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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.

Anonymity's picture

My watershed moment was after BM left stepkid and dumped him on us but then screamed at my husband for me (non violently) parenting her kid.

Stepkid was doing much better with me and DH disciplining, teaching etc.

 So, I'm good enough to be used as a nanny, teacher, laundress, chauffeur, chef, babysitter but not good enough to be an authority figure? I was out, that was it. 

Never again. Her disordered @ss can lie in the bed she made. Good luck with that.

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.

ExcellenceToolkit's picture

I agree. No one can continue to live in a situation where the children don't accept you as a member of the family. It's untenable and not normal. I'm not sure why anyone would subject themselves to that kind of mistreatment. The stepparent has human needs and to expect a stepparent to live in an environment where DH's relatives are disrespectful and rude to them is inhumane and abusive. It basically dehumanizes the stepparent. I agree that it is better to live apart and continue the relationship rather than subject oneself to rude children. I personally refuse to share my resources such as time, energy, feelings, money with someone elses children who are disrespectful and ungrateful. If the children were kind considerate loving and saw me as family,  I would be move mountains for them.

Anonymity's picture

I don't want stepkid to ever regard to or refer to me as family. I am not his family. Don't want that job, thanks. My family is DH, our children, my extended and DH's extended family. Not stepkid, not BM.

My refusal to yield my carefully curated boundaries has made my marriage better and last longer.

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)

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. 

Anonymity's picture

I can't stand stepkid and my reasoning is completely valid. My DH does for his kid without me lifting a finger. It's been this way for many, many years. I'm totally engaged with my husband and our children.

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. 

Anonymity's picture

I was engaged but abruptly disengaged. I make my DH do for his kid and that's it. He does look after his kid without ever really complaining. 

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!

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.