What would you do?

jennFebruary 21, 2002

My husband's daugher (in her mid-30's) has 2 children, a toddler and a newborn. She NEVER calls or comes to visit unless she needs something, has a problem, or is invited to dinner. When her dad has often asked why she does that, she answers "well the phone works both ways!" or "well you never come over either!" (the truth: we don't just drop by unannounced, but we always go over when invited). It seems that no amount of attention is ever enough, and she complains frequently about what others do or don't do, etc.

I'm at the point where I want to ask her directly "why don't you ever come over unless there's something to get or unless you're invited for dinner? There must be a reason why someone doesn't visit their parent(s) unless they want something...". But I know she will get very defensive, cry, then leave.

She does want to spend time with us, so that doesn't seem to be a problem. It's just that she doesn't seem to be interested in coming to just visit, but doesn't hesitate when there's something to get out of it.

I'm tired of the behavior and sassy attitude... yet it's my nature to ignore it in order to have a friendly relationship. Things get very tense when she doesn't like something we say and then ignores us for weeks... until she wants something again. I want very much to have a friendly relationship with her, but this is turning me off. She will NOT take any amount of correction/confrontation no matter how mild. Her dad and I both walk on eggshells so as to not upset her (sick, I know!!).

I think it's terribly rude and hurtful to visit parents only to get something, then act put out (time and time again) when confronted on it.

What would you do?

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Why do you confront her with it? Can't you just accept that this is the way she is?

Many children do not have anything in common with their parents. They don't share the same interests, enjoy the same things or even look at life the same way. Just visiting is not high on their list of things to do. There is seldom enjoyable conversation.

Are you in the habit of visiting people just because you are suppose to, or do you visit people because you enjoy their company? Think about it. The phone does work both ways. If you called or visited her because you wanted to or because you enjoyed her company, maybe she would feel the same way about visiting you.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2002 at 3:29PM
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I appreciate your honestly. However, wouldn't you say something to someone who called you only when they wanted a favor, and then ignored you the rest of the time? Particularly if they avoided you when you said "no" to the favor because you couldn't do it? Wouldn't you feel used by that?

I visit my parents because I want to visit with them, they are my parents and I respect them. I can't imagine just calling them to get favors but never calling or visiting otherwise. I don't have to have a lot of things in common with them to have interest in them and their lives. I care about them and their well-being, and I pay my respects to them by visiting.

Again, the real issue is this: if she wants something, she will call or come by. If not, then there is no reason to talk to or visit us. So, we are only good for what we can give. That's called "using" someone. If I don't like or care enough about someone to spend quality time with them, I wouldn't just ask them for a lot of favors and ignore them all the rest of the time.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2002 at 3:40PM
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No, I wouldn't waste time and breath saying something to her. The reason being is that it would not sink in that her behavior is unacceptable. There would little or nothing to be gained by bringing it to her attention. If you don't like her enough to put up with her behavior, then ignore her when she wants something and ignore her when she pouts. You can be "used" only if you allow it to happen.

What would you have gained if she came over to visit if she really didn't want to, but was doing it just because you had made it plain to her that she should?

You can't compare how she feels about you and your husband and the way that you feel about your parents. We are looking at two different worlds. One of a caring child and one who seems to be self-centered. I am afraid that she wil continue to be like this unless a miracle happens and she begins to enjoy your company.

Sooooo, either you put up with her behavior, or you ignore it. Talking about it may just make it worse. She'll never understand.

Sorry to be blunt. But I guess it's been a bad week for me. I had a cousin that never called or wrote unless she wanted something. I just pretended that I was glad to do whatever she wanted. It gave me the satisfaction of knowing that I was walking on higher ground than she was. I dont' know that I would put myself out like that for a non-relative.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2002 at 4:28PM
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Aileen, I appreciate your blunt honesty. :-) And I also appreciate and agree it is better to take the higher ground. That is more my nature. Maybe I'm having a bad week too and not having the proper perspective.

No, I certainly don't want her to visit if she really doesn't want too. I guess I'm mostly concerned that she doesn't seem to want to... and why she doesn't seem to. Maybe there is no reason, and maybe she does want to but just doesn't want it pointed out. As I said earlier, she does like spending time with us, which is good.

Take care, and I hope you enjoy the weekend.


    Bookmark   February 21, 2002 at 4:46PM
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You did say that she wanted to spend time with you. Just not at your house, then? My parents live in a drafty old house with wooden floors. My sister in law actually told me once that sometimes she just doesn't feel comfortable coming over with the children ( three kids, five and under) and I never thought of it that way. My mom works alot so she doesn't have time to keep the house as clean as it should be, and my stepdad almost never picks up after himself. In the winter, he stingily keeps the house at 60. So I can see where it would be a fiasco to have the kids running around getting into things (the youngest is two) in a house that just isn't comfortable to be in. But that's just our situation.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2002 at 8:59PM
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I was wondering some things, too, that kind of relate to what Phyllis_Philodendron said. I know that I didn't like going to visit my mother and step father for a long time because all they did was complain about work and general life stuff like laundry that needed done. Also, they really only were interested in our son and we would just sit there and they ignored my fiance' and I all the time. She once asked why we went to Jer's parents and never came to see her when they all live about the same distance apart and I told her flat out why. Now they actually visit with all of us and things are better so we go over more often. Could there be something that's making her feel uncomfortable about visiting your house? Like do you smoke but she doesn't or vice versa and she can't smoke in your house? Do you just chat or do you take that visiting time to knit pick and bring up everything you don't like about her or how you feel about things in her life? Are you funny about your house and she worries about the kids making a mess or breaking something? Also, you have to think about the fact that you are the step mother and sometimes thanks to fairytales and many bad people out there, step mom's become evil step mothers in the eyes of the step children no matter what they do.

I also understand what you are saying about feeling used. I know quite a few people who are just that way. My BIL and SIL like to call you up and visit when they want something. It's to the point even aunts and uncles and cousins know that if they hear from those two, they want some sort of favor. (It may be that they need a sitter for the night or $10 or someone to co-sign for some huge loan). We're very aware to this and sometimes all we can do is avoid them. If your step daughter does not like you or your husband because you say no to her favors, then she's the one who's being immature. You have the right to say no for whatever reason when someone asks for a favor. You can't stop her from getting upset and acting the way she does. She's obviously always been this way and if you look at her childhood you may see why. Did she always get her way? Throw fits if she didn't? Ask her father about that.

Good luck but I can't see how you can change her. You'll just have to deal with it, I guess.


    Bookmark   February 26, 2002 at 11:27AM
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Leslie: Your second paragraph describes the situation best. I've asked myself the same questions you did in the first paragraph. We don't complain about our lives (however, they do, to the extreme!) or nitpick them. We don't smoke or participate in behaviors they don't agree with. We ask them about their lives (I show particular interest and listen, asking more questions as they talk). Of course, we also share our own experiences but not to an extreme. We engage in friendly chat. I'm not overly finicky about our home or the things in it. I gently guide the little ones away from things they shouldn't touch and if something does break, my reaction is totally relaxed about it. We're both very casual people.

The only thing I can think of is that the house doesn't look the way it always did when she grew up there; we've done a lot of remodeling and things "aren't the way they used to be". And maybe she just feels like she's coming to "our house" instead of back home. I can understand those feelings, but I can't stop her from feeling that way. I'm not doing something intentionally to hurt or upset her. We are just going about our lives.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2002 at 11:53AM
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Just checked back in here for the first since my last post. I just thought of something I didn't before. I think really that it's just the whole situation. So many kids from divorced families NEVER get over the fact that they're parents got divorced. Some hope for many many years that they will just get back together. I've noticed that this is more of the case when the children were older and the parents split. In my case I was 8 and I have a wonderful memory so I remember how my parents were together. I knew they were miserable and they fought and I can look at them both today and see why they weren't meant for each other. I accepted it. However I think some kids don't see what was wrong between they're parents or even see they're parents argue or whatever and it leaves them condused. So maybe your step daughter just has resentment because you replaced her mother? It's like my Mom was telling me one day about her step daughter. The step daughter is and when her father told her about 2 years ago he was marrying my mother she started bawling and yelling. She wanted to know why he was doing that to her mother and so on. Well, she suddenly forgot that her mother left her father for another man and she was engaged to be married but called it off. She still blames her father when it wasn't his fault~ her mother cheated and left.

That was just another theory. Hard to tell exactly what is going on with any one person today, though.

Good luck.


    Bookmark   March 6, 2002 at 3:46PM
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