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Open communication with DH or not?

Freshstart's picture

DH and I are lucky to have found a good sensible counsellor. Think we may not have made it through some of the rougher patches with SD18 without one. However there is many a time when I ask a question here and get a far better and more experienced response. truth is if you have not lived this you will never get it. I love also being able to support other people.

OK so I would appreciate advice and am about to go trawling to see who I can offer some to, to pay it forward.

DH and I have made some great progress together and whereas the whole thing used to be a nightmare. We have closed the gap on the SD18 manipulation except for a few areas.

SD18 (soon 19) plays him like its her primary skill and hobby. He is a good man so there are two main themes "oh poor me" which brings out his protective instincts and "oh thankyou daddy for x, y and z" which brings on expensive stuff.

SD18 has multiple personalities and one that she saves especially for her dad. When he is not in the house, she is quite glum and either treats me like I do not exist or with mild disdain or when she is lonely is quite happy to accept snacks and sit and tell me about her day. Her personality is such that she does not show interest in me however I do not mind that she talks about her study etc. When her dad is in the house she scuttles to her room if I appear and sort of skirts around me and looks a bit fearful. It is such an act. When DH, SD and my six year old son are in a room together (without me), she is happy, sweet, motherly and effusive (not her natural state at all - in fact it sounds like me and she even uses same phrases - probably flattering really).

So it all feels like acting to me. The most normal state i think is the lonely one where she wants company and to chat about her study and uni. I think she is a bit low on friends even though she tells her dad she is popular.

He feels protective of her and I know he buys the "poor me, I am so afraid of this woman, look at me I am cowering." act.

Recently I said all of the above to him but more diplomatically.

My question. Was that a mistake? I feel better saying it but he has clammed up on the topic.

Why did I say it? Because all the acting makes me tense in my own home. I am an open, honest and transparent person and could not manipulate someone even if I tried really hard. My family and friends say to just ignore it and I really try. It just puts me on edge.

Should I raise it with him and the counsellor?

Orange County Ca's picture

You're entitled to have your say. Once. He's aware of your opinion so just leave it at that.

Poodle's picture

I've had this situation although my OSDnow25 did not live with us. She is of this type. It is fruitless to analyze this very subtle behavior with a DH who lacks consciousness, as yours does for the moment. It's not the main problem anyway no doubt. But I would raise it in counseling if the counseling continues successfully for a while. I would definitely not discuss it with him further now outside that venue. He is very much on the defensive about it for the moment.
You can have fun calling that kind of manipulative behavior by pointing it out as it arises each time, but that is more aggression than is needed. I would suggest simply ignore it but also don't pay any positive attention to her either like asking about her day etc. Just disengage across the board whilst the counseling continues.
The key aspect that jumps out at me is that you are leaving her to sparkle in this way with your DH and bio but not you present. Don't let that continue. She will ultimately try to con your bio the same way and get her claws into your relationship with your own child. Always be present to monitor her conduct and -- in addition -- that will have the benefit of stopping her family act. It's tiring but you need to do it in order to protect your own child.

blayze's picture

She is 18 years old... a woman. Why aren't you calling out the behaviors directly to HER rather than or in front of your DH?

"Oh SD, how funny! Before your dad came home you were enjoying my snacks and telling me about your you're looking at me like I'm sooooo scary. What's up with that? (smile,wink)" Smile

"DH, SD is thanking you again...I wonder how much money we'll have to shell out for her next gift."

I think that when people display behaviors that smell like a load of bull, the best thing to do is to call them out, right then and there. Get it out in the open. Because truly, aren't YOU being somewhat manipulative as well, trying to change DH's mind about his child's behaviors...even going so far as to recruit a therapist to help...without being REAL by going to the source of your problem - SD. Wink Just ask her what's up with her multiple personalities and make sure your DH can see her expression when you do.

sandye21's picture

You have a good point. Get it out there in the open in front of DH. If you wait until later to bring it up with DH privately, he will only remember how sweet she was in his presence and come to her defense. My SD used to do this all of the time. It took 20 years for DH to actually be witness to her nastiness. Keep in mind that SD will probably deny what she is doing but at least you will be putting both DH and SD on notice that you are not playing games anymore. I'd get a nanny cam and when she denies it, I'd play it back for both of them.

Freshstart's picture

Thankyou for the feedback.

I appreciate the thoughtfulness in what people write.

OC. Get what you are saying. Parents dislike hearing anything bad about their own children, particularly when it might reflect on their parenting. Fair enough. Good advice.

Poodle: You are right, he is clueless so she is smarter than him in some ways. Thanks for commenting on the "sparkling" - it does creep me out and you help with your thoughts on that.

Meerkat: Thanks for understanding my need to be genuine and how hard it is to just button up and put up with all the acting.

Blayze: I have friends who handle similar situations with straight forward communication to their step daughter and I admire it.

So thanks. I am thinking it all through. There is only one person I can change and that is me. Honestly I think there is damage done now. I have noticed I do not feel the same to my husband. I love him but something feels bad. It feels like he thinks I am not nice to his daughter and that is so unfair that iI feel like I have gone into a self protective mode and want distance from him.

Thankyou. It helps to write and communicate. Otherwise I just bottle it all up.

Freshstart's picture

Thanks Sandye21. Nanny cam would have been handy around here a few times. At the beginning, the behaviours were very obvious. In a way I preferred that because it was easier to both see them. If I call it and it is subtle behaviour, it makes me look silly. Have to wait and pick my mark.

Stepping sucks's picture

Fresh start, I empathise with your comment, 'I have noticed I do not feel the same towards my husband'! I too have a manipulative SD, plus a SGD who has been taught the same tricks, my DH is so completely unable to say no to either of them, sometimes it makes me wonder 'how damn stupid are you?' Not a nice way to view my much loved husband!!

ChiefGrownup's picture

^^^^If he isn't convinced of my overall wonderfulness and kindness then he has no business being married to me. Fortunately for me, my DH is convinced and if he ever wavered he has the evidence of the many people and critters in the rest of my life. On SD's side there's nobody and nothing that testifies to her kindness.

For OP, I would indeed call out this grown person in front of her dad. You don't have to be mean or aggressive about it. Just stop her in her tracks and say something like, "Sd, you and I were having such a good time this morning but now your dad's here you seem to be afraid of me. Do you really mean to be conveying that you're afraid of me? Why on earth?" Or "when you run out of the room like that or go silent when I enter the room, it makes it seem that you don't like me. Were you just pretending to like me when we were having coffee cake? I don't understand?"

It's always good to give a cornered animal an out so a really superb way to do it would be, "Oh, SD, dear, I'm sure you didn't realize it but when you do XYZ, people think you're afraid of me and people don't know how much time you and I spend been being buddies like just this morning when we did fqp. I know you wouldn't want anyone to think that you and I aren't friends so I'm letting you know what that behavior looks like, I know you woulddn't do it on purpose."

How can she refuse to do better after that? She better come up with a damn good reason for Dad why she does, in fact, want to convey her fear of you in spite of her cozy tea parties alone with you. High road on your part and an out for her. Kind of forces her onto the right path.

kathc's picture

I've got a skid who pulled this, too. "ooh, look at how I cringe if she walks past me as if I'm afraid she'll beat me!" yet was my little friend when we were alone. DH FINALLY overheard some of the "happy, fun, chatty" a few times before he walked into the room and it went back to silence and sulking and realized that it was an act. Hopefully yours will catch on.

Stepping sucks's picture

Divorced/separated fathers are totally blind to their little princess' craftiness!

Poodle's picture

The problem I often had with directly calling my OSD on those sorts of behaviors arose because my very young bios were present. I knew that if I called her out a big row or screaming scene would ensue from her and I did not want to do this to my children. Luckily for us my OSD left a very nasty note for me on one occasion when she was about 16 which gave me cause to have it out with my DH and ask him to discipline her outside the home so my kids were not subjected to any rows. As a result of that he took her to his parents' along with his other children and she took so much offense at this that she avoided visiting our home for years, which was great. Some years later at about 22 years old or so she made a bid to move into our home on the pretense of job-hunting in our city and the behaviors began again. The same problem arose for me which was that the bios would be impacted if I called her openly. That was when I first joined Steptalk. I got some great advice on how to handle the situation including from StepAside who said that I should explain the issues clearly to my eldest who was by now 14 and also should deal with the SD directly rather than attempting to operate through her father. I would say keep posting about the specific incidences with this girl as you will get some useful suggestions from posters who have been through similar experiences each time and they can point you to some very specific approaches tailored to each incident.

Freshstart's picture

My concern with "calling" her on her behaviour is that I will fall into a triangulation trap. Someone wrote about triangulation here and it seems to be totally on the money for my DH and SD. In the triangle, there is a "hero" who loves rescuing, a "victim" who loves being rescued and a "villain" who likes the authority they have over both.

Think that BM was the "villain" part and I do not say that critically. I heard bits and pieces about it and feel sorry for her in some ways. I hear that she would say every weekend "oh just take SD with you." Its like she gave up. I heard that she would get cranky at SD. I heard that SD complained to her dad that mum was so bossy. When I heard that in the early days I ran a mile and told him that I did not accept a household where a parent condones a child criticising another parent. Gave him the fright of his life because I refused to move in or go further till we had it sorted. What happened to that tough cool girl I used to be?

That's why I am not calling it. As a result though I am sure i give her too much power and give daddy dearest an earful when he does not want it. I keep getting him to manage things wherever possible rather than let him just be the hero and the mr handout dude.

In all honesty my SD and her mum scare me. SD keeps turning up with a new and more appealing set of personalities. They are a formidable team so I keep sending signals "there's no money here, nothing worth playing games for."

She is acting and is more devious and clever than me. Freaks me out.

OK i know I sound paranoid. Am just over it.

Am so scared that whatever age she is, she will find a reason like Poodle's SD to come back.

Stepping sucks's picture

It makes me wonder why any of us ever even consider dating a divorced man with kids! Stepmothers can never win over 'darling daughters'!!

Easylikesundaymornin's picture

My SD left our house at 17 never to return again ~ I was more than thrilled.
She was told on numerous occasions that the hoodlum bf of her was not allowed in my home. I was done. What did she do ~ waltzed him into my home ~ I just watched how DF spoke to his daughter n walked the dirtbag out of my home ~ again explaining his presence here is not wanted.

My SD tried n tried to pull the wool over her fathers eyes ~ after collaborating with a unbiased adult to verify story he believed ~ she was up to NO good. Both DF & I don't take to kindly to be disrespected. This is all well n known by all children n that is what he did.

SD then proceeded to harass n bully my daughter in school ~ again principal called n let DF know what his precious angel was up to. She decided soon after that she would never grace is with her presence after she trashed my kids room on her rampage.

We went 3 years without seeing her ~ in Oct DF saw her n ever since I believe he mourns there relationship. I have never stopped him from seeing her ~ but I also don't want to hear about.

My point being ~ the disengaging from him to her has ripped his heart out. He fell for her shit again ~ I will not. She is never welcome in my home ~ you got that. It is my home ~

Now here's a question .... Is the resenting of me right around the corner ???