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Friend's situation

moeilijk's picture

I've got a friend in a frustrating step-situation and I'm wondering if anyone has ideas to help her navigate it.

She's the SD. I met my friend several years ago when we both participated in a very intensive therapy program for people living with chronic pain. That's where we both met the woman who is now her step-mom. The SM dropped out of the program about half-way through.

My friend is close to her dad. She has an older sister who is a bit of a gong show, and her mom died when she was 17. She works with her dad in his shop, and has had lots of operations that haven't resolved her medical issues. She's been there for him, and he's been there for her in terms of dealing with the medical/social bureaucracy that is so frustrating and upsetting.

The SM is a self-absorbed ninny (my personal opinion) and the challenges my friend has faced are things like the SM coming into the shop and 'organizing' things. The dad doesn't want to confront his partner, my friend doesn't want to either, but not knowing where anything is costs time and money. Another colleague finally lost his shit to her dad about it because he couldn't do his job, and the dad essentially banned the SM from the shop.

My friend is newly pregnant, and told her dad. Of course dad told SM. SM has told everyone, including announcing it at a family gathering... but the SM's son's partner is expecting (due date 5 days later) and so in one breath announced my friend's pregnancy to all and sundry and in the next prevented any fuss congratulating my friend by announcing her DIL's pregnancy.

My friend was not happy about that, but it wasn't until SM called her up and told her she was a terrible daughter to her dad that my friend got really angry. She confronted the SM, of course there was a scene, and now things are strained. My friend asked her dad what was going on, and the dad said that he had told the SM that he was annoyed that my friend was having yet another surgery - it's hard on her and that's difficult for him, of course he misses her when she's not at work, plus he has to find someone to fill in for her, etc etc.

My friend is very clear that she loves her dad and wants him to be happy, and she doesn't think her opinion of the SM should matter. But the only way she can think of to prevent the SM from intruding into her life and her relationship with her dad is to not be open with her dad anymore. Her dad shows no sense by telling SM everything, but OTOH, of course we tell our partners' stuff. So if she just doesn't share stuff with her dad, then SM won't have her to gossip about anymore. But that makes her really sad, because she's been super-close with her dad for many years now. And it's not weird to want to tell your dad about being pregnant before you tell the neighbours etc.

Are there other options for her? A confrontation with the SM would just end badly, IMHO, because the SM has no idea that other people matter too (MY OPINION, I'm not sure what my friend thinks).


2Tired4Drama's picture

Your friend cannot control another adult's actions or opinions. That includes her father and SM.

I would imagine the SM in this situation might have a very different perspective of things. Like many of us SMs, we want to have a good relationship with our partner's kids, but it isn't easy. Most of the time, when we do or say something that we feel needs to be said or done, we will be criticized. If we DON'T get involved, we are criticized.

Seems like your friend needs to stop pretending that her father solely "belongs" to her - he doesn't and he never did. Her father has a wife. Trying to tell her father to "keep secrets" from his wife is a stretch too far and is intruding on the marriage.

How would your friend like it if her father decided he didn't like her husband, and told her to keep anything he said private?

The whole point of partnerships/marriages and families is to share lives with one another. If your friend finds that too difficult, then perhaps she needs to distance herself from her father or just learn to be more of an adult and let some of these things with her SM slide.

The result is one she will have to live with however, which is she will have a different relationship with her dad and it will never be close again. It will also break both of their hearts.

moeilijk's picture

I imagine the SM has a different perspective too, but that wouldn't make it a more correct or accurate perspective just by being different or being the SM.

I wonder why the SM - or anyone - would feel the need to say something about another person's relationship? For me, I'd think appropriate boundaries would mean that if I were the SM, I would be as likely to provide my adult SD my judgement about whether she's a good daughter to her dad as I would be to offer the supermarket cashier unsolicited advice about birth control.

Why do you think my friend thinks her dad belongs to her only? I don't think she feels that way at all. As far as I know, it was no problem that he told the SM about her pregnancy, but my friend expected the SM to respect that she wasn't ready to make a public announcement. Was that really an unrealistic expectation? I don't feel like it's so strange to tell immediate family things that you're not ready to post on FB.

I'm not sure where you got the idea that she told her dad to keep secrets from the SM. I think the dad showed poor judgement telling the SM since the SM has a history of not behaving with discretion. And I think the only way to prevent the SM from announcing personal info about my friend all over town would be to not tell her dad. So my friend would have to 'keep secrets' from her dad.

The problem with trying to compare things tit-for-tat is that 'things' are never really the same. In my shoes, if I were married to a guy who regularly broke confidences, I'd have to stop telling him things in confidence. Common sense, right? I could pretend to be blind about it and get all upset when my kid told me to keep something to myself... or I could keep it to myself. Or I could tell my kid to not tell me since I'm not trustworthy.

I agree that relationships change, and obviously as my friend moves into this next stage in her life, and her dad continues this relationship with his partner, their relationship will shift. I don't know why you think my friend thinks it's too difficult to share her life with her family? I said she found it difficult that SM broadcast the news of her pregnancy before she was ready to share, and she was angered when the SM called her up to tell her she was a crappy daughter.

Personally, when my mom broadcast news of mine that was not hers to share, after I had explained to her that I would only share the news with her if she promised that she would respect my boundary (as my mom, much as the SM, has a history of breaking confidences), I stopped telling my mom anything important. That way, she can't break my trust. I am not close to my mom anymore, and I am saddened by that. But it's the only way to keep my private life from being fodder for gossip. I think it was the adult choice to make and as sad as I am about it, it was the right decision. And a similar choice might be ahead for my friend, but I think it would make her very sad, more than me, since she's always had a strong and loving relationship with her dad.

Your comment sounds as thought you think the SD was wrong to share the news of her pregnancy with her dad and SM because the SM should not be expected to allow the SD to share that news when the SD is ready. Do you believe that SM's are not expected to demonstrate personal integrity? Is there something that happens when you get involved with a man with kids that you no longer have to control yourself?

I find that so strange. Since I've been on this site (and I've had a couple of identities), I have learned so much about being a person of integrity, of strength, of compassion, about setting boundaries, showing respect and patience and kindness, being open and honest and strict like you wouldn't believe. But now you're telling me that by virtue of being involved with man with an adult kid, the kid's life is to be toyed with? And the kid better suck it up or break her daddy's heart??

hereiam's picture

The whole point of partnerships/marriages and families is to share lives with one another.

However, when the dad shared with the SM that he was annoyed about the surgery, SM had no business calling up her step daughter and telling her what a horrible daughter she is. Also, not SM's place to announce her SD's pregnancy.

My DH shares most everything he and his daughter talk about, I do not confront her with anything, nor do I make announcements on her behalf. I listen to DH and we discuss, but I do not use the info to meddle in SD's life or her relationship with her dad. I have yet to call her up and tell her she's a welfare loser and that her dad is very disappointed in her life choices.

But, you are right, no one can control what another adult does or thinks so the SD is going to have to decide what to tell her dad and what not to, since the SM cannot be trusted as a confidante.

twopines's picture

I agree with everything you wrote. I can't imagine calling DH's adult kids to scold them for disappointing their father. Silly drama for drama's sake.

moeilijk's picture

Ugh. Sorry about my long response there. I get long-winded when something bothers me, and that comment bothered me a lot. I feel a lot of relationship drama is based on inappropriate boundaries. But it's not *always* the SD who's wrong from the get-go.

I'm sure my friend (the SD) is not innocent of all wrong-doing ever. But I think she should be allowed to announce her own pregnancy.

The SM has been in the picture for a couple of years now, 2 or 3. Prior to her getting involved with this guy, I had stopped my own friendship with her, so I have knowledge of her but I am not entirely unbiased.

I think it would be really sad for the SD to have to accept that being close to her dad means that her private life will be made public by the SM. And it would be really sad to have to stop being close to her dad so that SM won't have her private life to announce/gossip about.

I was hoping that there are some other options my friend might try before she has to face that choice.

moeilijk's picture

I'm sad to say that I think you're right. Tough situation - ofc you (general you) want your parents to be happy and fulfilled, just sad that it's *instead of* your connection with him/her/them. But sometimes, that is indeed part of growing up, up and away.