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Feel like a failure. Should I keep trying?

Wasted Years's picture

Hi everyone. I'm new to this forum and I'm looking for some advice or words of wisdom!

My DH has 3 daughters who always lived full time with him as the BM left several years before I met him and had no real interest in raising her daughters. If I knew then what I know now I would have never in a millions years got together with a man with fulltime custody of 3 daughters - no matter how much I loved him! Anyway I was naive and we married and had two young daughters together and have been together 10 years.

SD24 hated me from the day we got married (strangely she was ok up until that point). She moved out several years ago after almost ending our marriage. SD20's (twins) still live with us. Things used to be ok between me and them. These girls have lived with us full time for 10 years and I did all the things a parent would do in terms of cooking their meals, washing and ironing their clothes, picking them up from school etc. I've tried my absolute hardest to get along with and have a good relationship with them, I try to be thoughtful and kind and nice. However I have had to bite my tongue and not speak up for years as they completely overreact to any criticims from me.

I thought things would get better as they got older but actually things have got worse over the last few years and they have said some extremely hurtful things. Recently there was a big fight between me and them where they criticised my parenting of my BD's, said they can't stand me, said I have ruined their family, said I've never done anything nice for them and a whole lot of other awful things. I didn't make any personal attacks on them in return (I again bit my tongue!). I am absolutely devestated and I am so so angry about the things they said. I have invested 10 wasted years of my life into these girls, doing so much for them and not one single thing is appreciated, in fact it has all been thrown back in my face. They now seem to hold the same views that SD24 has always had - I guess she finally got to them.

I can't live with them anymore. I hate being in the same house with them. I feel anxious every time I come home. MY DH backs me up on this and has agreed to support them financially to move out (they are at college and work part time so they can't afford the full cost on their own). He agrees that their behaviour is unacceptable.

My question is - should I keep making an effort with them? Has anyone had good results where SD's who hate you change their feelings when they get older? My BD's are close to the SD's and enjoy spending time with them, so it is not possible for me to completely cut them out of my life as they are my BD's sisters and SD's do love them. Ultimately I would love for us all to get along. However I am begining to feel that may never be achievable. It seems that no matter what I do, it is not good enough for them. I am really struggling with this and feeling really bad about it. I feel like a failure. Any advice is appreciated!

Wasted Years's picture

Well.. DH has always supported me but at the same time he makes excuses for them, such as 'they didn't really mean what they said, they were just angry'. He thinks that I am over reacting and that I should just not worry about it. I wish it was that simple! I do kind of think it is his fault in some ways, that he has let them act how they do towards me. He will sometimes talk to them and say things like that he is disappointed in their behaviour - but they don't really seem to care since there are no actual consequences to their behaviour.

ldvilen's picture

"I thought things would get better as they got older." This is a common thought with SMs or pretty much everyone in reference to SKs. It certainly doesn't always occur, unfortunately. It is natural to assume that with age comes wisdom and acceptance, but I have found that common sense doesn't usually apply in step- situations.

The answer to your question is No. Ten years of trying is more than enough. It is good your DH seems to have your back. They are adults. Leave them behind and let DH and your BDs have whatever relationship they will with them. You only have to be involved and attend events YOU want to, and No, you don't have to suck it up and take it. AND, you are not a failure. The divorce was DH and BM's decision. Whatever goes on with their children is on them.

Wasted Years's picture

"Ten years of trying is more than enough".

Yes I think you are right.. when you put it like that!

CANYOUHELP's picture

One would hope that they care enough for the BD to treat you better; but it has been my experience that they turned on my daughter, as well, eventually. In the end, they were almost worse to her than me and she really looked up to them, doing nothing to deserve any of it; just trying to care for them.

You probably have held your tongue too long, kind lady. "Silence is acknowledgement." Saying nothing, is simply saying what you are doing is okay to me, keep on doing it.... I was quiet as many others on this board, for far too long and then we all realized we were at a dead in road, in a broken down junk heap car in the middle of the night, no phone, nothing left in us more to give to a bunch of ungrateful people and a weakling man. We were done.

You will know when you are done too. Your daughter can deal with them on her terms if you choose to stop this sick cycle of years of abuse to you-yourself. But do not be surprised if they do not eventually turn on her or start using her as their communication vehicle, if they no longer have contact with you. Eventually, she will see the light too, all on her own, and fully agree with you, but she will have to experience it herself, unfortunately.

Stop biting your tongue today. No more abuse...and you defend you-- without caring (for a change), if anybody likes it or not, including your husband (who is to blame--kids only do what that know they are allowed to do, and that includes adults).

I learned the hard way like you, I have to defend myself. I am all I have.

Wasted Years's picture

That is awful that they turned on your daughter even though she looked up to them and did nothing to deserve it. How cruel!! You must have been furious. God I hope that doesn't happen here, that would be more than I could bear.

CANYOUHELP's picture

I hope not too, if you can foster healthy relationships that is the best way to go, by far. I think that is why we say nothing and do nothing for so long, for fear of the inevitable when things are going south. Just listen to your feelings and they will guide you in the right direction, if they think less of you for voicing your feelings (while they continuously do so), they were never really supportive of you anyway. I always wanted the family to be happy together, but you do have to accept that one person cannot be the only one wanting that and making it happen; for me I should have realized it sooner than I did and saved a lot of money, time and emotion on people who did not feel the same way; whatever reason for it--does not even matter, it just is.

And, no, this is NOT your fault, you are anything but a failure. The first step-- is believing that....

Luckyone's picture

This past couple of months of disengagement from SD28 have been the most relaxing I have felt in years. She will never accept me because we began dating when her father was a year into the divorce but not fully divorced, so she holds to the fallacy that her parents would have eventually reconciled had it not been for my interference.

Even after several years she still treats me terribly. I finally disengaged in an attempt to save my heart as I had hoped to have at least a working relationship with her and it was like hitting my head against a wall. This past thanksgiving something in me snapped. I no longer care. And i feel better. I tried, did my best, but refuse to put my head on the chopping block ever again. I still listen when my h talks about her but I no longer offer advice except to keep repeating in my head that I am queen and she can never be. She will not dictate the rules of the castle.

You have to care for your own feelings and if things ever do get ugly with them talking about you to your bio daughters, care for them as well. It sucks, but you can't let them dictate how your home is run.

Hang in there.

Wasted Years's picture

I don't think I can really disengage when they are living in the house... but I think that when they move out I can and I can totally see how much more relaxing that could be! The idea of not even talking about them is heavenly! I like what you said about you still listen but you no longer offer advice.

Wasted Years's picture

"They could also turn your daughter against YOU, and their relationship is the perfect environment for that. They love their older sisters and look up to them. The older sisters hate you and have plenty of negative things to say about you. They will use it to bond over."

This has been in the back of my mind too lately. My girls are only 6 and 8, so too young for this to happen at the moment, but I am worried about it in the future. The thought completely horrifies me. Is there anything that can be done to help prevent this from happening?? It seems the only way to ensure this doesn't happen is to build a positive relationship with the SK's...

"Because it is ALL so normal, you have to know it would have happened to ANY woman he married, so it's not about you and doesn't have anything to do with you."

I think you are right about that and I have been trying to tell myself that. It is so hard not to take it personally though when you have invested so much of yourself into trying to make it work.

sandye21's picture

I agree. DH needs to step up and be a husband to you. Trying to keep your daughters away from them if possible is a hard choice but maybe you can come up with something so they will see what SDs are doing to you. How do your DDs feel about SDs actions?

Wasted Years's picture

"Consider the effort you made for them as an investment into your marriage."

Yes I like that, that is helpful to view it that way. Thank you!

Wasted Years's picture

Thank you all so much for your comments, it has really helped me gain some other perspectives. You all seem very wise when it comes to this stuff!

I'm so hurt and angry now that I think I do just need some space from them, which hopefully I will get when/if they do move out of the house. I'm not going to go out of my way to build the relationship like I used to but once I stop feeling so angry I think I will be nice and friendly to them, as that is the type of person I want to be. If they continue to reject that, it is their loss really and I wont invest too much time into it so I don't feel such a sense of rejection next time they lash out at me, or next time they completely ignore my birthday or get nice gifts for everyone at Christmas time and nothing for me. I will try not to take it personally - but this is something I find very difficult, I really do take it all personally, even though I agree with the logic you guys have explained that they would do the same to anyone that my DH had married.

StepAside you are right that they have a lot of issues to deal with regarding their mother leaving them. They don't seem to see that and instead blame me for literally everything, including things that didn't happen and things that I had zero involvment in. As you said, I am the ideal scapegoat. I will try to stay strong!

CANYOUHELP's picture

What is it with the gift giving thing? Mine does the same exact thing to me.... think these sorry women were raised in a barn?

Leaving us out, is purposeful and done with full intent to exclude us as family. Take it as as the sign it is, and.... that "whatever" it is-is not likely to change.

You may be left with no other choice--but to change yourself, instead.

ldvilen's picture

Yeah, I understand what people are saying when they say, "Don't take it personally." What they really mean is, "They are going after you because of your title--the dreaded SM--which has nothing to do with you or whether you personally are a bad person or not." I get that.

On the other hand, I do think it somewhat minimizes the effect it has on the SM it is being aimed at. I think too often SMs are told not to take it personally, and move on, as if that somehow means it was or is OK. And, what about next time? I think what is going on here is really nothing but good ol' fashioned bullying. Bullies often aren't aiming their anger at someone specifically. They are aiming it at the easiest, weakest, nearest target. But, the effect of the bashing, banging or bruising is no less because "you just happened to be handy and in the way." In other words, getting your ass kicked hurts just as much whether someone did it intentionally or accidentally on purpose.

Sometimes, I think these adults SKs get passes on their behaviors way too often. Heck!, call them what they are--bullies--and treat these situations as such. I didn't have the best childhood either, and if anything, I would go out of my way to avoid belittling others because I knew personally how it felt. Yeah, the last thing you should be doing is rewarding a bully for their behavior with a Christmas gift or any kind of gift. I say, take the "kick me" sign off of your butt and stand up to these young'ns.

ChiefGrownup's picture

I agree with you heartily, idleven. Must be nice to have that "Get out of jail free" card these skids get. And it works for a lifetime!


Having a deep hurt should make you more compassionate to others. If it makes you want to lash out, someone should tell you that is not ok. When you're a kid, it should be a parent and other caretakers. But your dh, op, (and so many others) never really gave them that feedback to where they had to understand it.

So that window of opportunity has passed. As adults it's other adults who give you this message and in severe cases it's the law that does. Your dh is never going to speak up, so defend yourself. Give them the feedback that IT IS NOT OK.

For crying out loud, most of humanity has childhood wounds. It gives NO ONE a right to lash out at others.

OP, if I were you I would verbalize that if you can. "SDs, find another scapegoat. I've done nothing to you. Whatever the source of your anger, get therapy or get over it. I've done nothing but be kind to you. You cannot say the same back to me. So we're done here."

Next time you are forced to be in their company and they say something cruel, speak up and defend yourself. Make it "cost" them something. Sounds like so far they've had a free ride. Make it cost. I don't mean revenge. I mean let them endure a public rebuke, awkwardness, a feeling of not being in the control of the situation. And shoot daggers at your dh to make sure he either backs you up or stays out of it.

BTW, I have experience with this. Short version: my SD was hideous to me (yes, at time of marriage, fine before that) from age 13 on. Dh asked me to "give her chances." I did that for 1 year. Almost ended up in the funny farm. One day I took control of the situation and life has been a LOOOOOOT better ever since. SD17 knows it'll cost her something if she pushes me too far. She will get challenged and defeated. It's not so fun anymore when she knows she won't win. So she rarely does it any more.

ETA: On the gift thing, ask your dh if it's acceptable to only prepare steaks for 4, not 7 (or whatever the total count is -3) when they come over. For Christmas you're cutting the pie into 4 pieces not 7, etc. Then start doing it. They can bring their own damn pie if they are going to go out of their way to make you feel bad. Or, here's a thought, DON'T COME OVER IF YOU CAN'T BEHAVE PROPERLY IN MY HOUSE!

No Name's picture

I am in the same boat as you. What helped me was training myself at keeping the skids at an arms length. To talk myself out of not treating the skids the same way as I did my Bio's. I always thought that whatever I did for one I must do for all (skids and bio's). It takes practice. But when you are the nice person and the skids never say thank you, when they are never, ever nice in return and you keep thinking that it will get better but it never does. Just protect your heart.
I have weaned myself off from making sure that they had special treats for every Hallmark holiday.
I buy for Christmas but have cut back big time. I mail a greeting card on their birthdays. That's it. Now it doesn't hurt so bad when I get nothing.
I will no longer reach out to them if they need something and I think that I can help. I no longer offer, just listen in silence and tell myself no, no, no.
I am friendly, I am respectful. I guess I treat them as I would a co-worker.
I no longer offer advise because I am labelled as being opinionated if I do.
Life will become easier for you when they are all out of your house.
I would typically ask DH about them but I rarely do anymore because what he tells me causes me stress and anxiety. I am happier not knowing.
I was like you I too ran the skids here there and everywhere and helped with this, that and the other thing and in the end I just feel used.
I try not to think about it but sometimes I get sucked back in.
Do things for you and do things for your children and your husband. You all will be happier. I have one SD that seems to be coming around but with the past being what it is I am very hesitant to believe it sorry to say.

Wasted Years's picture

Wow No Name, your situation sounds just like mine, I relate to everything you say. I hope I can one day be in the position you are in where you are able to be less invested in it and therefore things don't hurt as much when they are thoughtless, unkind or rude. Thanks for your advice.

It's just such a shame that all these kids are like that. They are ultimately missing out on someone who was willing to be there for them and be a positive part of their life. I know the kids have their own issues to work through, but like ChiefGrownUp said, it shouldn't give them a free pass to be nasty/rude etc. I can't help thinking that it partly comes down to the kind of person they are. They just aren't nice, kind, good people. I have two friends in step families with step daughters who are lovely and very inclusive towards their SM's - I think these are ultimately nicer kids / better people. I think I (and most of us here!) lucked out to some degree with the SK's we ended up with!! The SM's with the nice SK's just aren't on this forum as they don't have the issues we are dealing with!

Disillusioned's picture

Sometimes, when you give people exactly what they say they want, it's the best thing you can do!

So, if they blame you for everything, and say how much they despise you, and appreciate nothing - then why continue to try to have relationships with people who have made it clear to you that they don't want it

And I have two answers to your question on whether it ever changes

I'll start with my YSD. We had our ups and downs while she was growing up, and there were times she was rude and disrespectful and made it clear that a "step-parent" had no business in anything yada yada

So, I thought to myself well okay then, since I am a "step-parent" and have "no business" so much as asking you how your math test went (the same one I helped you study for) then okay, sure, since I'm that step-parent who has no business in your life, that means I have no business in doing nice things for you - you're all on your own for the next math test - and oh, guess I have no business cooking all your favorite meals, or treating you to your favorite spa, or taking you to my family's get togethers where everyone dotes on you, or driving you and your friends to a party, etc.. etc..

I stopped cold turkey doing anything for her. Especially as I had never made it my business to pry in anything in her life, I simply showed an interest, on top of being fall over backwards nice, and her treatment of me told me all I needed to know

However, once I withdrew, she freaked out. She realized she'd messed up, and has ever since made a huge point of making sure I know how much she loves, appreciates and values me in her life. So, I have done many wonderful things for her since. And on the occasions she has not been exactly great in return - even recently - I simply tone it down. In her case, it kills her, she likes having me and all the things I do for her in her life

Her sister on the other hand, is way more spiteful, rotten and unappreciative. When I've done the same things where she is concerned, she reacts with anger, sometimes followed by false niceness (hoping to get me back to kissing her ass, which hasn't happened in a long long time) and then back to being a complete ass to me

In her case, there is no relationship. I have nothing left to give. But, it's all good. I've wiped her out of my life and I no longer stress about her, or care one way or the other what she thinks.

So, STOP doing all the things you do for your SD and sgd's. Simply focus on your relationship with your husband. Be polite to them, but demand respect from them. Don't be confrontational, but don't be a doormat either. Treat them no different than if they were the neighbor's kid. You would be nice, polite, but you wouldn't bust your butt for them or think of them as family

Rags's picture

Sure, keep trying. Just because they will no longer live with you does not mean that you and they can't make an effort.

Tailor your effort to theirs. If they make an effort then you reciprocate. Over time an equilibrium should settle in that will work for the twins and for you.

Acratopotes's picture

Hon - sending you hugs...... I've been where you are.... and it's not fun, You do everything for these brats and they stab you in the back.

Now you simply disengage, they make as if you are the Evil Step Mother, make their dreams come true and be that...
You will no longer do anything for them, you simply say good morning and good evening... you only focus on your daughters and do fun stuff with your daughters, those twin b!tches excluded, no more trips to the mall with all off them and you do not spend any head space or money on those brats.

You simply tell DH, you are done, they are adults and you will treat them as such from now on, they can do their own laundry and clean after themselves, if they do not do it, he better do it but you and your daughters will not be doing it. You will no longer buy snacks for them, and if you decide to cook you will not care if they eat or not, tell your husband you are done with them. Ignore them..

read this link below, and simply disengage, but do not hide away in your room, you take control of your house and they can hide in their rooms, as long as they live there, they will obey the house rules and DH will support you.

sandye21's picture

What a fantastic article! I know when we first got married that DH thought I could just be a 'Mommy substitute' and life could go on as if he had divorced BM. For decades I did for SD as I wouldn't do for my own kids such as cleaning up after themselves, cooking, ignoring rude behavior and the list goes on. I only wish I had the resources we have now! Often SD would tell her Dad that I did not make her comfortable in my home, even though DH could not tell me how I SPECIFICALLY made her uncomfortable. It would have been SOOO easy to answer, "You are her parent. It is YOUR job to make her feel comfortable, clean up after her, cook for her, and answer all of her concerns and needs. And since she is an adult, I will be treating her with the same respect she gives to me."