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How do I disengage with my stepdaughter? This relationship is making me physically ill.

ellipses's picture

I have been in my second stepdaughter’s life since she was one and a half (now 12). Her older half sister since she was 13. My boyfriend and I don’t plan to marry. We also have a child together. She is 8. I’m a terrible stepparent. In fact I became a first time mom at 39. I am lost most of the time. I cater to 3 other finicky people and a dog before I ever consider myself. We have been experiencing some rough patches. My stepdaughter (Blayke-12)has environmentally created learning disabilities from not being simulated enough as a child. She’s on medication for anxiety as well as Ritalin and she’s exhibiting signs of sociopathy which scares me. My boyfriend (her father) has a doctor to prescribe him Ritalin and other meds as well and now his personality is completely changed. My daughter, Ava, and I just try to manage as best we can. Blayke, my middle (12) stepdaughter has become addicted to YouTube and shows that are horrifying. Gacha shows that depict bullying, sexual assaults, trying to goad unpopular girls into committing suicide. She pretends she is doing school work but she’s switching between video after video from 9am to about 5 or 6 pm. Her watch history for March was 450 pages long and this is a child who is going into 6th grade while being unable to create two sentences that one could understand. Dad constantly says it’s his fault for not securing the computer better. There is a problem here and her parents refuse to address it. How do I protect my child from this? Am I ridiculous being so angry that this keeps happening. My daughter is learning from her older sister to be deceitful and lie and know that there are no consequences.


 Their father plays favorites and spends most of his energy on Blayke and her education. Not actually teaching her, just sitting beside her while she pretends to work. Meanwhile, our youngest ours told that she had to wait (to get help, go to the park, or have any of daddy's time) until after Blayke's day is complete. It breaks my heart watching my daughter wait in like behind a child that knows she's holding her up under the pretense of competing important assignments but in reality is watching videos. 

When I confront her father his response is... what do you want to do... beat her? There’s nothing I can do. 

Of course I don’t want to harm her but discipline instead of constant coddling might be helpful. When my daughter laughs too loud he gets irate. And this is HIS child too. When my stepdaughter lies, steals, watches cartoon snuff pieces she gets a new app to play on her phone and a “here you go sweetheart”.

I’m in the twilight zone and I need some advice. Leaving isn’t yet an option. But it’s starting to look like one. How do I focus only on my child without being the bad guy. My boyfriend only sees it as me punishing Blayke for no reason. 

Thumper's picture

First, welcome to Step talk. 

Everyone has a different opinion of what disengaging looks like. To me it means, giving back alllll and I do mean ALL responsibility back to dad.

Dad takes care of her, dad runs her to appointment's, dad cooks her meals IF she wont eat what you make, dad makes her school lunch, washes her clothing, cleans her room, dad over-see's her homework....Dad imposes punishment as well as rewards for her. Step parents should never punish someone else child. JMO

You focus on your own little one. Some people find the only way they can disengage is to  ignore their step kids. Giving them the cold shoulder etc. Some step parents are down right ugly.

I know you said leaving is not an option just yet...In case you didn't know, you could go to social services and see what you qualify for to help you get on your way.

Sorry you are going though this.

CLove's picture

Is your first and foremost. Your partner likely thinks "well * yo has100% of two parents and SD only has parttime parents", so he parents SD12 out of intense guilt (over time over divorce, etc.) I would take her name out of your post - you do not know who else is on here and it keeps things more private. Choose a nickname, such as SDSnuffer.

Welcome - Ive got two SDs - SD22 Feral Forger and SD14 Munchkin. Ive always been disengaged from FF for years now.

Do not let your partner gaslight you. For example the narcissists favorite tactic is to over compensate when you give a concrete example of a negative behavior: "child is doing bad thing, well lets just beat the child senseless". or my DH "You dont want to do homework, Ill just sell the rabbits" yeah right, Anyway you get the point.

If you are dealing with guilty.disney daddy then you must disengage from SD and leave her to be raised by her parents. She makes a mess, ask her then dadee to clean it. He takes her anywhere he pays for her things. Keep finances separated, if possible. Just focus on your bio.

That doesnt let your partner off the hook as a parent however. He needs to be able to balance. That being said, start planning an exit strategy.

DHsfamilyfromhell's picture

If you partner is on Ritalin as well there is strong evidence for genetics partly being at play here. 

This person may never be the parent you want them to be- but their heart might be in the right place. 

Neurodiverse brain = neurodiverse parenting etc. 

It may be doubly hard reaching agreements on stuff but it is still achievable. 

If that were me I would go and get some counselling if it’s getting particularly difficult. Then work on how you want your other relationships to progress/not progress

Wicked stepmo.'s picture

I would try disengaging completely and placing all your focus on parenting your child. Although your child will question at times the differences. Be honest with her. I am with DS. I point out to him how SKs behave, the long term ramifications for their behavior and that I only want better for him because I love him and want him to become a successful adult.

Also I only focus on rewarding DS. I leave all parenting of SKs to SO.  DS sees that he gets to go places and do things SKs don't. SKs do nothing to earn privileges and I make it known to them I will not reward bad behavior. If they want something they need to get it from their own parents. 

If safety becomes an issue then I would say moving out should be a definite plan. 

justmakingthebest's picture

You sound miserable and not just the fact that you are a stepmom, but that your husband is not a good father.

What is the custody arrangement? Does your SD ever see her BM? Is there a chance that a custody change might help?

You mentioned that your husband's behavior changed when he got on Ritalin. Do you think that is because he doesn't need it? Ritalin should be a help, and they way you are describing sounds like it is more of a hurt. People get addicted to these drugs, that is why they are a controlled substance. Could your husband be dealing with addiction issues?

You have options. 

  1. Disengage- Stop doing anything for your SD. Nothing more than polite conversation at the dinner table. No shopping, no special requests, no monitoring of her youtube, no worrying about her school, NOTHING.
  2. Counseling- Something I think you and your husband should do anyway. You have different views on parenting and aren't able to come to a happy medium and your DD is suffering for it. 
  3. Separate- Maybe a trial summer apart would do some good. Do you have family you and DD can stay with for a couple of months? I am not saying rush to sign a lease somewhere, but maybe some time apart would be good for you - yourself and your marriage.
  4. Seek Lawyer Advice- Maybe you have already decided that you are checked out. You want a better life for you and your DD. If that is the case, make an appointment and speak to an attorney.