Can't Stand Stepdad's Attitude

doralineJuly 31, 2010

Hi there! I joined specifically to post about my problem because I'm just absolutely going crazy and am stressed about this, and have been pretty much the entire time I've known my stepdad. I am twenty one years old now, but I was thirteen years old when my mother met SD. She met him within a few months of a very very messy divorce with my father, and I was ok with him at first--he was nice, funny, seemed good. However, because of the situation with my father, for our safety we had to move away from the house I'd lived in since I was eight, the middle school I had just finsihed 7th grade in with my best friends, the neighborhood and city I'd known, etc. It was very hard for me, especially since the oldest of my two older brothers was also moving out at the same time, -and- we had to get rid of our three dogs because SD's apartment complex didn't allow dogs.

So as you can see, this was a very hard time for me. We moved in with SD and right off the bat he was telling me to do this, and do that, talking bad about how I was disobedient and lazy and on and on. No, I wasn't a perfect child, but a little understanding and patience would have gone a long way. I did shirk my chores some at first, but the more he stormed and raved and talked about immediate respect and complete obedience, the more I dug my heels in, wanted to -not- do my chores, and disliked him. It became more of a war of not letting SD win than living, and extremely stressful. To make things worse, my other older brother moved out within a year, and I never seemed to see my mother--she felt almost like a stranger I'd once known. It was understable, she was depressed from the divorce, but she spent so much time with SD and felt like none with me. I was taken out of school after a couple of weeks because it was a really bad neighborhood and my mom felt endangered just picking me up, so I was homeschooled for around six months--however I don't remember a single time she sat down with me and went over school work. I did all my homework late at night in the kitchen alone, when SD was at work, and packed it up just before two in the morning when SD got home.

Long, but I wanted to give an idea of how things started. Things went on like this for years. They were broken from the beginning, and never fixed--whenever I did or didn't do anything that he didn't like, he liked to rant at me (I now glaze over during all rants, I honestly can't help it no matter where it's coming from, can't look at people when they're angry). Many times over the years he's made me cry. One notable time he was driving me to school before I was homeschooled, and he lectured me and yelled at me until I cried, and I was so embarrassed because I went to school with red eyes. Another time he made me cry then told me to take out the trash. I was embarrassed about red eyes so I put on sun glasses that my father gave me--he got mad, pulled them off, and snapped them in half.

So things just escalated over the years. Half the time we ignored each other. I mostly tried to stay in my room when he was around, but if I did leave my room he would either ignore me or start lecturing me. It became confusing for me because sometimes he would act like a nice guy--in fact, we have a better relationship now that's more confusing for me--by buying me something, or helping me with something, or acting very nice. However then he will suddenly switch, generally out of nowhere, and start talking about how I'm lazy and a "spoiled brat" and so on, arguing with my mother who will sometimes defend me but mostly just says she doesn't want to argue.

So now, I am twenty one years old. I still live at home because I don't have residency where we are (I forgot to mention--in 7 years I've lived in four states, seven cities, attended nine schools including homeschool and two colleges, and more homes than that not sure how many) and I plain can't afford college and living on my own at least until I have residency. I could get two jobs to struggle to live on my own while going to school, but I need to get very good grades so I can get into a good graduate school to become a highly qualified Biotechnologist. I got a 4.08 in high school, a 3.8 my first year of college even though I was out for nearly a month after being hit by a car and having an ovarian cyst removed. His accusations of laziness are -wrong-, as the only time I have a problem doing things is when he decrees it because of how he acts. If he calls me over, I have to be there NOW no matter what I'm doing--washing hands after going to the bathroom, eating last bite of food, writing down the last of a difficult homework problem. He does not care.

Tonight, he was angry for no reason. He was hit by a car last year and has had problems since, recently had knee surgery, so I am forgiving of some attitude. However he goes off about nothing. He was mad, called me a spoiled brat, etc. We are technically homeless (SD lost jobs because of car crash disability, mom unable to find work) and living with family, where at night I sleep in the computer room and during the day I take my stuff in the room they stay in so people can use this room. I have daily chores around the house, weekly chores, take care of our dogs, etc. When I move my stuff over at night into the study, my mom grabs a couple things I can't carry with my handful and helps me herd the dogs in the room. He called me a spoiled brat because she helps me. I didn't argue, but I forgot to get a charger so I went back to the room, which they lock. He opened the door, saw it was me, and flung it back again. It wasn't -very- hard, but it was hard enough that if I hadn't brought my hands up in time it would've hit my face and at least hurt. My mom didn't say anything--maybe she thought he was playing, I don't know, but if I had done it she would be mad.

I'm sorry this is so long, but I feel like I've been bottling this up for so long and I just didn't know what to say and what to leave out. I am so tired of being -angry- all the time, and I really feel like he's screwed me up. I'm shy anyway but I don't trust people now, I have trouble interacting with people and can't make friends because i can't joke like them, little comments hurt my feelings. He makes little jokes and comments about me having no friends and that makes it worse.

I guess I just wanted to get this out and see what other people thought, if this is normal or what. And what people think I can do because I have no idea. I don't know, I apologize again for the length and commend anyone who has read through the whole thing.

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Sorry about the double post, guys! :/ I came back to see if there were replies and realized that I cut the title off when I copied and pasted it. I remembered reading that if I wanted to make changes I could use the back button to go back to the form but after posting realized it must have been talking only about the revision process -before- posting. I apologize, hopefully there's someone that can delete the first one to get it out of the way.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2010 at 3:13AM
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does your mother know how you feel? do you have any other family or friends you can stay with? do you have health insurance so you can go see a therapist? I am so sorry, it sounds terrible, you deserve better than this.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2010 at 8:51AM
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I'm so sorry, honey, but to answer your last question first, NO, your situation is so far from normal or right or good that it's not on the same continent. I'm disgusted and angry at your SD for behaving this way, and your mother for allowing it to happen to you. That's great that you're so understanding of everyone else's troubles, but who is understanding of yours?

You need to get OUT of there, ASAP, before they destroy what little self-esteem you have left. It's good that you're planning ahead for grad school, but don't worry so much about the grades for your undergrad. I know plenty of people who got into good grad schools with not-so-great grades, especially if they took a few years off for work in between. Step one is to get out/get your undergrad degree, even an associate's would be OK to start with.

How's your health now? If it's OK, can you join Job Corps/Peace Corps/military? That would push back school for a few years but you'd have some money for it, I believe, some more life experience, and you'd be feeling better overall, I think. And they all include housing. Can you stay with anyone else, like parent_of_one said? Is there a community college where you live? Even if you don't have residency yet, make an appointment to talk to admissions. They are used to students enrolling from some very tough situations and so they are probably more likely to know of any programs that might be applicable to you, and to give you advice on how to get your ducks in a row, so to speak.

And when/if SD or your mother tell you that your plans are wrong, you should be doing things a different way, blah blah blah, just thank them for their advice and keep doing whatever you're doing. It's time for you to think of yourself now - for once. It doesn't sound like anyone else in your family is, sorry to say.

BTW, great job on keeping your grades up despite all the upheavals and moving. That shows a great strength of character which will get you far in life.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2010 at 11:43AM
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Thanks, guys. I should make sure you guys know that it's not -all- bad. My stepdad had a heartattack shortly after I got hit by the car about two years ago (talk about a run of bad luck, my poor mom!) and we've had a better relationship since then but it's almost made it more confusing for me. We'll get along well and then all of a sudden he changes and it frustrates me. It also makes me suspicious of the times when we're getting along--what is he really thinking, does he really mean this, etc. As for my mom, I love my mother and she loves me, and she does stand up for me sometimes. However I think a lot of times she just plain doesn't see it. If he's angry he'll just ignore me while she's around and make snide comments or whatever when she's not--like last night. When he's angry with me he will often make his little comments but my mom always thinks he's joking and never listens when I say he's serious.

When he says or does something and gets mad that my mom finds out, shouldn't he take that as a sign that what he did is not right and -not- that I'm a little tattletale? If I was doing something that I didn't want anyone to know about, that's the first thing I would consider.

Thanks all for your advice. For people to stay with, well, we just moved back to my home state (California) which is where I've wanted to be since we left it because I have family here, especially my brothers. Unfortunately there isn't anyone I can stay with. Most of my family isn't well off, and most I don't even really know that well as both my mother and father have at least 6 siblings each. One brother is in another state in graduate school, and the other brother won't let me move in, I've been trying since high school. He doesn't want the responsibility of living with me whether I need a guardian or not, because I'm his baby sister and he will -always- feel responsible for me. I understand that and I can't blame him. Both of my older brothers are great to me, I adore them, they're my role models. TO be honest I'd attribute my good grades through school more to them, not me, because I wanted to be as smart and worthy for my brothers. I couldn't wait until I could talk to them on even ground, since they are 7 and 8 years older than me and always ahead!

I am actually enrolled in community college after two years out of school after my first year in college in another state. I am thrilled to be back, I love school and I'm really excited to see what might develop in my career plans. Since I am out of state, the Pell grant only covers about half, but next year the Pell grant will cover it all plus some so I will be applying the extra to my student loan as my goal is to be in as little debt as possible when graduating. So pretty much joining the military or anything is out. I've fallen behind already from being a non-resident and not being able to afford it and the longer it goes the more anxious I get. Although I never considered the Peace Corps. If they had something I could do during the summer between semesters I would apply in a heartbeat, but it looks like you have to spend two years and I am just reluctant to lose that schooling time. There is an end in sight, though. After my two years at this community college, I am planning on applying to UC San Diego, among others, with UCSD being a favorite for a biotech degree. If that happens, I will likely be moving in with a friend (and taking my dog, Rex, with because I don't feel they are being careful enough with his temperament to be sure he doesn't end up biting someone and getting put down) and so out of here.

As for grades in undergrad, I -do- need realy good ones. My oldest brother had great grades in college undergrad despite also having a full time job, and because of that when he graduated he got a position at a great lab that paid for his graduate school, gave him a small pay check while in school, gave him job during summers, and a well payed job when he graduates! It's a great set up and I want something like that, if I can manage it, and I need to do very well in school for it. :)

I'm a bit scared of moving out and such. Since before I was old enough to get a job my stepdad has been saying "When are you getting a job?" so when I could I was reluctant. Since before I was old enough to move out he would say the same about getting my own place. Same about a driver's license and a car--which I still only have a permit because I am scared of cars, and it only got worse when I was hit by a car. I don't know if him talking like that has made it worse, but I am scared to move out even though I really want to.

Also, I'm not entirely blameless in this whole thing. There's no doubt that as a thirteen year old I was unhappy, and I was challenging authority a little, but honestly that attitude was already starting to fade by the time he came around and it got worse when we moved in with him. Things never got fixed, they got worse, and I admit that I can be hard-headed with him. The thing is, when I am asked politely to do something, I am happy to do it. However he always has to demand and have an attitude about it. For example, cleaning up dog messes outside. He was doing it a few weeks ago when I was relaxing after vacuuming and my daily stuff, and he says, "No, don't get up, I'll clean the dog messes" in a sarcastic tone, so I ignored him. After picking up a few, he apparently got mad this his charming attitude didn't convince me to take the stuff from him and do it, so he left in a huff. My mom came in a few minutes later and we talked a little, and she said, "hey, would you please clean up the dog messes in the backyard? It's getting bad out there." I said sure, but I told her I was doing it for her, not him, because she asked nicely.

I don't argue back at him, but I assume I've perfected the icy stare because when he lectures or yells at me it feels like my face is stone, I just stare over his shoulder. Not the best attitude, I know, but it's that or get mad and start yelling back which will only make things worse. He hasn't said it outright, but he's made comments in the past where he was basically saying that I'm the biggest trouble in his relationship with my mom and it'd be better without me. He doesn't say it all the time, just two or three, but it's a memorable thing.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2010 at 1:37PM
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First off -- I'm very sorry for what you're going through with your SD. It's NOT right. It's ABUSE - plain and simple. Or maybe not so plain and simple... But still abuse, and still unhealthy.

But despite all of that, you're doing some really good things, and should feel proud of yourself for accomplishing what you've done. Don't ever forget that. I'd suggest you actually write it down. On Paper. And hide it in your stuff and pull it out when you need to in order to build yourself back up after one of your SD's tear-downs.

Now for a slightly different interpretation...

By refusing to do the things your SD demands of you, you are actually allowing him to control your life. He wants you to get a job. So you won't. He ridicules you for not driving. So you refuse to drive. You may 'glaze over' when he rants, but part of you is paying him way too much attention.

Another writing assignment:

Write on a small card and refer to as needed: "What would I do if SD didn't exist? If he never said this? Never did that?"
Would you still not drive?
Would you still not have a part-time job?
I'm thinking you'd probably have both a license and a job... And those would both probably be really, really healthy things for you. But really, the point is to get you to make your own decisions *independent* of SD -- rationally, reflectively and positively. Not as a reactionary counter-tactic to whatever he's telling you to do.

One other suggestion -- (and this is from your last two paragraphs)
Have a calm and short talk with your mom, and tell her this. "I realize I was a pain in the butt when I was 13, that I had an attitude, and that I didn't respect authority. I've grown up a lot since then, though I know it doesn't *always* show. What I want to say is that I'm willing to do my share around the house now, and if SD will ask politely, I'm mature enough to respond politely and promptly. But when his first request is sarcastic and nasty, it's really, really hard for me to not respond in kind -- and that can't be pleasant for anyone. Will you talk to him for me? And maybe we can make this a more pleasant place for everyone --"

    Bookmark   July 31, 2010 at 10:23PM
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