View Full Version : What to do when your step-parents are being very difficult?
10-19-2005, 04:42 PM
I welcome answers from everyone, but especially from people who are stepparents and who may have insight...
I'm visiting my Dad right now. He is married to a woman who is quite possibly the most abrasive human being on the planet (even he admits this, though he says that he good very much outweighs her marked bad). Unfortunately, because they live so far away, I've never gotten to know her beyond the superficial (the most time we get to spend together is 2 -3 weeks at a time), so all I can see is the surface, which is aggresive, abrasive, and rude a lot of the time. She's not American, and she delights in publicly cutting down the US for flaws that most of us acknowledge it has -- but, really, none of us want it rubbed in our faces in front of other people and in basically an abusive manner (amazing to me, since she's married to an American). She also likes to tell me that I'm running my life all wrong, and then will proceed to patronize me and tell me how to do it better. She's also made comments about my husband being deployed, something which she knows nothing about.
Anyway, tonight it all came to head. We had company for dinner, and she started off on her anti-American spiel, and everyone at the table started arguing with her -- even the guests, none of whom were American themselves. She got so outrageous that I said to her, "__________, if you don't stop, I'm going to throw something at you." Not the best thing to have said, I understand that. But then she turned to me and said, "I'd like to remind you that you are a guest in my house, and you cannot talk to me like that." And my dad said nothing.
I am so hurt -- I've never thought of myself as a guest in my father's house. THis was his house -- and my house -- long before she came along. Plus, my dad just sat there, and then later told me that she was hurt, adn that's why she pulled the (admitted) rank and power card. He did say to me, though, that this is my house, too, and will always be my house.
When she said that to me, though, I thought to myself, why am I sitting here for two weeks? To be insulted by a woman who doesn't really care enough to get to know me? To be yelled at by someone who hates my country (even though I am not at all rah-rah patriotic, it pisses me off to hear her say terrible things about the US)? To be told that she views me as a guest in my own father's house?
So. Now what do I do? I can't really get out of the house because I have nowhere to go. I'll talk to her about this at some point, but until I do (ie. until I calm down and she stops being patronizing for two seconds), how do I handle her? ALso, how do I stop her from being such an aggresive woman towards me?
10-19-2005, 04:53 PM
Hm. I am not a stepparent, but I have a stepmother (sort of - she married my father when I was already married myself, so I don't think of her as my stepmother, just as my father's wife - but that's kind of a digression).
I don't think I'd handle this with her. I think I'd take it up with your father. Sort of along the lines of your DH should handle his family if there's a problem, you know? Your father should handle his wife if there's a problem. I'd lay it on the line and let him know that the situation has gone as far as you're going to take it - that you don't want to put him in the middle of things or cause him trouble, but you will not put up with the continual insults, put downs, etc. from his wife. That unless things change you will not be coming back to visit and that it is up to him to make sure his wife treats you, his daughter, with some measure of respect. If he says that there's good under the bad, then it's not your responsibilty to have to dig for that. I would ask for an apology and a change in attitude or you simply won't be back. Reiterate that you love him and you're not trying to punish him or anything like that ... but that you have to consider your own feelings and peace of mind as well.
At least .. that's the way *I'd* handle it if I were in that situation.
10-19-2005, 05:06 PM
Oooooohhhhhhh, this makes my blood boil just reading it. As someone who has a stepmother (that she didn't get along with) I can totally relate. When my dad married my stepmom I really didn't know her that well. To make matter worse I was young (around 13) when they married. She made me feel very unwelcome when I was there and even wanted me to knock before I entered the house. She made it completely known that she didn't approve of the way my mother raised my brother and I (keep in mind my mom was a SAHM, PTA President, Room Mother, Soccer Mom, and went to ALL of our field trips and school activities).
This woman was NOT a mother herself (although she did manage to get herself knocked up so they would get married) and had no idea what she was talking about. She even once told my dad that it was either "her" or "them" (us), my dad obviously chose her.
I decided that the only thing I could do was to not talk to them, even if it meant not having contact with my dad. About 7 months went by with *very* minimal contact. Eventually we ended up talking about things and now we get along just fine.
This woman however sounds like she doesn't even want to make things work. If I were you I would have no contact with her and if you go to visit I would stay at a hotel rather than at their house. Why is it that you can't go anywhere now? Can you change your plans and go home early? Personally, I would not feel comfortable staying there or being around this woman. She obviously has no respect for you or anyone else for that matter.
10-19-2005, 05:08 PM
Ugh...she sounds like a pain!
I agree, that this is something you should be discussing with your dad. My father married a woman who'm I'm a bit confused about. She's got COMPLETLY differant political views than I do, and moreover, she continues to knock my views down, even when she KNOWS how deeply I care about certain things. (IE:I have an AIDS ribbon tattoo on my ankle in rememberance of a close family friend who recently passed away. It was VERY hard on me. She saw my tattoo and asked what it was for. I told her and she proceeded to tell me she has no sympathy for those with AIDS and believes it's a cure for "gayness". It took every ounce of control I had no just jump up and slap her!)
This is something I had to discuss with my dad. I told him how incredibly offended I was, and as soon as he saw where I was coming from, he was great. She tried pulling me into fights she and her daughter were having, but my father chimed in and said "don't bring my daughter into this. She doesn't need to be drug into it." I would talk to your dad and say just what you said here...that if this behavor doesn't stop that you wont be coming back. You love him very much, but it ISN'T your responsability to trudge through her bad parts to get to the good. I'd also consider leaving early. I know when I had to deal with my step mom, 3 days was long enough!
I hope things get better. I totally understand how you feel. I feel like a guest in my father's house, my baby things have been given to my step sister, and it feels as if my family has moved on. It's extremely painful, but I promise that if you keep in good contact with JUST your father, things WILL get better. PM me if you need to talk!
10-19-2005, 05:13 PM
Karen -- Yeah, that's what I asked my dad to do. I told him that she'd take it better coming from him. He told me that he'd try, but that I had to talk to her as well, and to tell her that she hurt my feelings and that I found her to be patronizing. Not sure how that one's going to go :rolleyes: I'm just not sure how to handle talking to her, being around her, etc, until either this is resolved or I go home. KWIM?
Manteo -- I'm sorry you went through that with your dad. I don't get it. Why are people like that? This woman isn't a parent, either, and she always tries to push herself on me as if she is my mother or something (and, mind you, they got married when I was 20...WAY too old for her to be doing that)...I don't know, it's weird, because neither of my parents would EVER speak to me like that. My mother will be here for work in a few days, so when she gets here, I'll likely spend the nights with her at her house. I'm goign to talk to my dad again tomorrow about not wanting to come back to see them if she's going to be like this -- I agree, she has no respect for me or other people if she acts like that. It's so sad, though...I miss my dad, and I hate the thought of not being able to properly see him (he won't come visit me without her).
Mandy -- Your stepmom sounds just like mine! I'm sorry you had to go through those things with her, but it's great that your dad stood up for you! My dad, unfortunately, doesn't stand up for me, even when I've talked to him about these things. He'll talk to her in private, but he won't back me up in public, and that really hurts my feelings, too...
Another good story about this woman: Upon my graduation from grad school (MA in History from and Ivy League institution), she doesn't congratulate me, doesn't say "good job". Nope, she tells me that my year in grad school made my flabby, adn that I better start exercising otherwise I was going to get fat. And then she started talking about how I was wasting my life.
It's been three years, and, sadly, that's what I remember best about that day. Not getting the degree, not the smiles and the hugs from my mom, but what that heinous wench of a woman said to me.
10-19-2005, 05:19 PM
but that I had to talk to her as well, and to tell her that she hurt my feelings and that I found her to be patronizing. Hm. I would have pushed back on that, I think. But ... what's done is done at this point.
I think from here on out your best bet is to be very polite and friendly and superficial. If she starts to say something that you find offensive or hurtful, don't get into an argument or anything ... just get up and walk away or if you absolutely can't walk away, change the subject. If need be simply "mmm-hm" to the comments that you don't agree with and move on. Don't give her any reason to be angry with you. Basically do what you need to do to get through the rest of your visit without further incident.
If you do decide to talk to her before you leave, you can do it before you leave so that there's no opportunity for more stress and scenes. And I'd reiterate to your dad that while you'll tell her that you're upset, that it's his responsibility to make sure that she treats you well and that you won't be back until you're assured that will happen.
10-19-2005, 08:48 PM
I have to agree with everyone above:
1. It's your father's place to talk to SM
2. Don't have that conversation with her until you're leaving - great, great advice - only because I don't see her being open to or sharing any responsibility. I just don't think that conversation is going to fly.
3. Know that as other make choices (Dad's choice of wife) sometimes causes you to make choices that you wouldn't make normally. I agree tell your Dad that you love him but be honest. "Dad, I am not comfortable here anymore".
That may mean interaction may be cards & calls for awhile. I know it's not what you want to hear but I certainly can't present anything more positive.
Why can't you go stay at your mom's house now? I can't imagine staying in a house with so much tension.
10-20-2005, 08:05 AM
ITA with Karen's post. You need to bring this up privately with your father, and tell him exactly how this made you feel, and that perhaps, his wife needs to learn some American methods in terms of consideration towards others in conversation.
Meanwhile, I would seriously look for other living arrangements. This does not sound like a nice person to be around, and even if your Dad calls her on her behaviour, her basic approach and personality is not going to change.
10-20-2005, 08:40 AM
This sucks; I'm really sorry. If it were me, I would've booked a hotel room that same night. Screw the cost, my mental health is a lot more important.
Anyway, I know you've already talked to your dad privately, but I would go back to him and tell him you need her to take back what she said about being a guest in their home. That's completely unacceptable, IMO. And I would tell him that you won't stay with them again until you feel comfortable that she will be treating you with civility and respect.
I had to do this exact thing with my own family when I was in college, due to my brother's unacceptable treatment of me. I made it clear that I wouldn't return to the house I grew up in unless he started to act decently. It was hard; my mom got really upset, my dad accused me of walking out on my family, and my other brother called me a troublemaker, but it ended with an apology from my brother and a change in his attitude.
When people are used to living in a situation like that, they come to see it as normal, and they won't stand up for you because you're the "weird" one. I'm sure that's why your dad won't back you up in public; to him, this is just how his wife is. So you have to stand up for yourself and demand the treatment you deserve. It sucks, but there it is. Good luck, and I hope you get at least some resolution before you leave.
If this was a movie you would have a heart to heart with her and everything would be fixed. It's not, so I agree with everyone else.
I am sorry you feel so uncomfortable in your Dad's home and your's.
He did say to me, though, that this is my house, too, and will always be my house.
Your Dad needs to let your SM know that.
10-20-2005, 10:20 AM
Today, over lunch, I told my father a little more about why what she said upset me so much -- there's some things in my past that relate to my mom which she tripped off when said what she did (not that my mom would EVER say anything like that, but it's basically about safe space). In short, I had always regarded my dad's as a place I "belonged" -- a "safe space" in which I could just be. Ever since I was a teenager, my dad's house was where I went to unwind (he works all the time, so I always have a lot of time on my own). And in one fell swoop, his wife changed all that for me.
All my dad said was that I had to talk to her, and that she wouldn't bring it up unless I did. I asked him again to talk to her for me, but I don't think he's going to. He said that he felt really bad about my being upset, but said that we had both acted badly. I fully accept that what I did and said was immature and not very nice. ANd I would tell her that, too, if we had a conversation about things. But I am so mad at her for pulling rank, and so upset at my dad for not saying anything that I can't even look at her. He's getting pretty hard to look at, too.
I might go and stay with my mom for a few days, though that comes with it's own interesting perils -- also, my mom and dad live 10 minutes apart walking, so I'd still see them all the time, just out on the street. I'm also going to give American Airlines a call tonight to see if I can change my ticket -- I was going to stop in London on the way home anyway, so maybe now I'll just go early.
I don't know how to be around her. What to say to her. My mom said to be cool but polite, and to answer questions but not make conversation. I'm sticking to that for right now.
10-20-2005, 10:24 AM
I should also add that I have a lot of guilt about leaving early. Can't explain why -- it would seem logical -- but I do.
10-20-2005, 10:30 AM
I'm so sorry you're dealing with this. I'll be bluntly honest - I think your father is being an ass.
All my dad said was that I had to talk to her, and that she wouldn't bring it up unless I did. I asked him again to talk to her for me, but I don't think he's going to. He said that he felt really bad about my being upset,To me this is unacceptable and I would not have put up with this. At this point I would be leaving. I would tell my father in no uncertain terms that I deserve to be treated better and that if he is going to side with her over me, then I will quite simply remove myself from the situation.
I think finding an earlier flight is the right thing to do. Perhaps before you leave you can sit down with both of them and say "this is why I'm leaving".
10-20-2005, 10:33 AM
If your dad won't speak to her again, could you sit down with the two of them together before you leave and have a conversation? Your relationship with one necessarily affects your relationship with the other, and maybe talking to the two of them as a couple would reinforce that. The fact is, it doesn't matter that your dad told you in private that his house is your house; unless his wife feels and acts that way as well, it won't be. So say that to both of them, together. And apologize for your own part in it - then you have a clear conscience to take whatever steps need to be taken from now on.
Don't feel guilty about leaving early. It doesn't make you a bad daughter. You have the right to be treated with respect by everyone you interact with, and there's nothing wrong with removing yourself from a situation where that isn't happening.
10-20-2005, 10:42 AM
Karen -- I agree with you 100% My dad can indeed be an ass, and he's being a conflict-avoiding and insensitive one right now. He doesn't see it that way, though -- unfortunately, he sees it as "not his business". I don't get that at all, but he did that a lot as I was growing up. Even when things were really bad with my mother (ie. she fell in the tub when I was a senior in high school, had to have emergency back surgery and almost died), all he would say was something like, "Those are the shakes, kid. Watch out for yourself and don't drop out of school." So this isn't rattling his tree all that much.
Angela -- I think you're right. I think that talking to them together will accomplish two things -- 1. It will make her see why what she said was so hurtful, and 2. It will make him somewhat accountable as well. Oh, and 3 :) It should keep them both off my back -- they shouldn't attack me together...though they might...but I doubt it.
Hopefully it's not to much $$ to change my ticket. Then all that's left is to explain to my mom why I'm leaving...she'll understand, though. She's good that way.
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