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Toxic need advice!

Stepdad2010's picture

To be as short as possible I'm gonna shorthand a little. Married 2 years, together 4. I have daughter (11) and wife has daughter (13). It's been extremely difficult living with stepdaughter as she has been very difficult her whole life. Her mother is bipolar and has been hospitalized for it at least once while married and is finally on meds and mostly stable. Bipolar is Something I didn't quit understand until being with her for a few years. Never even knew what it was. Father has never been in picture and stepdaughter has been shuffled around to grandparents and great grandmother her whole life mom apparently was a partier early on and then worked a lot to support SD. Boundaries don't appear to have ever been established with stepdaughter. She is 13 now and has always had extreme meltdowns when she doesnt get her way and they are getting worse. She wants to be treated like a 16 year old but is as mature as an 8 year old. On top of it all I believe she has bipolar as well. The entire family especially me, has to walk on eggshells to make sure we don't upset her. This could be anything from, "please do your dishes"' to correcting a dicapline problem. Her most recent meltdown was due to being asked to carry her own stuff from the car to the house like everyone else (By wife) Nuclear meltdown, and CPS called.  Obviously they saw through it and talked her off the ledge.  Next morning wife takes SD phone while asleep (wouldn't give it up day prior) and another meltdown occurs. This time SD refusing to let us leave for work( blocks door) and dumps my wife's drawers and jewelry box all out on floor in a rage. At this point no one feels safe around her and we were certainly not going to physically move her out of the way. SD completely loses it so wife decides only safe thing is call police. They came and saw how she was acting and took her to hospital where she stayed for a few weeks. (Moved to behavioral health facility) Treated for mood disorder possible bipolar. She does not have phone anymore, on meds kind of stable as long as no one upsets her and in counseling. This is a nightmare and I don't know how much longer I can do this. I can't ask her to nicely do anything(pick up her stuff for example) without meltdowns.  She moved in with her grandmother and is with us on weekends and that has helped. Wife and I fight very little and the house has become stress free. She does come to visit and all I can do is stonewall her to just stay out of her space and not upset her. I'll admit I  don't want to deal with her either.  She has mostly been fighting with wife and I occasionally speak up when it's gotten out of hand and she is being disrespectful to her mother or crossed the line.  I don't want my daughter learning any of this behavior and don't think she deserves to live in a terrible environment. I have gotten so resentful towards SD and just waiting for the next meltdown and fight with wife who is in mommy protect mode and has lots of mommy guilt from before we met (worked a lot so not home) dad never in picture. She definitely has discipline issues but wife just blames it on SD behavioral health issues.  I feel terrible saying this but I'd be ok if she moved in with grandmother full time and left for good. My wife obviously loves her unconditionally so it doesn't matter what SD does. I just can't do that and I don't know why. I've never felt this way towards a person and my wife sees it. Our life has been miserable until SD moved out. Not perfect but much much more calm and stress free. I think wife will get resentful towards me for SD moving out. Again I feel like a terrible stepdad for disliking my SD but that's where I am. After last meltdown she is so unpredictable and I wanted her out. 
 

I know I could have  a good effect on her (as steady male figure in life) and I see it when she lets me but these meltdowns are pushing me away.  I cringe when she is around and the whole atmosphere drops in family. She is very selfish, lazy, jealous, immature, entitled, extreme mood swings, disrespectful, lies, yet can be sweet when it benefits her and has her mother wrapped around finger. Knows what to say to invoke mommy guilt. Underneath I feel like she is sweet but has had such a disrupted life and have blamed my wife and her family for SD being like this. This was a terrible idea and should never have been said.  I'm feeling so defeated because it's out of my hands ( per my wife) and have to just sit and watch this terrible and completely consuming disruptive behavior when she comes over. Wife agrees she has always been difficult yet is mommy guilted into catering to SD every time. Wife is also trying to force me to love SD.  I feel bad behavior and mental health issues are to blame but is she too old to teach? She needs to learn the basics you teach a baby unfortunately.  Am I alone here and is there anything else I can do? Hate is a strong word but I'm getting there sad to say. 

lieutenant_dad's picture

My mother is bipolar and my sister suffers from depression and anxiety (and I won't be surprised if she ends up with a bipolar diagnosis as she gets older). Thank god both of them suffer more mildly from it can function day to dat, but when it's a rough patch, it's a bounce between suicide threats and EPIC meltdowns where you can't convince them that the sky isn't falling, or they're making rash decisions about things that should be thought through first. They also tend to put what they hear through a filter, making it hard to ever fully believe anything they say. It's not so much that it's an outright lie because it's grounded in truth, but much like kids, they are unreliable narrators.

Anyway, having lived with this and based on what you've said, you have every reason to not want to be in the middle of this. Your wife's own mental health issues have prevented her from being the mother she needs to do. That has also probably made it much harder for her to parent her daughter in a way that she needs to be parented. I've talked ad nauseam to my mom about how her and my sister set each other into spirals because neither have learned how to interact with someone with the same types of illness. They trigger each other, and then they feed into the worst parts of that. My guess is your wife and SD do the same.

Parenting SD will be different than parenting a healthy child. It'll be even more different for your wife because she needs to learn how to parent with her mental health issues AND THEN how to parent a child with similar mental health issues. It's two learning curves, plus balancing out her own mental health.

It may be best for SD that she is living in a home where she isn't feeding off of someone else's mental health issues. However, that means your wife needs to be taking parenting classes, going to therapy, and developing a parenting plan in her spare time to be able to help raise SD. Guilting you into loving SD or helping her to raise SD is deflection. It serves no one and nothing, other than making you an easy scapegoat for when your wife fails.

Your SD is currently in crisis. If she has been hospitalized and is still unruly, then she isn't stable. If you were to equate it to cancer, this would be analogous to being in the midst of chemo and radiation. She needs consistent care and attention, and it's likely not the best time to start teaching her how to function as a respectful human being because she can't even act like a functioning human being yet.

Even saying all of that, none of this is yours to handle. Your #1 reaponsibility is to your daughter, and if things are bad right now and impacting her negatively, then you need to protect her. Is it bad enough that you think you need to move out? Nothing says you have to live with your spouse. And given how much work both your wife and her daughter need to put into themselves and their relationship, it might be too much to expect your wife to maintain a relationship with you while also trying to get herself mentally grounded and parent her child. 

So you're not wrong for wanting to leave. You're not wrong for hating this situation. Your presence as a male figure isn't going to do diddly to help SD until her meds are regulated, she has a routine, and her parent (your wife) has built a strong foundation for her to grow from. Some of this is happening, but it sounds like your wife isn't putting in the extra work to help her daughter and just expects you to do it for her. Nope. Not your place, especially when you have your own child to raise.

I'd highly consider living separately from your wife until this is sorted. Or, she can do the parenting of SD at the grabdmother's house. Either way, your wife isn't being fair to you or your daughter by bringing chaos into your lives and not adequately addressing it. You also do a disservice to your daughter by keeping her exposed to this.

So, move out or ask your wife to move out for visitation. Create a safe space for you and your daughter. You can support your wife as she combats her own mental health issues and grows into being a parent of a chils with mental health issues. BUT, that doesn't mean you parent SD or that SD should live with you until she is stable.

Steptotheright's picture

If a child feels powerless they will try to exercise whatever tools they have at their disposal to regain power. That is why it's a common complaint that step kids are notoriously manipulative. The underlying issue behind them resorting to such tactics is that they feel powerless in a situation that they cannot control. It's just the nature of the beast when both bio parents arent together and involved in a child's upbringing. These children become masters at pitting the step parent against the bio parent, mostly by making the step parent's life a living hell and then taking advantage of the bio parents protectiveness when the step parent wants discipline enacted.

In your case, since you are the man of the house, my opinion is you need to start supporting your wife even more when she tries to pull her daughter short. Up until the point that your wife stops you because of her protective bio mode. it just doesn't sound to me like your wife can handle this child alone. On the bright side of things at least you don't have this little monster full time.

 

 

 

Orrrr... Just move out....

Evil3's picture

Both your DW and SD have mental disorders and love does not conquer all. I went back and read your other blog and your comments and you seem to feel a lot of guilt for simply speaking the truth. It sounds like your DW is gaslighting you and/or laying the guilt trips on you and you're falling for it. The reason you're falling for it is because you sound like a really nice, stand-up man who wants to be there for his family. You seem to feel guilty because being a stand-up guy who is there for everyone is not working for you. It's not working for your DD. It's not going to. I come from a family of disordered people and you can never love them enough to save them. Saving themselves is all on them. You can support someone who wants to heal and who is doing all the difficuilt personal work to get better, but your DW and SD just aren't there and given their extreme behaviours it doesn't sound like they'll get there.

You need to save your DD. You are responsible for your DD. You MUST provide your DD with an abuse-free environment. Your DD being exposed to your wing-nut SD is abuse. Also, you run the risk of your SD ramping it up, losing even more control and phsycially assulting your DD if she gets in the way. Get your DD out before that happens. It's also an emotional hell. I'm speaking for your DD because of my own past and I swear to you that your DD is living in hell.

What is preventing you from leaving? You don't have to divorce your DW. You can still be married to her. If it's the love that's preventing you from leaving, then you don't have to leave your DW. You can carry on your marriage from separate houses. Informing your DW of your plan will not go over well at all. She'll no doubt react and it won't be pretty. I recommend getting a place first and then get your DD out of harm's way (since your SD may fire up as well) and then tell your DW that you're moving out.

It is not your responsiblity to "save" your DW nor your SD. They were they way they are before you came along. You cannot love them out of their illnesses. Believe me. Been there, done that. Once I released the guilt and moved on, I never looked back. My life totally changed. My parents were nuts and emotionaly blackmailed me constantly, but once I suffered so much that my wanting peace outweighed any guilt I had for leaving, I started living it up. Please give your DD the peace she deserves.

As a mom of a DD19 who moved away to uni, I can promise you that the years fly by and you don't want to look back when your DD is 19 and regret not making things better for her while you still could. 

Stepdad2010's picture

I'm having a hard time determining if my heart is cold for my SD now because of the hell shes put us through or if I'm just a bad dad. SD has been the most difficult person I've ever had to deal with and wife makes me out to be awful because I now don't want to be around her daughter. When I met my wife I was on top of the world and had a sound mind. About 2 years ago I had some significant health concerns and a very stressful job. Wife and I both ramped up our drinking. I started getting to the point where I didn't even want to come home because my home should be a place to recharge and replenish the mind body and soul and it was the complete opposite. I'm not perfect by any means and I'm sure I can come across intense when I speak to my girls (military) especially when they've done something bad. Anyway SD has been the entire homes center of attention as long as I've known them. Family and friends tell me the same. I begin to question if I'm crazy but everyone I've ever introduced my SD to sees it and makes a comment like wow good luck. It's a good mix of complete lack of control of her emotions, no boundaries, and minimal discipline in her life. Bad part is I can't get the wife to admit that yes some of it is mental health issues but some of it is learned behavior and we need to address it. I'm afraid I've let SD and wife cultivate this resentment because of this and wife no longer listens to anything I say. Even if SD isn't having a meltdown we are on the verge of one or she drives me insane with her jealousy, immaturity and in your face needing to be the center of attention of any situation. I could go on all day but in the end it really boils down to parenting styles. I don't agree with how wife has raised SD and she does not agree with how I handle things in the house. I believe a child has there place in the house and should learn that very early on so it's just second nature when they grow up. My daughter isn't perfect and does the normal stuff kids do growing up but SD has that and a whole nother layer that I wasn'tready for. Anyway as far as today both the wife and I haven't drank in over a year which has lessened our arguments and fights. I can appreciate that. Something to be said about a clear mind. SD is still the way she has always been and I fear she will always be this way. To answer your question I don't think so should have to keep quiet and have to deal with SDs actions in the house especially around my daughter. We don't really address the root cause of her actions just keep reacting and giving her anything she wants. Wife and her family anyway. Somehow my wife and her family have me second guessing things and being told I'm too harsh, discipline is not a nice word, be the adult and just love her and she will get better. I'm feeling guilty about it all like I'm causing it but this chaos has been going on SDs whole life and wife as well. I have a hard time hearing wife say fine just give up on us because that's not what I do. I really don't think many guys would have stuck it out as long as I have. They would have listened to their family like so should be doing. Anyway super long belt felt good to get it out. 

lieutenant_dad's picture

You have the right to give up. SD isn't your daughter. Your wife is an adult, not a dependent. If she can't handle her own affairs, that's on her. She has ZERO authority to tell you that you can't give up, or that you should feel a certain way, or do a certain thing.

You DO, however, have both the right and responsibility to provide your daughter with a safe and stable home. How do you think she was handling the stress while you were drinking it away? I'll tell you it probably wasn't in a healthy way if your reaponse was an unhealthy one.

You have to choose: misery for yourself and your daughter due to bullsh*t ego tied into loyalty, or peace for the sake of your daughter and yourself. You don't get to complain that things are rough for you, and by extension your kid, and then continue to remain in the situation at the expense of your daughter's mental health ans childhood. No p*ssy or d*ck is worth that.