and work etc..:

anytime i see bad manners i am instantly reminded of my late mother. Growing up you just felt a negative vibe all of a sudden and she was giving you this stern side eye look which you noticed and that was code for “cut that shit out!” Even if we were barely rude or naughty, to my mum, we were disappointing her and her high standards of good manners and social etiquette.

i raise my kids to the same high standards too....

even niece and nephews marrying and their spouse sees the 1 caucasian woman in a brown skinned asian family say 50-60 people when we are all at a family event, they realise i’m a very easygoing and casual kind of person so its very easy to break the ice.

i jut don’t get it with families treating others like friggin arseholes.... then blaming and criticising them as the problem...

even now my inlaws are concerned of my young kids and how skids treat them because to them thats uncalled for and totally unacceptable by someone who should be leading by example but somehow my toddlers model better behaviour than others

Husband's wife's picture

Am this SM. Every time I have to see the ILs, I prepare myself better than for my own wedding.
 

Everything is perfect, I spend 3 hours at the hairdresser and go for professional makeup. And I sit and play on my phone. 

Why is that ? They are all friends with the BM, they show her family's pictures and I want to look good on all of them. Their house is full of her, with her name on the postbox, her cigarettes in the ashtray etc. 
 

in the beginning I tried hard, I used to send Whatsapp messages to MIL and SIL, they always replied but never started a conversation with me. I gave up. Later they started to contact me first but I do not care anymore and am not interested in any interaction.

In addition, they always talk about people from their town, people I do not know and do not care about. I am bored. They also talk a lot about the BM and how stupid she is. 
In the beginning I tried to smile and ask who is this or that individual, later I gave up. Now I play on my phone and smile. And I jump at any opportunity to play with my child or the dogs. 

bananaseedo's picture

Husbandswife.... "

Am this SM. Every time I have to see the ILs, I prepare myself better than for my own wedding.
 

Everything is perfect, I spend 3 hours at the hairdresser and go for professional makeup. And I sit and play on my phone. 

Why is that ? They are all friends with the BM, they show her family's pictures and I want to look good on all of them."

Oh hon...I honestly feel really bad that you feel you have to do this!!!  who cares what they/bm think how you look? It matters only to your husband!  You seriously are spending physical time and mental energy doing this kind of prep for any gathering?  I think your money/time would be better spent going to counseling to address your self-esteem issues.  There is no reason on earth any woman should be doing this.

Husband's wife's picture

I learned to have some pleasure seeing their faces. They are all overweight and none of them looks well.
 

In the beginning I would come normal, wearing a jeans and a casual sweater. Since they ignored me for years, I am having a sort of revenge.

But I am not planning on continue visiting them, so this all will be resolved for good. 

 

Merry's picture

After one particularly bad experience, DH and I have set some expectations between the two of us. We periodically check in with each other when we're with big groups -- doesn't matter if it's family or friends -- to make sure the other is having a good time, or at least is not unhappy.

The worst event was Christmas at SD's where, I swear, SD and DH spent the entire day and evening playing "remember when" games down Memory Lane.. I tried to join in their conversation but I was clearly unwanted, even by DH. I had a major meltdown after we left. Hasn't happened since, but that's because we put our sanity-saving rules in place and he had the good sense to be embarrassed about his own and his daughter's behavior.

SD later said to me that she understands that I "don't like history." "No, SD, that's not true at all. I love history and it was my minor in college. Where in the world did you get that idea/" Lord knows what DH said to her to spark that comment. What I really don't give a damn about is the song she made up when she was four years old.

Petronella's picture

The idea of ground rules is a very good one! Couples should always check in with each other at any large gathering. Not ignore each other. 

SD later said to me that she understands that I "don't like history." "No, SD, that's not true at all. I love history and it was my minor in college. Where in the world did you get that idea/"

Oh, SD. She doesn't know what "history" is, in the academic sense. Also if she's anything like my SKs, she also doesn't know where you went to college or what you studied. 

Sometimes when the skids start their walks down First Family Memory Lane, I counter with golden memories of my own life with my own Golden First Family. 

Merry's picture

Exactly what I tried to do. I had commented after other trips to Skidville that DH and SD have a "script" to their interactions, including lots of time on Memory Lane. I wasn't being critical, more like analytical. And I don't care about the occasional story or repetition of story. DH defended their "stories" with the explanation that "they (skids) just want to share some of their past so that you can know them better." Total BS, but ok, noted. And I can make the exact same case.

So the day-long Memory Lane event included me interjecting several times with my own stories because SURELY skids want to know as much about me as they want me to know about them. Hahahah. Nope, EVEN DH told me not to participate, and rudely at that. DH is NEVER rude to me and it was a shock. But he was caught up in the SD script and I was trying to change it. Bad Merry.

Skids are generally polite to me. It's just frequently frosty.

Gimlet's picture

Yes, there is a difference between sharing nice stories from childhood and bring exclusionary to the others in the conversation or using the stories to make someone feel uncomfortable.  We're smart enough to know the difference. 

OSS used to do this a lot, it was his opportunity to inject BM into every conversation.  Luckily DH didn't get upset when I ran with my own narrative and had fun asking him a million questions until he realized it wasn't working. 

I didn't mind him talking about his mom, I minded him weaponizing it.

CLove's picture

Luckily Munchkin SD13 and I have made lots of our own memories over the past 5.5 years, and the stuff she barely recalls, arent something worthy of Memory Lane travels.

Sad that your DH was so caught up in his "script" that he had to chastise you for breaking the "magic spell".