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Should I give adult stepchild one more chance?

RJ's picture

Don't know where to start, after being married many years, being disrespected by stepkids, manipulated and used - then the behavior started with the stepkids spouses.  Hubby made excuses for them for years, he's very non-confrontational and the kids walk all over him.  Well I grew a backbone, and warned him if things didn't change I was done!  The one Stepchild is married - significant other didn't want to work and they ended up with 4 kids, they expected us to pay for groceries, cook/clean, babysit... they would show up at Christmas without a gift for anyone, let alone their own children, and they bragged about it.

Fast forward, when we tried to stop this entitlement behavior things got ugly - even with the spouse.  When hubby would not address the elephant in the room, I did and things went very bad.  It was NOT a fair fight and instead of addressing the issues they (stepkid and spouse) made us feel petty like we're willing to end a relationship over a f***ing $300 (where they got that figure I have no idea).  Basically they knew they were using us, manipulating us into helping them financially - they got pissy. It's a long story.

So I told stepchild I'm willing to work through this, that they have 4 children and need to grow up, pay their own bills, BUT they also need to treat me/us with respect.  The reply I got was "you have to earn my respect."  That's when I decided I'm done, I've been over backward for 20+ years, paid for their weddings, planned the entire thing, baby showers, wedding showers, been to every event... this is what I get.  This was 2013?

They live out of the country - have 4 kids and are coming to the states this summer.  We got a message from stepchild wanting to get together for a meal with the their family.  Not sure if I want to open this door again, is it sincere, their way of making amends?  Or do they want something... free meal, babysitter, a place to stay (past behavior - when they called there was an ulterior motive and we'd get sucked into being used/manipulated).

Sorry so long, but I'm sure most of you have experienced similar - I and hubby were doormats for way to long, because it was the only way he felt he could have a relationship with them.  Thanks in advance!

ESMOD's picture

Ultimately, a lot of what is going to happen will depend upon your DH.  This is his bio child... and how steadfastly is he going to stick to the estrangement?  How willing will he be to brush heaps of relationship dust under the carpet in order to gain access to his grandkids and have a relationship with his daughter?

Perhaps these people have grown and matured in the past years.. being forced to stand on their own two feet might have done that.  Maybe it's possible to move past some of the bad acting in the past.. if they are truly changed.

Have you had any indication of how they have been living?  did they perhaps just shift over to mooching of her DH's side of the family maybe?  Or have they been living on their own standing?

If you do decide as a couple that you would like to see them.. make it very much on your terms. 

First, "No, I'm sorry, we can't host you in our home... but here are a few hotels in the area that are reasonably priced and convenient."

Second,  "We would love to have you take us out to dinner... it will be nice to catch up."

Third, "No, I'm sorry, we aren't in the position to loan you X"  if they happen to try to hit you

And.. remember.. "no is a complete sentence"  You don't owe them a reason for things.  You don't have to tell them that they can't stay due to space.. or time.. or inconvenience.. just "can't do it". 

Winterglow's picture

Aslo ... have a list of local hotels handy just in case they turn up on your doorstep with no warning and hand it to them. 

hereiam's picture

We got a message from stepchild wanting to get together for a meal with the their family. 

I would first find out what that means, exactly. What are they expecting? I would be very cautious. People, at their core, don't usually change.



RJ's picture

Thank you for your response.  Past behavior is they seldom "ask" - it's more like they tell you and catch you off guard.  I.E., day before wedding, they tell us the bridal party is all planning on staying at our house, then you're in the awkward position of trying to say no (does that make sense?).  Another example - days before our daughter's graduation party, I'm told that they're bringing their new dog and friends with them when they're come - again no asking (we lived near the ocean so when they came they'd take their family to the beach).  When we said it wasn't good timing - things again got very pissy.  Spouse did not come - not so much as a homemade graduation card for our daughter  

Good points, we can always "try" again!


Winterglow's picture

Be proactive, catch them off their guard. Reply "What a sweet thought. We would love for you to invite us out for dinner. Thank you. Such a pity we won't be able to accommodate you here ..."

sammigirl's picture

Reply now, so they do not have a chance to make plans and then drop them on you.  Go back to them with a stern answer.  First, you do as you wish.  If you don't want to go have dinner with them, don't put yourself in an uncomfortable position.  Tell your DH you feel better to let it go.  He is welcome to do as he pleases with them.   Do not let them dictate to you. 

Don't wait for your DH to do it, you do it.  My DH won't make a decision where his grown kids are concerned.  He let's them make all the decisions.  I inform my DH that he is welcome to do as he pleases.  I have set boundaries on what I will and will not do.  I do not hostess my skids for anything, any longer.  They wore out their welcome 8 years ago, after 30+ years.  They come to visit DH any time they wish, but they are not invited to spend the night, I do not fix meals, I do not even offer them a drink of water.  My DH is a horrible host, so they usually don't stay for long, while visiting.  

The positive part of my deal; I don't have to do the work any longer.  My Skids and their spouses now know who did it all before.  It actually has taken the turn that I was hoping.  It is all on DH's back, and he did it all to himself.  I am civil to them, although I'm very cool.  I do not treat them any different than a stranger that I have met for the first time.  

They earned the respect I give them.  Smile

Hang in there.  It never ends, as long as you are married to your DH.  Your boundaries you set for yourself will get easier.  The most important relationship you will ever have, is with yourself.  ((((hugs))))

Mountains's picture

All of advice above is excellent - make it on your terms.  You don’t have to host, cook, or even have them in your home.  After 6 years of estrangement, meeting in a neutral public place would be less awkward.  When I went through this with SD, our family counselor explained how people at odds or don’t care for each other should not try to mend fences by being thrown together in a home environment together - it is a recipe for disaster.  Meeting for a meal in a neutral place would allow you to assess the situation and see what it is really about.  Sorry you had to go through that - it really hurts when people just walk all over you, especially when your DH allows it.  

Winterglow's picture

ABove all, make absolutely sure that your husband is 100% on board that they are NOT to set foot inside your home.

Siemprematahari's picture

To answer your question should you give Step Child another chance?


Time and time again they have proven that they cannot be trusted and your H lacks in the ability of addressing them and maintaining strong boundaries. So keep them away from you as much as possible. If your H wants to entertain them, he can do so outside of your home. Do not allow that toxicity back in your life.

RJ's picture

I told hubby about the message almost a week ago, he read it and has not mentioned it all.  I'm sure he's cautious to talk to me about it, I'm embarassed to say I blew in 2014 when stepchild called him trying to sweep it all under the rug, "we're family...."  I told him I was DONE and if being married to him was having to put up will any more disrespect from my stepchildren I was done with the marriage too!  The wound was still open at the time, and nerves very raw - been down that rabbit hole one too many times, and it was eating me up!  So I'm sure he doesn't know what to do, I've since realized IF he wants a relationship with them - that's fine, but I've distanced myself.

For the record - I believe this couple uses and manipulates the other parents too, I've heard rumblings.  

strugglingSM's picture

It seems as though your SKids have grown up without any boundaries. It's difficult for you to create those if your DH is either unable or unwilling to do so. My thinking is that he probably doesn't know what a boundary is. Anytime you try to set boundaries with people who are used to not having them, you will get pushback. Your DH has to be prepared for that pushback and willing to stand his ground in order to set a boundary. That means, he has to have the discussion with his children about what he's willing and not willing to do anymore. In my opinion, one of the things he should not be willing to put up with is his children disrespecting you. You are his wife, if he values his relationship with you, he should be willing to tell his children that he expects them to value that as well. No adult should allow his adult children to dictate his life and in many ways, it seems like your DH is allowing this. Did he have a domineering mother growing up? Is BM domineering? He's probably used to others taking charge for him and telling him what to do and he just follows. My DH has struggled with that. MIL always just told him what to do and he did it. When he was 24, MIL told him he should be married, so he went out and found someone to marry. BM was exactly like his mother, trying to dictate what he should do. He was miserable, but he pretty much did everything she wanted, while still doing everything MIL wanted. Then he got divorced. When he met me, he would still just go along with whatever others demanded. I told him that his behavior was not healthy and I wouldn't be in a relationship with someone who had two other women telling him what to do. He pushed back some after that, but it's still a work in progress and his default response is often to just go along with whatever, rather than asking himself, "is this the right thing to do?" "Is this what I really want to do?" "Will this unfairly impact me, my wife, or our relationship?" We work on this almost daily...I have a lot of conversations with him where I explain how things impact me or point out to him that BM or MIL are crossing boundaries. 

RJ's picture

So true!  This is NOT typical second wife words, but his first wife was very mean/righteous/abusive... so he learned to just go along.  It baffled me when we were dating, she was so abusive to him and he'd be over there removing cement from her yard - just trying to keep peace.

Mother-in-law (sorry to stereotype) Italian/Catholic - so the guilting/manipulative... passive/aggressive.  His exwife would call mother-in-law and pull her into the drama - she felt she had a say in what was going on with us a stepkids - it was a HOT mess!

I probably stayed with DH because I loved him and we had 2 kids pretty quick.  I had low self esteem and came from a VERY dysfunctional/abusive family, so....

We are now empty nesters and we talk about it all often.  He sees it, and I know he feels bad about how things happened in our younger days.  He is NOT a good communicator at ALL, nor is any of his family.  They don't talk about stuff, they all just act as if nothing has happened, drives me nutso.  So this is all out of his comfort zone - he sees it, just has NO clue on how to communicate with any of our kids about respect, boundaries, etc.  His family uses humor (passive/aggressive) to get their jabs/messages in.


Thumper's picture

 The one Stepchild is married - significant other didn't want to work and they ended up with 4 kids, they expected us to pay for groceries, cook/clean, babysit... they would show up at Christmas without a gift for anyone, let alone their own children, and they bragged about it.


Insanity as defined by Albert Einstein

Doing the same thing over and over again expecting  different results.

Come on OP really?

If my own bios acted like this,  they would be behaving this way at a very far distance from us.


Yes I have experience in this area with extended family. And no we dont let them. They do this to you and dh because you allow by never saying NOPE.

Print out a list of hotels near by and send it to them. IF they try to come to your place just say WE have decided to no longer entertain inside our home. IF you want to  we can eat at Blah Blahhs but we will pay dutch, you pay your family and we pay for dh and I. GET IT OUT on table before you agree to do anything.





RJ's picture

Thank you all for your response.  Sounds like I'm on the right track - my thought was I don't want to open that door again, as nothing has changed.  They have not reached out and said, hey we said some things.... let's get together, so why would I put myself in that situation again!

Hubby will have to make his own decision - he has not met his youngest grandchild or seen any of them in 6 or 7 years now, so?  

Thanks again, life is so much better with out toxic relationships!

Thumper's picture

It is UP TO YOU to start a new family legacy. You can either keep the train wreck rolling from your past experiences. You wrote; (I probably stayed with DH because I loved him and we had 2 kids pretty quick.  I had low self esteem and came from a VERY dysfunctional/abusive family, so....)

Your not 20 or 30 anymore...and it is long over due to for you to make changes in the right direction verses just ho humming my past this, my past child hood that.

YOU are the Matriarch of the family.

or stay in that zone of well I cant do anything, do you think I should give it another chance?? Should i let them use us again??? Should I let them stay with us and see what happens AGAIN?My childhood was bad, it was dysfunctional so I have to make sure i keep the dysfunction going on and on and ONNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN. Because it is what i'm used to , its what i know.

How does that sound?

Everything moving forward is up to you. You can end the cycle of crazy or allow it to continue.

Good Luck




still learning's picture

I personally would not give them anymore chances. You already gave them 20+ years of your life; how much more do you want to give?  It's not about being hard and unforgiving, it's about realizing that time is precious and limited. Are you going to spend it tangled in their drama for the remainder of your life or let your husband deal with his creations while you attend to what makes you happy.  

If DH decides that he wants to meet up with them then he should do it at a neutral location by himself. 

SacrificialLamb's picture

My OSD would have to show she had massively changed before I would give her another chance. She would have to treat her father with respect rather than her possession. And I would have to see that my DH had grown a spine and could address any potential issues that came up.

None of these things will ever happen so I am not counting on it.

After DH's recent visit to OSD's home, where OSD must have really pulled out the charm, DH tried to facilitate a "reconciliation." When he got home I was very calm, which told me the wound was closing after several years. OP, I know you know that feeling and don't want it to reopen.

I asked DH how she had changed. No answer. I asked him how it benefitted me to have her back in my life. No answer.

Gosh, why would I allow a toxic person back in my life where there was no benefit in doing so? Sure, sign me up for more, huh?

Make sure your DH is aware of your boundaries, and let him handle the communicaiton with his child.  If it were me, I would have my DH meet alone and gauge how much of change there was before sticking my own toe back in.

still learning's picture

The only benefit of allowing her back into your life would be to DH and SD. DH could have his illusion of one big happy family and SD would get her doormat back.  

Harry's picture

It like what they said, and you are agreeing with they said.  You have to earn there respects.  I would not go unless there some resolve that

RJ's picture

Thank you all, this is exactly what I was feeling, nothing has changed so why allow the toxicity back into my life.  Yes it took me until my 50's to say ENOUGH - not just to stepkids, but to family members and friends.  It's been a huge relief, people not sure what to think about it.  My explanation is I can still love someone, but if the relationship has a negative effect on me and my well being, well I need to love them from afar.  I do NOT hate them or wish them ill-will - I just don't want the negativity in my life any more.  As you said life is way to short!

Again it may have taken me longer than some to stop the cycle, but I drew the line in the sand with oldest stepchild in 2003, mother-in-law in 2005/2006 our son in 2010, a friend in 2011, stepchild in 2013 and sister around the same time.... so I'm a work in progress! LOL

A lot of this did not come to a head earlier because we did not live in the same state as stepkids since 2000?  Stepchild married, graduated college, moved out of state, spouse HAD a job.  Hubby took a job in 2008 which put us 5 hrs drive from Stepchild & family.  2009 is when grandchild #3 was born, Stepchild's spouse lost their job.  Over those few years it was obvious what they were doing, and by 2009/2010 we started to say no.  Mid 2010 we moved across country, so our exposure to them was when we visited them and the behavior did not change even after DH tried to talk to stepchild.  So it's not like it was a daily/weekly thing - but when we did see them it was obvious.  So we visited 2 times after that, once in 2011, and I got weak in 2012 and suggested we visit for Father's Day.  Then I was done, just hadn't been discussed - DH said he would address it, when he didn't I did after the birth of our last grandchild in 2013.

still learning's picture

 it may have taken me longer than some to stop the cycle,

...And that's ok! Some people just keep passing it on the the next generation and so on.  It's better for everyone, skids included, that you stopped the cycle.  It may make them check their own behavior and what they are teaching their children.  

Good Job! 

Rags's picture

Only agree to the meal if they invite you and pay for it ... all.

Attend the meal with a comprehensive spreadsheet detailing their toxic crap and the costs associated with it all.

Title it "$300 MY ASS!"

And hand out copies to all adults and young adults in attendance and dedicate the first hour of the get together to establishing the foundational facts.   They can whine and walk... Just make sure they prepay for the meal so you and DH don't get stuck with the bill.


Second chances or adults are earned only with decades of impeccable behavior with zero behavioral incidents IMHO.

sandye21's picture

 We could be twins!  I also came from an abusive, dysfunctional family and have been working very hard on removing toxicity from my life.  I had so much 'conditioning' that it was hard to even recognize it at first.  My family insisted I marry DH because he was a nice guy.  I just sat there year after year - confused that something didn't seem right but not giving up on the idea that everything was going to eventually be hunky-dory like a 1952 musical.  It took 20 years to finally put my foot down - with everyone, including DH, SD, my family and friends.

By the way, my DH is from a stoic family who avoided any deep communication.  He was the baby of a large family so everyone 'took care of him'.  This created a man who lacks motivation, can not freely express his feelings and avoids confrontation to an extreme - even when it means minimally supporting his wife.

Other posters have given you great advice about meeting in a neutral place and if you are visited unexpectedly, give them a list of nearby hotels.  As others have advised, reply that you would love for them to treat you to dinner, and whatever you do, do not accept the bill.  Do not allow them to enter your home until some sort of progress has been made on their part to heal old wounds and they take responsibility for their part in the breakdown in your relationship.  If they do not do this, and your DH still wants to have a relationship with them, let him do it on his own outside of your home.

SD has not graced our doorstep in over 8 years but if she were to 'open the gates' to communication again without some sort of recognition and responsibility for the breakdown in our communications I would approach this situation with apprehension. 

Thank you SOOO much for posting this message.  I have often wondered what I would do if SD reappeared in our lives.  The responses you have received have validated what I know in my heart is right.

LONGTIME SM's picture

I can really identify with your question.  My SD has played this same scenario multiple times.  She has demanded, requested, wheedled, maneuvered, manipulated, bullied etc. members of my family ,usually her dad , In order to access my family and my home the last few years.  I’ve been disengaged about 10-11 years now.  She has played Daddeeeeee like a fine violin and attempted the same on my young adult children.  I chose not to take the bait and ever engage enough to be in her company except for her cornering me during my daughters wedding several times so that I would be forced to speak with her. 

She has not changed one bit in all of these years.   My husband attempted to tell me that she had matured a couple of years ago and suggested that I give her yet another chance to which I laughed and told him that this was obviously not true based upon the nasty text in which she had said numerous hateful things about me that she had sent to him at that time attempting to guilt him and manipulate him to demand that I allow her in my house.    Plus the woman was in her mid 30s when I disengaged and should have been mature then. 

My children and my husband attended her second wedding last year.  SD again showed she hadn’t changed one bit during her wedding when she cussed out and flipped off my children and Dadddeeee because they were leaving before she wanted them to.  

Husband finally admitted to me that SD wasn’t helping her case very much by that last stunt.  But Dadddeeeees being dadddeee he hasn’t given up being treated like crap even now.  Me I stay far away as SD is liable to go off again whenever it suits her.  You can’t even predict what will set her off.  Just not worth even attempting to be around toxic people. 

I would say let your hubby meet with them by himself but then you might have to worry about him getting stuck with the bills like my DAH does.  It depends I guess on whether you can stomach eating out with them and whether your husband will refuse to pay if you are present.  The very last thing you want to do is be present when your husband goes back on his word to you That he won’t  pick up the check.  In my case my husband would pick up the check regardless of our agreement beforehand due to his ego and self esteem issues so I simply make sure that I in no way fund his foolishness with his prior family and I never attend.    This way I no longer place myself in any contact with the steps toxic behavior and I  can ignore his idiocy whereby he attempts to build up his own ego by his feigned generosity.  If he spends money he doesn’t have I make sure I am in no way funding anything for the  step adults or him so that he can do so.  

Bonz281's picture

Stereotypes described - guilting mother in law and non communicative, stotic family sound more Jewish and Irish / English stereotypes to me... No offense to those ethnicities... Btw, I am Irish. My ex was English. My husband is Jewish. 

sandye21's picture

I edited my post so it can't be misconstrued as being bigoted.  DH's parents were born at the same time as my Grandparents who were from a different country but just as stoic.  Lesson learned.

No matter where they were born, we all live with the positive and negative effects of our ancestors.  I am still trying to get beyond a lot of the mental garbage my parents bestowed upon me.and what DH's parents left him with.  Perhaps our skids see us as dinosaurs who have unrealistic expectations for present times but it is hard to believe that there's no place today for mutual respect and a DH who is supposed to morally support his wife.

sammigirl's picture

"it is hard to believe that there's no place today for mutual respect and a DH who is supposed to morally support his wife".  

This is my point and my DH doesn't get it to this day!  This is why I set my own boundaries and take care of the situation myself as it rears it's ugly head. 

The only solution is in your own actions.  I have always said, teach through your actions.  I get my DH's attention by just going through with what I want to do, let him do as he pleases, and I will never give my SD a second chance.  

With this said, this is my situation and not a reflection on what OP should do.  I hesitate to advise, because I have made my share of mistakes in 39 years of being a SM. 

I feel your life sandye21.

sandye21's picture

Everyone and every situation is different but one thing SM's have to do to is change the dynamics so it is livable.   Creating that change usually falls on our shoulders but I agree - DH owns the responsibility for creating the monster in the first place.  Like you, I had to concentrate on my happiness rather than marrital bliss.  I've had to adjust my expectations for DH and have lost a lot of respect I once had for him. Also, like you, we've been married so long that divorcing would cause problems.  But on a positive note I've grown i side a lot.

bedazzled's picture

"it is hard to believe that there's no place today for mutual respect and a DH who is supposed to morally support his wife". 

Sammi you sum it all up in one sentence. If these husbands got this, none of us would be on this page. 

RJ's picture

After days of DH not bringing up SD's message to get together for a meal - I brought it up.  DH is interested in seeing SD (and grandkids), he's curious to see if they have matured/changed - especially since they live overseas, and no parents to lean on.  I get it, this is his biological daughter, and God forbid - we never know how many days we have left in this life, so....

As for me, well I think I will not attend due to our history.  DH agrees but did bring up a good point - I will be very curious how it goes and he is terrible at communicating or picking up on ques, so I may never know.  LOL    

Neither of us have replied to her message, assumed DH would - she's coming in next month, so we'll see how it goes!  Thanks again!

RJ's picture

Thank you all again for your advice.  DH met with DSD and her family last night - she asked where I was, DH responded "she's not coming," that was all that was said. DH did ask for separate checks at restaurant.  Grandkids at this point did not remember DH (they've been overseas for 6 years) it was very awkward, polite interaction.  After an hour DSD, her hubby and kids left - that was it!


Murkywaters's picture

Sounds as if they had an agenda. But since you didn't join them it wasn't successful.