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Anyone dealt with stepfamilies?

Discussion in 'Anything goes' started by Smash Williams, Jul 1, 2010.

  1. Smash Williams

    Smash Williams Well-Known Member

    I'm mad as hell, and I just can't take it anymore.

    Well, not really. More of a long-burning fuse that has just will not go away, and I am trying my damnedest to quit setting myself up for failure every time my extended family gets together.

    Primer on my weird family: parents divorced when I was 9. They moved together to a different state (did not live together but coordinated house/apartment shopping so they were within five miles), and my younger sister and I spent every weekend and most of the summer at my dad's house until I was 14 and my mom moved us back across the country because of her new job. After that, I spent basically the full summer with him every year. I'm definitely a daddy's girl. He's the guy who gave me my love of sports and will spent hours on the phone listening to me prattle on about meaningless shit.

    When I was 12ish, my dad knocked up another woman, a former coworker who'd just lost her husband to some sort of premature death. Half-brother is born. We see them very infrequently. She's got several problems that don't sit well with me (smoker when both my father and I are asthmatic, my father to a dangerous extent; lives in a white trash trailer in rural America and collects whatever stray animal wanders by, which makes the house smell; dead end job with no education and no ambition to do anything other than be a secretary) even at that age, but we have a.... basically amicable relationship, if distant because I see them two times a year a most.

    Noteworthy: Woman lives about five hours away from my father, who lives in a major metro area. She refuses to move into town because her elderly mother lives in rural town and won't move. Her mother, quite literally, lives in the other trailer on the lot in a no-stoplight town. My dad, who would not be able to find a similarly well-paying job if he moved, goes over every other weekend until about.... 2005.

    In 2005ish, she and my father get married. My father explains it as a financial issue. Because she has no virtually no financial assets, it puts my brother in a lot more sound position in terms of not having to deal with his mom's stress over bills until child support payment comes or if, god forbid, anything happens to him. This doesn't surprise me. My dad makes a pretty good living and sent money to my mom until my sister and I were both out of college as well as to his brothers and sisters who are less well off.

    The marriage, however, turns her into a stark raving bitch. She's incredibly possessive, makes constant sexual innuendo jokes at him in front of me (and my brother, who is now 14 and will eventually catch on to these things), clings to him like a 13 year old on her first date, dominates the conversation with things I can't add in about (friends from her hometown, vacations they'll be going on without me), makes backhanded comments about my mother (I shit you not, she said to my dad at lunch one day about their marriage, "Well you definitely saved the best for last"), physically shields me from simple stuff like walking next to him and gives me dirty looks when I sit on the other side of him at, like, a baseball game. She's also incredibly tactless. When I saw them most recently, we were at dinner after the baseball game when she said to him, "You know, we can never get divorced and remarried for YourSon's sake, because every person I know with a stepparent hates them." I think my eyes almost bugged out of my head. I try not to say any of the rather scathing replies that pop into my head because I don't want to undercut her in front of her son (and thus increase the victim complex), but that leads to just further buildup of anger.

    She had stopped smoking, which I really respected, but started up again two years ago when her mother died unexpectedly. I get that, I really do, but it still irks that she's not trying to stop again. She also continues to refuse to move out of the subpar school system that my brother has expressed an interest in getting out of because it sucks so bad. That's really their business, but I find it selfish.

    My dad says he's talked to her about not bringing up, you know, stuff about my mom and that the root of all her problems is that she's incredibly insecure and has a fear of abandonment. He says she clings to him and has the incredibly obnoxious possessiveness whenever they're in front of anyone, including my brother, and not just me. I kind of want to tell her to go to therapy, but even I'm not that blunt. My dad is a very laissez-faire guy who figures that he can give people some suggestions but it isn't worth it to freak out about it if they're not willing to change it, so he's not going to force her into anything either, and he's very willing to let me take long walks away from the situation if I need to cool off, no questions asked, but he won't intervene in the moment.

    Now, I have definitely reached the point where I set myself up for failure with her. I really overinflate each little gesture in my mind, and I try to swallow the small flares of anger at the little things which only leads to them all combining for a moment of burning, screaming rage. We can have decent conversations when we're by ourselves, though she's a raging hypochondriac who often just wants sympathy for her minor allergies and smoker's cough. But I cannot stand this woman when she's around my father.

    The problem is I can only get down to see him 2-3 times a year, and it seems like most of those times, she finds a way to invite herself over for at least part of the time. An understandable part of the rationale is that she wants my half-brother to get time with me (and he's a good kid. A teenage brat, but a good kid), but I also want time with my dad without dealing with all the drama. If there were less drama, I wouldn't mind their constant presence. As it is, I've reached the point of not wanting to see my halfbrother more often because I know it means dealing with her.

    So, that entire novel of pent-up frustration said, any advice on creating working relationships within oddly stressful stepfamilies? I tried a pair of library books, but neither were particularly helpful, and this is a situation where you've got other.... behavioral issues in play other than just the stressful dynamics. I don't want to be the jealous, glowering, rageful stepdaughter, but I feel like that's the corner I always end up in when we're together as a group.
     
  2. Sorry 'bout that.

    I'd send your dad on a nice long walk after a non-existent stray dog and beat the shit out of that woman.
     
  3. Mizzougrad96

    Mizzougrad96 Active Member

    I can relate. My dad has been re-married for about 20 years to a woman who wants nothing to do with my family or my sister's family. She drinks too much, has no kids of her own and throws a fit if my father spends so much as a cent on any of his grandkids.
     
  4. Mizzougrad96

    Mizzougrad96 Active Member

    With my situation, my stepmother was pretty good to my sister and I until the ring was on her finger as well.

    I'm lucky in that my stepfather is awesome. He doesn't try to be a parent unless asked and is always there when I need him.
     
  5. forever_town

    forever_town Active Member

    I've always had an ambivalence toward stepparents (and especially my stepsister), but my extended stepfamilies have been great.

    The first day I met my stepfather's parents before he and my mother married, I started calling them Grandma and Grandpa. That's how quickly I took to them.

    If my other dad's parents hadn't suggested I call each of them by first name, I probably would have called them Grandma and Grandpa.
     
  6. mjp1542

    mjp1542 Member

    Sorry about the situation. Sounds like a doozy, and you absolutely should get your "me time" with your dad when you visit.

    So they're married but live five hours apart? How does that even work? The marriage is solely for financial reasons? Will it dissolve when the stepbrother is out on his own, and what will the ramifications be for your dad?

    Sorry, I'm probably prying too much. It's just such an odd arrangement.
     
  7. Smash Williams

    Smash Williams Well-Known Member

    It's a very odd arrangement, but it works for them.

    He goes over every weekend now (or they come over to his place with half the menagerie) and has since the marriage. I think the root of it is neither of them will move, my dad because he can't get a comparable job and her because... she's crazy? I understood when her mother was alive, but it's been a couple years now.

    He says financial reasons, she seems to think it's because they're so in love. My guess is it's for different reasons on each of their parts and he won't dissolve it when my brother grows up simply because it'd be way too much effort.

    I know I can't drag her to therapy, but is there a not-bitchy way to say "I think we'd get along a lot better if you acted like an adult and not an insecure tween"?
     
  8. Double J

    Double J Active Member

    Smash, how does your younger sister deal with it, or does she bother?

    Have you thought about just asking your dad to come and visit you, instead of you going there?

    And if you choose to no longer visit, just make it clear to your brother that you're not shutting him out and that he'll always be welcome in your life. Maybe when he gets older he'll be able to separate himself from the crazy skank and you can have a good sibling relationship.
     
  9. KYSportsWriter

    KYSportsWriter Well-Known Member

    My (now former, I guess) stepmom was a real bitch when her and my dad started dating when I was younger. She wanted me to call her mom, despite the fact they weren't married yet and despite the fact my mom didn't want me calling my stepmom "mom."

    I think it drove my dad up a wall that I would never call his wife that, and I would never call her parents grandma and grandpa (even though they treated me like their grandson, for the most part). I also think my stepmom had a pretty big role in what my dad put me through as a kid (long story that I think I've posted here before).

    They've since divorced after she walked out on Easter Sunday about 10 years ago. The only time I see/talk to her is if she's around my sister when I get to see her.

    My stepdad, on the other hand, has been great. He was there when my dad wasn't, and he's always been there. He was dad when dad wasn't around, and I love him for that. He's had a pretty big impact on my life, and I'm grateful for that.

    His family is awesome, too. I have seven or eight aunts and uncles, and several cousins, I know I can count on if I ever need anything. It's pretty freaking great.
     
  10. sgreenwell

    sgreenwell Well-Known Member

    Speaking as someone who has a nutty stepfamily on one side, and an acceptable one on the other side, set some boundaries. Tell your father that if he's not going to make sure his new wife treats you with respect when you're in his company, that you simply won't visit him when she's around.

    It's a pretty hard line stance to take, yes. However, the only person you can control in this whole situation is you. If his wife is going to act nutty, and he's not going to defend you, then it's best to preserve your own happiness and remove yourself from the situation. I did something similar with my stepmother and dad, and while I sometimes miss my dad, in the long run I really prefer not dealing with their madness.

    I definitely agree with Double J - Feel free to reach out to the brother. I'm still on good terms with my stepbrother and stepsister.
     
  11. Double J

    Double J Active Member

    Well said.
     
  12. MacDaddy

    MacDaddy Active Member

    I have a feeling she already was one.
     
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