If I could tell mothers of adult stepchildren anything, Part 2

lilysuzanne40July 21, 2007

It seems my five-year-old topic has reached its limit for comments, so I'm continuing it. This one seems to have a life of its own, largely because adult stepchildren have so few places to go on the Web for advice and help.

Original post:

My dad remarried last year, a year after my mother died. My entire family has tried very hard to be nice and supportive, but my stepmother makes it very difficult. In discussing the problems we've had with other adult children of stepmothers, a couple of common themes have emerged.

1. Your husband has a family who he loves and who loves him. They have a right to see him (yes, sometimes without you), spend time with him and talk to him on the phone. In no way does this threaten you or the love you share. You are not owed every single second of his life. If you are insecure and jealous of his family, you may temporarily or even permanently push his family out of his life, but they will hate you and he will resent you. My stepmother rigidly controls the amount of time we spend with my father. Prior to his marriage, I talked to him a couple times a week and usually saw him every other week or so. Now, weeks go by without him returning my phone calls and I've only spent 20 minutes alone with him in nearly a year.

2. Do not, under any circumstances, dispose of, give away or even sort through, personal items belonging to your stepchildren's mother. Do not empty out picture frames or photo albums, or give away clothes, jewelry or pictures of the children's deceased mother. It is not your place to do so. If you are uncomfortable having the items around AND your spouse either won't or can't deal with them, let your stepchildren have the opportunity to do so. My stepmother has done all of those things, from sorting through my mother's things (remember, she'd only been gone a year when the new stepmother moved in), to giving away various items to emptying out picture frames and albums. You may think you have the right. You don't. And they will hate you for it.

3. Don't talk about your stepchildren behind their backs, especially to the other children. Referring to your stepgrandchildren as "little brats" is not conducive to good family relationships.

4. If your spouse is a widower, don't think you have to "compete" with the ghost of his deceased wife. You can't anyway. Even if she was the wicked witch of the west, once she's gone, all her good qualities are magnified. My mother was a wonderful woman, but to hear my stepmother tell it, my dad's life with her was sheer torture. Totally untrue, but she somehow needs to believe it.

5. Don't come into the family home and immediately begin to purge it of any trace of the "other" woman. In my case, my stepmother not only tore down our family home, she bulldozed my mother's gardens, went through every box of mementoes and family treasures and has dismissed as "junk" everything that ever belonged to my mother.

6. Don't "diss" the children's mother to them, even if you think you're being clever about it. They can see right through you and again, they're going to hate you for it. My stepmother makes statements about what a "mess" the house was when she moved in. (My dad had been alone for a year.) What a terrible housekeeper my mother was (nothing could have been further from the truth, at least when my mother wasn't dying of breast cancer.)

7. If you're so insecure and certain that his children can "make" him stop loving you, you're wrong. They can't, but you can if you exhibit mean, self-centered, spiteful, jealous or controlling behavior.

I'm sorry this is so long. My stepmother has caused such intense pain in my family. I don't know if she even realizes how much or if she cares. If you see yourself in any of the things I have said, stop now and re-evaluate your actions and reactions. Don't let temporary growing pains become irreversible error.

I'd like to be my stepmother's friend, but she's making it awfully difficult. I started out liking her, have regressed into feeling ambivalent and am very close to hating her. And it's all because of her behavior.

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I wonder if you will have another 5 years of responses.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2007 at 2:01PM
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I'm so sorry you've dealt w/ this, esp. after losing your beloved mother.

I realize this is in the context of step-families, but it also applies to in-laws. My mom's mom was a saint, and even if she wasn't, as you explain, we choose to only remember her wonderful attributes. She was, really, a marvelous woman, loved by all. She passed away very young(54) and though I was only a small child, she was always held up high on a pedestal. She was a beautiful woman, inside and out.

My dad's mother is my only living g-parent - the thorn among three roses as both g-fathers were outstanding. She is days away from 95, and quickly realized how people tolerated her for the benefit of my dad's father who was extremely well-liked. This woman has always been nasty, demanding, intrusive, and very, very critical of my mother and all of her family members (most of whom were very well liked and generous, good people.) She hated my mother from day 1 due to her being Italian and g-monster being Irish - some bad blood I don't understand from generations ago.

My dad's mother has continually, for the almost 40 yrs. since my other g-mother's death that I can remember, gotten in dig after dig about my deceased lovely g-ma. For the life of me, I have no idea how she feels this would benefit her. I suppose, esp. in the past 12 years since her DH died she knows just how the world feels about her, she thinks she makes herself look better by lying/criticizing my other g-mother, but at some point, you'd think she'd realize just how EVIL this makes her to all of us. I mean, why would you be critical of the deceased who aren't here to defend themselves? Why even worry about a woman who has been gone from this earth for nearly 40 years? Sheesh!

This one thing, above all others, is what it makes it so hard to love and respect my living g-mother. I'd think if any stepmom dare to tread on such waters, she, too, will find herself all alone in her elderly years. (We 'limit' our time w/ g-ma, though I did try to move her here from out of state - she was so miserable here and to everyone that we moved her back w/in 2 weeks!)


    Bookmark   July 21, 2007 at 2:09PM
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I thought you said things are getting better with you and your dad. That is great. Just remember, there may come a time when he needs you. Try to be there. I am sorry about your mom, try to remember your dad was hurt too.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2007 at 3:38PM
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I believe the depth of my dad's hurt is the very reason he is with my stepmother now. He was so focused on pulling my mom through, he nearly killed himself in the process. When she died, I have never seen anyone more devastated. He was so achingly lonely. They'd been together nearly every day for 42 years, since he was 20 years old. He was so lost and alone without her. When my stepmother came along, she offered a respite from that loneliness. I don't blame him for wanting a way out of that.

And, you might be surprised to note that I don't want him to divorce her now. I just want her to let go of the old anger and bitterness and blame. He says she's unwilling to do that and the result is that he's steadily growing more resentful of her in his life. He still loves her, he just can't understand why she won't let him have his family. Every time I see or talk to him now, I see his resentment and anger getting bigger and bigger.

That's one reason I started this second post, as a warning to other women married to divorced or widowed men:

His children can't make him stop loving you.
They can't make him want to divorce you.
They can't make him hate you.
Only you can do that, by ragging on his children, throwing up roadblocks between him and his family, or forcing him into making a "choice" between you and his family.

When you do that, you are killing your own marriage, a little bit at a time.

As it stands now, my dad is with my stepmother but if she throws one more fit about him seeing or talking with his family, he's ready to show her the door. And that will be no one's fault but her own.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2007 at 5:13PM
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Lily: What is your SM bitter about? Did you all feel threatened or anything by her?

When my mother's father (my beloved g-father whom I lost 2 yrs. ago) began seeing our dear friend/g-mother figure, my mother said she didn't want to like her. She said that she felt it was too soon, etc. after losing her mom (when in reality it wasn't very soon at all, but normal for her, who was so close to her mother, to feel that way.) However, this woman was so lovely, in every sense of the word, that she couldn't help but love her. We all loved her as if she was our g-mother, and as I said before, I wanted her to be in the g-ma's place in my wedding, but she passed away months earlier.

Anyway, I just wondered if you initially didn't want to like your SM, fearing your mother's replacement or something. I suppose if you feel you did this at all, but I'm doubting it as I get to know you now, you could apologize. Does your dad know the root of this? Is it even something you could apologize for to her even if you were not wrong, just to try to reestablish normal contact? Is she wanting his assets/money at all? I can't understand why she is so strongly trying to prevent contact and any relationship between you all. You said that your father mentioned she was unwilling to let go of the anger, but you don't say what it was about. If you'd like to elaborate, I'm here to listen.

All the best,

    Bookmark   July 21, 2007 at 8:10PM
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I think that some SMs -- not all -- are just so possesive they resent any signs of first wife. Which would include children from that marriage. As much as some SMs accuse the skids of wanting an intact family (in general, for weddings etc), I think some SMs want the picture of one complete family, by itself, with no others.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2007 at 4:04PM
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If what KKNY says is true, and I don't think she's all that off base in some circumstances, it's just sad. Every experience we've had through life makes us who we are today. The good ones, the bad ones. Certainly, most women would not find a man attractive if he didn't have one paternal bone in his body. It wouldn't be appealing for any man to have been married and had children, all living under one roof, then suddenly be able to up and leave, never looking back. Would I want a man who felt that was OK to be in my life? No way. I couldn't respect that. (I'm not as harsh on dads who never knew their children, but it's still troubling to a lesser degree.)

I was once complaining to my mom about my husband about his constant spending on his grown kids and she wisely said, "You love that he's a generous man, right? You can't pick and choose who he's generous with! That which made you love him shouldn't also make you hate him!" LOL. Even she believes he's gone WAY beyond what he should have, but you get the message.

Lily: Perhaps you could ask SMonster if you are a constant reminder of the love your dad once had w/ your mother and if that's a thorn in her side???? Remember in the Drew Barrymore Cinderella type movie when she asked her SM if she ever loved her. Her SM replied, "How do you love a pebble in your shoe?" It was sad, but maybe you're that pebble to this disturbed woman.


    Bookmark   July 22, 2007 at 7:25PM
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Hi Dana,

I had to work yesterday, so didn't have time to reply to your first response. First, it's important to understand that my stepmother is mentally ill. Her illness, which I believe to be a combination of borderline personality disorder and paranoid personality disorder, makes her a very difficult person to deal with.

The only reservation we ever had was that she was already married when she met my father, and then pushed my dad to get married right away. We were concerned things were going too fast. She was antagonistic to my youngest sister right off, mostly because that is the sister who is very much like mom. I later found out that my SM started watching the family videotapes almost immediately after moving into Dad's house. She didn't watch them with anyone else, but by herself. We found out because a family acquaintance came over to the house unexpectedly and discovered her doing that. My stepmother's response? "I want to see what's so great about this other woman."

Still, I do believe she feels threatened by us, although we've never threatened their marriage. According to my dad, he started regretting his hasty decision to marry within a month or two of their wedding. She decided the only reason he could have come to that decision was because we were urging him to dump her. I would NEVER presume to do that. I don't offer marital advice to anyone and could not imagine intruding in my dad's marriage in that way. All of my sisters feel the same. (Side note: One sister tells me that's the reason she confides in me about fights she and her husband have had ... because I always point out his good qualities and the things she loves about him, rather than take her side and bash him.)

My dad says it's only been in the past year that he has realized how much she's lied about. We've been accused of saying and doing things that never happened. Turns out, she was telling dad that we were calling when he was gone and cursing her out. She also told him that his brother borrowed $1,000 from her and never paid her back. Untrue.

For a while, I've wondered if she knows the difference between fact and fiction. My sense is that she makes up those incidents, knowing at the time that they're fictional, but after she's told the story a couple of times, the event becomes real to her.

As for apologizing, I have done so, over and over again. Dad says she absolutely will not forgive -- that once she feels someone has wronged her, she hates that person forever. He also says she will NEVER admit she's done anything wrong.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2007 at 8:25PM
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"The only reservation we ever had was that she was already married when she met my father"

Well that's a rather major reservation.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2007 at 12:36AM
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My sense is that she makes up those incidents, knowing at the time that they're fictional, but after she's told the story a couple of times, the event becomes real to her.

Lily, I think that is absolutely true of many mentally ill people. I think they tell the lie so many times, that they honestly begin to believe it after awhile and the area between fact and fiction becomes less and less clear.

I admire you for pointing out the good in your sister's DH when she's angry. It's so easy to say, "Yes! I never liked him in the first place!" in the heat of battle. LOL.

Does she have your father in an awkward position? I mean, could she make his life miserable even if it sounds like his love for her is dwindling down? Financially is he in a bind - tied to her? I wonder if she'd just have to put up and shut up if he publicly decided he was seeing all of you. If she lied, "No, that didn't happen, dear..." could be his reply. I hope she isn't dangerous?

Anyway, I'll bet in time, this could be the scenario. I guess I'd either kill her w/ kindness (medicate beforehand, lol) or just not be around her. I suppose you don't have much choice as she won't allow you around, willingly.

And, as TOS said, that is a major reservation about her being married. How did they meet and where is her ex?

I also find it disturbing that she was basically snooping through your family's home videos. Her response to the acquaintance was simply appalling.

All the best,

    Bookmark   July 23, 2007 at 1:10AM
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All their assets are now tied together, so he is looking at the very real possibility of walking away with very little. I suspect that scares him a lot. As to whether she is dangerous, yes, I believe she could be. Dad knows I feel that way and that my choice is to never be around her again. I've tried killing her with kindness. Didn't work.

They met at a family get-together. She came with a relative. Dad had little reaction to her then. She showed up a month later. telling a sob story about how her husband was abusive and violent and that she needed to get away. Of course, we are pretty sure that is all a lie. We discovered much of what she'd told us of her history was a lie, from the number of times she had been married to the number of children she has.

By the way, my sister is still married to her husband. I received another one of those "I'm so mad at him" phone calls today. Talked her down. They've made up by now. lol

Anyway, it's cathartic to talk on this board. As I've said repeatedly, I'd give my left arm (perhaps even my left breast LOL) to have a normal stepmother.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2007 at 2:20AM
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I think your dad stands a good chance of stepping out of his nightmare, although the assets tied together I find is usually the bond of fear that keeps the man tied, especially at an older age. My Sm asked me years ago to sign papers giving up any rights to my family home stating a "Family Trust" was being drawn up of which I would be included. Unfortunately I signed the papers and 10 years later no Trust was ever drawn. My dad is very ill now and has no say in anything.

In my situation I think the SM has been driven by her own daughter. This girl is not my dad's and is much younger than I. Her own dad left and never came back. My dad raised her and loves her. The SM I don't think could deal with the fact my dad was married before and had a daughter of his own. I always found it odd how a woman would want to move into a dead woman's house and live among her things. It's desperation isn't it? There are only two kids, her daughter and his daughter. The SM was so anxious to elevate her own daughter that she went out of her way to trash me where ever she could, always telling people I was a spoiled brat, which couldn't be further from the truth. This xmas she sent a letter out to family & friends and had the nerve to say how their "daughter" is such a part of their lives and how much they have the love of their "daughter." My SM is deeply disturbed. I too would have loved a kind woman who used her power in a good way, life would have been so much different.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2007 at 2:34PM
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If you wanted to, you could contest the issue with your father's house, based on your SM's fraudulent promises, and your lack of legal representation. If the house
is worth it, you really should do that. She defrauded you,
and that is basis to overturn whatever you signed.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2007 at 3:24PM
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My mom died of cancer also it got to her brain watching her die was the most awful thing I have ever done it still to this day hurts anyways dad remarried 1 yr later to a real piece of work she is 20yrs younger and a very awful person she also removed every bit of my mother not to mention us from my dads house. she took every picture of mom and us kids down replaced with her family . My father has allowed her to kick us out of his home. We are not allowed to be at dads on any holiday because that is her time for her and her grown kids and we should understand ... she retired from work at 48 yrs old that was about 6 months after she met my father blames it on being a diabetic but she is a lyre and a thief and the rest im sure you can figure out

    Bookmark   May 31, 2009 at 3:17PM
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And so it continues. I originally posted this topic eight years and it continues to resonate with adult sepchildren who feel isolated and shut out of the "stepfamily" community. If you visit this forum much at all, you'll notice a few common themes:

1) Stepchildren are horrible, greedy, rotten, vindictive, manipulative, abusive wretches whose sole purpose in life is to manipulate their parents into giving them money and endless possessions.

2) If a stepparent is a problem, it's obviously because you (the stepchild) have done something to make them that way. If not for that, the stepfamily would be a flowery meadow filled with fuzzy kittens and playful puppies.

Can you tell I'm a little bitter? To tell you the truth, I don't come to this forum very often any longer. I got tired of reading the endless kvetching about the above themes.

The fact is that there are very few resources available for adult stepchildren who have evil stepparents. And yes, I mean evil. My stepmother has not improved at all. She continues to enforce her particular brand of craziness on my dad and he continues to go along with it, much as a battered woman will continue to insist that her batterer "really is sorry and won't ever do it again."

Lynn70, I'm sorry for your situation. It sounds similar to mine and the dozens of others I've heard from through this forum. I wish I had the answers, but I don't. I have learned to just "let go," for the most part.

I am in contact with my dad, although it is still kept secret from the evil stepmother. He has not seen my youngest sister in four years, nor her children. She is coming to see me in four weeks. I've sent him a message that of the time and place of her visit. I've also told him the evil stepmother is not welcome. If he shows up, fine. If he doesn't, no big deal. I can't control what he does or how he lives his life. I can only control my reaction to it and I'm tired of stewing about it constantly. I push it to the back of my mind and get on with my life.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2009 at 10:57PM
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And for those of you who can handle a little dark humour..

First wife dies leaving widower totally depressed, lonely,hungry and unable to cope with life,s daily grind......advise....

Hire a gardener for the garden

Hire a hooker for the bedroom

Family help with the cooking and chores

He marries straight away.

Wife runs off with the house, gardener runs off with the money and the toast is always burnt.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2015 at 1:27AM
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