Finished with the relationship - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 8 Old 01-01-2016, 05:51 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Finished with the relationship

Hey,

Sorry in advance for rambling on a bit. My father cheated on my mom when I was 11. He abandoned my brothers and me and we didn't hear from him for two years. Then our mom got sick and she called him and asked him to come back for us. I knew why she called him and we spoke about it. She said she understood how I felt and said she didn't expect me to forgive him or to act lovingly toward him, but she begged me to do everything I could to hide how I felt from my brothers because she knew they missed him and wanted him back and it would be good for them to have our father. So I did. And I pretended everything was normal again. Then our mom died and our father abandoned us with her family for close to a year before coming back with a fiancée, claiming he'd needed to find us another mom. She left very fast because she was expecting little kids who'd be desperate for a mom, not older kids who were unhappy with our mom being replaced. He left for a few more months and then came back, claiming he'd found a job and a house for us. I kept pretending for my brothers, but my father knew not to push me too hard because I do not like him at all.

He met his new wife last year. Things moved fast. She has two daughters who are 4 and 7 and we all live together now. Back in June, my brothers told me they knew I didn't like or love our father anymore and they told me I didn't need to pretend for them anymore, so I don't. I'm 17 now and they're 13 and 11.

The last few months have been tense and filled with arguments. My father and his wife try to push her two daughters onto me. She's told me on a number of occasions that she wants me to be a big sister to them like I was to my brothers because they adore me and I've always looked out for them and spent time with them. Basically, she wants me to love them and treat them like I treat my brothers. But I'm not going to be around them like I am my brothers. Once I'm old enough to move out, I will, and the only contact I'll have with them is with my brothers. My relationship with my father ended years ago and I don't plan on keeping it alive as an adult. He was never a good father and he walked out too many times for me to want anything to do with him. Some might find that cold or bratty, since I don't have my mom anymore. But I have family, not including my brothers, and they've always been there for us and those are the people I want in my life.

Over the last couple of weeks, my father and his wife have been pushing things on me more. His wife especially. She told me it's time to forgive and forget and do everything to build us into a family (my brothers don't particularly like her or pay attention to her kids, which fuels her a lot). She actually asked me to take her daughters Christmas shopping when I took my brothers. When I said no, she asked my father to make me, but he's admitted before he's afraid of me (he doesn't like to hear the truth at all) and so she ended up taking them. My fathers wife's family were here as well as my fathers brother. My uncle did his best to convince me I'm doing the wrong thing. He told me anyone would tell me that, so I found this forum, saw that you guys seem to be pretty nice and give good advice and answers and said I would ask here.

Thanks in advance.
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#2 of 8 Old 01-01-2016, 07:01 AM
 
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Are you working? What's your plan to move out? How do you plan on keeping contact with your brothers if your dad tries to cut it off?

The second you can, I suggest you find a good counselor. Even though you do seem to be handli ng this well, this is a lot for a person to go through and getting help sorting it out is a good idea. Can you see a counselor at school for right now?

If you can, I think there is something to be said for opening your heart to your step siblings. Not for your father or step mother, but for them. They could use a good role model.

But that is NOT your job and if you just don't want to, that's fine. Do not feel guilt for taking care of yourself.

That is a rough situation. Good luck.
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#3 of 8 Old 01-03-2016, 08:05 PM
 
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I'm not 100% sure what you're asking. Are you right to go ahead with cutting off your father, and maintaining only the family relationships you feel have been supportive? Are you obligated to forgive and forget, and work to forge family connections with people you resent, during the 11th hour of your childhood? Are you obligated to open your heart to your stepsisters?

At this stage of your life, you are right to put yourself first and follow your best instincts, to try to become as emotionally healthy as you can be. In what you will look back on as the blink of an eye, you will be an adult (I don't mean a legal adult just because you turn 18, but "adult" in the sense of fully independent and responsible for yourself), maybe someone's partner, someone's mother; and all the future responsibilities you will have for yourself and other people will be better-met, if you have invested your late-teen/early-adult energy becoming your best self, not trying to fix or re-write the history of things other people - not you - broke. Do what you think you need to do. If you have someone in your life whom you consider wise, who loves and cares about you, listen to them. If you're getting advice from people who seem more motivated by their own needs than by what's best for you, don't listen to them. Focus on your education, your interests, eventually your career path. Pay attention and learn how to have healthy friendships and healthy romantic relationships with people who treat you properly. Don't train yourself - through your relationship with your father - to accept crap and abandonment from people you want to love you, and to feel responsible for twisting and distorting it so you can call it love. Don't train yourself to second-guess your own good instincts. Train yourself to find - and give - what rightly, sensibly feels like love.

But later, there may well come a time when you see things differently. It may start to dawn on you that just because you and your brothers needed - and deserved - for your father to be mature enough to put you first, to see things from your perspective, and to rise above his own weaknesses...that doesn't mean he could. You may start to see the senselessness in hating, resenting, or hardening your heart toward someone, for being the only person he may have ever been capable of being; like getting pissed off at the crabapple tree in your yard, for not being the pear tree that you wanted. It's easier to forgive your parents for not being what you needed - or deserved! - when you reach the point of adulthood where you have what you need, and you don't need it from them, anymore. If you reach a stage of softening, forgiveness, willingness to get to know your father as he is, instead of rejecting him for what he's not, don't second-guess yourself about that, either. Neither resist it, nor feel guilty that you didn't get to that stage sooner. You can't force yourself to have the perspective of middle age, when you're 18. And if you try, it'll take so much work that you'll miss out on what you should be doing at 18.

It's somewhat the same - but less important - with your stepmother and stepsisters. Eventually, you may realize that your rejection of them probably has much less to do with them being unlovable people, and more to do with your father being there for them in ways he wasn't (reliably) there, for you, your brothers or your mother. You may even realize that your stepmother's position is pretty unenviable. It sounds like your father asked her (figuratively, not literally) to help him bring all of you together as a family...a job she doesn't have the power to do, but which she probably feels like a failure for not being able to accomplish. And your stepsisters are just little and innocent and would like the approval of the cool, older girl in their family. Someday, if you're able to give that to them - or be open to a relationship with your stepmother - don't resist it. But if you just don't have the emotional energy to do those things now, they are not your obligation.

You've had a hard time of it. None of it is your fault. You didn't deserve any of it. You made a good effort to look out for your brothers. You are completely right to look out for yourself and seek what you need.
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#4 of 8 Old 01-03-2016, 10:22 PM
 
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Bravo VocalMinority!
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#5 of 8 Old 01-05-2016, 10:29 PM
 
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Well, here is my take. As other people have said, take care of yourself first, put your own needs first. But sometimes that means placating, compromising, and finding appropriate ways to distance yourself from especially difficult people. Pick your battles, and in hindsight so few of them are truly worth it. If things in your current home are getting tense for you, reach out to your extended family and support network, prepare a safety net with someone, maybe get advice from someone in your family that you trust.

As far as your stepmother wanting you to love her daughters... while I certainly don't think you're supposed to or obligated to, please don't blame her for wishing that you would. She's appreciating you and what a great sibling and caring person you are, and she's wanting the best for her daughters which is natural, and she thinks you're the best--that's not so bad. She may not be communicating this in the best way, it certainly sounds like her relatives aren't. And I sure hope she doesn't turn it into a power struggle. But from the sound of it she's asking because she admires and appreciates you. She also wants her home to be harmonious and loving, and while that may be a pie in a sky dream for someone who chose the wrong kind of husband, again please don't blame her for having such a natural and healthy desire. Being a mom and stepmom can be stressful and heartbreaking, and it sounds like she wants the best for everyone. As I said, she's not going about that in the best way. But it's a pretty tricky situation. You know, my big realization as I got older... I thought my family had such nutty problems, and I'd get out and find my tribe of really emotionally intelligent people. Well, there aren't that many people who are very emotionally intelligent. There are people with completely different problems and patterns who I find easier to deal with, but few people are truly as wise as I expected to find... and I myself may be pretty sharp and ethical in some respects, but as I got older I found my own big fallibilities. So, related to that, the issues you mention with your stepmom don't sound that bad--not that great, but not that bad either.

One issue I would raise is, is it really appropriate for a 17 year old to be transporting and supervising a 13 year old, an 11 year old, and two young girls all at the same time? If that's actually what was being requested.

Ultimately what I have to say is, keep your BS detector on and your eyes clear, but try not to demonize. It's a fine balance. Also, focus on your future and your wellbeing, don't get caught up in family drama. Reach out to your extended family and ask if someone can help you plan and support your future.

I do have one other thought. Especially when your brothers are teens, all their complicated emotions could start coming out, maybe in unpredictable ways. I do think there could be value in your modeling an improvement in the family relationships, whatever is realistic and possible. Harmony in the home helps everyone, when it is possible. You'll be independent soon, but your brothers and stepsisters will still be there for quite awhile, stuck with and affected by anything that brews and stews. If your stepmom makes more requests, try to find ways to be diplomatically honest with her. "I have a special bond with my brothers because of our history, and I can't replicate that with your kids. But I can try to take more of an interest in them from time to time. What you're asking me to do is too much, is there something I can do that is more modest and realistic?" "I understand that you want things at home to be better, but you're only going to make these conversations upsetting if you tell me to forgive and forget. Please just leave that part out of it. I think it's important that people not tell each other how to feel." Etc... and keep the broken record technique in your back pocket. Well, I think I've surely written enough...


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#6 of 8 Old 01-06-2016, 04:53 AM
 
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@tournesol - if your family was abusive and you've found yourself surrounded by abusers, please seek a therapist's help. It's sadly common for survivors of abuse to fall back into the trap again and again. Toxic behavior is NOT normal and it's NOT that common- please, seek help, don't just give up and accept that people who ignore your boundaries and needs are all that's out there.


If, however, your family was NOT abusive, just normal weirdness and your rejection of them a normal part of teenage development, please kindly bow out until you're more aware of these dynamics. Abandoning your children after the death of their mother is severely neglectful, their father throws up massive red signs for having far more problems than just "nutty" behavior. The step-mother rushing into a marriage with such a man and then trying to emotionally manipulate his children is also suspicious.

Our culture has a very bad habit of trying to invalidate what survivors of abuse feel, especially domestic abuse. Telling a child in a toxic home situation that it's her job to fix it, that she should be more sympathetic to the parents who are failing her, that she should mirror "harmonious" behavior as if this is normal and acceptable- it's not helping. If anything, it's hurting.

I get the idea of thinking it'll help- but it doesn't. It sacrifices the victim, tells her to surrender her personhood just to hold up the facade of normality. Because the toxicity will do damage no matter what. Internalizing it, normalizing it, that does far more damage than rejecting it because if you accept mistreatment as normal- you will eat away at your soul. You will be far more likely to internalize the message that this is all you deserve, all anyone deserves, and carry that into your life.

If her brothers have bad emotional outbursts as teens, it is not because the OP ruined the harmony. It's because they're being raised by two adults who can't provide for their childrens' emotional well-being. It's because their mother died and their father abandoned them, then dragged a new woman into their life and forced them to all play house together.

There are ways to make this blend go smoothly that honors all involved. It is not the childrens' fault that their parents are failing to make that happen.
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#7 of 8 Old 01-06-2016, 08:09 AM
 
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Originally Posted by sillysapling View Post
@tournesol - if your family was abusive and you've found yourself surrounded by abusers, please seek a therapist's help.
My writing could have been more clear and organized, but I was writing a forum post, not an essay for publication, and I was expecting people who can read with enough nuance. Likewise, I was responding to an OP who sounded like she already had clear and healthy boundaries, even to the extent that she was questioning them in a rational, skeptical (of others) way.

I was suggesting a relatively realistic but also positive view of the situation. This is something that can benefit most people, if not all. Survivors are not helped by chronically putting the -most- negative spin on their life conditions, except if the only alternative is false (I don't want to say deluded, but can't think of a better word) positivity. The OP sounded smart and stable enough to take whatever makes sense to her and reject the rest. Likewise, I wasn't telling her that it's her job to fix the home. Contributing some harmony, if one can, in the hope that it will have a positive influence on others, however small, is not the same thing as being blamed or taking responsibility for everything. I also mentioned reaching out and setting up an escape plan a couple times in case the family situation becomes untenable, (in case the situation is more toxic than was clear in the post, or becomes significantly worse) because people, no matter how sensible, tend not to prepare for such a thing--still I think even before then, purely for self-preservation's sake, it is valuable to do what one can to keep the peace before leaving.

As far as the stepmom goes, I will reply to your post point by point to keep it succinct and specific.

- unless I missed something, we don't know that she rushed into the marriage
- we also don't know that she's trying to emotionally manipulate the children, at least no more than many typical people who aren't brilliant at communication and emotional intelligence do when they are trying to affect change and improvement but don't know how to do it especially well... now it may well be that there's a level of toxicity that didn't come across in the OP, it's absolutely possible, but there is no reason to automatically assume it
- their father really messed some things up, but that still doesn't render marrying someone into "dragging a new woman into their life"... he just remarried
- again unless I missed something, we also don't know that the father forced them all to "play house together"... it sounded like the OP -might- have had the choice to stay with her other family members, but she went along with living with her father for the benefit of her brothers

Note, please, how I didn't say anything personal about you, when I wrote this post. I didn't compose straw man arguments. I did not theorize about your past life or history. I didn't tell you what to do. I also, I am pretty sure, did not misinterpret the things you wrote. I could have done all these things, but I chose not to. Personally my view is, if you have an insight to offer the OP, why not just offer it. Responding to disagree with another poster specifically and directly is likely to create internet drama without accomplishing anything. If your insight is useful to the OP then it will be of value, and hopefully that is enough.
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#8 of 8 Old 03-13-2016, 06:50 AM
 
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Originally Posted by tournesol View Post
My writing could have been more clear and organized, but I was writing a forum post, not an essay for publication, and I was expecting people who can read with enough nuance. Likewise, I was responding to an OP who sounded like she already had clear and healthy boundaries, even to the extent that she was questioning them in a rational, skeptical (of others) way.

I was suggesting a relatively realistic but also positive view of the situation. This is something that can benefit most people, if not all. Survivors are not helped by chronically putting the -most- negative spin on their life conditions, except if the only alternative is false (I don't want to say deluded, but can't think of a better word) positivity. The OP sounded smart and stable enough to take whatever makes sense to her and reject the rest. Likewise, I wasn't telling her that it's her job to fix the home. Contributing some harmony, if one can, in the hope that it will have a positive influence on others, however small, is not the same thing as being blamed or taking responsibility for everything. I also mentioned reaching out and setting up an escape plan a couple times in case the family situation becomes untenable, (in case the situation is more toxic than was clear in the post, or becomes significantly worse) because people, no matter how sensible, tend not to prepare for such a thing--still I think even before then, purely for self-preservation's sake, it is valuable to do what one can to keep the peace before leaving.

As far as the stepmom goes, I will reply to your post point by point to keep it succinct and specific.

- unless I missed something, we don't know that she rushed into the marriage
- we also don't know that she's trying to emotionally manipulate the children, at least no more than many typical people who aren't brilliant at communication and emotional intelligence do when they are trying to affect change and improvement but don't know how to do it especially well... now it may well be that there's a level of toxicity that didn't come across in the OP, it's absolutely possible, but there is no reason to automatically assume it
- their father really messed some things up, but that still doesn't render marrying someone into "dragging a new woman into their life"... he just remarried
- again unless I missed something, we also don't know that the father forced them all to "play house together"... it sounded like the OP -might- have had the choice to stay with her other family members, but she went along with living with her father for the benefit of her brothers

Note, please, how I didn't say anything personal about you, when I wrote this post. I didn't compose straw man arguments. I did not theorize about your past life or history. I didn't tell you what to do. I also, I am pretty sure, did not misinterpret the things you wrote. I could have done all these things, but I chose not to. Personally my view is, if you have an insight to offer the OP, why not just offer it. Responding to disagree with another poster specifically and directly is likely to create internet drama without accomplishing anything. If your insight is useful to the OP then it will be of value, and hopefully that is enough.
@tournesol - well said.
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