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DS19’s assessment of SS26 has me rethinking

SMto2's picture

Over the past year, with the help of this forum, I've been learning to disengage from SS26, SS25, SDILs and SGDs so I don't feel anger and resentment. I've backed way off and let DH handle any plans with them, which are limited to gift-giving occasions.

More of the social media snub by SS26 continued over the holidays. During December, he made 6 posts with over 4 dozen photos and videos of holiday fun with BM--seeing Santa, decorating a tree, making Christmas cookies, and of course, Christmas morning, since Santa comes to BMs! One of those photos was a pic SS26 took of SGs at our place on Christmas Eve wearing the matching monogrammed Christmas pajamas I got them, but if you didn't know where it was taken, you'd think SS26 & family didn't see DH for Christmas. For New Year's, SS26 posted 10 photos taken during 2020 to show what a great year they had. Two of those were of SS26 & SGDs (and no one else shown) on the beach trip we fully funded, one of them enjoying the beach and one in our private pool, while FOUR of the pics had BM in them, showing the fun they had together. Oh, and BM's birthday was in December, so of course, SS26 had to post nearly a dozen photos and wish the most awesome mother and grandmother on the planet a happy birthday. SS26 has never posted any birthday or Father's Day wishes to DH.  

I don't usually discuss these things in front of DSs, but I admit I had a couple drinks and said something to DH about the holiday photo snub in front of DS19. I actually was interested in hearing his thoughts, since he's a very intelligent young man. DS19 surprised me by saying he thinks it's obvious SS26 feels he can't post any pics of DH/our family because that would appear "disloyal" to BM, while at the same time, the excessive photos/videos with BM are to "prove his loyalty." DS19 basically said SS26 is between a rock and a hard place due to BM, and we should feel sorry for him and not hold it against him! This really surprised me, as there's no love lost between DS19 & SS26. They barely spoke on Christmas Eve, and SS26 bought no gifts for either DS, though he bought a gift for DH and me. (BTW, SS25 & his DW brought no gifts for anyone, as usual. Lol.) 


This has got me re-thinking how I'm handling the situation with SSs, especially SS26, SDIL & SGDs, and whether that's causing their relationship to suffer or at least not progress. There have been several times since we bought our lake house that I would have invited them had I not been disengaged and intentionally stepping back. Although they live an hour and a half away, they go to BM's house which is 40 minutes away almost every weekend. Our lake had a "trunk or treat" at Halloween and a drive--through to see Santa, and all children/grandchildren of our members were invited. DH could have invited them, and if I'd raised it, he probably would have invited them, but I said nothing. Yes, DH could have done this and invited them many other times, but the reality is, men just don't think of those things like women. In my experience, women are the social planners, organizers. I realize that my DH is capable of doing these things, but he's just not wired that way. Also, it strikes me that SS26 knows we're at the lake every weekend and they've not bothered to mention a visit and have only been there when we invited them for SGD6's birthday and for Christmas. 

I guess I agree with my DS19 that SS26 "can't" share anything about us on social media and if that's true, should I make more of an effort to invite them. 



TheEvilStepmomStrikesBack's picture

What your DS said May be true, but that doesn't make your SS's any less grateful. That doesn't stop them from putting some help into your trips whether it be financially or simply cleaning up after themselves. Finally, it doesn't stop them from visiting or calling outside of trips and holidays. 

I'd stay disengaged because it's obvious these skids don't care. 

just my humble opinion though. 

SMto2's picture

VERY,  VERY TRUE. A part of me thinks that if we saw them more often, the relationship would improve and perhaps they'd want to be more helpful on vacations. However, you're probably right. At the core, they really don't care about us, and don't want to see us more often, i.e., they only want to see us a few times a year on gift-giving occasions, so nothing is going to change, regardless of anything "I" do. This definitely bodes in favor of staying disengaged.

The_Upgrade's picture

I agree with above posters. Kudos to DS for thinking the best of people. But when do free passes for crappy behaviour stop? My SD is fully alienated by BM and she always gets a free pass "because it's her mother's fault she turned out that way, she's not really like that". Newsflash: She really is like that. Do these ADULT skids share a single braincell with their BMs?! How will they ever learn how to act like a decent human if we keep on rewarding them for acting poorly?

advice.only2's picture

Exactly, these aren't young kids these are adults intentionally snubbing their father. At what point do you stop using "they are afraid of mommy" as an excuse to keep bein an a$$hole.

SMto2's picture

It's obvious, right? I think I've concluded that the fact they do keep intentionally snubbing DH should reinforce my disengagement rather that putting myself out there for more rejection. 

SMto2's picture

The_Upgrade: Very true. It's sad to think this is so ingrained in these SKs that it becomes who they are. I'm sorry you've had to suffer the painful effects of PAS as well. 

advice.only2's picture

At some point adults need to stand on their own two feet and get past the "I might upset mommy dearest." Seeing as your SS26 uses that crutch as his reason to treat his father poorly just shows the lack of character he really has.
Sure your DH could invite his children more, but the reality is he doesn't. Maybe the underlying reality is that DH doesn't want his kids there. He knows when they are there he will cater to them and pay for everything. I find it hard to believe your DH doesn't see this and feel taken advantage of, especially after being snubbed repeatedly on social media.
As for your son I think he has great empathy skills and it's kind of him to try to see the best in people. As for you, no don't invite them, they make it clear you are not family. Create your own wonderful memories with your children, and let the SS's and SD's live their fake lives on social media, you just don't need to provide anymore "manipulated photos" for them to use.

SMto2's picture

Thanks for your insight. I think DH really doesn't want to invite them more because he is uncomfortable around them. He always has a lot of anxiety when a visit is coming, especially with SS26. He's commented many times about the conversation being superficial. My thinking has been that more time together might change that, but I'm beginning to accept that's not possible. Your advice to focus on my life and "my" family is spot on.

PetSpoiler's picture

Your son is probably right BUT your stepson is an adult.  So what if BM would get mad at him for showing love for Dad on social media?  Not his problem.  It's BM's problem.  This is a situation where SS needs to possibly stand up to his mother.  

Hold your boundaries.  If SS cared about a relationship with you guys, he would facilitate that.  He'd tell BM to stuff it if she didn't like it.  Don't chase after these people. They're not worth it.  


SMto2's picture

Thank you. There's no way SS26 would ever stand up to his mother, nor does he want to. They are still VERY enmeshed. Even though he's a married man with children, it wasn't very long ago that he & BM went on a "mother-son weekend" trip out of town to a rock concert (she's the cool mom, ya know?!) where they took selfies all hugged up like a couple which he posted on social media. Just typing this out has reinforced I need to expect nothing will ever improve!

tog redux's picture

I agree with the others - you raised a good son, but SS26 is an adult, and he should not be snubbing his father to prove loyalty to his mother. BUT, as before, your husband is part of the issue because he's never said anything to him.  SS26 probably assumes you guys don't notice, or don't care about the giant elephant in the living room.

Yes, you can have compassion for SS as an adult who was alienated as a child, but part of the healing for him is to stop treating DH like dirt to please BM. And not saying anything, or carrying on as usual, won't help him with that healing. Part of your DH's healing is to stop throwing himself under the bus just to keep the crumbs of a relationship with his older sons. He needs to speak up and let SS know how that feels to you two, and your boys, when he erases you from his life while taking advantage of the considerable benefits you offer him.

SMto2's picture

Thanks, Tog. My DS19 has his faults, but I do think he was trying to give SS26 the benefit of the doubt. Whether I contributed to him thinking that way is up for debate. Lol. My SS26 is so self-absorbed, how his actions make DH feel may not occur to him, but if so, I don't think it would matter. And while I'm sure my DH would NEVER say anything to SS26 to call him out, I honestly don't think it would improve the situation. I'm afraid it would just totally alienate him altogether. The Serenity Prayer comes to mind in this situation. Lol. Reading and thinking about the very insightful comments here, I need to accept that I can't change this situation, so I need to continue to focus on disengaging and protecting me. As always, I really appreciate your thoughts.

tog redux's picture

But that's exactly the issue - your DH is afraid to alienate him entirely, so he's willing to put up with being treated like dirt. If you are okay with living like that, then just expect SS to behave as he does, so it doesn't bother you so much.

I think your DH has made baby steps but he needs to go further to reclaim his self-respect.

SMto2's picture

Perhaps DH will choose to handle this differently at some point. I hope so, but I doubt it. Fortunately, I only see them a few times a year, so 99% of my life is as though they don't exist. I love my DH and we have a pretty happy family life with our 2 DSs, so I'm going to continue focusing on that, as well as, on my own behavior, which I can control. 

JRI's picture

My SK's loyalty to their mom was also a big factor in our family dynamics.  Even now that she is dead.  They love DH but only want him involved in their lives so much ( except SD59 who uses him as an ATM).  And, truth to tell, he doesnt want too much involvement, either.

So, I would maintain my boundaries and not invite anybody.  If DH wants to, go ahead  and see how it goes.  But realistically, I would not expect much, if anything, from them.  Sounds like that suits them and DH.

You sound like a carIng person with a lot of love to give.  I would hate to see you disappointed when your kind efforts aren't acknowledged.

SMto2's picture

Yes, I've certainly felt my efforts were taken advantage of and just slapped in the face. It sounds like the loyalty to the BM in your case was/is strong.  I know that's the same in my case, and I think you're right that I need to continue to step back. 

CLove's picture

Your Ds is very emotionally intelligent, however SS is being a user. His assessment is only part of the bigger picture.

As to what to do? Stay disengaged. Be your wonderful selves. Live your awesome lives.

SMto2's picture

Thank you, CLove. The sad truth is, the bigger picture is that SS26 is being a user. Your advice that I should stay disengaged and live my life suggests your belief I can't do anything to change the situation. I think you're right. Thanks for the reminder. I needed it. 

ndc's picture

I wouldn't bring it up. Loyalty to BM doesn't explain the freeloading, the unwillingness to help so you're not a slave on family vacations, the lack of reciprocity in the relationship,  etc. It explains only the social media BS, which frankly is the least of the issues. 

Stay disengaged and let your husband totally handle the relationship (or lack thereof) with his kids. 

SMto2's picture

Although the loyalty to BM is different from how SS26 acts on vacation, I have thought if we spent more time together, the relationship would become more genuine and perhaps if SS26 started really caring, he would want to do more. However, I recognize he's a very selfish, entitled individual who feels that DH "owes him," so that's likely not something that's going to change. Having read through all these comments, I feel convinced it is best for me to stay disengaged. Thank you!

hereiam's picture

However, I recognize he's a very selfish, entitled individual who feels that DH "owes him"

Ding, ding! See, through this blog and everybody's responses (that you give thought to, whether you agree or not), you have realized that it is NOT all about poor SS being caught between a rock and a hard place and his loyalty to BM.

Exjuliemccoy's picture

You're vacillating, OP. Your sweet son's limited pov offers an excuse to slip back into that comfortable dysfunction, but please give yourself a good shake and keep those boundaries UP.

As an attorney, I'm sure you could artfully argue both sides of your step dynamic, but it's far more complicated than just a loyalty bind. You need to stay focused on the essentials that led you to disengage:

  • The dynamic is one sided and inauthentic.
  • The SSs are adults, responsible for their behavior.
  • Your DH wants you to suffer for his cowardice and is okay with you being mistreated.
  • You feel used, resentful, and uncomfortable with the lack of reciprocity.
  • The dynamic exploits your codependent tendencies.
  • You are modeling unhealthy behavior for your sons.
  • There has been no change in SS behavior, no  justification for changing your stance.

Again, NOTHING HAS CHANGED. It's just your own issues, urging you to seize this convenient excuse so you can regress to what is familiar and comfortable. We've all been there, but you need to take yourself in hand and manage those unhealthy tendencies.

SMto2's picture

Exjulie, I was hoping you'd weigh in, too. I needed a reality check from you. I agree with everything you listed, except I don't think DH "wants" me to suffer, to the extent I don't think he sees it that way. I have to admit, the reality is that we actually are being mistreated by SS26 especially, and to the extent DH doesn't address it, he does allow it. He does know how unhappy the SSs' treatment of us makes me, but I think he doesn't feel like there's a choice if he wants to maintain the limited contact he has with the SSs. Considering this perspective has convinced me that you're (still!) right--the best thing to do is to stay disengaged. I absolutely hate that it has to be this way, but I didn't create it and I can't change it. Thank you for telling me what I needed to hear. 

caninelover's picture

It can be hurtful to see the social media posts, but re-engaging will likely lead to the same hurt feelings as before.  Unless SS's fundamentally change and begin reaching out to you and DH in a more mature manner, stay disengaged.

Your son seems like a kind young man.


SMto2's picture

Thank you for the sweet comment on my DS19, He has his teenage moments, but for the most part, he is kind and tolerant. I know you're right about disengaging. I appreciate having so many people help talk me off the ledge. Lol. 

SteppedOff's picture

The sad fact of the situation is these adults are likely not going to change. It may upset Mumsy if she learns they enjoy time with their father and added family. This is their main priority. 

My advice is to help yourself and your family and allow this to be entirely handled by and responsible for by your husband. After all, he is as equally to blame for the dysfunction that still exists with his adult children by ignoring it.

Let it go, let it be his responsibility and most importantly live well. I would like to offer it may benefit you to ditch social media and all that has to do with them. I am of the opinion social media creates SO many additional and unnecessary problems for people. Never involved myself with it and completely happy that way.

SMto2's picture

Thanks for taking time to post. I honestly don't think by ignoring the situation, my DH is responsible for it, except to the extent I feel if he called out SSs, that would put even more strain on an already difficult relationship and ultimately end it. But I agree that the situation is not going to change. One interesting note about the social media. SS26's social media has always been a great way to learn what he's thinking, almost a "window to his soul." (Going back to when he was around age 14 and fully alienated & refusing all contact and posted that DH "abandoned" him when he was 4. This was the same DH who drove 8 hours EOW to pick up SSs and take them home, putting 250k miles on his vehicle--until visitation was refused--and paying more than $250k in CS, NEVER missing a payment.) If I didn't know about SS26's posts on social media, it would avoid my feelings being hurt because ignorance is bliss, but I would not know how differently SS26 treats us in that regard. These things demonstrate to me how SS26 still feels about DH/us and are a great reminder as to why I need to stay disengaged. I do have a setting where I don't get either SSs' posts on my feed. 

Lifer33's picture

You should not make the effort to invite them, dh should have, but if he's not inclined to, why would you be. 

Equally, if it's all for social media fodder on their behalf, that's not about a real relationship with you guys, you might as well just set a scene with perfect lighting for their insta pics and take a step back.


Your son sounds like a lovely young man who is probably giving them far more credit than they're due. They're adults, they don't have to please anyone unless they chose to, and probably as it constantly suits them 

SMto2's picture

I agree that if SS26 actually did post pics of DH/us on FB, it would not mean they had a real relationship. However, the fact that SS26 chooses to post NOTHING about/with DH but posts to excess about/with BM definitely indicates there's an issue. I've spent way too much time trying to figure out "why," only to realize it doesn't matter. All that matters is that it is obvious SSs don't care how DH feels, and that isn't going to change. Therefore, I'm going to stay disengaged. And thank you for the nice comment about DS19. He does have limited knowledge of the situation and very limited life experience, but he has plenty of time to become jaded. Lol. 

hereiam's picture

Okay, so that may be the excuse for not posting pics of your DH and your family on social media, but that in no way excuses the way they treat the two of you and use you for vacations, or the way they snub your DH off of social media.

Or their entitlement on those vacations. "Oh, I can't help prepare a meal or help clean up because that would be disloyal to my mother." Please.

Your SSs (and their wives) are just plain a$$holes. No need to feel sorry for them.

Children of divorce get caught between a rock and a hard place when they are young, confused, and put there by a parent. I do feel bad for those kids.

Your SSs are adults and make choices.

SMto2's picture

Yes, you're right. The social media is just one problem. Speaking of vacations, I historically book our "family vacation" by the end of January.  This year, since the family vacation will be at our lake house, I'm disengaging as to all inviting/planning. I'm not even going to mention it to DH. If SS26's DW texts me about it like she usually does to ask when "our" vacation is going to be, I'm going to tell her I'll have DH text SS26. I have time to figure out to what extent I'm going to participate, but I'm sure I won't be there the entire week. With only a couple restaurants near our lake house, DH will have to figure out meals for the week. I doubt either SS will stay the entire week. I'm planning to have someone deep clean afterwards and expecting nothing from either SS. Hopefully, this will help minimize my resentment. 

hereiam's picture

I'm not even going to mention it to DH. If SS26's DW texts me about it like she usually does to ask when "our" vacation is going to be, I'm going to tell her I'll have DH text SS26.

I wouldn't even do that much. Put it back on her, the user, to contact your DH or to tell her husband to. This is so ridiculous that the wife contacts you about getting their free vacation.

I would either tell her she needs to contact her FIL, or simply tell her that you are not in charge of vacations, anymore, and let her figure out what to do from there.

Why does she, DH's DIL, contact you, her husband's step mother, about vacation, anyway? I would love to know how that got started. So, it has basically been her and you, facilitating your DH's and his son's "relationship". Athough, that is not actually DIL's motive.