Problems with stepfather

mededSeptember 18, 2011

My husband and I are considering estrangement from his stepfather. This man can be very charming and has been generous to us over the years, but at the same time he can be emotionally and mentally abusive. My husband finally had enough of this treatment, and although they've been sparring, my husband has said repeatedly that he wants us to get past this and be a family, but then his stepfather sent the most hateful, mean-spirited, spiteful, demeaning, disheartening e-mail to my husband (and me). I could never imagine saying such things to anyone, and I don't think there's any chance of reconciliation now. Meanwhile, my MIL is acting like there's nothing she can do about it, blaming my husband (somehow) while at the same time acting helpless. Here are my questions:

1. How do we maintain a relationship with my MIL while at the same time becoming estranged from the stepfather? This is what my husband wants, regardless of her treatment of him.

2. How do we explain this to our young children?

I'd appreciate any feedback. Thanks for reading.

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I would imagine the only way that will work is if the MIL agrees. She could meet you in public or come to your house or plan things when her husband is away, if that is ever. If she does not agree to exclude her husband, then you run the risk of her choosing him over her son & she may choose to be estranged from your family... which would hurt your children.

As for explaining it to children, I suppose if you feel the need to explain to the kids... you could tell them the truth, that dad loves his mom & has tried very hard to make things work with her husband but there are just some people that don't treat others like they should & at some point, you have to make a decision to allow them to treat you poorly or remove yourself from the situation. (That explanation would work well with kids old enough to understand bullying) Or you can not tell them why her doesn't come around with grandma... he's busy, etc.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2011 at 2:00AM
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1. Your MIL probably has been conditioned to be submissive to this man's abuses. So, be compassionate toward her for she has to live with this man all these years.

2. You can be decisive in cutting the cord but that will create akward moments at family meetings. You can play the detaching game by reducing the contacts w him to a minimum, except christmas or special occassions.

3. When meeting w him, be very cordial but yet detached and remote. AVoid engaging in any discussions and such. If he interferes with your family's stuffs then decline his involvement at once.

4. You might want to ignore the last email from the step father not because of him but because of your husband and your children's relation with the mother/grand mother.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2011 at 1:28AM
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Meded, no matter what happens, I'd suggest trying to maintain a relationship with MIL, even if it appears that she's not interested (I mean if she's not responding). Is there somewhere you can call, email, or send cards where they cannot be intercepted by stepfather, like at her work or volunteer activities, perhaps? At some point MIL may have had enough and, if that time comes, she'll need to know that people still care about her.

I normally agree with and respect shakti's advice but in this case I strongly disagree that you might want to ignore stepfather's behavior in order to continue the relationship. In doing so you would be sending a message to your children that one must continue to tolerate emotional abuse if it's from "family". If your MIL chooses to do so for now that is her decision - but it doesn't mean you and your husband have to tolerate abuse.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2011 at 8:37AM
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Well, I'm a mixture of what all three above have stated (Ima, Mattie and Shakti).

My daughter and I have managed to maintain our relationship for 10 yrs now. She's my daughter, I love her. I'm her mother, she loves me. Her husband is a horse's behind. The guy and I have no use for each other. My daughter was NOT 'conditioned' to take the crap the guy tosses around, but that's entirely another day another story.

Yes, my daughter is welcomed in my home at any time. I see my grandson often. My daughter and I communication via phone, text and personal visits often. I have tolerated the jerk when I absolutely have to (their wedding and the birth of their son plus rare face to faces) jerk went out of his way to annoy and torment me at their wedding. I knew he would and I was determined he would not make me miss my daughter's wedding...I worked in public relations my whole adult life, I knew how not to give the jerk the reaction and attention he desired from me.

When my GS was born, SIL's (who was not SIL at the time and I had sole medication decisions pre my daughter's wishes in the event she could not) mother phoned at 1 am in the morning. Said DD was asking for me and wanted me to come immediately. Of course I did. I talked my DD through a tough delivery, while SIL stood looking stupid at the end of the delivery table, then held my GS for the first time. While DD finished up, I followed nurses and GS down to nursery. It was what my daughter wanted. I checked with dr and nurses on my daughter before leaving hospital an hour later and then quietly left. I will always be there for my daughter when she needs me/wants me, but I will not intrude, nor do I stick my nose into my DD's and her husband's relationship.

As far as family get togethers, she and my grandson come to some and miss others. It works for DD and I. As much as I dislike (and for good reason) my SIL, I have to admit the jerk is a good father to my grandson. GS adores him. I'm not the one who has to live with and tolerate SIL, my DD is, I can't live her life for her and can't tell her how to live her own. We both accept that. Sometimes I suppose for DD it is like she lives in two worlds at times. One with SIl and one where she still has an extended family that loves her and cares about her and includes her when she can come. I am and always will be there for this child of mine. She knows that. It is unconditional. There is no pointing fingers and no blame either way.

There never really was much explaining to do with GS. He loves us all and has just always grown up (he's 9) knowing we are all family but that his Papa and I choose to pretty much ignore each other. Not perfect, but it works. My daughter has been with this guy for 10 yrs, they were married when GS was 7ish.

It is rather strange sometimes. SIL will drop GS off at curb, I go out and greet them (I am always polite in front of my GS and never ever speak ill of his father in any way shape or form anywhere near the child). GS spends the day, evening or weekend and then one of his parents pick him up or I met my daughter halfway. If daughter picks GS up here she comes and we visit, maybe have dinner. If we meet halfway it is usually at a time where we can stop and have a meal and visit together. My daughter and I are not estranged from each's just her husband and I don't play family.

My family's way may not 'work' for you at all, but it does for us. My daughter is not responsibile for the SIL nor is she responsibile for her mother. SIL and I just don't exist for each other, we're both happiest this way. We can be and are civil towards each other when we have to be. It's just the way it is.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2011 at 10:32AM
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Thanks so much, everyone. You've given me a lot of good advice. As an update, my husband and I have finally had something of a breakthrough with my MIL, and I think she now understands our viewpoint and is willing to spend time with us separately from her husband. Apparently her husband is okay with this, but time will tell.

We have not yet explained this to our children, but I really like imamommy's initial suggestion. I want to be truthful with them but at the same time not turn them against him.

I am so relieved to be out from under this man's thumb. I don't think this is over by any means, but it feels good to have finally taken control of the situation.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2011 at 10:25AM
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An update and more questions...

Although my MIL initially seemed willing to see us separately from her husband, she has not done so and has been avoiding us. Now MIL wants to spend the day out with DD and wants her husband to come along as well, and I'm not sure how to handle this. Part of me would like to say yes because I don't want to stir the pot any further, but part of me is very uncomfortable with our child spending time with a man who has made it clear that he has no respect for my husband and would not make eye contact with me or answer any direct questions from me the last time I saw him. Should I even be considering letting this man spend time with our daughter?

It's all so awkward, as shakti predicted, but I don't know how to move past it. Even if we were to forgive this man for the way he has treated my husband, I fully believe that the abusive behavior would continue and in fact escalate. This man is beyond angry that we defied him (by calling him out for the bully he is) and wants to punish us for it -- hence my concern about having our daughter spend time with him -- and I really have no idea how to appease him at this point or even if I should. Any thoughts on how to move forward/past this or if we've done the right thing by estranging ourselves from him?

    Bookmark   November 5, 2011 at 9:29PM
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You need to start a new thread or people will refer back to your initial post.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2011 at 12:27AM
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I seems the SF is controling the situation. MIL agreed to visits by herself but has failed to actually have done so. Now she wants to see DD but wants SF to come along. You're back to square one.

--"This man is beyond angry that we defied him (by calling him out for the bully he is) and wants to punish us for it"--

And so far MIL has not seen the child. She now obviously misses the contact and wants to, but wants to bring SF. I'd think, they thought your DH would 'get over it' and cave and this request of pretending nothing ever happened is their attempt to down play what did happen. They have not taken their part in the events that lead up to the estrangement seriously, nor view it as if they did anything wrong. Now, here they come again thinking DH will forgive and forget.

I certainly can't tell your DH what to do or how to think, but IMHO I don't see how anything has changed to warrent this SF/MIL/DD visit. It's still Bully SF calling th shots and running over any consideration for your DH and DH's feelings.

What does your DH say about this request? Frankly, if he is all for it and wants to allow it , this is something you need to be discussing with your Dh. If your DH does not 'care' how this guy treats him and that his mother allows it you can't really dictate the relationship for him. He's made his stand with his mother/SF, now mother/SF are testing Dh's decision. Have the DH and his MIL discussed what happened? Has DH and SF talked about it? If not, I'd say nothing has changed, nothing will change for the better and now DH has to decision for himself what he intends to do or not about it.

If I were your DH I'd stick to my origional decision as nothing has changed and it's 'game' as usual...the only thing that has happend in the last six weeks is they've waited Dh out a bit to see if he is now willing to keep playing their game of kick and abuse Dh. What has changed or been resolved? Nothing.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2011 at 6:29AM
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I'm sorry, I didn't realize I should have started a new thread.

justmetoo, thanks so much for your thoughts. I think your comments are spot on, especially "They have not taken their part in the events that lead up to the estrangement seriously, nor view it as if they did anything wrong." This is SO true. In their minds, it's all our fault and they are the victims...that this is something we have done to them and they have no idea why, but every time we've tried to explain our perspective, the waters get muddier and muddier and everything gets worse.

DH does not want DD to spend time with SF, so that is what we'll have to tell MIL. Hopefully she will still follow through with the visit with DD regardless.

Nothing that led us to this estrangement has changed or been resolved, and I guess I'm hoping that could somehow happen, but unless SF at the very least acknowledges his actions that drove us to this point (which is highly unlikely), there is no path forward for us. Yet, I'm so close to this situation that I wonder if there's something I'm not seeing.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2011 at 8:37PM
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You do realise that if MIL's attitude is pro-SF, despite saying she will visit with DD alone, she may well bring him anyway and not tell you, even ask your DD to keep it a secret because Daddy's being an old fuddy-duddy?

    Bookmark   November 6, 2011 at 8:54PM
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colleenoz, oh yes, I've considered this possibility. I have to believe that she will abide by our wishes if we specifically tell her that we do not want SF there.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2011 at 11:02AM
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