adult child has issues w/controlling stepfather, please help.

juliet876December 12, 2008

I am 32 y.o., only child and recently married. My father died when I was 18. At the time my parents were divorced but had started dating again, then he found out he was terminally ill and we cared for him thru his last days. A few months after he died, my mom had started dating my stepfather and he moved in w/us, under the pretense that he was only staying there for one month until his new apartment was ready for move-in. He never left and they married in 2001.

My mom is very family-oriented and I've always felt the pressure from her to treat him as a stepfather, etc., and I've done so. He is a nice man but recently we're starting to butt heads (he also has NO children). As I mentioned, I am recently married and I was having some problems w/my spouse before the marriage that I didn't mention to either of them b/c I didn't want to put a "black cloud" over our wedding day. Things got slightly worse after the wedding and I went to my mom's, sad and just wanting to vent to my mom and just confide in her. My stepdad was at work. Well apparently, my stepdad didn't like the way I approached it and wants me and my husband to sit down w/him and my mom. According to him the meeting "is only for both my husband and my learning and we just listen and then go." I told my stepfather this doesn't concern my husband, it was me wanting to confide in my mother. He said there is no negotiation, it must be all four of us (My husband didn't mind me talking to my mom about the issues but he feels this is out of line, as do I). I feel the way he approached it was very controlling and I thought it was out of line. My mom also said she would not talk to me w/out having the meeting either b/c they are a "unit" and she doesn't want to take sides. I'm not asking her to, but I'm her daughter and she's mom and she needs to separate the two sometimes and set boundaries w/my stepfather and where he thinks he can go with me.

In recent years, I have asked my MOM to help me finance a few college courses and a small part of my wedding, but the money has come out of his pocket b/c he's the breadwinner. I don't know if he thinks b/c he's given me money that he has a right to talk to me in anyway he wishes but I don't like the position I'm in. I feel like I'm being treated like a child and I need to break this before it gets worse. In addition, whenever I want to talk to my mom about a problem I'm having w/her, he has to be there and he's always chiming in and taking control of the situation.

I haven't talked to my mom in over a week b/c of this and just her and I are meeting on Sunday to discuss things. After several emails I finally got her to agree to meet with me and not have to include my stepfather. I don't know how to delicately approach this and let her know how I feel about him and the controlling, know-it-all behavior he projects towards me. Any advice, please??

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Oh Juliet, I'm sorry. I don't think he has any right to think you should tell him and your husband what you tell your mom. I don't think you should be telling your mom about your marital issues either, but that's just because in my experience mothers do not let things go and she may never get over the fact that one time your husband did __________.

Especially since you were legally an adult when they got together, I think his role should be more of a friend than a father. He needs to butt out.

Tell your mom there are things you don't feel comfortable discussing with him. If she says she should be able to tell him, she's right. He is her husband, and you will have to accept that you cannot tell her anything that you don't want him to know and have an opinion about. There is no way to be delicate with step-situations. He may be controlling, he may be thinking he knows best, he may have your best interests at heart, he may just be a jacka$$. But she feels trapped in the middle. I would find another confident than my mom.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2008 at 3:02PM
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My Biological father does not like any of us "kids" bringing our marital porblems into his home. Period. His reasoning is that my mother is a worrier and any time we confide in HER it causes problems with THEM because she will totally obsess over it.

Is it possible maybe your step father is worried it will become a common thing for you to bring your problems into the household so this is a feeble attempt on his part to nip any potential problems in the butt? I'm not saying it makes it any more his business but maybe if you understood WHY he was acting the way he is it would be easier to solve the problem.

I'm with Silver...if both mom and StedDad insist you all be present and you are just not comfortable with it maybe you should find someone else to confide in when it comes to marital troubles. Theres really not much else you can do if they are both in agreeance.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2008 at 3:51PM
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"In recent years, I have asked my MOM to help me finance a few college courses and a small part of my wedding, but the money has come out of his pocket b/c he's the breadwinner. I don't know if he thinks b/c he's given me money that he has a right to talk to me in anyway he wishes but I don't like the position I'm in."

I agree with Silver and doodle. If you want to talk to your mom confidentially then you have that right to ask for that. If she cannot or will not do that without your step father then she is giving you an answer to that request. Don't blame him, she's your mother, he's just her husband.

That being said, maybe he is being controlling towards you since he perceives you as not just his wife's daughter but as a child. When you put your hand out for the college courses, wedding expenses etc., unless it was a loan, you went back in to the child/parent model with the parent footing the child's bills. Did you really expect that the money came with no strings attached? Your stepdad is feeling like he has rights in your life because he has an investment in your life. You want to be treated like a grown person? Especially a married person? Act like one and don't go running to mom and stepdad for money. When you took the money you put YOURSELF back in to a child's role. Surely you know that stepdad is the provider of finances so why did you ask? Are you grown or not? You decide that not them.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2008 at 5:33PM
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Sorry Juliet - I have to agree with everything that's been said above.

Is there any way you could have a talk with your Mom and StepDad to spell things out a bit? You'd have to outline a bit and practice, but convey the following messages:

- I am very fond of you StepDad and am happy Mom found a partner to share her life with.

- I appreciate everything you have done for me StepDad and know that the money for my college classes and wedding came from you.

- I am lucky to have two loving, caring adults in my life to help me, and You, StepDad, will always have a special place as a trusted advisor and friend. But Mom will always be Mom. No one can ever replace or even equal my Mom in my heart. Mom raised me, and you helped fine tune the nearly-adult version.

- I know that as marriage partners, Mom will confide in you everything I share with her, and I'm OK with that. But please understand that there are some things I can only talk to my Mom about. I really appreciate your accepting that.

(Hugs, kisses, then leave.)

Good luck!

    Bookmark   December 12, 2008 at 6:16PM
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Sweeby, what a perfectly eloquent way to get the point across without causing a rift. If I were the OP I would recite what you wrote verbatim. beautiful!!!!

    Bookmark   December 13, 2008 at 7:49AM
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