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Disengaged and feeling guilt

MRBDDB's picture

I've probably been unconsciously disengaging from both my SD's (17 & 20) for several years now. I was getting to a place I was so aggravated with things I started pulling away. My husband has always been a good provider but very disconnected to his kids. I've picked up his slack since the beginning of us from 13 years ago. I've also picked up the BM's slack due to her only wanting to be a part-time parent and even on her part-time I was still picking up part of that it felt.

I always had a good relationship with BM. However over the years I've became increasingly frustrated with her selfishness and it affecting my life. In December when she tried pushing my SD20 into our basement to live with us full-time because she said she didn't have room for her and I chose to have boundaries which created a HUGE argument (you can read here: has been a huge unspoken rift between myself and both of my SD's. My husband didn't handle the situation the best because he does not like confrontation, especially with the ex!

Since this time my youngest SD17 has started coming less and less for her week long visitations. I know it's because I put my foot down to SD20 moving in with us. (BTW, reasoning SD20 needed somewhere to go was she had been living with her long time boyfriend and he decided to kick her out to pursue others)

Well the last few weeks SD17 hasn't came at all for visitation. My husband who is about as disconnected as a parent can be doesn't reach out to her unless I suggest it and doesn't follow up with her in any regard. Because I've always been the one to pick up his slack and be the "fixer" and since I've really had to step back from all of this I am carrying great guilt.

I know this probably sounds crazy because in all honesty I know in my heart this isn't my problem but his. He has never been connected, attached or had any kind of true relationship with his kids even though he had 50/50 custody. He never picks up the phone to call them, make arrangements to hang out, check in on them, nothing. He is a workaholic and gone most of the time so it has always fell on me. I know for my own sanity I need to step away from this situation and probably let the cards fall where they may but I know BM and SD's will not only blame DH but also me because I am no longer "trying" to continue to facilitate a relationship with them. I'm just at my ropes end honestly with all of them. I have my own two young adult children that I need to focus on.

Has anyone ever felt guilt over disengaging and what skids think or feel?

Iamwoman's picture

Yes, I felt great guilt when I first disengaged from my 2 SS's. They are younger than your SD's, so part of my guilt was knowing that they probably didn't fully comprehend why I was disengaging. I know the youngest in particular got jealous when my DD and I would hop into the car to go somewhere, and he wasn't invited.

At the time, they were horrible. They treated me like a servant and slave, and treated my husband as if he were the man BM keeps trying to convince everyone of - despite him being so fantastic - it was very weird to live with two children who saw the world for what they were told it was instead of what they actually saw, experienced and heard. Very weird.

Then one day, YSS asked me if he could go with DD and I, and I told him no. He asked why, and since he and his brother were both standing there looking at me, and since they had just finished being whiny, bratty and disobedient toward their father yet again, I decided to be honest.

I spoke very clearly and slowly, and said, "because I am your step mom, not your mom. You have a mom. The word "step" before the word mom means that I can step away when you aren't acting right, or when you are disrespecting your dad, who has done everything in his power to give you a good life. When I see you acting like a son should act toward his father, and I mean for a long time, not just 5 minutes to get what you want, then I will start thinking about taking you with me and DD. I am DD's mom, and I am all she has in this world. You two have so many people who try to care for you, and you don't even care. Time to wake up."

Then I left with DD, and we spent the day shopping.

I took her without them several more times, and never had to say a word, but they both noticed each time they were not invited, and slowly but surely, their behavior and respect toward their father and I has changed for the better (still not great, but I'm happy it's not as bad as it was).

Steptococci's picture

Mad respect for you for this... Wow. Good for you.

I often think these thoughts about SD- she is the most sheltered, coddled child I've ever known- she is turning out basically okay and nice, but her sense of entitlement for everything her little heart desires, her belief that she is my equal in the household dynamic, and her expectation that nothing has a price, and if it does, mommy, daddy, Stepdad and I can certainly afford to pay it - and why wouldn't we? - drives me insane. I've come so close to giving her the same lecture (modified) but I don't dare. I'm disengaged w/o guilt though. I spend my time and resources on our two young children and carry on. It's not my problem, let her think the world owes her everything on a platter for now. I think life teaches these hard lessons sometimes, we Stepmoms aren't really all that necessary.

hereiam's picture

Has anyone ever felt guilt over disengaging and what skids think or feel?

A little. Guilt is actually how I found this site. My SD wanted to know if she, her husband (at the time) and their 2 kids, could "stay" with us for "awhile". DH and I both agreed that it was not doable but I did feel a slight pang of guilt. It went away pretty quickly after reading some blogs here.

There have been times when I've thought I could have done more to help facilitate my DH's relationship with his daughter (although, BM is the one who caused the huge rift to begin with) but ya know, I have enough problems dealing with my own family!

The way I see it, if someone really wants to have a relationship with someone, they will make the effort and it shouldn't have to fall on someone else. My DH and his daughter have become emotionally distant from each other (she is very angry at him) and I can't resolve that and it's not my place to.

I can't (and won't) convince him to do something that could cause him more hurt in the long run. When he does try to connect with her, she shoots him down. He has distanced himself from her for a reason and if he can accept that, so can I.

You picked up your husband's slack for long enough. If they cannot sustain the relationship on their own going forward, that is their choice. It' not on you (and it shouldn't be).

Sure, they will put some of the blame on you, just as I'm sure my SD26 blames me, but I don't care, anymore. It is not my responsibility, nor is it my relationship to nurture.

MRBDDB's picture

Thank you for this. I guess I know it on my own but still question if it's right but hearing it from someone who's been there done that is reassuring.

I put all the blame on my DH but honestly neither of his daughter's make an effort to be anymore a part of his life than he does theirs. They are fully aware their Dad is disconnected from them and maybe that's why they make no effort. I honestly don't know and really shouldn't care.

hereiam's picture

If neither side is emotionally invested, or even if one side is not invested, it does no good for YOU to be the one to do the work. I mean, you can get them together, physically, but that is not all there is to a relationship.

Know that you've tried, but now it's up to them.

Kes's picture

MRBDDB - I suspect that the guilt feelings aren't related to how you behave towards your SDs - it sounds as though you have been a very good stepmother - but to how your DH behaves in not a very fatherly fashion. I think I would feel slightly guilty too, if my DH behaved like this to his daughters, but he doesn't. He was always much too indulgent and solicitous.

Having boundaries around which ADULTS are permitted to live with you is good, not something to feel guilty about. IMO, parents who do not encourage an appropriate degree of independence in young adults are the ones who should feel guilt.

Ispofacto's picture

I used to be a fixer, it's a hard habit to break, and it takes time. Just keep reminding yourself that their relationship is not your responsibility. You can go to Al Anon if you want other codependent people to talk to, you don't have to be with someone with an active addiction to attend and Al Anon meeting. And you don't have to talk, you can just listen if you want.

MRBDDB's picture

I actually do attend Al Anon due to an addiction my son has. I've been fully aware of my co-dependency issues for years but it wasn't until I started going to Al Anon because of my son did I realize I was pouring out my co-dependency stuff into my marriage and the relationship with his kids. Funny how that stuff surfaces.

Acratopotes's picture

Nope never felt guilty of disengagement, I'm not her parent and she's not my responsibility,

DO I feel bad for her sometimes yes I do, she did not ask to be born, but do I feel guilty cause neither her parents supports her or taught her anything, nope I don't. I taught my son allot of stuff, I love him, we respect each other and that's all that matters, SHE's not my child and not my responsibility, nor am I liable for the kind of person she's on her parents...

RST's picture

I felt guilty at first, but I got over it pretty quickly when I realised just how much I'd been doing - I wasn't just helping I was doing things that SD's parents should have been doing all along, that usually meant they were playing the good cops & I was the bad! My life is so much easier now that I don't get involved with her BM and my SO has stepped up.

MRBDDB's picture

That good cops bad cops thing is so true. They will always be the good cops generally and no matter how hard we as stepparents try we will usually be the bad cop. I'm hoping this feeling will soon pass.

RST's picture

At first I felt a little lost too, all that time I'd been spending doing things for/with SD was now free. I started investing it in getting to know a small group of ladies with a shared interest, going for regular coffees with lots of laughter along the way. SO has said he can see why I disengaged and that I'm happier, it's benefited us as a couple.

I really hope you'll start to feel better about it very soon.

Cover1W's picture

Once I realized that I wasn't able to help the parents actually PARENT, I lost the guilt.
I feel badly sometimes, esp. with younger SDstb12. I engage directly with her much more often as she is the more responsible one. I'd love to help her get more involved in after school activities and things, but parents cannot be bothered to help so I cannot bear 100% of that responsibility. She is also proving to be good herself at getting into school activities and clubs during school so that helps her. She has drive!

Otherwise, I don't feel guilt.
DH last night was talking about SD14 and her horrible eating habits. I simply pointed out to him that I was saying everything he was just figuring out 4 years ago and I didn't want to discuss it. Actually, I don't every want to discuss it again.
Once the guilt is removed it's amazingly easy to speak your mind clearly and without resentment.

SAFjh's picture

I think feeling guilty means your a caring person with a good heart. I say everyone's feelings are valid no matter what they are. Truthfully, though, it sounds like you did the right thing for yourself and your going to have to try to combat those feelings by reminding yourself that you have to look out for yourself first. Having a grown SD come and live with you would have likely caused you a lot of problems and she is going to have to figure out how to take care of herself.

As for me, I don't feel guilty for disengaging. I more than served my time as an involved and caring stepparent to my own detriment. I am only sorry I didn't disengage long ago to have saved myself a tremendous amount of stress and heartache. Every situation is unique and however you feel...don't let any of your feelings dictate your decision making as feelings alone can cause us to make poor decisions. You did the right thing.

MRBDDB's picture

Thank you for that reminder. Having any grown child live with you is stressful, a SD is 200 times that. I know in my heart of hearts I did the right thing. For the last 12 years I've been more than involved in my SD's lives and cared more than most and it was to my own detriment as well. I put my own well being on the backburner for my DH and BM. I know my DH has appreciated me but BM and SD's have absolutely taken me for granite. Now that I have disengaged and set boundaries I'm the not nice SM. Oh well.

SAFjh's picture

Oh well indeed! Smile It's just too hard to give yourself out until there is nothing left! Good for you girl!

still learning's picture

Yes, I've felt guilt about disengaging as the relationship facilitator for DH and his adult children and also for my own kids and their distant dysfunctional father. I used to suggest that we have get togethers on the weekend for us, skids and gskids. I'd do all the shopping, prepping, cleaning and DH would turn the meat on the grill and be the hero. He'd get all the thanks and praise while I was ignored and often mistreated by ss32. Since I got real busy with my own relationships and self care the visits are now a rare event that happen at most 2x a year and I'm often absent. DH complains about not seeing his grandson grow up but that's between him and ss26 not me. Recently I saw ss26 in town and he rushed up and gave me a hug. He said, "give a hug to my father for me." I said, "You'll have to do that yourself." Sorry, no more relationship facilitating from this gal.

I used to remind exH to call and skype ds15 and ds18 when he was still at home. He would sometimes grudgingly do it but there would usually be some dialogue about how he's soooooooo busy and working sooooooo hard. He doesn't have time to see his kids this summer, he doesn't have time to call them, excuse after excuse. About a yr ago I gave up. ds15 got very depressed about his fathers lack of attention but DH of his own accord saw what was going on and started paying more attention to ds. I've learned that I can't fix relationships w/other people and have hung up my cape. My kids and their father are on their own to figure their dynamic out. DH and his sons are on their own too.

I was guilty for things I had no control over but now I'm so over it.

SacrificialLamb's picture

I do not feel an ounce of guilt. I also was the relationship facilitator, encouraging DH to go visit his family even when he did not want to. I see now I went overboard trying to bridge gaps and heal old wounds that have nothing to do with me. Now that I have removed myself, I do nothing, and I do not feel a bit of guilt.Their messy relationship dynamic was in place long before I showed up.

If OSD wants to see her father more, she should stop punishing him every time she doesn't get what she wants. I am sure that wears on him.

I have told him, however, that his young grandchildren are innocent in this and he is the only normal grandparent they have. But what he chooses to do is his choice. He is a grown man with money and a car, very healthy and able to travel. He would just rather spend time with pleasant people than people who who put pressure on him to conform to their standards.

I am sure his family thinks I am holding him hostage in the vacation paradise where we live. I got him roped to a chair and gagged. But they would think that anyway.

sammigirl's picture

Oh yes, I felt guilty for 5 minutes.

But I got over it! I sleep better than I have in years. }:)

sammigirl's picture

You are moving forward with your disengagement and all of these feelings are normal in total disengagement.  I suggest you let it all go and leave the relationships up to your DH and SD's.  They are all adults.  I would never suggest, ask, or involve myself in my SD57 nor SGD34's life with my DH.  I'm over it all.  You are doing well and stand by your boundaries and move forward with lunch with your GF.  You are ok!  (((hugs)))

Rags's picture

Nope. No guilt. Some sorrow over a few situations, but I wouldn't say guilt.

Disengagement is usually driven by the behaviors of others and as such is a consequence of their choices.  Those that disengage are doing so over the drama caused by others.

I have not disengaged, in fact I am a proponant of direct confrontation of inappropriate behavior rather than disengagement.

That is not to say that I have not retrenched a bit upon occassion when it came to frustrating periods with my Skid or even with my wife on some blended family related issues.



But... not guilt.