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Need some help or at least validation

Irishstepmum's picture

Long time reader, first time caller. 

I'm going out of my bloody mind over here. My partner and I have been together for 4 years and lived together for 2. The first year we lived together, everything with the kids was rainbows and unicorns. I got on with his daughter (17 now), he and my son (15 now) got on like a house on fire, and they got on together. 

After a horrid family trip where SD basically shape-shifted into a monster (literally threw a toddler temper tantrum about not being able to go to the holiday carnival in the middle of Hyde Park). When we got home, her punishment was going to a long process of earning respect and trust back. Needless to say, my SO is a complete pushover with her and she got all her privileges back in about 1/6th of the time we discussed. From that point on, she's been unbearable. Talks back, whines, eats like a toddler, forgot her manners entirely, doesn't hangout with my son anymore, fights me on everything, threatens to SO that she doesn't want to live with us anymore, has to be reminded to do anything (especially chores), and is so inconciderate and rude I dread serving dinner and am dreading Christmas with no thank yous and the inevitable complaints. 

Obviously he feeds the monster because she doesn't get punishment for anything, gets whatever she wants (literally you name is she has it-- including a brand new car), doesn't get told off when she talks back, and basically has him wrapped around the axel that she'll be depressed if he doesn't make her happy. On top of this, because I had pointed out things she's done and not done, my SO has now taken to nitpick on everything my son does and tattle tail everythign he doesn't like to me. It has caused some real big fights and a pretty general issue with us. I dread her coming over, but now I'm starting to feel I'm on eggshells when my son is over too. 

After reading around this forum, obviously I've got a Guilty Father and a Mini-Wife on my hands. I'm just at a loss because talking about it with him gets me no where but fighting and animosity and accusations that I don't 'like' his daughter. Trying to talk with her is PURELY useless. I've tried to just disengage where I can, but it's maddening to have such a good relationship being torn at the seams by teen angst and poor parenting choices. 

Rags's picture

Tell him that it is time for him to man up, be your partner, put his failed family spawn in her place, or get out.

Be clear, inform him of exactly what is required for him to remain your partner.  

Do not tolerate anything less.

ndc's picture

Perhaps it's time to live separately until his daughter and your son launch.  Date, spend time together, but don't live together.  I would suggest it, because maybe the prospect of that will have him up his parenting. If not, I would think from what you've described that you'd be happier living elsewhere.  How is your son doing with all this?

Kes's picture

It's not unusual for partners (it's usually Dads) to use the whine "you don't like my child/ren" as an excuse for their poor or non-existent parenting of their offspring. I pointed out to my DH on more than one occasion that nobody would like his daughters when they behaved in an obnoxious manner, as was their habit.  If your partner won't see the light about his mini-wife then perhaps do as ndc says and live separately.  Though tbh, I think my attraction to someone who colluded with mini-wifedom might quickly wane. 

Irishstepmum's picture

Thank you all so much for the advice. I decided to try to talk with my SO and we ended up agreeing to see a couple's therapist together. Which we did last night. I am not typically an emotional person (except being quite quick to anger) but wow, once we got to talking about how this thing all started and what's been happening... I lost it entirely. 

I think it opened his eyes to the fact that I'm not just over here plotting to be a captial B to his little girl, I'm trying to survive the daily tiny (or sometimes not so) slights from her until it's death by a thousand paper cuts and I explode. 

Unfortunately, there's still a lot of work to be done for all three of us. She's back doing something she hasn't done in some time which is pit her BM against SO which usually results in him receiving a long email (generally calling me a name or two). But I think those will become less shocking if he can realise that we can be a united front. BM/Ex is a therapist herself and has really both done a number on SD, but also gives her language to manipulate her father. 

But this seems to be a hopeful first step. Have others gone to counseling as either a couple or a family? 

Merry's picture

I can totally relate to not being emotional -- until I am. Then there's no turning back until the faucet of tears is dry. You've been holding all this in for SO LONG, and it was actually healthy for your DH and therapist to see all that.

That your partner agreed to see a therapist is a really promising sign. When my DH and I were having some issues we both saw individual therapists, which helped us both tremendously. I wanted to continue on with couples counseling, but he didn't want to, and I didn't push it. He continues to see his own therapist periodically for a "tune up" and I'm satisfied with that.

This IS a lot of work, and I hope you and he will both actually DO the work of coming back together and putting your relationship first. His daughter WILL NOT LIKE it because she will lose power over him, so be prepared for that and his backsliding. But hold him (and yourself) accountable for the changes you agree to make.

I hope you're on the road to happiness.

Irishstepmum's picture

Thank you for the encouragement. We didn't get too far in the first session obviously, and immediately went right back into nonsense and feeling like crap over decisions being made around me. I'm honestly dreading the next 11 days with both kids and might just take my kiddo to an AirBnB in the mountains to just get away. 

i want to believe things can change, but his defensiveness over everything and any time something is even said by me about his daughter is just god awful and I don't know if he's capable or willing to do it. But he's got to make a choice soon because this is breaking me down hard. 

and the crying until it's dry is exactly where I'm at right now. I feeeeeeeel you. 

TheAccidentalSM's picture

Take your kid and take some time away from the situation.  Your DH may get a clearer picture of the behaviour if you aren't being used as his daughter's whipping boy.  

Irishstepmum's picture

Thanks for the validation on this idea. I'm going to take my son and run the next week she's here. I'm tired of the abuse and not feeling like a top parent myself because of it. 

TwoOfUs's picture

So - all my skids are grown and gone now...thank goodness. However, I will say that YSD...who is always gotten along with as a kid and young teen...when she hit 16/17 I could not stand her.

Read back on some of my blogs to see why. It was like she reverted to childhood in the most annoying ways and my DH was just lapping it up. Disgusting. 

Now, DH can barely stand to be around her / is clearly embarrassed by her...but still makes excuses for her. She's 20. I think she'll get it together and get back to being the impressive person she was as a kid...I see glimmers of it here and I'm not as depressed about the situation as DH is.

Say all this to say...I think there's a phase teen girls go through around this age that's really difficult to tolerate. Hopefully your DH will be able to start setting some boundaries and some expectations for behavior do she snaps out of it sooner rather than later. 

Irishstepmum's picture

I'm trying to find way to gently show him that their relationship is inappropriate and going to actually hurt her (never mind what's it's doing to us), but he just gets so defensive he can't see the forest for the trees on it at all. I took a picture of the two of them sat next to each other today and it's closer than he's sat to me in months. yet I know if I show it to him it's me that'll be in the wrong. 

Mariej123's picture

I think this type of change is common particularly when a teenage SD starts to see dynamics in a household shift. And most particularly if they see themselves being "de-throned" (Disney princess has a lot to answer for!). I have had an awful time with SD who is now 19 and intent on casting me as a wicked witch that she needs saving from. It's all such nonsense but it does make me sad when I reflect on our relationship 5-10 years ago. (Back then, BM was the villian but since SD19 plus SS22 and SD15 moved in with us full time 5 years ago, there has been a slow and steady decline in the relationship)

Weirdly, I think my SD "needs" the drama and a villian in her life. I've just resigned myself to that fact while having my own boundaries and promises to myself.

I don't ever chase her for attention or pander to her. She has had a lifetime of getting attention through tantrums and dramatics. I focus my attention on our other children when it kicks off. I see a therapist weekly to help me vent and make sense of the feelings she can elicit in me (try and ensure any professional you or your partner do see have some experience of stepfamily dynamics as it is so different from traditional family).

My DP did have to explain to SD that I was going nowhere and if she didn't start showing respect, she could go back to her mother's. He has also been setting harder boundaries with her particularly around money (im not involved in this) but it's difficult as she has had a lifetime of getting what she wants. Like many stepmothers I'm a fixer and a people pleaser so it's been very difficult for me to not dive in and try resolve it all. But it's simply not my circus. Removing that pressure (and that expectation) has helped my relationship with DP too. 

Like TwoOfUs my DP has started to reach a place where he is a bit embarrassed by her and much less tolerant of her BS. He carries a lot of guilt about how he contributed to her behaviours by being such a permissive parent but there is little to be achieved by looking backwards too much. 

I think the hardest thing for me is that there are times when I feel like I can't be myself in my own home. There are also times when that impacts on how I am with the other kids and this year I've been really trying to not let it drag me down too much. Easier said than done! 

Irishstepmum's picture

You are spot on to what is happening with me too. Can't be myself in my own home is key. We are currently at the point where I am so frustrated and sad by it all that he actually goes to her because she laughs at every thing he says and I don't have the energy to. And she senses this, so she becomes the attention vampire and will do anything to divert attention onto herself. So last night she tells him she broke up with her boyfriend (a week ago, of two months, who she never talked about) so he says he wants to pull her into the living room to watch shows on her iPad while we play a game together. But I need to turn off my records so she can listen. She then proceeds to be completely giddy and fine and just interrupted our game over and over to ask questions about it because she wasn't included. She's like tinker bell, she needs attention to live. 

how do you just disengage and not feel like you're losing your time with your DO? 

Wicked stepmo.'s picture

When SO becomes gaga over SD, I make it a point to go to the extreme of giving him what he wants, Uninterrupted time with SD. I plan my days so I am busy until late evening and not around or I make plans to visit family for a few days leaving him all alone with SD. As always typically after about 4 days of just him and SD, they are at each other's throats. He gets tired of pampering her and she cannot hold it together to be fake nice especially when she is no longer getting anything out of it. 

After doing this I get a few months reprieve because they are mad at each other enough to avoid one another. After a few months she usually reaches out and wants to see what she can get out of him. He has softened up by that point and we rinse and repeat the cycle.  

I almost feel like the fat kid in the story about the pie eating contest in the movie the stand. I create the circumstances and just sit back and watch the chaos unfold. 

Mariej123's picture

I think the main thing is not to get into the game of competing for attention. DP and I have put a lot of focus this year into having couple time, making our relationship the priority etc. If SD is around, I just find some other way to keep busy. If she starts tantrums or drama I turn my attention to the other kids/something else. I'll give DP a smile or a wink to keep things light but the message is clear - over to you buddy. I now refuse to take responsibility for the parenting mistakes of others. What's now happened is that I'm the one in DPs corner as he tries resolve and improve things with her. He comes to me to vent/ask for advice but I'm more in the background. Previously I was at the centre of the conflict and he was Mr Nice Guy/the saviour, can do no wrong etc!

I'm definitely much more aware of the patterns now which has helped managing the situations that arise and my own responses. I've also had to have some really tough and honest conversations with DP about what I expect from him and our relationship.