Stepchildren's mother a 'professional' manipulator!

seekergalSeptember 9, 2010

My husband's ex-wife is a "professional" manimpulator! Literally! She works for a company that has trained her in how to manipulate people and control situations in negotiations.

Unfortunately, she is using (or at least trying to use) these same techniques with my husband and me! She is being successful with her kids - sad to say!

I am widowed, and I met my husband several years ago. This was two months after his divorce from his first wife. We believe that many family members think that I was involved in the divorce, but I had NOTHING to do with it.

My husband's children where 16 and 17 when we met, and married. Since then, they have graduated high school, received college educations, and are working in the 'real world' at good jobs. You would think things would be fine, but they aren't. Why should the ex-wife be a problem still?

The main reason my husband divorced his ex-wife was because of how much she changed after her 'training' in how to manipulate people and situations. She became a control freak in their marriage. The children were young when she got her training, and have grown up under this most of their lives, so they don't see that it is going on. The daughter mimics the mother in her techniques, but you can tell she really doesn't understand that how it is being done is inappropriate outside of the 'negotiation room' of a corporation.

One technique used is to make the other person feel they are special and heard by saying "Yes,yes...that's right." to everything they say. It helps them feel they are intelligent and listened to. This makes them trust you and more willing to bend to your will.

In using this technique in the real world - my husbands ex-wife does this ALL THE TIME! No matter what the topic is in a conversation, and no matter who is talking, she is continually saying, "Yes, yes...that's right." This can backfire on her if she isn't careful when she says it. If someone is talking about a subject where it is obvious she has NO knowledge of, or experience in, she will still say, "Yes, yes...that's right."

The problem is that the kids don't seem to realize how strange this is, or that it is happening! On several occassions my husband's daughter has used this technique and it is very obvious she doesn't realize that she is contradicting herself, or that she has no clue what she is agreeing to!

The ex-wife makes very good money and uses it to "bribe" the kids. She has encouraged and pushed them to live a champagne lifestyle - even though they are making a beer (imported beer) income! Now the daughter is in serious debt. She is having to go back to college (community college) to get a two-year degree so she can get a better job with more pay in her area of interest. It seems that her four-year degree isn't enough. Sounds strange, but it is true. If she had listened to us and gone the two-year degree in the first place, she wouldn't be in this bind.

Now, the son is engaged to a girl that has a college degree that puts her in a position to make very good money of her own, but she seems to be a 'gold-digger'. My stepson is a CPA and works for a very good firm, and makes very good money. His live-in fiance has made statements like...

-"It has taken me three years to work on "A" to get him to ask me to marry him."

-"I LOVE to shop"!

-"After "A" gets his bonus, I am going to go shopping with it."

-"I am not good with budgeting money."

-"I collect Coach purses." (which cost hundreds of dollars)

-"I don't like to cook, so when we are both working, we can just eat out alot."


These statements cause us concern!

Whenever my husband tries to have a meaningful and honest talk with his children, they SEEM to listen and agree/understand, but they are obviously very uncomfortable. They are used to operating as "social chameleons" and want to appear to get along with and agree with everyone. They go out of their way to 'get along' and then lie and manipulate behind the scenes. Their mother is like this, and when my husband and I got married, the first thing he told me was that he felt he could REALLY be himself with me, for the first time in years! He didn't feel he had to put on an act - like his first wife kept pushing him to do.

I guess I should get the to the point.

My question is will this hopefully change as the kids mature and get out of their early twenties? It seems that this younger generation takes more time to mature. They are pretty self-centered, narcissistic and feel 'entitled'. From what I have read, a new term has been coined to describe them..."Emerging Adults". They take their time to actually become adults emotionally - unlike previous generations.

Is there anyone out there who can encourage us that this can turn around? That the kids will come around and realize that their mother is a master manipulator?

We can't compete financially with the ex-wife, so we try and create memories with the kids that don't cost a lot of money, but the kids seems to not really appreciate it unless it cost money and WE pay for it!

My husband's mother died very recently, and she was a good influence on the kids. She would confirm for us that the ex-wife spoiled the kids too much. Now that she is gone, we worry that there won't be her healthy influence there anymore and that the kids will really turn to the "dark side" as time goes by.

Thanks for reading this, and I greatly appreciate a place to get some support and insight from others who know where I am coming from.

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Wow, you seem really emeshed into your adult stepchildrens lives. No judgement here, been there. Thanking God I'm done with it.

I'd find a hobbie & not really worry about what they should be worrying about or the woman who bore them. you are making her & them the focus of your life.. They're grown!

You & your hubs should be out having the time of your life :0)


    Bookmark   September 9, 2010 at 12:40PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Dear Catlettuce,

Technically, you are correct, my husband's children (my stepchildren) are just now entering into their 'adult' lives. I should have probably been clearer on this.

Most of my information concerned the past years, before they were on their 'own'.

I am surprised at your response, because I first read other posts on this forum, that spoke of the same frustrations others were having with GROWN stepchildren. I felt I could be honest and state our concerns about these young adults who don't stop being family members we have conern for, just because they are techically on their own. We still have to navigate how to deal with holiday gatherings, birthdays, weddings, etc... When having to continue to deal with a very manipulative biological mother, it causes problems.

My husband and I do have our own lives, and we do have fun, so this definitely doesn't consume our lives so much that we are kept from living our life.

I guess I find your statement unhelpful, judgemental and really not very helpful! In your saying "Been there, thanking God I'm done with it." , does this mean you have no more contact with your stepchildren? Not sure what you meant by your rather flip statement.

I would greatly appreciate others comments on this subject that are more helpful.


    Bookmark   September 9, 2010 at 3:21PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Seekergal, if you're looking for advice only from those who are in your same boat... I can't help. My SD is 10.

If you go back and read Cat's situation you'll understand where she is coming from. My take on it is that she tried to help her adult stepchildren and found out the hard way that there's not much she can do, they are manipulative and only out for themselves, and in order to preserve her well being (financially, emotionally) she needed to step away.

If you find her statement unhelpful, don't fret. It's rare that we all agree anyway :)

But I find truth in what Cat said. Here's what I got from your post.

Your skids:

1. are manipulative
2. are "users" (financial, emotional)
3. don't understand that their mother's method of communication does not work for everyday life
4. are spoiled
5. aren't likely to change any time soon as they are too young for life to have molded them much as individual adults (not enough mistakes, life experiences, etc)
6. don't have a good enough relationship with dad to really listen to him OR aren't willing to try what he suggests
7. make your dh and you feel that in order to love them you have to compete with their BM

What do I think about this? Do I think they will come out of it in their late 20's? I have no idea. I don't know them. There's potential, for sure. But some people are just like that.

So, what are you really asking, because there's no way any of us could predict the schedule of their heads emerging from their rear. In your second post you say:

"We still have to navigate how to deal with holiday gatherings, birthdays, weddings, etc... When having to continue to deal with a very manipulative biological mother, it causes problems."

Well. I feel qualified to answer that!!! I have to navigate those events with my SM, who has NPD, among other personality issues. First, you need to agree with DH what the terms are, so you are on the same side. Usually that's the hardest part :)

1. If it's money, then how much do you spend? I'd stop shopping altogether and start giving gift cards.

2. If it's conversation, really... who wants to talk with their parent or kid all night at a family gathering??? Figure out something benign you can discuss with them, make a small conversation and find someone else to talk to for the rest of the evening.

3. Once you've identified "manipulative" you can recognize it. I tell my DD "that may work at Dad's, but it won't fly here". Tell them the same thing. "I don't appreciate being manipulated. I like you and I want to help you, but I don't want to feel coerced. When you XYZ I feel as if you are pulling the marionette strings. If you ask me straight up, I'm more likely to give you what you want." Repeat as necessary.

If they can't deal with adult conversation on an adult level without manipulating, well, they'll leave. If they're decent people they'll come back. Eventually. The hard part is being clear, being calm, and being kind so they don't have a leg to stand on when they try to blame you for it.

YOU are adults. You decide what is tolerable and what is not. With friends, with kids, with work.... Stand up for yourselves now, or they'll be sliming around in your pockets for decades.

And while I agree with the "Bio-mom is a manipulative person, blah blah blah" (I could write the book on that) once a person is over 21, they need to get over their childhood. If they still let BM have that much influence over them... they're adults. But you can't blame BM for it anymore. Now their behavior is their fault, their responsibility.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2010 at 4:26PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Not judging-at all. Have been there to the extreme.
Of course feel free to let it all hang out here, we all do.
I understand.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2010 at 6:36PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

And yes, I have little to no contact with my DH's adult children, holidays only. After many many years in a similar situation & dare I say more extreme than yours. But that is neither here nor there.

Welcome & I apoligize for offending you.


    Bookmark   September 9, 2010 at 6:59PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thank you for the clarifications. I now understand where catlettuce is coming from.:)

Your suggestions are very good, thank you!

There are two ways to look at how much to continue to be involved in our "adult" children's lives. If they were raised with an ability to think for themselves and to navigate life in a healthy and mature manner....let them fly!

If they were raised with the inability to do any of the above, it is a challenge to both let them learn from their mistakes, and yet be there to help them avoid pitfalls.

We see my husband's children as having a form of "Stockholm Syndrome"! They struggle to break free from their mothers 'programming' that they have had all their lives!

My SD has anorexia, and is doing well now, but she has problems standing up for herself (with friends and family). This only adds to my husbands concern for her.

Thanks again for your input, and also - again - for clarification of your situation catlettuce. I agree, and my husband agrees that we will back off, but when deemed necessary to step in (my husband will, not me).


    Bookmark   September 10, 2010 at 10:35AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Seeker, I think we all have Stockholm Syndrome to a degree. It's taken my till my 30's to get my mother's tentacles out of my brain. Every young adult will have to break away from their captors in one way or another. Once the mini-me shell is broken an adult can come forth.

I've noticed that kids really mimic mannerisms. My DH goes crazy with my SD because she is EXACTLY like her mother. LOL. I don't know her mother, so it doesn't bother me. I don't see it... sure she gets on my nerves sometimes, but not to the degree that she's on DH's!

I know my dad would go crazy with me because I was a little Pete-Repeat with my mom. It took me years to form my own identity. HER words would keep flying out of my mouth! Uninvited!!! LOL.

So, perhaps a bit of this is just that they remind you of BM? Are they really "struggling" to break free, or are they just finding themselves as adults?

I would make it absolutely clear that you have standards of behavior, and that you are HERE for them. Any time of day, any time of night, if they need you, you are family, and you are there. BUT!!!! They have to behave according to your standards. Which means letting them know when you "feel manipulated" (rather than when "they are manipulating") and giving them a chance to examine how they are being interpreted by others (rather than how they are behaving).

What I mean is, they need to know you're there, they need to know you won't back down, they need tough love. Rather than branding them as "mommy's little manipulators" take mom out of the equation, and be a mirror. A lot of times we don't know how we come off to other people, and we say things/do things that cause a different reaction/response than we were expecting. This is a learning process all adults go through, and some (like me!) are still learning!

    Bookmark   September 10, 2010 at 11:41AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Dear Silversword,

You have words of wisdom. I tend to be more capable to set healthy boundaries with my stepchildren, but their father struggles. As my husbands mother said, his daughter has him wrapped around his little finger! ;) I can tell when she calls our home and my husband answers that it is his daugher, just by the tone of his voice. It gets rather 'gooey'. ;) He doesn't do this with his son. I have spoken to my husband about it and he has become more aware that he needs to stop treating his daughter like a little girl. It doesn't help her at all!

As far are our being 'emeshed' in the kids lives, we aren't. We don't call every day, know all their business, give too much advice, or go to their house frequently. They live several hours away, so this helps.

My initial statements are based on observations over the past several years. You don't have to be emeshed with someone to watch how they live their lives. We have taken note of repetative behavior patterns, and have concern about the ones we feel are unhealthy. This has been done at family gatherings, from what they have told us,things they have posted on their Facebook, along with what they have done in our presence.

Yes, it will take some years for the kids to grow up, and we will worry for they through the whole process. ;)

I didn't call them "mommies little manipulator" I just said that they have learned (through her modeling it) methods of manipulation. They seem to wish to break free, but then because they live very close to her, she is frequently in contact with them and the process of her influence goes on.

With years we will see how things change. Now that they are both in the 'real world' and becoming more independent, hopefully they will begin the process of evolving into their own personhood.

Thanks for your comments.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2010 at 12:59PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

By "mommies little manipulators" I meant that as long as their actions were attributed to their mother there would be confusion. If we blamed the parents for every adult's actions, one could also say that because the children were 16 and 17 when you got married, and that was so soon after the parent's divorce, that the father must have had something to do with the way the children were raised, especially since they were young when she got the training.

A person usually will develop their personality styles at a young age. Their father "got out" but they didn't. He was adult enough to see what was going on, they weren't.

If we're laying blame here, let's lay it evenly on the parents. Or, lets lay it square on these adult children, who must be pretty close in age to me, and therefore, by my way of reasoning, should be big enough to decide what kind of person they want to be and be able to tell when their communication style is inappropriate.

I'm not trying to blame your husband. I'm just saying...

    Bookmark   September 13, 2010 at 2:20PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

"My question is will this hopefully change as the kids mature and get out of their early twenties? ...

Is there anyone out there who can encourage us that this can turn around? That the kids will come around and realize that their mother is a master manipulator?"

Those are two very different questions.

Are you asking if there is a chance that the kids' characters will improve? You know the answer to that. Sometimes people change, sometimes they don't, but it's up to them, and they are adults, so there isn't much for you to do about it.

Or are you more concerned "[t]hat the kids will come around and realize that their mother is a master manipulator"?

You went on at some length about her. I'm not saying you have to like her. She might be a total monster, a "professional manipulator" extraordinaire, whatever.

But think about this. It's a pitfall many people fall into with regard to someone who has wronged them: the need to make others think badly of them -- oops, I mean, "see the truth" -- too. It seems especially prevalent -- and especially dangerous -- in divorce situations, where people want to know that somehow in the end justice will prevail, in the form of the kids someday realizing who was Good and Right and who was Bad and Wrong. That's the fantasy, but it doesn't work out that way, even if you are 100% right. Usually it ends with the children resenting the criticizing/self-righteous parent more -- even when they know full well that they are completely right about the other parent. They still love him/her, and they naturally feel protective at some level, even of parents who do much worse than this.

Whatever she is, she is their mother. Consider why it is important to you (if it is; I may be misreading your post) not just that they are good people themselves, but that they "realize that their mother is a master manipulator"? Is this about them? Or about how you and/or your husband feel about her?

I know this must sound very judgmental, and I'm sorry -- I'm not saying it to come down on you. I just have seen too many people get obsessed with their ex-spouses (and similar situations), and I have observed that it leads nowhere good. I know it is hard to resist it, but it's hard on children, even when it's true, and it doesn't help anyone in the end. It's part of what people very cleverly call letting someone live in your brain rent-free.

Listen, I may be way off base here, and if so, I apologize. But all the detail about her -- and, for some reason, the son's girlfriend -- and the "come around and realize that their mother is a master manipulator" language sort of reminded me of some of my friends' experiences.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2010 at 4:01PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I am not sure I understand what you are asking...

I don't think you should be concerned with what stepson's fiance is saying, it is between them. If she wants to buy coach purses, as long as it is not your money it should not concern you.

I am not sure why do you care that their mother is a manipulator?

I would get busy with something else...My DD is 22 and I seldom think of my ex, and he is MY exhusband. I don't think you should worry about your DH's ex.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2010 at 8:36PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

It sounds like your stepkids are very much like their mother - phony and materialistic. Your stepson has chosen a girlfriend that shares these traits. Will they change? Maybe. Or maybe not. You may find them less annoying when they have kids of their own and are focussed on something other than money.

My husband has an adult daughter (not one of the stepkids in my house) who was very spoiled by her mother (who has more money than we do). She's not a bad person - but sometimes she drives me crazy. If we are shopping, she looks to me to pay for designer clothes for her (even though she is an adult, and I can't afford them). In restaurants, she thinks nothing of ordering the most expensive items on the menu, along with appetizers and dessert - and then expecting the "parents" to pay. After a few years of annoying encounters, I learned to avoid activities that involve money (i.e. concerts, restaurants, shopping etc) since she will expect something that we can't, and shouldn't, provide. Nowadays, I usually organize our visits with her around dinner at home or "family game night". It just works better.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2010 at 3:06PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

After reading the new answers to my question, I can see how it can come off that I am obsessed with the BM. Actually, I posted that post on a day when I was very fed up with a whole bunch of things. Things said and done that seemed to keep pointing back to the point-of-origin being the BM.

Basically, I agree with some of the things you all have posted and some are rather off base. It is a matter of me 'picking the meat and leaving the bones' in your posts. I do thank you all for your input. It has given me food for thought.

As I see it right now, I am at a place (due to NEW things that have happened) where I have to decide if I am going to be a part of my Step-childrens lives. We know for a FACT that their BM is behind the scenes manipulating things, and we can only hope and pray that the children will come to realize this. Our decision is how to deal with it - we can't control them or the BM, so we have to decide what WE will do. What boundaries to set, and how far to go.

Thanks for your input.


    Bookmark   September 26, 2010 at 1:45PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

stepmotherofthree, that's what SD does, orders the most expensive meals and asks for most expensive gifts. She likes designer clothes and gourmet meals and it is fine, but it is not fine when someone else requires to pay for it. My SO started avoiding certain activities as well such as dinners out or shopping trips with her.

SDs' BM is also awful and also a manipulator, she just got 1mil inheritance and keeps kids on a short leash promising them money and vacations etc I think they realize it or maybe not, it doesn't really bother me. I don't really want them to realize anything, their relationship with their mother is their business. She has nothing to do with my life, I don't have to see her or talk to her. She is not part of my life.

As about them being materialistic, I refuse to buy expensive gifts and only buy what i can afford. SO used to spend a lot of money on them but is learning to cut it down as well. But if he wants to cater to them, he could, his business, his kids. I could just vent here.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2010 at 3:39PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Out-of-the-blue, my stepson called me and we had a WONDERFUL, honest talk!

Without any prompting from me, he up and said that he and his sister are manipulators and social chameleons, and they are working on changing! What a surprise!

We talked for about one hour, and things ended on a GOOD note. He says that he and his sister need to sit down with their dad, and me, and talk about some things that never really have been resolved...concerning their parents divorce.

Thanks for your support, and any prayers that may have been shot our way. What a change! PTL!!


    Bookmark   September 27, 2010 at 9:57AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

--""I collect Coach purses." (which cost hundreds of dollars)"--

Not that it matters, but I'd be more concerned as to why OP assumes the worse in possible future step daughter in law on collecting Coach purses at full retail price. I don't care for them myself (tend to be gaudy for my taste), but collecting them via outlet factory is not expensive at all. If the lady likes to shop, perhaps she knows how to do it well for a fraction of the cost.

Is it possible pre-judgement clouds one's perception between reality and illusions?

    Bookmark   September 29, 2010 at 2:50PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

If you have the money to collect something (including Coach purses) that is your right! The situation is that they DON'T have the money, and they both have high school loans, and are just starting out in their careers. So, this is why her comments caused us concern - along with her comments on loving to shop and that she isn't good with money and that she likes to eat out alot. All of these comments put together seem to add up to a possible problem.

Time will tell what happens concerning their finances. It is their business, but we can still have concern for them.
Most fights in a marriage are over finances. We would hate to see their relationship on rocky ground from the very beginning.

Thanks for your input.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2010 at 10:39AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

i recently bought coach shoes for 29.99 on sale. They are the most comfortable shoes i ever had in my life. They are not canvasses but fall type of shoes. In fact most Coach shoes in my area go on sale every season few times and cost around 50.00. For the comfort they provide 50.00 is not that much. Just a comment....

If they are buying designer clothes but have no money for it, it is too bad. But still how is it your business unless they ask you to pay for their clothes? in fact this girl is your SS's Gf, this is very far removed from you.

I guess I would be more concerned if my own child did this but still..DD did buy designer purse last year, she got tired of buying cheap stuff. Not a big deal. She only has one designer item but unless she asked me to pay for it (which she did not) then how is it my concern. and I have no clue what her SO is buying or collecting.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2010 at 3:50PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Ok first wife is "controlling" but you guilt the kids into leaving any message on your answer phone with not just dads name, but your's too.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2010 at 4:04PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

$50-100 is standard for women's shoes, I think. If you want them to last more than a season. If I buy $25-50 shoes (unless really on sale) they last 6-12mos. If I spend 50-150 they last years.

And KKNY is right, IMO.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2010 at 9:44AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

true silvers, true about purses as well. SD28 buys designer purses but she buys only one and has it at least for 5 years wearing it every day, so at the end she is better off that people who buy cheaper purses and end up replacing them. Plus my story about Coach shoes just illustrates that one can buy designer items for discount prices. I live in the area of great outlets of Newman Marcus, Saks 5th, Calvin Clein and so on. You can buy very inexpensive items from the lasts season.

So i would not judge people for buying expensive items, they might be paying discount prices or maybe they only own few fancy items rather than have cluttered closet of cheap stuff.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2010 at 9:53AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

True PO1. I buy deeply discounted 'nice' purses (not Coach) for around $50-$100 and they last a year or two. And then I pass them on or donate them. They're still in ok shape, but not in good enough shape for me to keep.

It's the difference between good tailoring and bad. Have you ever bought an inexpensive blouse and after two washes the buttons fall off or the seam comes undone? I have had some clothes 10+ years and they are still in good shape. It pays to buy smart, and sometimes that means buying the expensive stuff.

BUT, there's a difference between shopping smart, and just shopping a lot just for the heck of it. I can understand OP's concern.... but she shouldn't concern herself with her son's business. IMO. Especially since he's her Skid too.

Sorry Mom (OP), but if you were my BM I'd tell you to butt out. Let alone my SM.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2010 at 1:41PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Step Son Help
Hi, Im Rowdy and have been married for 11 years now....
Choosing Cats over Friends
Sorry, I'm posting this here because I don't know where...
end of rope
I thought I could do this. I have some good memories...
husband has new found 21 year old daughter
I am having a lot of trouble coping. Please dont beat...
will the real mom please stand up!
I'm all confused. My kids bio-mom abandoned us with...
Sponsored Products
Birds in the Sunset Gallery-Wrapped Canvas
$89.99 | zulily
Maria Theresa Chrome Nine-Light 26-Inch Chandelier with Royal Cut Clear Crystal
Omega White Professional Citrus Juicer
Nautilus Rug
Grandin Road
VerPan | Fun 10DM Pendant
Jane Hamley Wells | TT Stacking Bar Stool
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™