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Blow-ups and regret

Oh_for_the_luv_of_dog's picture

I’m at my wits end this morning and have spent most of it reading through this site for comparable stories because I feel so alone. 

Lasy night, I blew up at my SD13. I’m talking blind rage, almost an out of body experience. It was all words, and I didn’t say anything especially terrible to her, but the act of blowing up is enough that I haven’t been able to get out of bed this morning from shame and actual physical pain from how wound up I let myself get. I’ve never been that angry before.

A bit of background: BF and I have had our share of relationship issues, many, many of which revolve around disputes over SD. Things have actually gotten better in her sense that he listens to my experience and has made some major changes (before, my story was basically one of the ones where SK is manipulative, BF corrects me/criticizes me for exchanges with her in front of her, etc. In other words, she built up a frustrating notion that she’s our equal, and it has taken all of the past 4 years to get him to finally see why this sucks and is bad for everyone, although she still tears down the boundaries that we’re trying to construct and enforce constantly. 

SD is suffering from what I’d describe as the worst anxiety I’ve ever seen. She has severe hypochondria and panic attacks every day. She’s on meds, seeing both a trusted GP and a therapist (and we do occasional family therapy sessions with her individual). She’s soon going to a partial hospitalization program to be treated for an eating disorder related to her hypochondria. In other words, she’s not just hitting that impossible age of 14, but she’s carrying a lot of highly stressful mental health struggles.

I try to be there for her as much as I can, which often means putting up with a lot of thanklessness, sass, and utterly infuriating rudeness that her father is finally on top of calling her out in immediately. She’s manipulative in that she’s got this sweet demeanor but knows how to really work the system, namely in targeting me. She polices my tone all the time, so I constantly walk on eggshells because she’ll make snide remarks or try to dominate me even when I use a calm voice (expressing frustration is out of the question because she comes back at me with things like “you don’t have to get so mad, geez. You’re making me feel scared,” etc for mild irritable tones that most reasonable people can acknowledge happen when parenting/co-parenting a teenager. She gets this tone policing from her dad, I think, who she’s overheard doing to me numerous times to evade accountability on his part for issues we’ve fought about in the past.

That last bit being said, we’re stupidly guilty of fighting in earshot of her, and have made many efforts to reduce or eliminate it. That is obviously where she’s picked up some of the tactics she uses against me, hearing them straight from her dad.

She doesn’t have a concept of boundaries (actually, she does and is very good at seeming receptive to “heart-to-heart” type discussions, then brazenly continuing the behaviors.

Ive been super supportive throughout her mental health issues. I make it clear I’m a friend and person she can rely on. Earlier this summer, she even referred to me as her SM, which was a milestone. Things always unravel again, and it makes me sick how difficult it is for me to not take it personally and to attribute it to her difficult life experiences and mental health struggles. This is hard namely because she is incredibly jealous of me being with her father, and does a lot of disgusting things that trigger some deep lizard brain, Oedipus type stuff in me, particularly the baby talk, hanging all over him (he drew lines when I told him I’m uncomfortable with that stuff), using the “Daaaaddeee” line like she’s 5, and giving him very visible love and affection while ignoring me in a room. It’s also hard because she’s overprotective of him and thinks she has to help him moderate his depression, health, and everything else. When he loses his temper with her (which is more frequent than me by a lot) and raises his voice when she’s being extremely rude and difficult, she’ll apologize for upsetting him and try to make him feel better by rubbing his back, grabbing some “stress gummies” we bought for her, etc. On the flip side, my slightest irritable tone after telling her for the 29483757th time to do a basic thing gets scrutinized and dramaticized. It’s exhaisting.

last night, BF had a tough night with her, and he was very obviously stressed out from it. I had to work that evening, but I could hear everything that was happening upstairs and had planned to be the rock for him once she went to bed and help him unwind, since there wasn’t anything I could reasonably do to assist him with her while she was awake. Instead, he pops open a beer and starts a snafu over a haircut he had just given himself—he comes down the stairs and asks in a sullen tone, “how do you like my stupid haircut.” It’s shaved except for three weird tufts sticking straight up, which I figured he had left just for a laugh. I cracked a mild joke, and he came back with some super passive aggressive stuff that turned into a heated thing about how he was actually setting me up and to take  out his frustration on me. I felt crushed because I had been ready to really be there for him. 

We were raising our voices a bit—not yelling but talking loudly—and little miss eavesdropper comes flying down the stairs and asks, “what the FUCK is this??” I had started crying at that point because BF can be extremely hurtful when he’s in a mood like that and drinking, and he tells her to go to bed. She says she can’t sleep, because she gets insomnia a lot, and that we’re making it hard (she was clearly actually sitting at the top of the stairs listening, because she knew everything we had said.) 

She then launches into me, saying “my dad is sensitive and you shouldn’t be mean to him! I know how you can be!” It was too much for me in that moment, and I erupted. I mean erupted. Like I wasn’t in my body the rage was flooding me so intensely. I start screaming at her to stay out of it, that she has no idea what she’s talking about, to go to her room and go to bed. She maintains this frustratingly snide calmness and continues launching into me about being nice to her dad (who was actually being quite mean to me!). She tells me I’m crazy. I stomp over to her, look her in the face, and scream that she’s being a terrible person right now and to go to bed and stay out of it. The entire time, she’s laughing in my face. Which fills me with more rage. Lizard brain stuff here.

Her dad had been intermittently telling her to go back to bed, and after the laughter in my face, storms over and yells at her to go to bed, and says she’s being an asshole. He goes upstairs and has a few back and forth exchanges with her, and she’s being all argumentative before affecting her sweet babyish routine. 

I’m utterly mortified at my reaction last night and feel like I blew a fuse. I’m physically recovering from the distress still, and her father and I slept in separate beds last night and haven’t spoken at all. I’m feeling very alone but have no idea how to broach the topic with him. Or her, because I don’t want to go through the tiring cycle where she apologizes halfheartedly and I just go”I forgive you.” (She’s already written a stupid long note, her typical apology format, where she I’m sorry I love you daddy’s the hell out of it and says she’s sorry she hurt my feelings but.... 

I want her to recognize how wrong and destructive it is when she intervenes in my private relationship with her dad. 

Sorry this is so long. I haven’t opened up about this ongoing stuff with my SD  to anyone but my therapist, and feel like I need to parse it all out with other people who have been there. 

tog redux's picture

First off, where is her mother? Is she with you guys all the time? She sounds like a very challenging kid to deal with.

I think you need to stop beating yourself up. Figure out why you are still in this situation with a BF who is mean to you and an SD that he can't rein in.  You are taking on way too much of her care, in my opinion, and need to step back and take care of yourself.

I personally would apologize for my outburst, but make clear that her behavior was entirely inappropriate.

Siemprematahari's picture

You exploded in rage because of all the pent up anger you have inside that you have not been able to express or get out in a healthy way. You are dealing with a manipulative teenager who has mental health issues and your BF can be more supportive. I would not parent her at all and remove myself from that entire dynamic. What ever she wants, needs, or discipling....... leave it up to him and if she asks you for anything refer her back to her father. Wash your hands of all this and reconsider if this is even a relationship you want to continue as your BF seems to need help with his own issues.

This has to be addressed but I would not apologize for it. This blow up was long over due and it needed to happen so your BF can see just how severe this situation is and how its affecting you. When you both discuss this, now is the time to create boundaries and tell him your expectations.

ESMOD's picture

You are living with two mentally ill people.  both suffer to the point you have to moderate your behavior.. your fights with your SO aren't productive.. I actually don't know why you voluntarily are hitching yourself to this circus.. it's not just the daughter with major issues (hospitilization!).. but her dad doesn't sound like he has a full deck of emotional cards either.

It's like that other post where the guy laments that his young wife doesn't want to have a kid with him..but in the whole pullingout of information.. he has health conditions and allergies.. and so does his son.  Again.. signing up for living with people with high maintenence needs.. not something I would willingly want to do... not unless the rest of the package was dang near perfect.

futurobrillante99's picture

Girl, you need a break. Can you stay with a friend for a few days? 

This is a really toxic environment and unless you are made of stone, it can’t help but suck the life out of you. 

You want to be supportive of them. You want to be his rock. At what cost? Is your well-being and soul worth trying to support two toxic people?

Get some respite.

Rags's picture

I struggle with excuses for toxic behavior.  In the blended family world there always seems to be a "reason" which ultimately is little more than a bullshit excuse to justify the toxic crotch turds manipulative crap.

Behaviors are chosen.  If the behavior is inappropriate, the reason for the decision are irrelevant IMHO and the escalating age appropriate consequence must be applied. Anything less is just enabling the crap from the kid.

While I recognize that there are nearly infinite complexities at play in blended family situations keeping it simple and focusing on the behaviors limits the tolerance of crap and puts the accountability on the person making the choice to perpetrate toxic behaviors.

I feel for your SD.  The kid needs help, you and her dad are getting her that help... However, if her behavioral choices are toxic, she needs to own those choices and feel the painful consequences for her choices.  Keep applying escalating painful consequences until you land on an effective balance to deliver the outcome you want.

Next time she gets in your face or her dad's one of you give her ear a twist and march her to the nearest corner, force her nose in contact with the intersecting walls, swat her on the ass and instruct her not to move until she is told to move or she will get a butt whupping of monumental proportions with belt. Daddy needs to find his balls and take this kid to the woodshed for a talk with the gunners daughter. (Old Royal Navy term for getting turned over a cannon and having your butt laid into by a cane.)

Do not tolerate the crap, bring the consequences, the why of her crap doesn't matter. Only that she does it.

Good luck.

Oh_for_the_luv_of_dog's picture

Thank you all for your responses. I spoke with my BF today and he told me that he had reinforced how out of line she behaved last night and told me not to feel the shame I've had trouble shaking all day. 

Her mom is partnered with a guy I've never met who, sadly or maybe even understandably, wants very little to do with our SD (and with whom she had an unexpected baby that's caused a lot of additional issues for my SD). While she, her extended family and I get along really well and have supported each other many times, she's often very frustrating, as she's very scattered, inconsistent, unable to support herself financially (she "'works" as a tarot reader...), late all the time, and bends to her surly, sexist BF's every whim. She's constantly giving my SD conflicting messages and makes it hard for us to be consistent at our home (we have her 5 nights per week, so it's even more frustrating the influence she's had). 

SD used to be attached to her in unhealthy ways, and lately that has shifted to the point that she's unhealthily attached to her dad now (my BF) and talks really badly about her mom in ways that we're constantly having to correct and tell her to stop doing. BM is also terrible with handling her anxiety and lets the poor kid feel isolated and lonely when she's at her house. To contrast, her dad is extremely on top of things, financially stable, and has done a lot of work to get her the help she needs (with a lot of help from me as well, I should add). We can't rely on the BM to do anything, even get her to appointments or school on time, and that's maddening. 

I think a big thing that didn't get conveyed in my original post, because of how much else there was to say, is that things had really been going well. It was a really tough climb getting where we had been, and for the record, her dad has battled a problem with alcohol abuse on varying levels. While things have been far from perfect, we were making some really great progress that we were all proud of. His own turnaround has been a major reason I stuck around, and things have consistently improved, including his seeking therapy, getting a proper diagnosis, and getting on a regimen of antidepressants that have done wonders for him. What's going on right now is that he's starting to turn back to drinking--not getting wasted, but drinking 3-4 beers every night starting as soon as she goes to bed and then getting snarly with me because he is not dealing well with the pressure and stress of seeing his daughter unraveling. Of course, that's not an excuse for his behavior, but this is all happening in direct correlation with how extreme her mental health issues have become. They blossomed over the summer and we're full throttle in the midst of them, and they seem to get worse day by day. This is all taking me so much by surprise, and because of how much progress we had made, I started to feel so hopeful and have been so deeply invested (probably a mistake, huh?). I've kept trying to see this as just another road block we'll get through, but now I'm starting to realize that I'm doing a lot of the labor to get past them. I'm having a lot of trouble telling myself that letting go might have to be an eventual option, because of how much progress we had made and how I don't want them out of my life. I really love them both and often feel deep pain for the suffering she's undergoing, but it's true that her dad is not capable of giving me the consistent support I'd need to navigate it healthily and that she's being inadvertently fed some really messed up messages that are enabling her entitlement and toxic behaviors. 

I'm really glad I discovered this community and can talk about this with people who have been there, too, and see the all of the dimensions of step-parenting, especially tonight as I'm feeling very alone. We both decided that it'd be best that she and I don't interact tonight, but unfortunately my partner says he wants space from me tonight as well in the wake of what happened last night, which is making me once again feel isolated and like I'm an outsider. 

SecondNoMore's picture

Coming from another bio-free girl who tried dating a single dad, I just want to say that you sound way too together to be surrounded by all of these 'projects.' I'm guessing you really love him and I totally get it. But you two are still in the dating phase (not married) and dating someone is supposed to be fun; this does not sound like any fun. When I was dating my ex BF and things were always so complicated because of the baggage, my mom would say, 'When is this thing going to be fun?' And it wasn't most of the time. Given that you aren't married and don't have a child with him, this might be a good time to think it all through before you continue to invest so much of your energy and patience in problems that are not your fault in any way. I think the women who have moved forward from your point will tell you that BF's daughter is unlikely to be a well-adjusted adult and will probably always need a lot of attention and it sounds like your BF has some heavy issues, too. I recommend leading a lighter life even if it's alone, but I know that's easier said than done when feelings are involved. Good luck and don't be so hard on yourself.

Oh_for_the_luv_of_dog's picture

Thanks for the solidarity, and I appreciate the affirmation that I seem "together," heh :)   To be clear, we're definitely past the dating stage...we've been together four years, have lived together for almost as long, have a lot of stuff we're invested together, and might as well be married (although we keep separate finances). Plus, our relationship is fun and loving so often that it makes it that much harder to confront the idea of leaving.  

Monkeysee's picture

OP, I don’t know how you’re managing all this, it sounds exhausting, draining, and completely unworth it. 

If you want to stay in this relationship, I think you’re going to need to disengage from SD as much as humanly possible to maintain your own sanity. I know you care for her & want her to be well, but she doesn’t seem receptive to your help from what you’ve written, and instead uses your efforts against you.

A child should never police an adults tone that way, it’s asinine behaviour & Im pretty sure I would have snapped on her long before you did for that alone. I understand she has mental health issues, but that doesn’t give her carte blanche to be a total ahole, which is exactly what she is.

I think you need to step back completely. Support your DH where you can (who needs to cut his drinking out asap), but you also need to take care of yourself. That means everything that relates to his kid is now his responsibility. If you can, I wouldn’t even let myself be alone with her or engage in conversation. Keep things polite & civil, but as long as she behaves like this, she gets nothing from you. It’s toxic at best, and you do NOT need to tolerate it. 

It’s unfortunate that her BM is flighty & inconsistent, but you didn’t create this mess. It’s not your mess to fix, and I hope you start putting yourself first. Your SD needs a massive kick up the ass, mental health issues or not. 

Struggling Step Mum's picture

I feel your pain.  I'm in a similar situation and really struggling to keep it together at the minute.  Nothing I say or do seems to be the right thing and I'm now feeling isolated in my own home. I guess we just have to keep on trying....

Curious Georgetta's picture

is  mentally ill. Often times they have no visible signs of illness , and their illness does not generate that sympathy or patience that other forms of illness tends to inspire.

It can be difficult to accept that a normal looking teenager's behavior is actually driven by illness rather than a desire to annoy us.

You are in a position to tell your partner that caring for his daughter is more than you are capable of handling and you want to step back for a while. If the daughter is going to remain as a part of your  life, it migh be  helpful if you were to get some professional help that gives you an insight in to the girl 's illness and an outlet for your frustration.

 

gemchakra's picture

Agreed completely. This is way beyond what you should be expected to handle. She needs a lot of help and with the behavior and eating issues, could it be possible that she has Borderline Personality Disorder? I'm so sorry for your struggles and hope you are also receiving therapy to deal with this crap. I do and also feel horrible because I experienced "lizard brain rage" with my stepson for the first time in nearly 6 years and the other day and am still in guilt stage. I go to see my therapist and the morning and can almost guarantee she will repeat what many have said here...that it was long overdue as was yours. As sad as it is to think of, adulthood is a long way off for her and you may want to consider if this is all worth it. Meditation helps take the edge off, but this is a battle you may not be able to or have to tolerate. Sending you peace