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Are we, as STepparents, enablers of enablers?

Glad_IgotOut's picture

I'm a stepmom soon to be divorced from my ex and his very dysfunctional kids, ss16, sd13. I can honestly say that after trying everything in the book to make things work and get above and beyond the dysfunction, walking away has been the one solution that actually brought peace. The dysfunction I experienced for 8 years that I see reflected in many of the stories here is showing a pattern to me. It looks like a main theme is very functional women marrying quite dysfunctional men who enable the under-functioning bio moms and the skids. And then we are trying to make the marriage or family work, or have everyone get along, so we over function and/or create an unspoken rule that we will just not rock the boat, just take a back seat and be quiet. Are we enabling the enabler? For me, I must admit, I was 100% guilty. I wanted to have everything work out and have a close-knit family life. I bent over backwards and the more I did, the more I was viewed as the enemy by SO and skids and BM. I finally found my freedom when I stopped needing anyone to be any different than who they were. I let their dysfunction be information to me about who they were and not about what I needed to do to make things better. As moms in the "mother" role it is so easy to slip unknowingly into this vicious cycle of being overly responsible for changing dysfunction into function. When I began to pay more attention to the role I played, I began to make much better choices for my and my sons' well-being.

Acratopotes's picture

Nope we are not.....

The sooner a SP understands, not your children not your problem, there's no such thing as a happy blended life, different parenting style.... the better for the SP.

notsobad's picture

I think we definitely can be.

When we sit back and take it, or take the high road or, don't rock the boat it's seen as acquiescing. We go along to get along and everyone thinks we are ok with being treated badly.

Sometimes these skids and BMs are so dysfunctional because we try to give our husbands a safe place to come back to. A place where there's no fighting or bickering. That allows them to do what they want, get what they want while the SM sits quietly hoping no one hates her.

If we were firmer with our boundaries right from the very beginning it would be different. But we are in Love and just know it will get better!
Till it doesn't and we are stuck.

I set some pretty firm boundaries early on and told DH that there was no way I could be with a man who was still jumping whenever his ex beckoned. There were tears from both of us and lots of painful communication but it worked. He stop doing every little thing she asked, she hated me. She tried to turn the skids against me but they were older and the things she told them didn't jive with the way I acted.
10 years later DH and I are strong and the skids are great.

ldvilen's picture

"SM sits quietly hoping no one hates her." Yep!, you need to let that go right away. Like I said on an earlier site re: a SM who was upset because she heard her daughter call her Evil SM. . . I said, next time you hear that, say "Thank you! That means I'm doing something right!" It does mean you are doing something right, because it means you are setting boundaries.

No SM should ever be concerned about what label others try to place on her. Society is way off base with their general opinion of SMs and how they should act. This is the year 2017 and not 1917. Some, if not most, still think that SMs are supposed to lay back and be the servant girl or literal 2nd wife to the family, and let SKs and even BM rule their roost. Nope. Never, ever let anyone piss all over your marriage or try to imply that you and DH somehow have a lesser marriage.

SMs main role is to be a wife to her husband, and it is not to be a competitor to BM or with SKs, etc. Take care of you and your DH--that is your priority. DH is responsible for any and all of his post-divorce issues. Not you. If DH won't take on that responsibility, you don't take it on either. Let the chips fall where they may. But, I agree, as soon as it gets to the point where DH, BM and SKs are ganging up on you, then, like you say above, you need to do some honest soul-searching/ counseling and make your own decisions about whether or not or how to continue.

Willow2010's picture

Honestly, I don’t think we are enablers. I think we are more on the control freak side of things. Yes, I am talking about myself too. When DH and I first started dating, I wanted everything my way. I wanted SO to parent the way I wanted him to parent. I wanted SS to act the way I wanted him to act. I wanted BM to disappear. I see this all A LOT here.

It took me about a hot minute to figure out that the only thing I really wanted/needed was DH to make better boundaries with BM. I had to make myself care less how DH parented. It was his kid after all. I had to make myself care less how SS acted or how well he did in life situations. (school, friends etc.) Once I let all of that go, I was much better at dealing with all the crap that comes along with step issues.

My step situation is nothing like most here. But don’t get me wrong, I still get way annoyed when things go side ways in step land. And BM STILL rears her ugly head and DH (sometimes) still acts like he has to cow down to BM, even though SS is almost 25.

I don’t see us as enablers if we sit back and let them all figure it out for themselves.

ESMOD's picture

I see this dynamic in a lot of situations too. I won't say that I 100% wanted to have absolute control, but I definitely had my own ideas about how things should be done. I actually thought that there were some things my parents did with us that were pretty effective and that having high expectations for kids was important. Fortunately, my DH was always open to listening to my POV and most often would take my advice.

This is the quandry we have. While we aren't the parents of the step-kids, they most certainly have an impact on our lives right? I mean, if my SD is a successful adult that means that they won't be sleeping in our basement and mooching off us. If the don't get into drugs etc.. my DH won't be in the struggle to bail them out with "our" funds right? So, I feel that step parents DO have a vested interest in how the kids turn out even though we have limited ability to enforce our ideas.

I guess that is where some of the frustration comes in. We don't have control over something that affects us and our lives.

Glad_IgotOut's picture

Precisely. It is never possible to just completely let go and say let them all figure it out. Your life, finances, living situation, household is affected. Especially if you have your own children who are in the house and often influenced by the skids negativity. I guess it is possible in situations where the skids are grown, you have no bio kids, and/or DH actually is open to your input even if it means setting reasonable boundaries with BM and skids. My ex always took my input as a personal attack no matter how sensitive and careful I was to be otherwise. I was a loving caring mom figure. One thing I've learned is that a key ingredient is willingness of the DH to set boundaries is essential if this blended thing is to work. If DH sees "love" as being a person with few boundaries and pleasing everyone, that weakens the entire situation. It's great when we as SP can set boundaries upfront but I will say that this can mean the marriage ends if DH not willing to do same. That what happened in my case. And for first time, I see the marriage ending as what needed to happen for the good of everyone especially the kids. Now, my ex can do what he defines as parenting and living in ways he can be happy with at the end of his life with no regrets and I can do the same. Two markedly different parenting styles.

SM12's picture

I was never so happy as I was the day that DH realized I was NOT the problem and was not responsible for a solution.
For years I was the blame for his precious spawn hating me. I was the blame for BM not playing nice. If I would just go along with whatever the SS's and BM want, we would all be a happy family. I never bought into that scenario and never played the game. I had to fight off BM, the SS's and DH when it came to imposing on me and trying to force me to be the lacky who did whatever they demanded. From day One I made it clear that disrespect would get you no where with me.
Eventually they caught on and once I removed myself from the equation, DH could see that I was not the problem.

Yes I do believe some women enable the enabler. They try so hard to make everyone happy and like them that they give up so much of themselves to please everyone around them. I am NOT one of those people. I am 48 years old and too old to care two craps about what BM and the SS's think of me. I am a good person, work hard and have a great home and amazing friends who love me. I refuse to give up my sanity or my free time to cater to miserable, manipulative moochers.

Does DH still enable his spawn?? At times he does. He has improved drastically but still has his moments of crappy parenting and bowing down to BM. The difference is, he does not get any help from me to make that happen. He understands if he chooses to change plans to cater to BM, he will be left alone to handle it. If he chooses to indulge the SS's in expensive, undeserved gifts, he has to sacrifice his own money and time. It has taken a long time for DH to get past his resentment of ME for not bowing down to make everything all better. And it has taken me years to get over the resentment of him trying to force me into a position I don't want to be in.

But in time, it has all worked out. I enable tough love and do not enable. And he has since started taking that stand with his own brood.
Only time will tell how things will be in the future.