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Quarantine Madness or Was This Bound to Happen?

ChairmanMao's picture

This is my first post--I just found StepTalk after searching for counseling. I am so excited to be here! And this is going to be a long post...


My DH and I have been married for almost 8 years, and together for 10. My SD was very young when her BM decided to separate from him. When we initially started dating I didn't see much of the kiddo. Then, her BM got a little crazy--moved to Texas (where she is from), remarried a Coastie and ended up in Guam. At this point, my SD was 3 and my future DH was rightfully depressed, and enraged at her actions. However, if I'm being honest, I was happy that it seemed the kid would mostly be out of the picture. It's hard to meet the person you want to spend your life with only to find out they have a small child. Well, perhaps not surprisingly, his ex ended up divorced and back in Texas.

From then on, starting when my SD was 4, she'd come to stay with us for a period of time over the summer. It was difficult for my husband to fly out to see her in TX because we were both finishing up at college and had very little money. Summers were fine, and honestly, probably very hard on my SD. We did our best, but it was never going to be more than just fun hang time. My future DH hated feeling like "an uncle." I mostly just liked the lack of commitment to parenting. Eventually, we did get married, and eventually, his ex moved to where we lived which shocked us both. At this point, my SD was 7, and in 2nd grade. We started a week-on/week-off schedule. 

I also did some counseling at this point. I did not want to up my commitment to my SD and I did not want to interact with his ex. I felt angry and powerless--the distance had suited me very well. At this point, my DH and I were getting close to wanting to have our own children and had recently bought a home. I didn't want to bail now--so I tried to figure out how to be a good stepparent. I worked hard to be loving and beyond that, just shouldered much of the responsibility because that is what our schedule at the time allowed for. I realize now, 5 years later, I'm still resentful of this arrangement and schedule, but have generally accepted that this is what I agreed to. 

Fast-forward to 2020 toilet paper shortages and Quarantine--

So here we are now. My SD is 12, and my own daughter is 4. We have also decided to have one more child and I am pregnant. 

The relationship between my DH and his ex is, though not hostile, lacking in any ability to co-parent at all (I suppose this is why they are divorced). I thought it may become more functional when his ex decided to move closer, but not really. For instance, his ex does not consult my DH about giving my SD anything, and she's become not only spoiled and ambivalent but heavily addicted to social media and her phone--privileges my DH thinks should be monitored or not available at all for her age. When he tried to set screen-timers, his ex removed them, and he gave up instead of talking to her about it. This is generally the way it is for everything--my DH and I have higher expectations and more rules than his ex--which are constantly undermined due to the inconsistency between them. 

We've always managed through it because, in spite of this, my SD was usually well mannered, and a good student. However, after my daughter was born, and even with repeated explanations about what it means to be a half-sister, and how the two are scientifically related, my SD struggled to believe they were sisters, or family at all. It got to the point where we sent her to a counselor.  She was constantly crying and angry. After about 6 months, my SD came around to my daughter and it seemed smooth sailing for a bit. 

However, in our current moment, this issue has re-emerged and expanded.  We live in an area that has been in remote learning since March. We're sensitive to the fact that my SD is 12 and at the peak of needing both tons of social time and exercise from sports--neither of which she can have at the moment. Her only close friend is an extremely negative influence and even cyberbullied her over the summer. Time spent with this friend has lead to refusal to do school work, extreme attitudes, and clear exposure to non-age appropriate games and content. Part of this looked like recently deciding she hates my DH for having a "perfect" family without her and saying she never wants to come over again, accusing me of being mean and hostile (I am strict about rules), and deciding once again that my 4 year-old is not her sister...but that the new baby will be somehow? Now she has been allowed to continue this tantrum for almost three weeks, neither parent has enforced the schedule and she still is saying hateful things about our entire family. Beyond that, because of quarantine, neither parent is willing to encourage her to find a better friend or to simply take away her phone. 

My DH has oscillated between extreme hurt and rage. He has explained several times the many aspects of these allegations that are not true, and my SDs BM is not fueling the fire, but supporting our POV as well (however, she doesn't have other children and literally gives my SD whatever she wants (to the point where she no longer wants ANYTHING) so she ultimately is 0 help.)

Throughout all of this--the years of stepparenting, of giving my time and money to support my SD, of making space in my home, of feeding her, and shopping for birthday gifts and Christmas gifts--I have accepted the ups and downs. I have accepted my SDs moods and attitude as what I reluctantly signed up for. I've accepted that my DH and his ex will never be able to functionally coparent. All the while I've been counting down the years until she's out of the house and I feel like I can have the life I dreamed of again.

However, I've now reached my breaking point--possibly because of quarantine--possibly because of pregnancy--but mainly because this situation was always going to end up like this and I was incredibly naive not to see it. 

When my SD texted she never wanted to come over again, I felt hopeful. I felt excited. NO, I don't want to see my DH in pain, it's not like that...but from the beginning, he has always been afraid of being the bad guy, which has meant catering to my SD constantly. Even now, as she lambastes him with horrible rude comments that should be responded to with the removal of privileges, and outright punishments, he still worries that she will hate him forever. I'm like look--you've done everything to include her in our home and make her feel loved and she is still treating you (and the rest of us) like trash, apparently it doesn't even matter if you're a "good parent" or not. 

I'm. Just. Over. It. 

I'm done watching my SDs emotions rule both of her parent's decisions. I'm done treating her like an equal to my own daughter when she refuses to acknowledge they are related, and outright says she hates her. My daughter is 4 and has done nothing but shower her in affectionate obsession.  I'm done with my values of respect and contribution within a house go ignored because my husband won't enforce them with my SD. I'm done being a silent third-wheel in this situation. I'm done keeping the peace. I'm not going to wage a war, but if shots are fired...I'm firing back. 

I no longer want my SD to be a part of my family. This does not mean I don't want her to have a relationship with her dad, or even her sisters if she acts appropriately toward them. I've told my DH that I'm sick of this and very hurt by my SDs actions, trying to explain how her rejection of my daughter is also a rejection of all the years I've put into raising my SD as well. He does agree that it isn't fair, but at the same time, won't truly acknowledge my say in the situation and our lives relating to my SD. 

At this point, I can only hope my SD gets her wish to never see us again. Every other weekend would be fine too. I'll pay money--I used to hate child support--but now, fine, take my money and get the hell out of my family. I don't need the drama or the emotional manipulation, or to share my home with a spoiled brat who can't see that she has two loving and amazing homes--something so many kids are out there dreaming of and may not even have at one home. 

Maybe this seems harsh, but that's why I'm here--I need to say these things and be honest about my feelings somewhere, and there isn't anyone else in my life who would understand or not judge me. I can barely talk to my DH about it anymore because I know that while in quarantine, and until he feels like life is back to normal, nothing will be decided. I think the best relationship we can have with my SD is one that involves less involvement. She deserves the stability of a home-base and it will be easier for everyone if that is her mother's house. 




Harry's picture

You understand that SD will never love you, no matter what you do.  Who knows about her father.  
Your own DD should not have her life screwed up by SD. 
This comes to the point of disengageing from SD.  Like she no long in your life.  If she show up it's up to DH to take care of her. As cook clean up after her. You are not her babysitter, or caretaker 

You make plans for your family. As trips vacations, fun thing. With no regard to SD.  If she comes DH take care of her if she ruins a trip it's gets done over again without her.  

ChairmanMao's picture

Thank you for the support and perspective--this helps give me the courage to take that next step!

tog redux's picture

Are you sure BM isn't behind this? She sounds a lot like a kid being alienated by a mother who is jealous that her ex had more kids with someone else. Even if BM isn't openly hostile, she can still be alienating your SD with subtle agreement and not setting limits on how she talks about her father and you, or by allowing her to avoid time at your house.

Either way, yes, it was bound to happen. Once kids reach early adolescence in these situations, they realize just how much power they have over both parents, thanks to permissive parenting, and they start to use it as a weapon. Not surprising at all that she'd gravitate to the home where there are fewer rules. Of course, she should not be allowed to make the decision of where she goes or doesn't go, but she knows full well that neither parent will make her do anything.

Enjoy the peace and quiet, and don't let your DH fall into the trap of trying to buy her love.

ChairmanMao's picture

Yes, while I don't think BM is outright saying bad things about us, I do agree that by being permissive with SD she is essential causing the problem. When my SD declared she would no longer come to our us, BM just let her stay. I pointed out that legally this isn't even fair--due to custody contracts etc. But yes, SD knows she can get her way if she cries hard enough. 

I appreciate the support and new perspective of BM. 

CLove's picture

I too arrived here looking for therapy.

Youve been doing this a long time. Dont beat yourself up or allow yourself to be a doormat and worship at the throne of the failed first family attempt. Your Disney Dad really needs to have some discussions with you about requiring his child to be respectful. 

But, if he doesnt not then you must disengage. There is a popular term for it: "Nacho" meaning "nacho kid, not cho problem". I prefer disengagement. Dont do for her any longer, if she disrespects you. She will get worse over time, of course you know this. She hasnt been taught the basics and has no boundaries and is spoiled.

Is her mother super rich? The outside world will not want to interact with this child if shes as bad as you describe. Keep your bios away from her. They will copy her bad attitude. Unfortunately you have 6 more years and then they still dont leave, especially if they dont launch properly.

Good luck and research disengagement. You are definitely not alone.

ChairmanMao's picture

Thank you! I will seriously be chanting "Nacho kid, nacho problem" for as long as I need to. 

I think my biggest fear is that my SDs terrible attitude will impact my own children, as you mentioned. The reason I've enforced the rules and values of the house for so long is so this wouldn't happen. I don't even think my DH realizes how much I do in this regard...though he's about to find out. Even though the teenage years are going to be rocky, I'm glad I'm getting to the home stretch of being a SM. 

Her BM is well-off financially. Not super rich, but with only one kid, and our financial support as well, BM has given SD whatever she wanted and essentially taught her not to be able to know what she needs or how to ask for it--but to be mad when the world doesn't cater to her. I've watched both of them make decisions for my SD out of guilt that they got divorced instead of just taking ownership of their choice and telling my SD to suck-it-up. 

Oh's Nachos for me!

stepper47's picture

I choose Bound to Happen.  I have been through similar experience with my SD now 17.  She was always catered to by both her parents, and it started to bring out some ugly when she was around 12.  The way she would speak to both of her parents was ridiculous, and I never saw either one doing anything about it.  She and I had a good relationship when she was younger, but as I watched all this going on, I pulled away and actually went into a depression.  That didn't help anything because then she felt "unwelcome", and the pattern of her not coming as scheduled started whenever she got upset about something.  She also ignored DHs attempts to contact her for periods of time.   Eventually she moved in with her mother full time, who welcomed her with open arms and the master bedroom.  I feel like it came down to, she appears to be master in that house, but I won't let her be master in mine.  I actually do think it has benefitted her to be in one home, and I do think it's natural for girls to gravitate toward their mother.  I just wish she hadn't felt the need to stomp on us on the way out.

I relate to your feelings of not wanting to see your SD or have her as part of your family. After years of my SD treating my DH and our household disrespectfully, I am feeling the same way.  I thought we were turning a corner as things had been getting better with her recently, and I was hopeful that maybe things were going to be ok.  But she showed the ugly again a couple weeks ago, and the bottom line is, I don't trust her. And I don't trust DH not to go back to his catering ways whenever she throws him a crumb.  It is hard to feel comfortable in relationships you don't trust.  

To get through it, I have been working on detaching from any strong feelings toward SD, good or bad.  My good feelings inevitably get broken when she has one of her episodes of spewing mean things, and the bad feelings aren't healthy.  So, I have lowered my expectations and i am trying not to take anything personally.  Sometimes that is easier than others.  I am kind to her when I see her, but I don't go out of my way to see her. That's the best I can do right now.  DH and I also went to marriage counseling a few years back, which helped our marriage tremendously because we were finally able to start hearing each other.  I was in such a bad place from watching bad behavior and DH allowing it, and he would get defensive with me if I tried to bring it up.  Counseling helped us come each other's way, and it has helped me a ton to know that he is more understanding about where I am coming from.  And it has allowed me to be more gentle in my thoughts toward him.  

I don't know if or when things will change with my SD, or if I will ever "look forward" to seeing her. I hope I can get there, or at least to the point where I don't feel dread when I hear her name.   She is his daughter so she is our family.  I pray about it a lot.   I hope your situation improves, I am sorry you are having to go through that, especially with little ones. Another thing that had helped me a lot is coming to this site, reading stories like yours that help me see I am not alone, and having somewhere to say the things I need to get out of my head sometimes!

TwoOfUs's picture

Ooh. This is giving me PTSD flashbacks to my OSD. She was a horrible, dark little princess and both her BM and my DH bowed down and catered to her every whim. It made me nauseated. 

She was evil and mean to her dad and her full felt like the whole house was holding its breath and walking on eggshells and I dreaded skid visits so much...largely bc of her.

Eventually, around when OSD was 14, DH began to see her behavior for what it was and genuinely, as a parent, worry about her anti-social tendencies. He started making rules and enforcing boundaries at our home. As you might imagine, that went over like a lead balloon.

One night I got a FB message from BM asking me "what was going on" over at our house. I asked her what she meant. She said OSD was texting her begging to come home bc DH has been "yelling and slamming things all day." At that point, we literally hadn't seen OSD since lunch bc she'd been holed up in her room, I was watching a movie with the other two...and DH wasn't even there. I informed her that was a lie and asked her not to put me in the middle on these things.

We took away OSD's  phone for six weeks because she left in the middle of the night without telling us and walked to her mom's house at 3 am. What do you think happened the next week? That's right BM got OSD a new phone and put her on her plan so we couldn't take it away again. She played dumb when DH called her on it...said she thought the punishment was that OSD had to pay for her own phone now.

BM also told us that OSD was an "old soul" and that "OSD knows what OSD needs." Um. No. She wasn't an "old soul" at all. She was a frighteningly immature spoiled brat who we had to treat with kid gloves.

OSD did quit coming over. DH was devastated and so, so sad...and I had to pretend to feel the same. In truth, I was elated and felt like I finally had my home and my life back.