Trouble with Adult SD

mabeljeanJune 14, 2009

Im not sure how to proceed . . .

IÂve been married to my wonderful (but oblivious) H for 21 years. He has a 24 year old D from 1st marriage, I have a 26 year old D from 1st marriage. Together we have 2 SÂs. IÂve known SD since she was 2; her father and I met right after we were both divorced. Have always tried to blend the family, love my SD dearly, but we are at odds frequently due to her moodiness, and my reaction to it. HereÂs the deal: she comes to visit and everything is fine for a day or two. WeÂre bonding (I think anyway), doing lunch, talking, getting along. Then itÂs like she gets tired of us (me, her dad, her sibs) or we annoy her, or she gets cramps, or she gets sick -- then she starts throwing subtle barbs. IÂve tried every way I know how for the past 10 years to work it out: talking kindly to her, confronting her, ignoring the behavior, reacting in kind, etc. She reacts by hitting back harder, then stalking away. Her father has talked to her about her behavior, she says that thatÂs how she is, we shouldnÂt expect her to change her behavior. She says her friends understand her sarcasm and accept it. I have been unable to talk to her D about it for 5 years now, he became angry when I brought it up, and said that he had no control over her behavior, she was an adult, and hopefully would learn that it is a destructive habit.

I know IÂm not innocent in all this. I do react negatively to her behavior, even if I say nothing. I know I distance myself when it starts. IÂm sure I cause it sometimes! I feel like I really need to grow up  why am I letting this affect me so much?

Soon after H and I married, SDÂs mother (also remarried) moved 45 minutes away. I drove 1-1/2 hours 2-3 days a week to pick her up and bring her back to our house, then her father drove her back at night. You know the drill, 2 nights a week, every other weekend. She never complained, though I know it was hard on her. Then they moved to another state, so we saw her on holidays and in the summer. Her mother divorced, then pretty much committed her life to SD. They are close, though I know SD behaves in the same manner to her mother. IÂve seen and heard it many times.

SD has always thought we had too many "rules" at our house. Her sibs had to get a part time job by age 16. They had to earn money toward college. They couldnÂt car date until age 16. They had curfews. SD said her mother trusted her so she didnÂt have rules. We HAD to have these rules for the oldest  she was a real handful at a very young age. Oldest son has been easier, but we didnÂt see any reason to change the rules for him, and they will be in effect for the youngest, too.

Latest issue: she came a few days ago, everything was fine until the 3rd day. Then her mood changed right about when she heard about a shooting at a museum (I think she knows someone who works there.) Her GM called, told me that she was ready for SD to pick up some furniture for an aunt who lives near her. I relayed the message to SD, no response. So it started then. I told her I would go pick up furniture and bring it back here if she would take sib to swim meet 2 minutes away. No response. I went outside and called H discreetly, asked him what to do  should I pick it up, etc. He said to suggest to her that she could pick it up on her way out of town in the morning. I came back inside and told her conversationally what her D had said. No response. A few minutes later she asked me her GM address, I told her. Then she got in her car and left, no goodbye, just left. Okay, that wasnÂt a big deal. When she got back, she fed the dog (a lot, made a point of that) and proceeded to drop food that she was eating for him. She knows we keep him on a diet and do not give him table food. HeÂs a lab, so he tends to put on weight and giving him table food causes a behavior problem. I said conversationally that our neighborÂs lab was being put down that week, heÂs always been too heavy, heÂs not old, but has heart disease. She countered with he must have been predisposed to that, and that she likes to give our dog treats. I said again that the dog has always been overweight and that I think that contributed to his illness. Then she said I was passive aggressive and walked out of the room into the office where her D was. Okay, this time I reacted. I said, "WHAT???" She was sitting next to D with a smirk and said, "If you have something to say to me, why donÂt you just say it?" Her D was in between us. "WhatÂs going on?" he said. I said, "The same thing that happens every time! Everything is okay for a couple of days, then THIS happens!" "What?" he says. Things went downhill from there, and I wound up being the evil stepmom, he was the oblivious D, she was the red-headed SC. I left the room, furious with HIM, and she went to her room.

So we co-existed for the rest of the day, I was ridiculously mad (at her D, mostly), rude and withdrawn, wanted her gone, wanted peace back. Great role model, huh? She left for a while, then came back for the night.

The next morning I knocked on her door and asked to talk. She kept her back to me. We made a little small talk, then I said that I was sorry for overreacting (by the way, she has never apologized about anything). I said that I wanted to work on our relationship, and that I knew that I was as much at fault as anyone else. I told her that I have loved her from the moment I knew her, and what can I do to make things better. She said the problem was more centered on "like" not "love." And that it was too much trouble to fix things. Then she said that she was going to get something to eat. End of discussion.

So IÂm trying to be honest here. I have flashes of all the years going by, good times and bad. I feel bad that I overreacted, but I am human. What should I do?

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I hate to say this, but your descriptions of your SD's frustrating behavior reminds me in many ways of my son's behavior. He has this whole inner dialog going on, and the more you talk -- trying to tap-dance on eggshells to avoid annoying him -- the more annoying it is to him. My husband falls into the same trap you do -- trying SO HARD to avoid annoying DS (which is virtually impossible, because 'annoyed' is DS's normal state when interrupted) that when DS says something snarky, Hubby is really steamed.

Anyway, what works best for me is the 'pigeon dump'. The 'pigeon dump' is named after that tendency pigeons have to fly somewhere, take a dump (sorry to be so graphic), then immediately fly away (happily), leaving the mess for someone else to deal with.

So for the Grandma's furniture deal, you walk in, dump: "Remember, you need to pick up that furniture from Grandma's today", then smile and leave. For the feeding the dog incident, "Don't ever feed the dog table scraps -- it's really bad for their health", then leave. If you really, really need an acknowledgement that your request was heard (and most of the time, you really don't), then simply say "acknowledge" -- wait, then when you get your dirty look or snarky comment, simply say "thanks" and leave. The Pigeon Dump!

The thing is not to dwell on her attitude -- it's lousy -- we all know.
Not to take it personally -- it's not personal.
And not to react to it -- that'll spoil half her fun.
You simply say your piece -- quickly, directly, cheerfully -- then leave! ;-)

    Bookmark   June 15, 2009 at 10:09AM
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"The thing is not to dwell on her attitude -- it's lousy -- we all know.
Not to take it personally -- it's not personal.
And not to react to it -- that'll spoil half her fun.
You simply say your piece -- quickly, directly, cheerfully -- then leave! ;-) "

Ditto that!

And just think....visits are short. A few days of putting on your best smiley face to keep the peace goes a long way. Who knows...if you stop reacting maybe this attitude of hers will lessen.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2009 at 10:49AM
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"Who knows...if you stop reacting maybe this attitude of hers will lessen."

Well -- The pigeon dump is good, but it isn't magic! ;-)

But one of the best things about the technique is that you walk away cheerfully before the $h!t starts to stink.
She'll still have a nasty attitude -- but without an audience, what's the harm? (or the fun?)

    Bookmark   June 15, 2009 at 11:20AM
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Loved the advice sweeby & mom2emall! In fact, I tried it out on S just home from college and still asleep at noon. Woke him up nicely, reminded him that his D wanted him to mow the lawn, told him I would pick up dog doo. He said Thanks! got up and mowed. Thank you both for sharing your wisdom, and for helping me keep it in perspective.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2009 at 3:41PM
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HAHAHAHA...The Pigeon Dump! I LOVE it!!!

    Bookmark   June 15, 2009 at 3:50PM
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Gotta agree, great advice sweeby! Love it lol!

    Bookmark   June 15, 2009 at 4:10PM
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