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Does anyone else have problems with adult stepchildren and their spouses?

Tagged as: Family, Troubled relationships<< Previous question   Next question >>
Question - (15 December 2010) 7 Answers - (Newest, 22 December 2010)
A female United States age 51-59, anonymous writes:

Does anyone else have problems with adult stepchildren and their spouses? I have 3 who are for the most part, polite and courteous to me when in my presence. They do, however, fail to recognize me as a legitimate family member. Its dad's house, dad's things, yadda yadda yadda. I have tried so hard to please these "kids" (youngest 25 and oldest 29) and at best just get a lukewarm response. Two weeks ago, I had a birthday. One stepson texted me the day after my birthday and wished me a "Happy Belated Birthday". It just thrilled me as none of the others acknowledged it. I texted him back and thanked him and asked how the family was doing. No response. It's like he did his duty and had no more to say.

I am the same woman who does without at Christmas and birthdays so they and all their kids can receive nice gifts. My husband was so deeply in debt when we married that he (nor myself, now) will ever see daylight again. The kids either don't recognize or care that dad could not do all he does for them if it were not for my help. I work and make almost as much money as their dad. We are also still paying on his 30 year home that has been mortgaged 3 times to pay for these kids' mother's little whims and wishes. Part of that money going in to keep the family home is mine. Am I wrong in assuming I should be considered a family member (if only an insignificant one???) Or, am I just some bimbo who loves their dad and as his wife, it's my responsibility to do all this and pamper them, as well?

Before I get too deeply into this, let me say that the biggest problem of all is not one of my stepkids but in actuality, a step daughter in law. She cannot stand me. She is extremely jealous of me and never fails to mouth off something (that's why I said the others were at least polite in my presence...not this one! She can be quite vocal and quite rude!!) and is even alienating hers and my youngest stepson's kids against me. You see, when she was a teenager, she was abused and kicked out of her own home. At that time, she was dating my stepson and had no where to go. My husband took her in. She told me he was the only father she had ever known. She made herself "the woman of the house" while living with them and sees me as an intruder. Even when she is appearing to be nice, she slams me. Once I was wiping down cabinets in the kitchen while she was there. (The place was a shambles when I moved in and I have done much to make it a home). Her comment to my cleaning the cabinets, "You have just worked so hard to fix up "his" house. Nothing is mine. Nothing is ours. Everything is his. I wonder if she would consider my undergarments as my own. Probably give him credit for making sure I had some! : )

The non-recognition by all the kids and the slams by the daughter in law are taking a toll on me. Especially since we cover our financial problems (that I did not create) from them and I'm working my butt off to keep us afloat and give them the Christmases and birthdays they've become accustomed to and can't even receive a "Happy Birthday" when its my day. My husband thinks I over-react. They have more respect for him, but not much more and he never commands it.

I was raised in a home where kids had to respect their parents and all elders. I spent my life trying to help and please my parents until their deaths.

I'm just having a hard time coping with my husband's concept that everything I knew was wrong and it's the kids who must be helped and pleased until we die.

View related questions: christmas, debt, jealous, money, moved in, text

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (22 December 2010):

The sooner you come to terms with the fact that your adult step-children may never accept you nor respect you, the better it will be for your mental, physical and emotional well-being. Treat it like the death of someone you love, or becoming bankrupt, after you've put all your eggs in one basket. Mourn your losses and move on. Don't allow it to take its toll on you any more. Life is too short and you are entitled to happiness with your husband. You might say it's easier than done or who am I to say this, but I am speaking from experience. Been there done that. Just recuperating now after waking up from martyrdom. After being taken for granted and treated like their maid in waiting for over a decade and a half, catering to their wants, cooking for them, parties for them and grandkids, shopping gifts for them while depriving myself, so we could afford to please them, we get treated with bad behavior and utter disrespect. My only consolation is that at least, my husband and I are on the same page, which is crucial to your healing. My husband and I decided that we will no longer be played for as suckers and continue extending financial and material support and allow ourselves to be used like objects.They (two adult kids with nearly adult children of their own) did try and manipulate their father to create a wedge in our marriage but they failed because our marriage is strong. Its important that your husband realize who his priority should be. Lucky for me my husband believes the biblical saying that "a man will leave his father and mother and cling to his wife, and they will be one flesh, to the forsaking of all others" (and all others could include adult children who can't respect their father and respect his choices in life and can't respect his wife or the person who is caring for their father and a helpmate to him). Both you and your husband should remove from your lives, anything that is a threat to your marriage or a threat to your health, your mental and emotional well being, especially if you have both done all you could for these overgrown kids. You no longer have an obligation to do anything for them once they reach the age of majority and they are way past that. Look for people that can put a positive and healing influence in your life, like good friends or a support group and stop wasting your precious time, energy and emotions on toxic people, and your adult step-kids would fit that category if all they do is stress you over and over again. Never expect anything more from them, not even decency because they might not be those kind of persons in the first place, but also the rude reality that you could end up waiting till you're too old to enjoy life. Your happiness should not be contingent on getting a return from all your sacrifices for them all these years. Just count it as a learning experience. It was your choice to serve them, just like when you choose to invest in something, you could gain, you could lose. It's a universal experience that most step-mothers end up losing. You are not alone, but there's still time to recoup that loss by focusing your energies, emotions and attention to those people who values and respects you genuinely. As the bible aptly put "Do not throw your pearls before swines". Be kind to yourself finally.

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (20 December 2010):

Wow, yeah you have some issues here. But you can't solve this. In reality, unless your name is on the deed, the house isn't really yours. I'm in South Carolina and unless my husband draws up a will stating that our home goes to me in the event of his death his kids are entitled to half, even with me living. So, it is his house still. And in your situation you either have to deal with it or leave. You see, you came into this situation when the kids were grown. They don't look at you as a step-mother, more like their father's wife. You don't get special treatment. You could try couples counsiling with your hubby but he may be resistant. If they don't live with you then don't let it get to you. I go through the same things with mine but they have moved out now and things are much better. If you just sit back and don't say anything at first, let him pick up on things, and speak in the right moments he will begin to see things your way. You must not try and turn him with him knowing. It must be subtle. It has taken 3 years but my hubby sees things my way now. He knows his kids are brats and use us for everything. Oh, and as far as Christmas, put the majority on your hubby. See how he likes it. Plus when the kids get upset about not getting so much let him defend himself. Let him let them know that you could only do so much this year and that you are putting your finances in order now that they are grown. If he doesn't change in the next few years you will have a tough decision to make.

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (20 December 2010):

Dear OP: thank you for your response to my question. I just needed to know the background to your marriage. Thank you for the honest feedback.

Now that u provided more info I say this respectfully: your hb is the culprit. His kids treat u the way they have bec he allow them. Sad but honest. And I think you will agree.

You are not their maid, their doormat and their second best.

However if your hb doesn't change his attitude then they will not. You have tried it seems . So just let it be?? Meaning u know how they are towards u so nothings going to change.

Instead of moping about then seize the moment. Create your own 'home' with or without your hbs blessing. Enjoy Xmas, go all out and enjoy. Make it memorable. Invite friends, make it special. In Jan just have a family gathering. Do what u have to for his kids but expect nothing. Be yourself but remove yourself from them: meaning start to be indifferent. Perhaps what I am suggesting is bad but something has to give.

If u use the 'reasonable mans test' then u have done everything humanly possible to be decent to them.

I think u need to be aware that tour hb has failed you when it comes to his kids. Is this a deal breaker?

LoveGirl

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A male reader, anonymous, writes (16 December 2010):

Very common problem.

Who sets the rules on this, the parent of the children who is married to the step parent. He has to have a frank discussion with them, and you and he probably need counseling BEFORE that discussion takes place.

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A female reader, kirra07 Canada +, writes (15 December 2010):

I don't see an easy way to resolve this without your husband's help. They see everything as his, and without his authority, they feel they don't need to respect you. By his not saying anything about how they treat you, he is essentially condoning their actions and passively implying that it is okay. They are grown up now, they have their own families. Coming back to their dad's house, they should treat his new wife with respect, if not friendship and love. The problem is that they really have no real motivation to treat you well. If they are not the kind of people to treat you well because you make their dad happy, then the only way they will treat you well is if their dad enforces it.

I would advise speaking to your husband about it again. Tell him what they are doing, what you are feeling. That you don't expect to be taken in as family, but should be involved due to your relationship. That you put a lot into making his kids happy, the least they can do is be polite and respect you, and try to include you. Really, without his help, it will be close to impossible to resolve things. The biggest problem I see is with your step-daughter-in-law. If the other step children are treating you politely, that should be fine.

The things I think you should expect are:

- they call it your home, as well as their dad's

- if you are together at Christmas, they give a gift to you, as well as everyone else

- they greet you and do not ignore you

- they do not insult you

Things I'm not sure if you can expect are:

- doing anything for you on mother's day

- doing anything for you on your birthday

- being involved with your family

- calling just to talk to you

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A reader, anonymous, writes (15 December 2010):

This is verified as being by the original poster of the question

To LoveGirl:

In answer to your questions so that you might have a better insight into this situation.

1. My husband separated from his first wife in 2000. He married me in 2008 after a courtship of 2 years. Wife was long gone before we got together.

2. It was an amicable divorce. She left him in 2000 with the two youngest ones still at home.

3. I have no children of my own.

4. I am not sensitive that they carry on as a big happy family. I love that. I do feel bad that I contribute but am as you say 'looking in from the outside'.

5. My expectations from my step kids are to be treated respectfully. Nothing more, nothing less.

6. I am not trying to enforce myself into their lives. I feel like they are not small children, they are adults and they should treat me with respect.

7. I look down my nose at NO ONE. Not my stepkids or anyone. This should also answer whether or not I look down my nose at my step daughter in law. The answer is no.

8. Do I see my step kids as a nuisance? I suppose that might be true. Dad has let them rule the roost since their mother left. He's a very passive person.

9. I do not hate my husband's ex wife. I hate paying her bills.

Christmas will be celebrated late because all they are all booked up into up in January.

I have cooked meals, worked my butt off to make previous holidays special for them. I am a maid. Period.

My step daughter in law embarrassed me in front of my nieces when they had invited us all (husband, myself, all kids and in laws) by saying they should have went to my husband's ex's sister's house because "she is blood family". I was mortified as was one of the other daughter in laws.

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (15 December 2010):

A few questions:

When did your hb divorce his first wife? How long were they married? Was it an amicable divorce?

How soon after his divorce did u both get together? How long are u marriage to him?

Do u have kids of your own?

Are you also "sensitive" to the fact that they carry on as a big happy family, and u are looking in from the outside?

What are your expectations from your step kids? Are u trying to enforce your presence into their lives?

Yes there are definite problems with your situation. And I can see why you are hurt. But are u also not contributing to the problems somehow? Do u look down your nose at them? Do u see his kids as a nuisance? Or that u are better than them?

Human behaviour is so strange. I know u are hurting and want them to acknowledge you in their lives. But perhaps baby steps instead of forcing the issue. I think you need to also cut your step daughter in law some slack. I think u feel u are better than her somehow. I hope I am mistaken

Your hb also needs to learn tough love when it comes to finances. Maybe he feels guilty therefore he caves to their demands? Tough love means still loving your kids but main them be accountable as adults. I know that finances are tight so have u thought of what u will do upon retirement? Paying off a bond in your golden years is tough. You mention that your hb still .

It is almost Xmas, are u all going to be together? Perhaps use this festive period to mend bridges and to make 'friends' with them.

This is not an easy situation bec there is always different sides to the same story. Each ones experience is relevant to what they are feeling.

You also seem to despise his ex wife. Is this not contributing to the animosity?

Who/what is the common denominator in all the problems. I am not pointing fingers but maybe you also need to be mindful of what u say and do. In fact you all should!

I think all around a lot of hurt feelings and the only way to move forward is to address it. Yes people will be put on the spot and the atmosphere will be tense but what do u have to lose? Currently there is no relationship.

I have tried to be fair to both sides in my response but I know it is not the answer u may have been looking four. I hope however that I have given u a different angle.

LoveGirl

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