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Why do so many SParents struggle with the blatantly obvious?

Rags's picture

We see it over and over again, Year after year.

Should I, we, my SO, do the obvious thing that is so blatant that the question is a waste of key strokes?

So many are blind to the obvious.

Why is that?

We see it with absolute clarity when others do it. Why can't we see what is no less obvious in our own experiences?


We do not need permission or for someone to tell us what do do, what the right thing to do is, we just need the spine and  self awareness to make the decision and take the action.  While doing nothing is always an option, doing nothing changes nothing.  What needs to happen just about universally in so many blended family relationships is change.

IMHO of course.


Yesterdays's picture

I call this the eagle eye view. Once you are out of a situation you can see with great clarity how everything was so messed up but you don't see it usually until you are an outsider of the situation looking in or looking back. All the things everyone told you suddenly become clear and make sense but you couldn't see it before 

Rags's picture

It is easy to see the swamp when we are soaring above it.  What is hard is to focus on the goal of draining the swamp when we are up to our ass in aligators.


Rumplestiltskin's picture

I think people, women especially, are socialized to feel like they have to always love kids, always put them first, etc. I know i used to be that way, and when some of the skids did things that i found to be intolerable, i felt this sense of shame that i couldn't, well, tolerate them.

I have my own kids and i have worked with kids and it felt like a personal failure on my part that i couldn't "Maria Von Trapp" the situation. The dynamics of a guilty bioparent, an oppositional ex, parental competition, etc., were things i had never dealt with. It took me a long time to admit to myself that certain boundaries were ok and even necessary.

My SO once said to me (accusingly as if i had just been discovered to be a child murderer) "Sometimes i think maybe you have a problem with SS!" After sitting there a few seconds like i had just been caught doing something awful, i said "Well, yes, and here are the things i have problems with!" And i listed some really messed-up behaviors. When it comes to things like issues with kids, boundaries with BMs/BDs, a lot of people really don't feel they have a right to have an opinion and defend themselves. 

Rags's picture

is part of what is so infuriating for me.

That women are inordinately the sufferers of this chaps my butt.   No mate should have to suffer an idiot partner.  As a man, raised by incredible parents, I was raised with clarity that being a gentlemen and behaving respectfully toward women is a given.   

Even when in a horrid marriage to a serial adulteress, I did not behave as an ass towards her. I stood up for myself, confronted the lies, etc, and when we walked out of the court room after the Judge signed the divorce order 33yrs ago, I have never layed eyes on her again.   I hold her in nothing but contempt have absolute disdain for her.  4yrs later

 She verified that she has earned that low standing when she lost her mind over the house we had bought together and that was awarded to me by the Judge.  She moved into it when a sale fell through and lived there rent free though she did pay the mortgage.  She decided she wanted to sell it and not pay me a thing. I refused the quit claim deed and $10 cashier's check.  She called ranting, engaged a lawyer, and I once again rolled out the facts, bared her ass with her attorney, and got my money.

A SP defending themselves from their own X or their partner's X should be a given. More of a given should be  a man destroying their own toxic X and their wife's X before their wife has too.


I mean no disrespect to women. I am fully aware that women have every capability of dealing with life's problems.  Is is my fairly traditional upbringing that leads me to the perspective that no man would allow his wife or partner to be targeted or attacked by anyone for any reason.  Especially not attacked by the man's failed family progeny, POS X or his parents.

IMHO of course.

Catmom024's picture

I agree.  Society definitely doesn't get it.  Often  "partners" have been gaslighting the step parent so badly that they're questioning their own sanity.

Validation is priceless. 

Someoneelse's picture

Could be they are just double checking with an unbiased crowd, because it's hard to tell sometimes if your are seeing things through the "evil step mother"eyes, or of you're seeing things more clearly than you thought... 

Survivingstephell's picture

I think when a "normal " person marries a "dysfunctional " person, they get in to and find out just how bad it is.  Because they didn't grow up in it, they approach life as they always did.  Then BAM, reality knocks them over and they are gobsmacked by it all.  I had no experience with the dysfunction my ex brought to the table. He hid it for 2 years then we got married and the mask slipped. I learned about it all from his sister.  Rags, it happens, I mean you got duped by your first wife.  You didn't tolerate it and kicked her to the curb but women are conditioned to tolerate way more by society.  

Rags's picture

Though I did not kick her to the curb. I likely would have taken much longer to gain clarity had she not informed me that she wanted a divorce then a few weeks later told me she was knocked up by her geriatric Fortune 500 executive sugar/baby daddy. She had met GrampaSugarBabyDaddy while giving him sponge baths during her BSN Post Op hospital rotation.

Once I got my head and heart around her betrayal of our marriage, it was game on.

Adultery was beyond my personal experience.  Marriage was forever. It had never dawned on me that someone would do what my XW did.  I had friends whose parents were divorced. I understood that it happens.  I just had no exposure to the gorey details of the process and what can lead up to it.

My own history is likely much of my struggle with SParents who tolerate toxic in their lives.  I did. For too long.  Though fortuneately it was not dealing with Skids in my first marriage.  I was not yet a SParent.

I wish that SParents could see with clarity what they are subjected to by their mate, their mate's children, and their mate's X(s).


ImperfectlyPerfect's picture

So much on this. Women in particular are taught to self-sacrifice for their families including the ones they didn't create. We're left feeling and believing we are responsible for terrible behavior, choices and actions of SKIDs and parents who created them. We're told by everyone "it's our fault." Then one day we wake up - sometimes it's death by a 1,000 cuts, other times it's just that horrific final action that slaps us out of this abuse and we gain incredible clarity or both.

For me it was both - I had been beaten down by crappy treatment and anger from SKIDs that had nothing to do with me - I was the focus of their crap for 10 years. I had gotten used to being criticized about everything- my cooking was horrible (I would sheepishly chuckle and apologize to the teenage SKID boy telling me this...that's how low I was), wanting to know how my money was being spent (I am extremely responsible and don't need a SKID or two telling me how to handle budget as if they had any contribution whatsover except to eat it away), and commandeering the home - literally filled with their garbage everywhere. Finally one terrific moment where one adult SKID made a series of poor decisions which I was in one way or another paying for did me a huge favor.

It was a dinner (which I would inevitably be paying for.) Wife of SKID proceeds to tear me down and can not even recognize ANY of my efforts. I am told that my intent is bad, evil and I am no good. All of a sudden in that moment EVERYTHING flashed before my eyes - I cut the dinner off, did not proceed to even say good bye, hug or wave - I waited in the car for DH. That was the day I knew I had reached my limit and this was absolutely a raw deal with these SKIDs. One of my favorite flashbacks as I sat there in my anger - and I mean RAGE because I realized all these years I was being kicked around by these SKIDs and now a power yielding step-daughter in law, that I had allowed this - memories that I had BLOCKED started showing up-

Times I traveled for graduations and only to have backs turned to me, events where I came with cakes, etc - only to have SKIDs complain about the cake platter, times where I showed up to their events only to be turned away, left on the sidewalk or have a full set of daughter in law family members STARING ME DOWN and actively treating me as scum- and having spoken not a word to them. I realized this entire well was poisoned by these SKIDs (not their mom- them, the SKIDs.) Sitting in that car allowing myself to get ANGRY - rage-filled anger allowed me to start the healing process. I now go into any situation with CLEAR and transparent observations - I NEVER give them the benefit of the doubt anymore, I accept the reality of who they are and their behaviors and I act accordingly.

If I am not being respected and their acting terrible - I control only myself and I simply stop participating. I don't cook for them anymore - nothing. I don't serve up fancy dinners out - nope, find your own food. I don't plan wonderful vacations and spend my money on them- NONE. I don't even give christmas presents- I see it for what it is now and I understand that I was conditioned through society and my own good nature to believe that I can win them over and that love prevails. But I am now older, wiser and stronger- I know their negative percpetion of me is not true and so I act accordingly and do what I need for myself, DH and the ones I love and love me back.

It takes time Rags, we're really conditioned to be maytrs but most of us through the fog find our way and when we do we do not look back. 

Rags's picture

I have had my own experiences. Your sharing has given me some insight into the experience of women in these sitautions to a much deeper level than I have ever considered.

Thanks for that.

I am truly happy for you that you have moved through that past and are living well.

Give rose

My journey to clarity was comparitively short. A year of engagement, 2.5 years of marital hell, and about 5-6yrs of post traumatic marriage recovery.  I regret that I tortured my incredible bride with that baggage for the first couple of years of our marriage.  She did not deserve that.

I am blessed that she put up with me through the first few years.

ImperfectlyPerfect's picture

Thank you for sharing in my happiness @Rags. I cherish the life that I have built and my DH is a wonderful and essential part of this fabulous life. He struggles less and less with the garbage behavior - still can't quite wrap his head around the dysfunction but I notice he much prefers the life we have then the life we left (given the SKIDs are adults when they were kids we had them full time and it was very important that we just bear with adult SKIDs with toxic behavior has allowed me to part away from it all.) I have really enjoyed tieing back into my nuclear family - mom, dad, siblings, nieces and nephews: very functional, good solid people.  I am also very happy for you that you did not share that experience and that your skiddo was a blessing to have and appreciates you- albeit rare I am happy to see that. I know deep down I was a super stepmom with superhuman parenting skills working very very hard at it and giving them an incredible life, but alas it would never have been enough and now I am FREE. 

ESMOD's picture

Because on this site.. most of the time.. people post a fairly narrow question.. but don't include a lot of balancing information...

Like the women who are not self sufficient (yes.. I know many on her are the full  they don't have the means to leave.

Relationships that aren't black and white.. where there is a lot of good too...

The stigma.. or cultural or family pressures to  make things work.. parents.. inlaws.. church.. friends

The fact that in the grand scheme of things.. the issues may be worth a vent here.. but the balance isn't all that bad?

Rags's picture

Thanks for that reminder.

Though IMHO staying should not include tolerance for the toxic crap.  Particularly when it is facilitated by a partner or caused by that partner's toxic baggage.

IMHO the good stuff has to be overwhelmingly good  to tolerate what so many SParents tolerate with their mate's toxic baggage and lack of spine.

Rags's picture

Thanks all.

Eventually, my clarity will stick and I will be able to keep your wisdom and experience at the forefront of my mind regarding the apparent tolerance for toxic.


I appreciate the wake up calls.

ImperfectlyPerfect's picture

...a good analogy to all this is when you have a horrible head cold and you take cold medicine and you feel like you are in a fog. I think a lot of stepparents (stepmoms in particular) are in a fog and trying to navigate without a lot of tools, knowledge or support. The fog only clears when they realize their worth. 

Yesterdays's picture

I commend the people that come on here for advice, seek it and then take something away from the responses. They utilize and act on the advice in order to make their relationship with their spouse and step kids better. To improve it in some way (rather than sit back and allow the toxic to continue). Many are surrounded by dysfunctional families they were cast into. In my opinion there are 2 choices... Fight and act or leave the relationship altogether. I don't understand not changing anything. Why bother putting up with such abuse and toxicity. 

Harry's picture

Most likely all of this would be somewhat normal.Two parents doing for there kids. Having the "Happy Family" white pickets fense 3 1/2 bedrooms 2 1/4 bathrooms.  Singing and flocking.    It's when they divorce, find a new relationship and think nothing is going to change.  
Still spend the holidays with the ex and kids as before.  Etc. not taking in the fact that the new SO really doesn't care about the kids.  That the new SO wants a new life with his SO.  He wants to spend the holidays his way. Doesn't want the ex controlling his life. 
'That his SO puts him first and the ex is on his own. Divorcing means it's ended. You can't remain friends and have a new relationship with someone else   That there is always a spot in SO heart for her ex.  When my DW EX died she was worried about who was going to bury him.  That we should pay so "TheKids" know where there father was.  That didn't go over well with me on so many levels.

I was married before the internet, where people were afraid to speak about SLife  

Rags's picture

It was a thing at Universities  and I did use it for programming using a teletype machine with a punch tape reader.   

Though it did show up a couple of years after DW and I married. Dial up, slow, and little more than e/m and some basic connectivity.

In the early years of our marriage DW and I had to fight our battles with the toxic opposition mostly over phone and Snail Mail.  The Spermidiot was entirely focused on console gaming, SpermGrandHag was focused on control, manipulation, and PASing SS.  None of them ever emailed, or even sent a text.

lala-land's picture


I am not sure it is the step-parent not seeing the obvious, it is the actual bioparents willfully ignoring what is going on in their own homes.  For many parents to admit that their own child has not lived up to expectations is difficult to admit.  Oftentimes they will attack anyone (step parents, teachers, friends, law enforcement, etc) that suggest that their offspring are any less than perfect and see that as an assault on their genetics or parenting.  A lot of step parents on this site are looking for a solution to the obvious issues and unless the biological parents are willing to significantly change, there really seems to be only a couple of choices, live with it or leave.  Bioparents on this site often prioritize saving their egos (or minimizing conflict with their children or ex-spouse) over saving their own children and/or their relationship with their partner.  I agree that no worthy partner should allow their partner to be attacked by anyone , especially family, but I have read so many examples of stepparents being abused physically, verbally, emotionally and financially by stepchildren, stepadults and bioparents on this site that perhaps it is the partner problem, not a stepparent problem.  Just my humble opinion.

ImperfectlyPerfect's picture

I agree with this @lalaland. Society and cultural norms see the stepmom as less valuable, their feelings do NOT matter and its perfectly ok to use and abuse these living, breathing emotional human beings. I hold my adult SKIDs, parents and society all responsible. More specifically my adult SKIDs I hold fully responsible for their distorted views on me (I do not let parents or society excuse their crap) - 100%, I do not waiver or excuse them whatsoever for the way they view me, treat me, etc. There just comes a time where you look around and realize they are double your size, adult and fully formed brains that STILL have painted you as a bad person even though your actions have always and continue to show the opposite and of everyone in their life YOU sacrficed the most. There's a point where your integrity, diginity and self-respect outweighs their dysfunction and they simply DO NOT DESERVE YOU. :D 

Rags's picture

Your wisdom is far more than just an opinion. It is unequivocally accurate.  IMHO.

I guess my frustration is that so many SParents put up with it rather than honoring their own truly superior value and  focusing on living well instead of living as regular and repeat sacrificial martyrs on the alter to a mate's failed family crap.

lala-land's picture


Again this is only my opinion.  I look at stepparents tolerating the intolerable as less than frustrating and more about how they got in the situation in the first place.  In many cases I feel that the bad situations are akin to how to kill a very slowly heating up the water that it is in.  By the time the frog realizes it is in trouble, it is too late to save itself.  Many step-situations start with small, uncorrected bad behaviors (by the bio-parents, stepchildren and/or step-adults) and very slowly escalate over time.  So what might have seemed too petty to fight about early in the relationship becomes increasingly impossible to ignore with the passage of time.  And at that point, many step-parents have invested significant time, energy and money and may have even had additional children with their partner and have the very difficult decision to with it or leave.  Even early on in relationships, small issues don't always seem that important and it is very difficult to realize that you are the frog in some nice, comfortable warm water.  I guess confronting your partner, early on, on the small issues and observing how he/she deals with them, should give you a clue as to whether or not, it is worth staying in the relationship.

Beach House's picture

I can see how it's playing out for me (and for most of the people around me) for instance. What I can say is that, for a lot of us swimming in our own swamp, there is an unconscious pattern at play. As long as it is not made conscious, all the good advice and discernment we receive from well meaning people are ineffective. Moreover, most of us, for one reason or another, have this ingrained belief we don't deserve something better (in fact we don't even know any different because of repeating pattern). And, last but not least, which is known, even if it is uncomfortable or nightmarish, is not as frightening as the unknown. Nothing will help better than a good therapist in almost all cases, but at least this forum gives something incredibly valuable : acceptance for oneself and accountability.

Crr18's picture

This is exactly how I feel. I tell myself this is not the life I want but then I think maybe this is the life I deserve. Maybe I don't deserve any better and I am afraid of what will be next if I leave. I don't even know who I am or what I like anymore. 

Beach House's picture

That's usually the result of gaslighting when someone's in an abusive relationship with a narcissist, we are not warned that's also the result of being in a blended family where there is a lot of abuse: emotions are unvalidated, we are always at fault, we are the designated scapegoat, there's something wrong with our boundaries instead of what have crossed them in the first place, and so on and so forth... I don't know what your situation is but I feel you on that. For me I am planning to get back my financial stability in a few months when my career transition will be complete. And if boundaries are not acknowledged and supported, I'll have a way out.
So many times, I wished the ex and skid would just disappear from our life in the best way possible (and still wish for it sometimes), sometimes to the extent if they were to have an accident, I will feel pain because of the loss DH would face but not for very long because part of me will rejoice I would never have to deal with it ever again. But the real problem is our partner unability to set boudnaries and protecting the new relationship at all costs, and us allowing this to happen.

 We have a baby in common so that's hard in so many ways: the shame of having a failed marriage, the guilt of having brought a newborn in this mess like I am an irresponsible adult (society puts so much pressure to make things work- even to the extent of sacrifice - when there are young children involved), being attached to in laws and friends who were so glad their son (DH) found a person like me. Also not knowing if my quality of life will drop significantly and how it will impact my child. But you know what, the worst critic is the one in our head. Discipline this one and you're free. If you have a good family support, that's a huge plus.