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Want to learn more about this "Disengaging"

DazeyChain's picture

Good evening, everyone. I'm new to this forum and have been reading voraciously for the last several hours. I'm a 40-something SM who never had kids of my own, mainly because I just never wanted any. I have been married to DH for almost 4 years, and he has 2 children. I guess they would be my SD23 and SD21. SD23 has a daughter with her partner (a woman older than me who doesn't work), so I guess she would be GD2. SD21 still lives with us and is in school for a second degree, because she decided she didn't want to do the job her first degree trained her for. I won't bore you all with the gory details, but suffice it to say that we experience a lot of the same issues that many others on this forum experience.

Unfortunately, I realize now that I should not have married DH, although I love him very much. Because of my naiveté, I believed him when he told me that his children were not going to be an issue (SD21 living with us, SD23 living off of us, etc., etc.), but that has not proved true. I suppose that is water under the bridge though. I find myself in this intolerable situation and am staring straight down the barrel of asking for a divorce, because I hate the situation and resent him for forcing me into it (by not being truthful about his relationship with his daughters).

In an effort to save my marriage (and my sanity), I want to learn more about disengaging. I've seen some bits and pieces here and there, but I'm wondering if there's a specific post that talks about how to properly do it. I have a lot of questions, like what should I do when I cook dinner for DH and me, and he calls SD21 downstairs from her room to join us? I'm hoping there's a post or a link that can give me more information, so, if you know of one or several, please post them here.

Thanks in advance, and I look forward to "seeing" all of you on the boards.

shes driving me crazy in my retirement's picture

I deal with an adult SD, she is 49 now, whom I "lovingly" refer to as the Twit. Luckily, when DH and I married almost 20 years ago now, none of them lived with us although it was a close call with his son. When this living with us came up, the SS was over 21 at the time and was having prolems holding a job, being motivated and responsible, I told my DH to be that no adult childlren were living with us as we were starting on a new journey, a new life. My DD was in college and only came home for summers. But she, too, knew that she wasn't going to camp out with us for any extended period of time after she graduated.

I get on well with my DH's other children except for Twit. AND, I was in your shoes, ready to go for the divorce as my health was being affected and DH and I were always at each other about how his daughter not only treated me, but him as well. If found this board and was able to vent and start to get a perspective on things. I disengaged. I no longer care what she does or doesn't do but I have set my boundaries very tight. I no longer buy gifts for her....that is up to her father. And, as happened last Christmas, if he doesn't do it, well, Twit gets nadda.

Disengaging has been wonderful. I know longer give a ratz butt what she does or doesn't do and I don't engage in talk about her with DH when he starts talking about her. The only time, lately, I stepped in was when she went after me -sent me a letter which I didn't open but DH did -- and he didn't like what was in it and confronted her. Sadly, he ended up having heart problems over her actions and in the hospital.

In disengaging, I don't start anything with her. If she tries to start with me, I just look her in the eyes, smile, chuckle and walk away. Drives her nutz every time. BUT, the few times she has gotten vicious with me I have no problem in putting her in her place and then walking away.

Unfortunately, as I mentioned above, DH now has to face what Twit is and deal with her. He is starting to learn, but the learning curve is going to take awhile.

Disengaging brings peace for me, my rash clearned up, my blood pressure went down, I feel a lot better. I don't rise to the bait that DH use to pull about rising above it, being the bigger person, being nice to Twit. It doesn't work and I know longer want to bother.

Yes, I fall back occasionally, but I get back on track. And, at this point, it is amusing to watch Twit self destruct all on her own.

jennaspace's picture

The book "Stepmonster.." by Wednesday Martin is a must read if you haven't already done so. It has good info about disengaging if I recall correctly.

oldone's picture

No adult children should be living with a parent. period. dot.

No adult children should be supported by a parent. period. dot.

Now if your husband does not agree with these two premises you have to decide if you can tolerate them in your life.

My motto is good riddance to bad rubbish.

Kes's picture

In addition to Stepmonster book and the disengaging essay - this article you may find useful:
Many of us have DHs who told us that the Stepkids would not be a problem and that they had an "amicable relationship" with the BM.
Welcome to ST and good luck!

DazeyChain's picture

Thanks, everyone for your words, suggestions, and links. It's nice to be part of a community that "gets" it. Based on your comments alone, I have a feeling that I will have lots to reflect upon before making what will certainly be very difficult decisions. Looking forward to staying in touch and regularly taking part in this group. Thanks again!

doingitforlove's picture

"when I cook dinner for DH and me, and he calls SD21 downstairs from her room to join us?"

DH tried that a few times and she never came. Never. They both have the Mickey D diet so anything cooked from scratch is always worse than drive-thru or microwave. They prefer Tyson chicken nuggets to any home cooked chicken dinner, hamburger helper to scratch casserole. They don't want to come to dinner? They're not invited. They love it! They can't stand being around me, not even to sit at the table and see their dad.

After many years of Skids not even looking me in the eye or saying hello, or speaking, I do that right back. They come in the room, I need to do something on my phone. I keep reading. They were disengaged from the start, so I only needed to remove the "when will this get better" thinking and replace it with "oh well, that's the way it is, focus on myself" thinking. Realized DH was perfectly content to not cause trouble over fixing the situation.

sixteensmom's picture

I posted this on another thread but thought it might be helpful for anyone considering it (but not as helpful as the great info I got.)

When I disengaged three things happened.

1. I felt horrible for a few months because I wasn't treating the skids the same as my own and I felt guilty and sad, I was afraid their feelings were hurt and they thought I didn't like them. I worried people would think i was a bad step mother and wife. I knew bm would be hearing all about me not doing anything more for them. I got over that. They didn't give a rats ass what i did or thought of them and never appreciated me or how hard I tried to build up our "family"

2. The skids realized the only reason they'd had any relationship with their dad was mostly because I planned and invited and, yes...chased, them all into coming over for dinner, get togethers, outings, sports events, concerts etc. I sent the bday and valentines, Easter, Halloween etc cards and gifts, i shopped for weeks for xmas. When I disengaged every invitation and card and gift buying stopped too. I imagine they assumed their dad would pick up where I left off, but he's never been that guy. They always knew it was me doing it all. He was always happy to participate and enjoyed his kids, but wasn't going to be the planner when they could perfectly well pick up the phone and plan too. Remember, These are 21, 25 and 28 year old "children".

3. Dh realized himself what assholes his own kids were, and told me one night, in tears, how very sorry he was not to have realized sooner how hard I'd tried and how much I'd done to try to build a family with his kids. He appreciates me more now having gone through the eight years of he'll. He understands why my feelings were hurt when I got no responses to invitations, and unfortunately, he sees now that his kids don't give a rats ass about him either. There hasn't been a fathers day call, text, card or gift, not for his birthday, since I disengaged....because who used to remind them all, and plan the dinner and coordinate the schedules...

The good news is this. We are happy. Every conversation doesn't have something to do with a skid or disappointment or someone taking advantage. I don't mention them at all, I've nothing to say. I have zero expectations for or from any of them. He expects them to turn out like his ex and her asshole family of nut cases. I fell in love with sd28s baby and would love her still, but after weeks of begging and kowtowing to their every whim and rule to get to see the new granddaughter, they cut us off and haven't been in touch again. There's only so much a person can do and we have had tough but honest talks. He is ashamed of them and their behavior. It embarrasses him they can be such brats and not know how to treat people. They simply have no social sense or skill. They don't think to ask how someones doing after a flood destroys my parents home or how my kid is doing after her third round of chemo, or how I'm feeling after my dog of 15 yrs passes.... Common sense humanity... They don't have any of it.

So yes, disengage and stay the course when your heart wants to cave.

The other good news is this. Dh and my kids have always been close. They're even closer now.

If I'd only known focusing on being my husbands wife instead of trying to be the worlds greatest step mother would make me this happy I would have done it years ago!

Shabdy42's picture

Wow can you disengage with a 14 year old SD who thinks its all about her? Or should I wait untill she's an adult?

DazeyChain's picture

Wise words from all. Thank you for sharing your experiences and your wisdom. I learn more and more with each post I read, and I've even started reading the book. Thank you for the support and the understanding.