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Imo, disengaging spells the end

Missingme's picture

Let's face it, our spouses love their children/spawn regardless of whatever they do.  Disengaging from their kids is a rejection of who they love.  While it sounds big and brave to disengage and is mentally healthy for some to do so, in the long run, I believe it spells divorce.  

SteppedOut's picture

Personally, I think it spells the end because how on earth can you be happy or feel at peace in your own home if you have to actively ignore someone else that lives there too? And, if you are having to go that far, you clearly do not like that person. How uncomfortable that must be! 

ESMOD's picture

I think that there are times when disengagement can be so acrid and poison that it can put a chill on the couple's relationship.

However, not every disengagement means the same to every person.  

You don't have to announce you are "disengaged from your spawn".  You don't have to be rude and/or completely ignore the presence of the skid either.

Disengagement in my mind is really more the state of mind that your mantra is "not my circus, not my monkeys".  You give yourself permission to not let the kids "get" to you.  You step back from bending over backwards for them.  You stop twisting yourself to please others.  Now.. it may mean you still do some things with/for the skid.. but it is being done in the spirit of helping your spouse.. vs doing something for the kid.  You may adopt more of a reserved attitude.. but still would be civil and speak to the skid when appropriate.  What you don't get into is trying to change the child.. try to get your spouse to punish them.. or change how your spouse parents.  You also don't fix their problems.  You give yourself permission to set boundaries like expectations that a child will launch at 18/19 etc...  

So, ideally, it isn't really a rejection of the child.. but more of an internal acceptance that there are things and people out of our control and when we can't change something.. we sometimes have to accept some things if we want others.  So.. backing off from trying to fix the kid.. and their lives. "for their own good".


ITB2012's picture

my experience has been that it wasn't that the kids didn't accept me. They did. It was that DH both wanted me to be their mom (fun stuff, warm hugs, making lunches, etc.) but didn't want me to be their parent (call them out on bad behaviors). 
In my situation I basically disengaged from DHs parenting. I only did things for the skids if specifically asked by them or DH. I still talk to them and have a decent (but not as good as it could be) relationship with them. I get them bday presents and such. And I "get to" watch the hypocrisy of DHs double standards for different situations with his kids and with what he say about my kid. Then I come here to vent. 
I thought it was going to spell the end of things but as they've gotten older issues where I need to breathe and be Elsa (let it go) have been less frequent.

Cover1W's picture

This exactly.

Disengagement doesn't always mean you go to 0% in any interactions.  For me it was realizing that BOTH parents were relying on ME to do things, teach things, buy things and viola - they don't have to!  How easy!  BUT if I tried to set rules and expectations that was just too much, esp. for DH.  So I had to stop, it was slow and I took it one thing at a time, but if I hadn't started the disengagement process I would NOT be married for sure.  I even put off our marriage for an year longer than DH wanted because I need to see he would improve as a parent and adult partner first.  He's still not great, but he's better now because he has to do the parenting.  I do not.

glandslam's picture

Well, I'm a SD new to this forum as of a few minutes ago. I have been googling my issues for awhile and always end up here reading things that resonate with what I'm going through. I have 3 skids-two girls ages 15 and 17, and a 13 year old SS. I also have two sons from a previous relationship that are 17 and 19. They are my world. I don't see them that often. That's another long story. I live with my three skids. I see them every day. Their dad has not been in the picture since I met their mom over 6 years ago. He lives across the globe. I'm their role model. It's a high pressure job that has started to really take its toll. Im struggling with teenage behaviors. Im struggling with feelings of resentment. My 13 year old SS has always gotten on my nerves. He has anger issues, and now that hes 13, he has two speeds: totally obnoxious and being angry while throwing tantrums. I'm at a place where I just dont even want to be around him. My wife is the best mother I have ever known. She is super strict, organized, patient, intuitive, and basically all things I am not capable of which takes a lot of pressure off of me. My 15 year old SS will be an angel for awhile, then becomes possessed by a demonic spirit and digs her heels in over the most ridiculous argument. I've told everyone I'm done replacing doors until everyone has decided they can handle their rage better. There are times that theres just too much anger that I leave or retreat to my newly finished studio shed in the back yard. These feelings of disengaging are becoming much more frequent as the teenage years progress. I feel guilty. I feel like my wife and skids deserve better. If I didnt have my own that I miss so terribly and whom I feel like I've also done a disservice to, I could be a better SD. Theres a lot more to my story, but this is the jist of it. My main issue is with my SS. He has a large footprint both physically and audibly. My wife is super strict about electronics use, and when that is taken away, the kid doesn't know what to do with himself. He decides to be obnoxious, and when that pushes mom to the limit (usually long after its pushed me to the limit) he goes into anger mode. It's to the point I dont want to hear his voice. He paces around while snapping his fingers or clapping, makes stupid jokes, and lately throws tantrums when too many ads pop up during his screen time. He "man spreads" everywhere he sits, constantly tosses a football or some other ball in the air in my personal space (which hes been told over and over not to do in the house), and just pushes buttons and boundaries when he can. I know this is what boys do. I was hard on my own two for doing this at this age, but I can't do that with my SS. His mom sees this with me and it makes her feel bad for him. It's her little boy. His real dad is not around. He doesn't know him or care. I'm it. That's kinda sad. What good is that for him if his only Male parent figure doesnt want to be around him? That said, I've been trying to look at it through your lens. I like your approach. Even though these kids annoy me, I care about them and know I'd probably feel just as guilty not being here at all. It's all so confusing at times. Maybe I'm just a big a**hole who doesn't deserve what I have and should just get out of the way?


Myss.Tique D'Off's picture

There are many views on disengagement among the ST community and in some instances it has worked successfully for the people involved. However, I am not a fan of it. I was 'disengaged' from my SS before I knew what 'disengagement' was or before I found this site - it was more a policy of "You parent your kid and I will parent mine". It didn't work. It led to a clear double standard in our home and eventually the differences around parenting our kids lead to divorce.

I think disengagement can only work if you don't ever have to deal with or hear about the person you are disengaged from. It can work in the case of adult children who don't live in your home. It certainly doesn't or can't work - IMO - if the kids are in your home, even on a part time basis.

It is generally recommended that you disengage from the skid or other bioparent for your own peace of mind or general well-being. You do it for you, not to punish anyone, but almost as a form of self-preservation, and to me, there in lies the rub. The need for self-preservation tells me something is wrong: it is a form of self-protection from perceived or real harm or danger. How do you disengage from that in your own home? To me, it is a retreat from an external battle, basically to start a war within yourself... It is not going to have a happy ending.

I agree with you that parents can love their kids unconditionally, no matter what awful things they have done. (Seen it with my exH.) The question is: should they? A real parent will try to correct the behaviour of the child or call out wrong doing. Loving your child does not mean you having to  tolerate or accept bad behaviour.  Or at least that is how feel about the matter. I love my son and stepson and because of that I don't tolerate any nasty behaviour from them.

"Disengagement" didn't work for me. I found it difficult to the point of intolerable, to watch the rancid behaviour of my SS being coddled or ignored by my husband. Same with his daughter. It was easier to make him my EX husband, rather than continue to live in a situation that cut against my own principles.

Gracefulsilver's picture

I understand now how disengaing can ruin a relationship.  I and my 2 children do not live with my SO and his daughter but we do see what is going on and none of us are stupid.  SO is so worn down from SD.  SD causes so much unessesay drama, refuses to voluntarily do her chores(she leaves them sit until SO yells at her), she allows her cat to keep SO awake by meowing louldly in his ear so he is not getting any sleep(he got into an argument with SD when he started using a spray bottle on the cat), she lies constantly(at this point everything she says is a lie or avoidance of the truth), and SD says that it is everyone elses fault(she di nothing wrong).  I am so sick of hering her whine about how she didn't do anything to cause this.  She is out of control.  It creates resentment and bitterness that if not addressed for whtever reason(in my case SO runs from discussions about emotions and feelings) that will lead to the end of the relationship.  I know I'm trying because I do love my SO but I am on the edge of just walking away.

Missingme's picture

And running away would be so understandable.  What a miserable situation.  I hope you get the strength to part.  

MissTexas's picture

wrong, (I'll have to check) and if I am, please accept my heartfelt apologies.

Parents who do not advocate or stand in solidarity with their spouses, and who stand behind their kids instead are the problem here, and that forces many to disengage. But isn't it "marital disengagement" or "rejection" when a parent sides with his/her kids constantly over his spouse, whom he/she  also claims to love?

No it does not spell divorce, but rather healthy boundaries, and SANITY.

What spells divorce is when these "parents" side with their kids at every opportunity and do not have their spouse's best interest at heart, "rejecting someone they love."

momjeans's picture

“I just realize now that oil and water don't mix and that if I want to stay married, I'm going to have to disengage on some level, or lower my standards.”

- Missingme / September 2019

Missingme's picture

I'm not sure why you dredged up a past comment of mine.  I already explained thoroughly what I meant by it and most everyone finally understood and agreed with my position.  Anyway, I've read what others have described as disengaging with adult SKs here and I see that it can be done, if it means that the stepparent isn't totally cutting themselves off from the SKs (in essence, the DH.  I can see how disengaging mentally by just not caring as much or babying the SKs could work for a while, at least.  

momjeans's picture

(because) Those are your words. Perhaps you should pick a lane and stay in it, opposed to trying to tell the rest of ST what your opinion is, as if it’s what’s in the best interest of a lot of us step parents? 

I can assure you there are plenty of step parents that see your “opinion” as punching down and judgmental, opposed to what you view as “agreeing with your position.”

MissTexas's picture

comments are not well received.

The topics presented by this person range from "Well, the end..." to "Married into the wrong/lower class" to "IMO disengaging spells the end." They're all over the board. I'm just trying to figure out which band wagon we are on TODAY.

momjeans's picture

* I Love Dogs flashbacks intensify *

(perhaps you’re too new, Miss Texas, to get this reference)

Exjuliemccoy's picture

Charly is having  ANOTHER baby? That's really giong to cut into her H's booze and weed habits.

MissTexas's picture

I just looked both up, but only came up with "Must Love Dogs." I've never seen it, (not a big movie watcher) though I am an avid dog lover...the synopsis seems very erratic. I completely "get it." : )

advice.only2's picture

It was a poster on here awhile back, like many, who were off the rails in their ideals.

Funny how the names seem to start to run together, but the stories you can't forget, they are just so off the wall.

Kes's picture

I agree disengagement is not an ideal solution.  However it is sometimes the least worst solution.  I was disengaged for a number of years before I knew there was a word for it, or had come across StepTalk. I disengaged principally because NPD BM had conducted a PAS war against me and to a lesser degree, DH.  There was absolutely no possibility of me establishing a good enough relationship with the SDs. 

Back in those days, DH had neither the overview nor the skills to try and tackle what was going on.  In the light of that, I withdrew to do my own thing EOW when the SDs were with us.  I was very lonely, and did not enjoy excluding myself from activities with the 3 of them, but the alternative would have been far worse, with younger SD sabotaging every outing.   Besides, I did not enjoy the company of my SDs, and still don't, on the now rare occasions they come to our house.  They are loud, know all, arrogant motormouths, like their mother.   Nowadays, DH understands a lot better, what I went through - and there is no way he would allow his daughters to disrespect him or me like they used to, or to behave in the dreadful ways they often did.  He simply cuts off from them the minute they start.   Pity it couldn't have happened many years sooner. 

beebeel's picture

For me, disengagement didn't change how I treated the skids, it changed what I did for them and how I thought about them. I simply stopped doing their laundry, worrying if their rooms were liveable or checking their grades/helping with homework. I don't hate them, never did. Our marraige survived my disengagement just fine because I was and still am loving toward them.

Disengagement doesn't mean you hate the kids. (And yes, I think that would spell the end). It means you can't do/care more than the bioparents. If a spouse leaves you because you are no longer an unappreciated slave to their kids, disengagement didn't kill the marriage. 

advice.only2's picture

Disengaging isn't about hating your child's spouse, it is stepping back and no longer enabling the often toxic relationship between the parent and child.

Stepped in what momma's picture

myself as well. It has nothing to do with hating them. My disengagement allows their parents to parent them and me to have my sanity. It saved my relationship and actually helped my spouse grow in his relationship with his children. 

SeeYouNever's picture

I agree that disengaging is damaging for the relationship. You're taking away a benefit and no one is happy with that. I think sometimes it can get a point across if it's just chores, but if you ignore a SK totally then it's only a matter of time before you split.

My approach has been to not really "engage" so now I don't have to disengage. Parenting SD is DH's problem not mine. I'll do fun stuff with her but as soon as she needs money or real parenting it's up to DH. Just act like an Aunt who can give the kid back. 

momjeans's picture

But by definition, choosing “not to engage” is basically the same as “disengaging,” no? 

A lot of us here have made the conscious decision to not engage, to which a few ST members very clearly, validly, and realistically outlined above. 

Disengaing is not bad. If anything, it’s beneficial to maintain a healthy relationship with all parties.

SeeYouNever's picture

Never fully engaging is better than going above and beyond and then disengaging. The first just becomes the way it is but the latter causes conflict. It's much better to never engage in the first place. Its sad but the most sustainable relationship between stepparent and stepkids seems to be somewhere between fun aunt and ambivalent about each other. 

momjeans's picture

I never fully engaged as well, but I also describe my situation as disengagement, because that’s what it is.

It is what is BEST for MY marriage, because my marriage takes priority over skid’s wants and needs, given she is only here for summer and holiday visitations.

I do nothing for skid. I treat her like a cordial family friend. If I were the only adult around and skid needed emergency medical attention, you betcha I would be on that as if she were my own child. 

always_anxious's picture

I disengaged 8 years ago.  I mean our relationship grew to be different, but we are still together. SO actually compliments me a lot and appreciates me as a mom to our BS. I am no longer anxious and stopped making skids issues my problem. SO had to deal with things more. Probably made him more crabby, but I liked doing my own thing and doing for my BS. The dynamic in our relationship changed, because instead of me trying to fit into skids and SO's world, SO has to work to fit into BS and my world. Skids actually don't try to be that involved, even though they complain they aren't always included in family stuff. In the end, I am happy that I disengaged all those years ago. Saved me a lot of drama. 

Petronella's picture

"The dynamic in our relationship changed, because instead of me trying to fit into skids and SO's world, SO has to work to fit into BS and my world."

This is hands down, one of the best and must profound phrases I have ever read on Steptalk! A true paradigm shift and a much healthier way of looking at the situation! Good for you!

Jcksjj's picture

I've never really put it into words, but that is totally what happened when I disengaged to the dynamic between DH and I. Not so much with SD, in her mind for the most part it's still her world and we just live in it, but I'm pretty sure shes personality disordered and nothing will really be able to change that.

skatermom's picture

I disengaged and it was the best thing I could of done for everyone.  I no longer care of the SKs shower, clean their room or anyting, I don't even tell them to pick their stuff up that they leave lay around. I simply pick it up, open their bedroom door and toss it in without a word.  My DH handles them completely, homework, transportation, discipline, food prep.  I get to go about my life.

Jcksjj's picture

Comparing where I was at a little over a year ago when I started blogging on here to now, I have the exact opposite conclusion. I'm much happier and my relationship is better. Not perfect, but better. Right now the inlaws and occasionally BM (in ways that sometimes have nothing to do with DH actually since she can interfere somewhat through other people) are much bigger issues. Disengaging wasn't the only advice I've gotten from here that helped, but it's a big part.

I think it really depends on the personalities involved and the situation.

Aniki's picture

Horsepuckey. Disengaging saved my marriage, the Disney Dad died, and my DH started parenting again. 

Disengaging did not mean I ignored the skids. It meant that I stepped back and stopped doing PARENTAL things for them.
It was up to DH to make the skids clean up their messes.
It was up to DH to make sure the skids brushed their teeth or showered. Or not.
It was up to DH to make sure the skids ate healthy meals. Or not.

The skids were there to spend time with DH. NOT ME. Disengaging meant that DH was able to give the skids his full attention without feeling like he was ignoring me - and I got his full attention after they went to bed or before they got up in the morning (or before we opened the bedroom door). 

Disengagement did NOT stop us from doing activities together. Again, it simply meant that DH was responsible for the skids.

My marriage is SO much stronger than it was when I joined STalk. DH and I recently went on vacation and it was like a honeymoon. And my relationship with the skids is MUCH improved. Except for SD23, who only gets along with BioHo. Even her siblings say she's "an a$$hole". 

shellpell's picture

I disengaged after SS11 started getting attitude and got aggressive with my then-6-month-old baby. I do nothing for him except make sure there's food available on the rare occasion that DH has to work and I'm at home with him. All I say is hi/bye. I don't ask about his day, his interests, NOTHING. It helps we're long distance. And my DH totally understands, so I don't see this as leading to the end of our marriage. In fact, our marriage (and our family unit of four when SS isn't around) is stronger and more loving than ever. 

Siemprematahari's picture

Disengaging saved my marriage and sanity. It also helps that my H's daughter lives many miles away in another state. I wouldn't have it any other way and in that disengagement it has allowed me to self reflect and realize what is in MY own best interest.


Harry's picture

Disengaging from the drama.  You cook the dinner you want, if SK eat it or not not your problem. There food there. If SK want something not your proble.  If they want want to go someplace,  you are not a taxi. If SK don't clean up after themselves, then SO does the cleaning.   If SK don't shower,  they are not allowed to do anything until they shower,  SO problem.

But if you have a SO problem.  They are OK with not showering, ect,ect. Then all respect for SO is lost and most likely the marriage is also lost

Rags's picture

Regardless if your premise is accurate, who wants to be married to anyone who does not put their spouse first?

Good riddance to a partner who doesn't make their spouse and the marriage their priority.  And good riddance to the coddled prior relationship spawn as well.

CANYOUHELP's picture

Disengagement is not the best route for a marriage.  But, in some cases it is the only route when you live with a daddeee afraid of his own adult kids.  A marriage can be fine in all other ways. But there is this nagging feeling your DH is a wimp of a man when it comes to parenting. Accepting that is not easy, but you have to accept it and move on, spending your time with people who care for you instead. Being in the company of people who only want you excluded, is not the way I intend to spend my time; husband or not.

If he wanted a total together happy family, he could have stepped up to the parent plate.  I am much happier staying away from the drama and watching his mood changes as they manipulate him now, not me. Once you get that peace back in your life, you will not go back. Never again.

Clrs031's picture

Honestly, I feel like you're already screwed when your Google searches include 'I can't stand stepkids,' ' Partner suffers from guilty parent syndrome,' 'signs of sociopathy,' and '16 yr old smears feces on wall.' I've been told by several medical professionals that I shouldn't sleep in my partner's home and at no time should our new baby not be in the presence of one of us in his home. His kids are f-in damaged. Instead of fixing them, he puts the burden of liking/loving them on me and I am the issue for not wanting to be anywhere near ppl SEVERAL MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS TOLD ME NOT TO LEAVE MY BABY ALONE ANYWHERE NEAR. We are engaged, I moved in and quickly moved or because his little psychos went ape shit when I moved in (called the police on me and made up complete lies about me) and I quickly moved back out. I tried to move in again and it didn't work because, again, his children are absolute perfect angels and I need to get over whatever I have against them (disrespect, sociopathy, and the safely of myself and children). I asked him to put real locks on our bedroom door to help me feel safe, he refuses because it'll make his kids sad. I shit you not. I could keep going but it only inflames me. Please, no need to tell me I'm an idiot, his children didn't reveal themselves until after I was really, really pregnant and he spent a lot of time telling me how wonderful and great they are. 

SteppedOut's picture

Don't feel bad or like an idiot. It happened to me too. My formerSO's kid tried hurting our baby multiple times. He literally put broken glass all over his play areas MULTIPLE times. Many more things, I could go on and on about that wretch. 

All I got were excuses, excuses, ignored about it. "He has a good heart". The hell, it's a black withered thing! I heard the "if I just loved him like he needed to be loved it would all be fine!" And other such BS. (Like it was my fault he was a monster?)

I packed mine and my baby's stuff and left. I hope you stay gone, don't risk baby or yourself! 

susanm's picture

Why do you have to love everyone that your spouse loves?  They presumably love their parents and also some very close friends.  Do you have to love them too in order to make the marriage work?  Do they have to love those who you do?  What is it about the children that makes them so special?  They will eventually (hopefully!) grow up and leave the house.  I am not saying that there is not discomfort at times being disengaged but often far less than being fully involved.  Spouses may be joined "as one" but they are separate people and free to have their own assessments of others.

CANYOUHELP's picture

I do not think most people go into a relationship "disengaged." That is crazy., because if you see the issues up away before marriage. Sometimes it is hidden for years, and then some event triggers our evil SM needs to go mentality.

 After years of toxicity you have to preserve your own mentail health and well-being; and if that means divorce, so be it. Your relationship can work disengaged and work a whole let better too.  It is not ideal; in an ideal world the husband would not be afraid of nasty adults.  But, if he is and is not likely to grow any ever---stay away from the dysfunction at all costs.

bertieb's picture

saying a disagreement is the beginning of the end. I disengaged from discipline and caring about room and laundry but not being friendly, talking, doing activities. I disengaged from caring anymore about SS and family not inviting us over to visit, acknowledging my birthday, making any effort to get to know my kids, or caring whether I was around. That does not affect my marriage or love of my husband. These things bothered me for awhile but when I pulled back and accepted I really meant nothing to them I was able to let go worrying about what gifts I bought them, whether we wanted to invite them over for barbeque or take the grandkids to the movies. That is my level of disengagement.

LadyVol's picture

I fully engaged with my SK in my first marriage. They were ok with me fully taking care of them but I had no voice when they needed corrected.  This time I decided I was not going to fully engage with SS's.  Best decision ever!!  I am my husbands wife and he is priority one. If they want to talk about an issue they are having I listen and give my best advise.  I care about my SS but I'm not going to "mother" them by at this point.  I made this clear before marrying my husband so he totally gets it. Life is too short to be miserable. 

juststressedbeyondbelief's picture

No, disengagement doesn't mean divorce.

I pick up all of the slack with our shared child. I am not expected to care for SD. I am 100% disengaged with SD, and it's mostly fine at this point. I have never once taken the skid out, I stopped buying gifts, I don't clean after, or cook for her. My wife (her mom) can deal with everything when she gets home (later than me from work). I take full care of our shared child.

My wife is now pregnant again with our 2nd child, and to be completely honest, my wife's reservations about me and her child are going away. She knows that the needs of her child are going to be heavily outweighed by the needs of two infants, cared for primarily by me.

I honestly have zero interest in the undisciplined child, but I think as long as you are pulling your weight elsehwere, it can work.