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The Monster Under The Bed

Healyourslf's picture

A little background: Enmeshed DH and SD relationship, toxic/manipulative BM (SD is clearly the apple that fell from tree), 5 years of passive-aggressive control manipulation from SD. It is clear to me and DH that SD's actions, which getting more overt, are intended to create division between me and DH. I believe BM is pulling a few strings, but SD is 23 years, intelligent and capable albeit emotionally defunct.

That latest is that after years of enmeshment with DH, SD's ploys over the last 6 months clearly state this message: “I want control of my father and will do whatever is necessary to keep him enmeshed. You are in my way.” The actions, which were subdued in the past, grew profoundly overt after we DH and I finally moved in together after 4 years of relationship. DH at this point also told BM, “I want to be finished with you.”

Over the past 16 months (since we've moved in together), the escalating behavior which is reminiscent of a dog marking his territory, includes:

passive-aggressive posts on Facebook which SD deletes once she's sure I've seen it

bringing over old photos of DH in the “old” days with BM (and I am obliged to sit through this ridiculous ogling whilst DH doesn't say a word)

asking DH if he can go on cross country trip just with her

sending a letter to DH saying, “I will buy YOU a ticket to visit me.” (SD moved out of state last Oct.)

texting DH to come over and have bagels with her and BM

lap sitting on DH while feigning how she needed a backrub

disrespect of MY house rules after being repeatedly told what to expect

avoidance of having dinner with us, yet texting to meet ONLY DH for breakfast or lunch

passive-aggressively suggesting DH go to Italy with her via text

There's more, but you get the gist.

DH and I agreed to strengthen relationship and not allow this behavior to wield control over our lives. However, DH has still not spoken to SD about it (albeit she'll deny it or act as if she's clueless). She has now manipulated a situation where she will be alone with DH on a visit. He feels obliged to visit and this guilty obligation is working in her favor to drive the wedge in. I am in attack mode. This goes against what DH and I agreed upon to stop the enmeshment and manipulative behavior. I am truthful and assertive person, yet I have not stepped in because I feel it is DH's place to straighten out SD. I didn't enter the relationship to be the target of an angsty SD who is the emotional by-product of a controlling, bitter ex.

I feel the tension and fear in DH as he is not the most articulate. I think he has been stalling because he is afraid that SD's reaction will be exactly like BM's – which did much emotional damage to DH during the course of their marriage. BM typical responses include disrespect, spitefulness and anger or walling him out. DH was clearly an enabler and pleasure to both SD and ex.

SD clearly needs to understand that “we” - DH and I are a couple and that her fairly tale delusion of happy mommy and daddy were just that...and those days are long over. For now, I have disengaged with SD. I refuse to be a tool. We have two other SK (my bio daughter who is the same age and a 27 year old SS. These two seem to be doing fine with our relationship.)

What to do? I suggested to DH that he say something NOW. I'm ready to slay the monster. He's still figuring out the best way to do it. He was going to wait until the visit in October. It's already behind deadline as far as I'm concerned. I also think that I should go on visit with him as an action that says...”guesss what, WE are here to stay.”







ybarra357's picture

You've been waiting around for 5 years for your DH to set his kid straight? And now, he wants to wait until October?  Sorry, but it's not going to happen.  He already has a SO and it isn't you.  Either you accept being number 2 to your SD or walk.  If it was me?  I'd choose the latter. 

fairyo's picture

There's nothing you can do about enmeshment- not even the largest, strongest 'jaws of life' will cut through that chicken wire they are wrapped up in together.

There is no point in trying to slay the monster either- it will just keep growing heads...being in attackis exactly where they want you becuase they want fodder to feed off and that fodder is you... 

Merry's picture

If you and DH have agreed on a plan to stop the enmeshment, and SD tries to manipulate him into something else, and he gives in to SD instead of keeping his promise to you, then you know that you are not #1 in his life. He'd rather make you mad than SD.

I'd be making his life pretty darn miserable if DH didn't keep a promise to me. Hell hath no fury ...

SacrificialLamb's picture

Your DH is walking the fence trying to keep both you and SD happy.  He is NOT going to address this with SD in October. He is saying that to appease you, as mine did for years. He is likely afraid of SD and her wrath and that she will continue to align with BM. 

My DH did not address his midde-aged princess until I blew a gasket. Unfortunately that's what it takes sometimes. But I would recommend finding a way to keep your composure because that will give your SD years of ammunition to tell daddy how horrible you are.

You need to set boundaries for what you will and won't live with. He will want to visit his DD - how many times a year is acceptable to you? Do you really really really want to be there? You want him to set her straight. Trust me, she wants him to set YOU straight - nothing comes between her and daddy, she was there first, *yawn*.  I heard all this crap.

You want to avoid this blowing up. Read up on the Karpman Drama triangle. These princess SD's are experts at being victims.  I would recommend you both going to a counselor.  You need to find a way to manage your justified emotions (trust me, I've been there) and your DH needs to hear that his DD is grown, he needs to cut the paternal umbilical cord and that his marriage is his priority.  He needs to understand that he should not be walking the fence trying to appease both of you, and it could cost him his marriage.

all_or_nothing_kind_of_gal's picture

'Your DH is walking the fence trying to keep both you and SD happy.'  These sentiments were expressed to me by the bullet I dodged.  It was during the same argument I had with him about trying to get set some idea about when he intended to move her out of his apartment since she was still living with her mother.   He said 'I have to keep everyone happy',  as well as telling me that since the issue was her living there,  if it came down to a choice,  he would choose her. 

These men play dumb while their wives sink into the absolute depths of depression and all because they're so insecure they won't take their daughters off the pedestal they don't belong on and they won't let go of their own ego trip of being fought over by two women.  It's all so horrible,  these guys wouldn't suffer any of this angst for us.   

bedazzled's picture

What everyone is saying is correct. My DH said time and time again he was going to talk to SD. That was just to make me shut up. He is too afraid of SD to really talk to her. SD has been your DH's  mini wife for a long time. Her goal is to break you up. She wants her "husband/Daddy" back. Like they said, he would rather make you mad, than his mini wife. These men also get off on 2 women fighting over them. It won't matter if she gets married, has a spawn of her own. She still will feel that she owns "husband/Daddy"  Your DH created the monster mini wife. He had just as much a part of it as did BM. Don't fool yourself in to believing it was just BM's doing. DH made her his mini wife. 

fairyo's picture

I agree- it doesn't make anything better if she marries and has her own kids- she will train them to behave in the same way towards you...

futurobrillante99's picture

Simple fact: Until the pain of pissing you off is greater than the pain of pissing SD and BM off, your DH will continue to cater to BM and SD.

Make DH understand that if HE doesn't handle it, HE is going to experience more pain than what SD and BM can dish out.

marblefawn's picture

I swear I wrote this exact same post many times -- even the part about Italy!!!!

A few things helped us, but ultimately, I disengaged and I don't see SD at all now. It's bliss. If you don't ready most of this, just cut to the part marked "REALLY IMPORTANT..."

In the beginning, we tried therapy and it helped -- it didn't fix it, but it helped my husband to hear how he should handle incidents and to hear that it's OK for him to put his marriage first in spite of enmeshed SD. I think husbands need to hear it from someone not in the fight. The therapist warned him about damage to our marriage if he continued putting SD first. She gave him practical ways to force SD to grow up and stop depending on him for emotional, financial and physical comfort (we also had the lap sitting issue). For example, the therapist told him to sit in chairs rather than on the sofa during SD's visits so she couldn't physically dominate him. Yes, it actually came to that, but it worked. But it worked because my husband bought into the fact that it was a problem in the first place.

Like you, I didn't want to be the hammer to stop SD's manipulation. I don't think any good can come from that. And leaning on my husband too much backfired -- all of a sudden, I was the problem. He'd go off and have a carefree day with SD, who was delighted her demand that he leave me behind worked. Then he'd return to a raging wife. Who do you think looks like the bad guy in that scenario?

It's a really tight rope you're walking. Your SO doesn't have the emotional enmeshment with you that he does with SD, so she can rage, he feels guilty and gives her what she wants. You rage and you're a bitch jealous of his little girl. Understanding this will help you figure out at least what not to do. Raging on your SO feels great, but it alienates him and makes her look golden. You can't win by raging.

Here's how you start:

My husband and I both acknowledged that the SD issue was hurting the marriage. We agreed to work on it, even if we didn't agree who was at fault or what to do about it. We went to therapy where we got validation that how he handled her was a problem. He tried to insitute the fixes the therapist suggested, as best he could. Other things we worked through together, with varying degrees of success. When an incident came up, I stated my bottom line if I had one, for example: "I will not host her in my house after her Facebook stunt." He'd counter offer: she should apologize for her Facebook stunt if she wants to visit us. SD refused to apologize. So I stuck to my bottom line and SD never visited us (in Italy, by the way). We each proposed a fix, SD chose the fix she could live with, so she never visited us when we lived there. Everyone gets a little win.

The other thing I did was, AND THIS IS REALLY IMPORTANT FOR YOU TO DO... for example, when the text comes asking your SO to take a vacation alone with SD to Italy, you might say, "Are you guys planning a vacation alone?" Hopefully, he will say, "of course not." That's when you want to swoop in with all the compassion in the world for SD and gently say, "you know, SD seems to have some expectations that you already know you're not going to meet. Don't you think it's unfair to her to keep her hoping you will when you have no intention of it? She probably feels rejected every time she asks and it doesn't happen, but if you don't tell her the truth, she keeps hoping. That's why she keeps asking and it's setting her up for constant rejection because she doesn't understand your boundaries or intentions." I did this with my husband and it worked -- you are clearly illustrating to your SO how HE is setting up SD for disappointment (and repeated conflict with you, but you never, ever want to bring your own needs into a discussion about SD's needs!). Make it all about SD and show him exactly how he's misleading her on the parameters of their relationship and the parameters of a normal adult child/parent relationship. This puts the ball in his court to honestly check her expectations, and it shows him he is the one not meeting her needs and continuing the cycle of neediness by not telling SD that what she wants from him is out of his range. This was perhaps the most effective tool I used because it had nothing to do with me -- only my observations of how my husband was continuing the cycle of ridiculous SD demands without having the courage to be honest with her.

All this didn't just happen. It took many fights and a lot of negotiating and there were times when I thought I might divorce him in the first couple years of marriage. But the only way to move forward to resolution is that your SO acknowledge there's a problem with this SD and that he be willing to change things to address it. If he keeps putting all the blame on you, there's no reason for him to change anything because you're the problem so only you must change.

At least in my case, it got better as SD got on with her life -- partly because I think she felt he was no longer entirely under her spell and that was no fun for her, partly because I stopped seeing her altogether, partly because she doesn't have time for him. I think SD felt he would be miserable in this marriage and when that didn't happen, she sort of lost interest in him.

The fact that you have two other skids involved without issues can be used to your benefit. I'd slap him with that fact every time he tries to say this is all your problem.

Apologies for the length! I wish you well -- it's not easy. So many of your points of contention were exactly what I'd been through -- the photos of the former family, repeated cancellations for the three of us to have dinner, the requests for long walks on the beach ALONE with him while I sat in the hotel waiting for them to return...

Healyourslf's picture

Thank you...I've been sharing all these comments with DH and they have really helped.

Healyourslf's picture

Well, the "talk" with SD finally happened last night. DH spoke to her about the issues with compassion.  DH is a very gentle soul (that's why they have been able to manipulate him so easily) so he thought carefully about his words and approach.  We discussed it before he made the call.  For each defensive comment made by SD to weasle out of taking responsibility for her actions, he had a "valid action/behavior that she did" to re-counter.  He made it clear that SD's behavior is just like her BM's and those behaviors caused him great emotional distress during their marriage and that he will never tolerate it again.  He also said, "I am uncomfortable with you because of these behaviors...they are just like your mother." Finally, an authentic dialogue that called SD out on her behavior and relayed to her what DH's "choice" in the matter is.  The poignant statement DH made at the end of the the emotional volley was..."I love you, you're my daughter and I will be here for you. However, J is my partner and she is my priority." SD's reply was, "but, we were first." Tears. SD is emotionally immature and it seems there's been no introspection on her part. My bio daughter is the same age as SD and experienced this same emotion with her BF when she was much younger. BF has issues the size of Denali and the women he chose as partners were awful to my BD.  BD has done a lot of processing through her own relationships and continues inner work to heal from abandonment and emotional abuse. I have spent the last 20 years working on the "mother wound" and both my BD and I are emotionally healthy humans.  DH is still processing much from his emotionally abusive marriage and this ordeal with SD is part and parcel of that. 

I feel this was a positive first step.  DH wanted to email BM later that evening as he is so angry at her for poisoning the well.  I suggested he not open that can of worms again as he has been disengaged from her for over a year now. BM is like the BP oil spill...toxic particles still damaging the water.  I am sure SD called BM right after this and cried to her.  

I'd be interested to know what experiences other SMs had after DHs told their jealous and entitled SD's that "my wife is priority."  I expect emotional backlash - most likely a passive-aggressive one driven by BM's bitterness after she finds out what DH said to SD.  Same emotional hacks they've used over and over again. I am concerned for DH as I can see he feels helpless and hopeless to do anything (we have an strong empathic connection). I just keep reiterating..."we can be responsible for our own choices and actions and not anyone else's."  

Looking for any wisdom out there on follow up of a situation like this. Progress has been made, but my feeling is....there's going to be a lot more to come.

sandye21's picture

Good for your DH that he finally found the courage to address inappropriate behavior with SD.  Now that your DH has announced to SD that you are his top priority she may try a different type of manipulation - the threat.  She informed him that she was "first", not "I understand."  The 'threat' could be delivered to your DH in various ways, but the final objective is to make him think he will be losing SD forever unless he abides by SD's wishes.  I agree  that responses which refer to he and SD only will help, the advantages allowing SD to make the break of dependence on DH, letting SD grow into being a functioning adult who will be able to form a healthy relationship with a man.

My SD has not acknowledged DH in 7 years.  I admire him for sticking with me but refuse to accept any responsibility for SD's alienation of him.  It is a consequence of his reluctance to set SD straight in the first years of our marriage.  In fact, he never set SD  straight.  So you are fortunate in that you know he chose to make his marriage his first priority rather than leaving you wondering if his first priority is himself.  So your DH deserves your support and kindness.

SacrificialLamb's picture

When my DH finally told OSD that she had done things to hurt me, she responded "but I am your daughter" (as though that made her behavior ok and he should just accept it). Her words were the same as your SD - I was here first. She is twenty years older than your SD. She thought she was her father's golden child (even over her sister) and her father was her property.  She has manipulated him for years by rewarding when she got her way and punishing when she didn't.

She didn't like it one bit when DH responded "but that's my wife." Started crying. 

Her response was to punish him by shoving him out of her and the gkids lives, then text him pics of gkids dangling them in front of him like a carrot.  Then she goes cold. This type of SD wants to be chased.  She and her sister will never stop trying to drive a wedge in our marriage so I never know what is coming. For years OSD to dropped hints to him that she WAS so lucky to have him in her life (implying she would be leaving his life) and that she was going to remove herself from our marriage (still trying to figure that one out).

My DH understands I want nothing to do with them.  As long as your SD is acting like she should come first, I would stay away.

But make sure you give your DH big kudos for doing what so many of our DH's won't do or take way too long to do.

amyburemt's picture

your dh needs to disengage from bm entirely. he is no longer with her and he needs to state that to sd. he also needs to start calling out the manipulation that sd engages in. he can do it kindly and firmly. sd is an adult and you all really have no need to even have to deal with bm's crap anymore. maybe he could start firing back in question form. for example .... if sd invites dh to have bagles over at bm's house with her and bm then my reply would be " why would i want to have bagels with my ex-wife?" he needs to stop letting people walk on him, sd is an adult now and he needs to let her know he won't put up with manipulation. 

notasm3's picture

Glad he talked to her. 

How important is it to you that you have a relationship with SD?  I personally see nothing wrong with your DH seeing her alone for a meal. As long as it doesn’t disrupt any plans he has with you.  Vacations with her should be off the table though. 

It’s probably best if he sees her out of your home so you don’t have to watch her paw him and bring over pictures of BM.  I’m not saying for you to never see her again - but just occasionally.  No reason for you to contact SD unless you want to. Let her talk to your DH not you. 

As SD is an adult your DH does not need to have ANY contact with BM unless SD is in the hospital, etc. SD being upset over a boyfriend, job, etc is no reason for DH and BM to communicate.  He should basically just ghost BM. Her opinions are not worth the time of day  

My advice is to be very supportive of your dh’s relationship with his daughter.  Don’t make him feel bad for talking to her; etc as long as he respects your place as first. That’s probably easiest if you keep your interactions with her to a minimum. And that your DH NEVER breaks plans with you to accommodate her. 

marblefawn's picture

I'd love to tell you what happened after my husband made it clear to SD that, "my wife is priority." But it has never happened. We all just go along -- he sees SD alone, I don't see SD at all. It will never happen in my household.

So congratulations to your husband for taking a daring step. I'm so glad (and envious!) that he defended you and your marriage. There may be some fallout, but in the long run, this will be better for all of you. SD is an adult and she'll make her own decision how to proceed after this.

If she engages with your husband, I strongly encourage him to make it immediately clear to SD when she is asking for too much. As in the text asking for an alone vacation with him, he should immediately text back that he has a vacation planned with you, so SD should take a trip to Italy with a friend. She needs to know that door is closed -- it's more fair to her and she won't keep asking. If he sets the boundaries, she will eventually understand them. She might disengage, but probably not forever.

The few times my husband sort of set a boundary with SD, it caused SD to act worse or blow him off for a while. There'd be tears, "that's not fair!," all that jazz, but that was long ago.

Because I am now disengaged from that hot mess, I don't know what ridiculous demands she makes, if any. This was the only way I could tolerate my marriage.

I'm happy for you. You must feel great today! Go do something really nice for your husband to reinforce something that was surely hard for him.

marblefawn's picture

Oh, and on that BM thing...yea, he'd be nuts to open that can again. BM is history. Poisoning the skid well is history. He will start WW III if he blames BM for SD's behavior. And blaming BM is just a way for your husband to let SD off the hook for bad behavior. SD is an adult who chooses who she sees and slights.

I have to say, I was a little shocked that your husband told SD that she is acting like BM. I'm wondering if it's a good idea. I would LOVE IT if my husband told my SD that, but he never would. That would be a bridge too far for SD to hear and surely for my husband to say. My husband probably tries not to see the similarities with BM because he doesn't want to think that SD has that DNA at work in her.

Maybe it would be best for your husband to leave BM completely out of these discussions so he doesn't stir up BM and triangulate this issue with BM and SD. Again, BM is history. If your husband treats SD like an adult who controls her own thoughts and actions, that will help her grow up. And you don't want SD picking up on the blame he's placing on BM for SD's own bad behavior. SD is responsible at 23 for her behavior. That family is over and done. He shouldn't even reference BM at all.

NachoQueen's picture

My husband also said that I was his priority and of course SD23 said, "but we were first...." tears, then weeks of ignoring him, ailianating me to my in-laws, then bam.. she is oops....preggo with his first grandbaby. If she can't bargain with her influence and love, now she has upped the ante.. baby due in 3 weeks. I'll keep you posted.