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Afraid I will lose my marriage

may927's picture

I have my own childhood issues that get triggered mostly by my husbands daughters SD 15 and SD 20.  They are very close with him and seem to want his attention often when they are here.  SD 15 is here every other week and SD 20 just once in a while as she is away at college.  When I'm triggered, I tend to have an angry energy and want to avoid interacting.  I know this is my issue and understandably his SD 15 has brought it up a few times.  I am currently on my third therapist since we met (7 years ago) and Ive tried a life coach.  The kids are respectful and having always accepted me.  My husband is wonderful- truly the model of what a parent needs to be to make a blended family work.  I was trying hard this week to have things be better when all of a sudden his 20 year old made the same complaint about me.  His 15 year old is upset that we don't have enough of a family environment at home.  I just had a baby a year ago.  I made efforts this week and it has felt like it was all for nothing because this past weekend was one of the worst i can remember.  It hurts my husbands feelings that besides my issues, I haven't been very interested in his kids. They are nice kids.  I can't complain about them.   I will continue to work with a therapist and try but I'm so afraid I will fail and lose my husband.  I don't want my son to have divorced parents, especially as an only child.  I feel awful about myself and unfortunately annoyed that the 15 year old needs more of a family environment.  She gets a lot of quality alone time with her dad.  I've never been mean to her in any way, we've talked about the issues alone and with him.  I need to focus on my own issues and now I have also create more of a family environment??  What 15 year old is begging for more of a family environment??  I just don't know what to do anymore.  On top of it, his 20 year old is back now and i'm sure will he staying with us some, and i feel like living with both girls will be so hard.  My family lives across the country and it's killing me to not be able to visit.  Quarantine has brought so much to a head.  I desperately want to enjoy my life but I dread every other week and I  obviously don't handle it well.  I have resentments built up towards everyone, even though I know it's not right.  I don't think there's much advice to give, I guess I just have no where else to go, and am looking for anyone that can relate.  This is poorly written, but I just needed to get it out.  Thanks for listening.  

beebeel's picture

Dad should have asked for specifics on what a "family environment" looks like to this girl. Vague complaints do very little but sew discord. "Family environments" also require everyone to work toward developing bonds. You are neither obligated nor capable of magically conjuring a family environment all on your own.

may927's picture

Yes I agree.  I feel like I haven't even brought that up because I'm hoping that if I'm able to be more welcoming, by not getting angry from these triggers, she won't say anything else about it.  

strugglingSM's picture

That was my question, too...what does she mean by "family environment"? In my view, there is no standard "family environment", there is an environment that exists in each home, whether created on purpose or by default that is the environment for the "family" that lives in that home. 

Does she want you to roll out the red carpet every time she arrives? Does she want family dinners? Does she want to be the center of your universe, too? 

Also, why is it your responsibility to create a family environment? It seems like your DH is punting this off on you, rather than examining his role and what he could do to improve the situation for his daughter and also for you. 

SMs are often viewed as someone who is supposed to facilitate happiness without having any feelings of her own, but your feelings are just as valid as your SD's. If your DH can't see that, then that is your real problem. 

may927's picture

My husband and I talked about this last night.  What she wants is for us all to spend more time together as a group.  I never initiate that bc i have anxiety about the negative feelings that come up sometimes when I am with them.  On top of that, she has (before covid) an extremely busy schedule, and then add the baby and busy-ness for everyone else, it was hard to find the time.  

My husband never expected me to organize any of this.  He takes the blame for not initiating more. We both wanted to be left alone as teens, so i don't think we have noticed that she is different and really craves it.  We also agreed maybe we need to do some more activities together as a family when she is here, but we won't pander to her every whim.  My husband had never come close to coddling any of his kids.  

strugglingSM's picture

But maybe it's unrealistic for you to all spend time together as a group, especially since it is not good for your mental health. 

It's not your job to make your family unit fit SD's idea of what a family should be. It's okay for her to spend time just with your DH if you need a break. She's there to see your DH after all, not you. 

There are a lot of families who don't do a lot of activities or spend a lot of time together as a family unit. In some families, one parent travels a lot or works a lot and those families end up being fine. Again, different doesn't equal bad. 

It seems like you and your DH need to develop a realistic picture of what life should be like in your home with SD is there. Would your DH attend a session with your counselor where you could talk about creating a family environment that doesn't trigger you and doesn't pressure you to feel as though it's your responsibility to change to make your SD happy. 

Evil3's picture

I call bullshit! I went back and read a couple of your previous blogs and given your SD's constant chattiness and needing constant attention, she's being manipulative and tattling to Daddeeee on you because she's trying to drive a wedge between you and her husband, er, I mean, dad. She sounds like my mini-wife SD30 who wants Dadddeeee all to herself.

I went through bloody fucking hell with that kind of maniuplation. Feel free to read my blogs. It's pure manipulation on your SDs' parts. They are practicing Relational Aggression and your stupid DH is falling for it hook, line and sinker.

Too often, selfish, clingy, cling-on, enmesshed SDs will act all coy and cute to place blame on the SM who has done nothing but knock herself out trying and trying and trying and trying only to get tattled on by her selfish SDs.

Too often these SMs, perhaps due to their own pasts, end up blaming themselves and go to therapy to "get fixed," and they never do get fixed, because too many therapists are not trained and educated in step marriages. I went through many therapists before I found one who was able to tell me that it actually wasn't me. I had done all I could do and I was at the point of acting in a co-dependent manner because the entire onus was put on me.

I could go on and on and on about what I went through and all I did to turn the ship around, but I'll end up with a novel length response.

The bottom line is it's not you. You've done everything you could do only to have your maniuplative SDs exploit that and your DH has fallen for it. You will have to take charge and let your DH have it. Don't fall for gaslighting. He will be pissy to try to scare you to "whip you back into shape," because it's much easier to whip you into shape than to confront his DDs. Stay strong. You do not have to be scolded like a child. You are a grown woman and YOU are the HEAD FEMALE of the house. Stake your claim and take no more shit throug relational aggression or any other manipulative tactics.

may927's picture

There may be some level of that, but i don't agree overall.  my anger is awful to be around.  though she is chatty and can be needy at times, she is also very independent which my husband pushes all the kids to be.  She talks about how important family is all the time, citing other kids she knows.  I don't believe she is making this up to be manipulative.  We've shared talks and letters etc about all this and i don't ever detect any bullshit.  Furthermore is was not saying that was my fault, she was actually more upset towards my husband about it.  

strugglingSM's picture

Maybe she needs to understand that all families are different and different doesn't mean bad. If she is longing for the same family lives as her friends, she will always be disappointed, because her family situation is different. 

may927's picture

I don't disagree.  I just need to take care of the anger on my end, and i think that will help everything.  It is also part of why it doesn't feel great to her.  

notarelative's picture

Since you had a baby a year ago, my assumption is the 'family environment' means pay attention to me (not the baby). 

But, I could be wrong and what she'd like is a better relationship with her little sibling. So maybe she'd like to be involved with diapers, laundry, baby watching, etc.

15 year olds are drama. It's the nature of the beast.

may927's picture

Yes the baby has definitely affected her.  But she loves him and is very involved in helping with him.  I think it's the combination of her father who very much pushes for her to be independent (which in turn seems to make her feel like her doesn't care), the new baby which solidified me, my husband and son as a unit), and my moodiness.  thanks for your input.  

Cover1W's picture

OSD said this to DH as one of the reasons she didn't like being at our home. While the reality was that we did do a lot. She refused to participate in anything we did unless it directly benefited her, like going to the movies, going out to eat, clothes shopping. But just family time like running errands, hanging out in the yard, doing things like helping friends with something...she refused to have a part in. So she created her dynamic on "no family time" = "if I don't get something don't ask me." DH could have been, and could still be with YSD, more instant on skids doing mundane things too - less Disney. But at least he saw through her enough to call her out on it.

What do your SDs want or mean about "family environment?" It doesn't mean they call the shots. And how have you been undermined in your efforts to include them? Relationship building relies on all involved, so don't blame yourself for this.

may927's picture

My SD wants to be involved in everything and is.  She helps with the baby, helps to cook dinner, wants to go places with us etc.  Before quarantine, she complained a couple times they we didn't do things as a family together.  And we don't do much- before the baby, my husband and I worked opposite hours, and I haven't been very adventurous in bringing the baby out and about since we had him.  I'm a homebody, and quite frankly because her relationship with my husband can trigger me into feeling crappy, I never pushed to do "family activities" nor did my husband.  She also has an extremely busy schedule, plus my husband works a lot of hours which just made it hard to schedule things. 

The last response I got above helped me to clarify what I think the reasons are for her saying we don't have a  family environment:  I think it's the combination of her father who very much pushes for her to be independent (which in turn seems to make her feel like her doesn't care), the new baby which solidified me, my husband and son as a unit), and my moodiness.    

I do admit, I don't try very hard because I'm mainly just trying to survive and not feel that awful agitaton and anger that comes up for me when they are bonding.   However whenever she has been upset i go totally out of my way to make her feel better- long conversations (which she says really helps), gifts, letters.  

strugglingSM's picture

One of my SSs complains that we don't do enough and he is bored at our house, but really, we don't do everything he wants to do. He could be out helping DH with the yard or going with DH on errands, but he's not interested. 

BM does not entertain him, so I resent the fact that he expects DH and I to entertain him, but a) DH conditioned him early on that being with dad meant constant entertainment; and b) BM wastes no chance to infer to SS that we are terrible people for allowing him to be "bored" at our house. 

In my view, it's a losing battle once a parent allows a kid to call the shots. Sometimes kids will be bored and that's okay. That's a good opportunity for them to be creative in coming up with things to do. 

JRI's picture

Your SD sounds like one of those people who likes to be doing things all the time, perhaps not a reflective person, more of a doer. I have  SD and SGD like this.  Don't know if it's the same dynamic you are seeing but they just like to be cleaning, shopping, making things, gardening, etc.  It's exhausting for me since I am more introverted and value my down time.  I learned to hate the phrase, " NOW, what are we going to do?" What you are dealing with sounds at least partially like a personality difference.  I dont have any advice, i just do my thing at my pace and let them carry on.


SonOfABrisketMaker's picture

Have any of your therapists or life coach ever had you look at this situation from the perspective that there's nothing wrong with you and you are making yourself miserable trying to please two young selfish women who resent you? 

what does your DH say when they snitch on you to him? Why is it your job to create the family environment for HIS kids? Why isn't it his job? If your SD20 is so unhappy in your home then she can stop showing up to eat your food and make you uncomfortable. 

Unless you are screaming obscenities at them and setting their stuff on fire in the front yard, you are not the problem here. 

edit: also, you are allowed to feel angry when you are treated poorly in your own home. It's a valid response and if someone is telling you otherwise, they are the problem.

may927's picture

Neither of my SDs are selfish.  They are asking to feel welcome in my home which they don't when I don't make eye contact and avoid their presence.  They also don't snitch on me.  They are more comfortable telling my husband which is understandable, and then we have a group conversation.  

My husband expects a little more from me than not screaming obscenities at his kids who have been nothing but respectful, welcoming and kind to me.  

I also didn't mean to say i was treated poorly in my home, because I wasn't.  These are conflicts between people in a sensitive situation, compounded by quarantine.  

SonOfABrisketMaker's picture

You seem bound and determined to take the blame for this "perfect" family being unhappy. I doubt you will find anyone on here who will agree with you. 

Your SD's are upset cause you don't make sustained eye contact with them? That's their complaint? I'm stunned. 

may927's picture

This kid is literally almost always pleasant and helpful.  No one wants to be around someone who has angry energy and won't look at them.  Especially a kid who is only there every other week trying to fit in with her father, his wife, and new baby.  

ldvilen's picture

So, if you have "angry energy," then that is a personal problem.  Why come to a site for Stepparents to Vent to go PLOM on that one?  Why not go to Circle of Moms?  You are a new mother.  Go to Circle of Moms and say, "I'm depressed, have angry energy, I just had a baby, and my teenage SD is upset with me.  What would you do?"

I don't think it is benefiting anyone, especually you, trying to turn a personal issue into a step-issue.  It isn't.  Are you looking for an audience?  Most new mothers would be far more concerned with their newborn than an older child's feelings about mom's (or step-mom's) post-partum depression, for example.  They'd be concentrating on their newborn and letting dad deal with that, regardless if it was mom and dad or dad and step-mom.

You need professional help for this rather than seemingly trying to go out of your way to negate most people's responses.  

may927's picture

I agree this wasn't the right place for my post, as i mentioned in another response earlier.  i wish i could take the post down but they only let you take blogs down. It was poorly written, i was overly emotional and it wasn't for this space.  I don't need an audience, i was just struggling in that moment and felt confused.  Clarity came later in the day after i posted.  

i'm only caught up in it because it's every other week of my life and it affects things so much. I probably do care too much what sd 15 thinks, even my husband tells me not to sometimes and she's just a kid.   My son just turned one and believe me, i focus all my energy on him, besides whatever i'm giving over to this issue.  

shamds's picture

You say sd’s are lovely people and respectful but you scream obscenities and aren’t gushing over them.

anybody who has a baby by nature will have their dad revolve around the baby as the baby is not independent and relies on you. Elder kids should know that and not selfishly make it “me me me i feel neglected and want more of a family”

if you want family interacting more and having more time then skids can do chores at home so the parents have more free time... but you for some reason see yourself as to blame for this problem at home but alot of things pisted are just vague.

its just like my 22 yr old ss who claims he is stressed from imaginary stress syndrome anytime my husband addresses the issues of abuse directed towards me and my kids and he can’t be specific, its just vague things.

and fyi, for a truly uniform family unit thats integrated, that relies on everyone doing their part and accepting part of the blame when things don’t work out well, not palm the blame off to other people

may927's picture

As Ive states in many of the other responses, my post was poorly written and written when I was too emotional.  If I could take it down I would.  I did not get my situation across clearly at all.  

You say sd’s are lovely people and respectful but you scream obscenities and aren’t gushing over them.

Yes this is part of the problem   I know it's hard to believe bc people have so many shitty experiences here but these kids have done nothing but accept me and want me to be a part of the family.  Hence me exploring in myself why I struggle to accept them.  As another post said, this issue probably isn't meant for a forum about step children   


Mommajay's picture

I agree. Maybe you aren't the problem. Also it's hard to have a baby in this dynamic. So much changes for everyone bits easy to get resentful when dad doesn't help as much with baby bc his daughter is over. And dad needs to create family time, not you. I never want to hang with my stepson. I would never voluntarily do that. But if husband planned something and asked me to hang out, I probably would. Not your job and you have enough On your plate. I know it is very hard to deal with stepchildren and anger and resentment are pretty popular. 

tog redux's picture

You sure are taking all the blame for a dynamic that can't possibly be all your fault. Work with the therapist on not taking on responsibility for everyone's happiness. 

And if you feel you will end up divorced if you don't make SD happy, then your DH is not as wonderful as you think. 

Please revisit this whole situation with someone who is objective. 

may927's picture

We wouldn't end up divorced because she's not happy.  My husband has anyways prioritizes our marriage and never ever panders t his children.   It hurts my husbands feelings that I make no effort with his kids bc of my own hang ups.  He's been very patient and does not talk about divorce.  I guess I didn't do a good job at explaining this situation.  

tog redux's picture

You are explaining it in a way that is much, much too hard on yourself.

It's hard to live with kids that aren't yours, that doesn't make you a bad person that you find it challenging. Your husband needs to recognize that and accept that you don't have to bond with them or even have anything beyond a kind respectful relationship with them.

You keep saying he's wonderful and doesn't pressure you, yet you feel some pressure - so either that's internal or it's coming from him.

may927's picture

I hear what you are saying.  It seems all he's asking of me is that I don't behave in such a way that makes them feel like I don't want them here like not interacting with them or avoiding them.  If they were brats, I wouldn't feel bad, but neither of them have ever exhibited any behavior that would be considered rude or disrespectful. 

My husband wants us to be a big happy family.  And truthfully, that probably won't ever happen.  As long as he can be ok with me not exhibiting those negative behaviors, we will he fine.  Perhaps my original post wasn't really meant for a step kid forum.  Thanks for your responses.  

UpgradeWife's picture

Your husband is delusional. Tell him to read "Stepmonster." If he wanted a "Big Happy Family" to he shouldn't have divorced BM.

may927's picture

He's not delusional.  Anyone would want that.  He does not put that on me.  He just wants me to not be angry to his kids who are pretty much always pleasant and helpful.  i know it's hard for most of you to believe, but i actually have the closest thing to the perfect situation.  my husband prioritizes our marriage, never coddles his kids, expects them to be out of the house by 18.  Ss 18 and sd 20 are out of our homes as will sd15 when the time comes.  the kids have never ever disrespected me.  they welcomed me with open arms when they were young kids.  they are helpful, polite, and pleasant.  i unfortunately have not communicated my post properly.  

may927's picture

i'm well aware now and it's been helpful for me to see that. it will certainly color what i do in the future.  

Mommajay's picture

If he planned something and asked you to be a part of it, would you? Even if it's as easy as a movie on the couch together. I would say if he asks, you should say yes to those things when you can. But expecting you to make the effort is a lot of responsibility. Send it back to him. Tell him to plan and ask. 

may927's picture

He absolutely doesn't expect me to.  When he's asked me to do things in the past, i either opt out or do it begrudgingly.  so- i need to make more of the effort, because usually when i do, it feels good for everyone including me.  

Survivingstephell's picture

Have you been screened for depression? PPD? Situational? New baby, pandemic, SD's whining about your behavior and a disappointed DH would be enough to make any woman crack.  With all these people in your face about how awful you are, it's wonder you haven't snapped. 

Go for a walk alone, get 20 minutes of sunshine, journal, do something special for yourself that makes you smile and call your dr tomorrow and get screened. I'm afraid you might be so depressed you can't see a way out. 

may927's picture

Oh I am most definitely depressed.  Ive struggled with depression for most of my life.  The last 10 years it's been in check but yes, with all that going on, it's been getting more pronounced.  

I walk every day and my husband gives me a lot of baby breaks to do things for myself.  I haven't been on medication for 15 years and I'd like to avoid it, but it has been on my mind.  Thanks Smile

Tried out's picture

Is your reluctance to use medication because you see it as a sign of weakness? If so, I totally get that, having once felt that way myself. But sometimes life knocks you flat and you have to claw your way back anyway you can. To me, an antidepressant was life altering. I was me again.

I could well be wrong, but your description of your perfect husband and his perfect children sounds like picture painting. Who is that freaking perfect? And so I'm wondering if this lovely picture you're painting is just an extension of depression - you're trashing yourself, blaming yourself for not being as perfect as the Others. 

may927's picture

They're not perfect.  My husband is selfless and treats me like a queen.  His kids are pleasant, helpful and accepting.  None of them are perfect, but are way way better than most stories i read on here.  That's all.  

somethingwicked's picture

OP, you have written in responses that your DH is wonderful and would not divorce you b/c of this current situation where you do not feel like you  want to bond or be /act closer to his teen (15 ) and young adult( 20 )daughters .

YET you have written this in the original narrative :

but I'm so afraid I will fail and lose my husband.


So are you or aren't you afraid  and what is it , what is it that will you "fail "  that frightens you  to think you will "lose your husband."

You don't mention DH's son as you have in you past posts .


Is the son no longer visiting and if so not  asking for  more family closeness or does the son not factor in your feelings?

And you've had a couple  difficult pregnancies in past .I am sorry that you had to experience that  emotional sadness and loss.Traumatic.Your successful child birth must have been such a wonderful celebration for so many reasons. 

OP ,reading your past articles it seems you've always had some discomfort with the ready made family that you married into.You wrote that you have felt some resentment :

it's hard to not have resentment that he even had 3 kids with his awful ex-wife.  

That was you being honest. You also wrote then  that your SO is wonderful and does not pressure you to be more than what you were willing to be/give of yourself to his children .Did something change that DH now  expects you to bond and be more "motherly" to his bio children? 

If so that may be unfair on his part. You, as a new bio mother, are probably still getting comfortable in that role.

Maybe DH thinks you should now be able to step up and stretch into the mom role because you are a mother now.He should understand that you will NEVER be mother to his children and that you are respectful to them is  what he should be satisfied .

If that is what is happening and you are being made to feel ungrateful that DH has allowed you a few years to get comfy with his kids and now he  expects you to embrace the idea that you are all family because it's about time then he needs to attend marriage counseling or blended relationship counseling with a counselor/therapist  well versed in step family dynamics..

Reading your past and this recent entry I get the impression that you are being made to blame yourself for not stepping up and are expected to suddenly become that  person who is supposed to be the  big fun family  organizer, the "momglue" , the one expected to make the  often difficult manuevers at her own sacrifice  to navigate step  family paradigm into a happy blended family oasis. That's very naive or cruel or down right ridiculous of your DH.

And while you write his SD15 is a good kid blah-blah, I read she is a very independent teen who has an emotional manipulative streak.Maybe the SD15 knows how to press your buttons by triggering Daddee with her wishing for more family bonding etc. DH is the one who should be facillitating all this beautiful bonding .Not you.

Frankly I think there is more a current of jealousy running through this whole situation from SD15 b/c of your new baby.

I certainly hope you will do what is right for YOU and your little baby.Step back from the fantasy mother outfit your H is weaving for you and expecting you to wear. 

And PLEASE  stop allowing the 15 year old to take so much of YOUR power when she takes care of your kid..unless you want her to.

If you need a hand that is DH's job as the father. I certainly feel for you ,OP, as you believe you are damned if you do or don't~ BUT please know you should never feel you have to perform for them  or fake your feelings .That is counterproductive. 

may927's picture

My husband's issue with me is that I walk around angry and alienate everyone.  Not all of the time but too often.  Quarantine has now unveiled everything.  His kids were super busy before and i was able to get by bc they weren't around much.  Now it's 24/7 of being together and nowhere to hide.  The first 5 years of our relationship I was hardly around because of my job.  
I told my husband a few years ago that all i could agree to with his kids was to be respectful, care about them, be kind and help them if they ask me.  He agreed that was enough.  

My SS is basically out in his own and doesn't have the same kind of relationship with my husband that the girls do.  

My husband isn't asking me to put family activities together.  He never has.  In fact, he's asked very little of me our entire marriage.  He wants me to be friendly towards his kids and not alienate them when they are here.  He doesn't let them get away with anything resembling manipulation or disrespect. Our marriage always comes first.  Is there some fantasy he has in his head that effects his attitude sometimes? Yes.  But overall he is very reasonable and not asking much of me. 

somethingwicked's picture

So you believe you are the whole problem.Then keep attending therapy.Maybe have your DH attend as well. 

Perhaps some found emotional  middle ground will satisfy you and him .You have written you struggle with depression.

Please  make sure you separate  every aspect of why/how you feel especially  in light of depression.Taking on the blame for being the fly in the happy family ointment  may make you feel less guilty ,less depressed. You've had some heavy losses in your life. Please be kinder to yourself.And I hope your DH will be more patient with you as well under these extraordinary times.

Texashley33's picture

They are the problem. Not you. Their family was a mess before you came into the picture. Don't blame yourself. It's not normal to have mixed families..what you are having is normal feelings towards a chaotic environment that was really meant to just be you and your husband and YOUR child. No step kids and ex wives. My SS17 and his BM have given me complete hell and for YEARS I blamed myself for not being nice enough ..when THEY were the problems this whole time. My Husband can't stand his own son and he HATES his ex wife..they weren't even married for a year. Ive been with my Husband for 15 years and we have 2 children of our own..the SS17 lies to our faces and has physically hurt my daughter 2 times..he lies and said it was an accident but now that my daughter is old enough, she told us exactly what happened. SS17 has "highly functioning Autism" ..but he knows how to make up lies and sneak around the house. Finally a therapist told us SS17 has other issues and most likely doesn't even have Autism at all. I'm sure he has Bipolar and ADHD like his idiot mother. They both suck. One day I will send SS17 to his BM's apartment, who lost custody bc she never cared about him..well too bad when I force the kid to move in with her..i've put up with this kid since he was 3. I've had enough torture. The moron SS17 is mad at me bc he got caught lying so he's been hiding in his room for months and only comes out to eat or use the bathroom ..he literally sits in his room all day..lost a lot of weight..he has serious issues if he can't be around any of us without lying or acting like a crazy animal. If he happens to go into the kitchen when I'm in there he stares at me out of the corner of his eyes and stays mute and is even being mute around my Husband. Weird as hell. I just keep telling myself that he's the freak, and not to blame myself for him and his mother's stupid crazy behaviour. I feel instant anger when I see SS17 in my home..and I should bc SS17 shouldn't be in my home..he should be taken care of by his ignorant so called mother who has 2 DWI's now go figure. Me and my Husband get along great and our 2 children are normal.. besides the 2 morons SS17 and BM.

may927's picture

I'm sorry that you have to deal with that situation.  My SDs rarely behave that way.  The problem may not fully be me but i have a lot of responsibility in making them feel uncomfortable in my house.  My husband is wonderful and at least he deserves better than that.  

DPW's picture

It's hard to help without understanding this "trigger" you are talking about, but I'll offer this:

- You can't take all the blame on your shoulders; you are being too hard on yourself. You can't create a magical blended family alone.

- If you do have some responsibility in this, you have at least recognized it. This is a good step. And I understand what you are going through as I went through similar in my previous relationship. In the end, when I really looked back on it all, in my case, it wasn't exSS5-8 that was the problem - it was the situation. I came to the realization that I was not cut out to be a stepmother to a youngster. It's just not in my DNA. And that is okay, on its own, but I had to face the fact that it was not exSS's fault that I was in this situation and miserable, and as such, I had to learn how to treat him better than I was. I also had long talks with exSO about my role in his life. 

- Sometimes you have to fake it until you make it. You want to keep your marriage - is it really hard to make eye contact and engage occasionally? You are going to have to decide which is more important. You may find yourself, later on, enjoying the company. 

may927's picture

If I had a young step child right now, I don't know if I could do it.  SD 15 was 8 when we met, but I was so busy at work, I hardly saw any of them.  I've been home for the entire last year bc of the baby and now with quarantine, it's all come to a head.  

I agree with you that making eye contact and interacting isn't a big deal.  The closeness they gave with their father feels threatening to me, as I grew up constantly feeling like my mom was choosing my stepdad over me, and I became a very angry kid at home,who just felt I didn't belong anywhere.  I feel the same exact feeling when they are bonding or when he does things for them.  I know I will regret it forever if I don't just get through the next 3 years until she goes to college.  But I also agree that maybe something more could come out of it if I can extinguish this behavior.  Thanks for your reasonable response.  

Rumplestiltskin's picture

If you swear it's not your husband putting pressure on you to be "a certain way", maybe you are putting   It on yourself. How do you think you should be acting? What does your vision of how you should be look like? Do you even know? 

I wish you could be ok with just being yourself. You do have a family environment at home, because you live there with your family. You can't control your thoughts, but you can make your actions kind and respectful. If you are more of an introvert, that's ok. It's not fair to expect yourself to be this insta-fun-mom to teens and young adults. Be kind and be you. That is all you can control. Not your stepkids feelings and not your husband's actions. 


may927's picture

I agreed to my husband to always be respectful, kind, and caring towards his children and that's it.  I am not fulfilling my end because it's not kind when I stomp around and do not make eye contact with them.  Quite honestly, I just feel like an outsider because that's how i grew up, and it makes me angry.  That's not their fault.  My vision of how it should look is simply that I don't feel crappy when he interacts with them, and not feel angry, and then not behave accordingly.  No one is asking me to not be an introvert, and I agree, that would be unfair. 

My husband does wish we could be one big happy family, but all he's asking us that i don't act in that angry and avoidant way when they are around.  I don't think that's asking too much.  If I can extinguish these behaviors it'll be a lot easier to feel ok being me.  Right now, I don't feel like I've been kind and that feels bad; that's not who i want to be.  Thanks for your response.  

tog redux's picture

OK, so what is it about then? You insist they are good kids and that your husband supports you. So what makes you angry at them? What makes you want to avoid them?

may927's picture

My mom got together with my stepdad when I was 4.  I had no siblings.  I always felt like she chose him over me. He was difficult to deal with, and still is, though we have a good relationship now.  I became a very angry kid.  Any time they showed affection, I'd feel rage.  I spent my whole childhood until i moved out at 18, avoiding my family, isolating myself to avoid the pain and anger.  I never felt like I belonged anywhere.  When I see my husband being close with them, it inspires the exact same feelings.  I feel left out, alone, worthless, and then I get angry.  I resent them just for being close with him which is unfair.  When I tell you these kids have done nothing short of embracing me, I'm not lying.  SD 15 just wants to have more of a relationship with me.  They are intense though in how much they chat and the amount of attention they desire from him, Ill admit that.  They are both so busy, however, that before quarantine, SD 15 was hardly around and SD 20 at school.  

Why I haven't been able to extinguish my behavior, I don't know.  I have so much awareness surrounding it, and as I mentioned, I'm on my third therapist.  I'm hoping the technique he uses will click something for me.  My husband doesn't talk about divorce ever, but I know how much it hurts him. And I feel like crap too.  It just has to change.  

may927's picture

I did something similar to that with the life coach.  It was based on changing your thoughts to change your feelings.  I think that would have helped more but it was so expensive, I couldn't continue it.  

DPW's picture

I think it would help you tremendously. I don't often recommend doing it without a professional but if you cannot afford it, there are a lot of self-help books on this topic. 

tog redux's picture

Yes, agreed - CBT can be done via self-help books, for sure (and I say that as a mental health professional). It's not a complicated form of therapy, it just requires that you practice the skills regularly.

may927's picture

Thank you.  Yes the CBS was helpful.  One in particular, I still use.  It's telling myself that just because my husband loves his kids, does not mean they are a threat to my marriage.  

Rumplestiltskin's picture

Based on your vision of how you want things to be, i can see part of it that you can control, and part of it that you can't. I try and try, but i just can't make myself *feel* a certain way, or stop having certain feelings. It sounds like neither can you. 

What if you just made the effort to make one simple change. Once a day, if you walk in a room and they are there, say hello or make some smalltalk comment, make eye contact at that time, then do what you normally do? Like, say hello, comment on the weather, compliment their hair/clothes/shoes. It's a step in the right direction but it's not requiring you to change your thoughts or core personality.

Just a suggestion. They are teens/adults. You are an adult. You don't have to be their mom. Peaceful coexistence seems like a win-win for everyone? 

may927's picture

Yes exactly.  I need to believe I am capable of it.  All my husband is asking for is for me to not be angry around them.  

Rumplestiltskin's picture

Also, keep in mind that they are getting older. Once quarantine ends and school starts again, the 20-year-old can hopefully move back out and the 15-year-old will hopefully be more into friends and school than hanging around the house. If your DH is the good father you say he is, and doesn't encourage codependency, let's hope they become independent and launch as they should. 

may927's picture

Yes, none of this would have come up without quarantine.  I would have probably managed to skate by the next few years.  SD 20 hasn't been here for months but she's home for a bit now, so not sure how much she'll actually stay here.  In a way, I'm glad it's come to a head, it's hard to believe it never would have because i have all these feelings under the surface that i'm not managing well.  I'm feeling like this could last another year, so I have to find a way to cope better.  For my own peace of mind mostly, and for everyone else.  Thank you Smile

DHsfamilyfromhell's picture

I agree she should have been more specific, and may possibly be manipulating. 

Familys are different things to different people. 

My gran had 9 kids (yes that’s a lot). It became a matter of priotising who needed what, and yes sometimes people got left out but they all coped with it. My mum loves to tell me the story about when she was in hospital for her birthday and all her siblings ate her birthday cake at home whilst she had no visitors (they didn’t have a car then!).  Luckily she found it funny. 

I have had step siblings and these types of things do occur in step family dynamics too. Parents can’t be all things to everybody at all times. They can only do their best. 

peoples view of how a family should behave can be so narrow these days. 

You cant force yourself to be something else, peaceful coexistence like the other reader suggests is a very good suggestion. 

may927's picture

Yes peaceful existence is all I'm going for, and all he's asking of me.  The amount of anxiety I have all the time because of my behavior, and the agitation and anger i feel when triggered pretty much sucks all the extra energy i have and it just sucks.  More peace within myself would mean more leave for everyone.  And then I can stop beating myself up, even if they had more complaints, which i don't think they would.  

Evil3's picture

I already responded above, but I'm having a very hard time believing that it's ALL on YOU. I totaly disagree with you. I went back and carefully read your previous blogs and noticed that more than once, you mentioned your SKs, especially your SD sucking up your DH's time and attention. You are likely reacting because your SD is so needy.

I also wonder who is giving you the idea that it's 100% you? It's not 100% you. It never is. There's a dynamic going on in your household and it's bothering the hell out of you. I honestly think you're reacting to whatever dynamic is going on that is bothering you.

Can you please provide details on why you think the entire onus is on you? Why do you think your reactions to your SD being around is totally uncalled for? Is someone gaslighting you and trying to make out like it's all your past as an excluded child or something? If they are, it's gaslighting.

There is something wrong in your blended life and you're reacting to it and the onus isn't entirely on you to suck it up and take it. Something needs fixing and it isn't JUST you. What do your therapists and life coach say about you taking ALL the blame? If they're not addressing that, then fire them all. A decent therapist and coach does not allow their client to take all the blame in a situation. If your DH wants you to correct your behaviour, he needs to correct something too. It's just that that something isn't known or apparent yet. I bet it's to do with your attention-sucking SD.

Are you at the stage of knowing that there's something very wrong, but you can't quite put your finger on it? Wouldn't it be great to have it all be your fault. That would mean you could just fix it. Believing it's all you would be safe because then you wouldn't find out that your DH or anyone else in that family is wrong. Controlling yourself is so much easier than trying to get someone else to change. Also, bearing the entire onus is a pattern that's learned from growing up in a shitty family. "If you didn't act like XXXX, I wouldn't treat you like XXX." "It's all your fault. Everything would be great if you just didn't act the way you do." I see those in your current situation. I promise you, it ISN'T all you.

I was thrown over for other females a lot in my childhood. I went to Imago Relational Therapy and learned that I attracted a marriage where I was thrown over for another female. Sure, I had to heal, but my DH had to take responsibility for his part. Therapist wouldn't allow him to just throw the blame on me. There was no blaming me because of my past. My DH had just as much work to do that I did. Could this be what's triggering you? If so, your DH needs to have date nights with you or some other one on one time with you that doesn't include the kids. He needs to back you on being the Head Hauncho female of the household. He needs to tell your SD to back the hell off when she tries to take over your baby, etc. I honestly think you're reacting to the power imbalance that your DH has allowed.

I feel your pain. Been there, done that.

may927's picture

I don't think it's 100% me.  When I walk around angry and avoidant that is on me.  My husband has always put our marriage first.  He's the opposite of a Disney dad.  He expects his kids to be independent.  He never coddles them, he doesn't spend excessive time with them. 

His daughters while respectful, sweet, helpful and pleasant are a bit needy of his attention when they are even around which isn't that often (before quarantine) bc they are so busy.  Is it annoying at times, yes.  Does it merit me acting angry and unwelcoming to them given all their other positive traits?  I'd say definitely not.  Does my husband wish we were all one big happy family and that she's sometimes color his expectations?  Yes once in a while.  Does it merit my anger?  No.  

I'm just looking to fix my part.  Take personal responsibility and be a kinder person to a husband who has been nothing but selfless and wonderful to me.  To be kinder to kids who are pleasant and welcomed me from the very start.  


I wish I could just erase my post at this point.  I appreciate everyone trying to help but my original post wasn't taken as i meant it to be.  Probably because i wrote it quickly when i was extremely emotional.  

may927's picture

I just need to stop reading responses and responding. i haven't yet bc some people's responses are helpful.  

may927's picture

Thanks.  I'm a bit surprised at some of the animosity that folks are showing in their responses. it's kind of making me feel better about my own anger issues lol 

ldvilen's picture

You certainly are welcome to continue to post too.  I should have clarified that above.  It is just that whenever someone comes to this site begging for help and then seems to almost go out of their way to dispute what they just wrote, and argue with or negate most people’s responses, I can’t help but think they are maybe here more for amusement or an audience than for advice.  Also, I start to get a creepy-CG vibe.  But, maybe I shouldn’t be so suspicious.  

may927's picture

Thank you for clarifying and I totally get what you're saying. I'm typically a person who does not post a lot on social media and if i do, i think it through thoroughly as to avoid confusion when all you have is written word to explain yourself.  I did not do that with this last post and i can see what you mean about myself disputing some of the opinions.  i actually know now exactly what i should have written now that i have had time to process on my own.  Such is life.  Thanks again for explaining Smile

advice.only2's picture

Have you ever seen a doctor to see if you are perhaps on the spectrum? It might be something worth checking out and could explain certain triggers and why this feels so hard and forced for you.

may927's picture

I've been to a ton of therapists.  I'm not on the spectrum.  I ran a very busy bar, restaurant and music venue for ten years before I had my baby.  I have suffered with depression and anxiety my whole life.  I had a lonely childhood.  I married my husband when I wasn't ok enough with myself to really handle the situation.  

DHsfamilyfromhell's picture

Advice.only2 has a good point. I am also a fellow anxiety sufferer. 

It takes a cracking psychiatrist/psychologist to get a diagnosis right at first attempt (a general therapist isn’t allowed to formally diagnose people). People often forget to write down as much as they can when seeing a professional. And forget to give physical symptoms too. (Ie light sensitivity, and barometric pressure migraines can shed important light in the right hands).  CBT as mentioned earlier is useful. Please don’t rule out seeing another health professional. Things move so much in these professions of eg. 5 years that any diagnosis is sometimes only partially valid. 

My anxiety got to the point where I was either going to have a nervous breakdown 15 years ago, or find another route. 

I accidentally laughed during a very stressfull day, and had an hallelujah moment (and had some CBT).

now when things get stressed I laugh. 

Option A) kids running around won’t get dressed (get stressed) no thank you....

Option Dirol kids running around won’t put pjs on (me - laughs, yes this is quite funny, it’s only stressfull if I make it stressfull...). Now get the pjs on!

I really feel for you I hope you manage to figure something out. 

may927's picture

Thanks.  I definitely have seen a lot of professionals and agree it's hard to find one that works.  I however, am in no way on the autism spectrum.  Someone like my husband or mother (who likes to diagnose everything ) or a past boyfriend would have suggested it lol.

Im hopeful this new therapists approach will help and i need to pick up the CBT again. 

Merry's picture

Agree with seeing a doctor, and a psychiatrist specifically. If you believe your anger and moodiness is way over the top for the situation, then there isn't much anyone can do. If you could "try harder" and fix it, you would have already done that, don't you think?

Mood stabilizers are fantastic. DH has anxiety and depression, and he comments frequently that his life, right now, is the best it's ever been. He sees both a psychiatrist for pharmaceutical help and a therapist for behavioral help/talk therapy.

Stop trying to fix yourself -- you are not broken. You likely have a condition for which there is treatment.


may927's picture

I still have hope I can change my feelings by making peace with my past abs changing my thoughts.  Medication may be something i need to explore. 

lieutenant_dad's picture

I'm going to offer a not-rosy picture, which is that you are not compatible with your husband, and that may not change.

Some people are not cut out to be stepparents, and that's okay. I could not handle having a long-distance relationship. I could not handle a military lifestyle that would require a lot of moving and change. I could not handle living in a big city - Chicago gives me enough anxiety the few times a year I have to go for work.

I think you might be trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Do you feel these same feelings when your DH spends time with your mutual child, or just the SKs? Have you been able to bond with your own child?

If these feelings don't present themselves with your own child, and you have bonded with your own kid, then I really think you just picked the wrong marriage.

I would keep working with your therapists, but I'd also look at practical solutions to your problem. Can you rent an apartment to live in while SD15 is there? Living Apart Together may be a good solution for you.

I'm not saying this isn't related to your mental health issues, so don't give up on therapy (or turn down medication - a Type 2 diabetic isn't "weak" because they take insulin; mental health disorders have a physical component, so take the meds). But, don't discount that part of the root of this is that this isn't the type of relationship you want, and that's adding to the issues you already have. If you can find practical solutions to that part, the other parts might be easier to deal with.

may927's picture

You could be right.  I do have some fear of that.  My husband is for me in every other way.  We are planning on moving across the country to live near our families after SD 15 graduates in 3 years.  I feel certain that i would regret leaving him. we live in a very expensive city, so we can't rent a separate space right now.  if the kids were brats and he was a disney dad, i'd probably be gone already.  But he is selfless, prioritizes our marriage, never makes me do anything for his kids and expects them to be independent.  The kids are pleasant, helpful, busy and loving towards me.  

So- if this really isn't for me but i don't have a bad situation at all and love the person my husband is and how he is to me, i feel i have to keep on trying- try everything i can to make it work.  These kids won't be living with us as adults.  

lieutenant_dad's picture

Then I think you answered your own question about needing to try everything. Find some self-help books, look for support groups, try medication, "fake it til you make it", etc.

That's not me being judgemental. But if you are going to stay, then you need to work your therapy. You need to ask about other things you can do at home. You need to look for guidance and support external to your home life.

A good exercise to try would be to say yes. It's so easy to say no and get bogged down in our own depression and anxiety. It's so comforting doing nothing, and terrifying doing anything. Make it a goal to say "yes" once a week with SD, whether that be yes to a conversation, yes to a dinner, or yes to an activity. If it's easier for you to pick the thing, then do that.

You already know that you'll enjoy it, even if you don't like it at the start. So just commit to saying yes to something. If it sends you into a spiral, stop. But it's going to be uncomfortable because it's new and foreign. Uncomfortable isn't necessarily bad.

may927's picture

Thank you so much for your thoughtful responses.  I'm kind of tearing up reading this last one.  You are so right on, and it feels nice to be understood amidst my emotional and poorly written post.  

I agree about saying "yes".  i am really stubborn sometimes but the few experiments i did with similar things last week made me feel a lot better. 

Thank you again Smile

lieutenant_dad's picture

One last tip: tell your DH when you try a new strategy and ask that he not bring every complaint to you as it can feel defeating.

Keeping him updated on what you're doing, and asking him to protect you from all the criticism, will let you focus on doing the thing(s) you said you would do. It also holds you accountable because it's a promise you're making to your spouse - and sometimes it's harder to break those than the ones we make to ourselves.

may927's picture

That is good advice.  I pointed out the couple of things I did last week was helpful.  I've told him before that things would get better but they didn't, so sometimes it feels hollow when i say it again.  But telling him specifically what I'm doing to combat it can only help.  

lieutenant_dad's picture

Don't put the pressure on yourself that what you try will make it better. There likely isn't a magic pill, but more a set of tools that will need to be applied at different times.

Your goal, if you want to remain married, is to create a toolbox of things that help you cope and adapt. You will need to refine those tools as you move along. Your DH will need to learn what your toolbox holds, and also let others know that you're trying and working and improving. 

Strugglingsm is right; different doesn't mean bad. What SD wants and what you can accomplish, and how you can accomplish it, may be different. Your DH needs to teach her that not everyone wants a big, happy family, but you make efforts for him and her. 

You're not striving for perfection. You're just striving for better. Everyone needs to be okay with "better".

strugglingSM's picture

I would add to this by saying that you ask your DH to not bring any complaints about to you. He can manage them on his own. Also, ask him to let his daughter know that "different" is not inherently bad and sometimes people need time to themselves. 


may927's picture

We've had more than one conversation about me being different- as a group, and her and I one on one.  She has thanked me for explaining it she says she understands.  My husband talks to them about me being an introvert also.  I think once i can reign this anger issue in, everything will he more clear.  after that, if she complained about me, i would easily be able to say hey that's her problem, not mine.  

And thank you for bringing up the idea of a "toolbox" It's true it'll take more than one coping skill to make this better.