What boundaries do I need to set with husband and sd?
Dear Cathryn, Here’s my situation. I’m a stepmom in a tough predicament. My husband recently gave the car to his 17 yr old daughter to go across the state to see a boyfriend she only met skyping. She was to come home on Sat night and didn't. She went to her mothers (?) we think and hasn't been home since.
When sd wants to do something dad doesn't want, she goes to her mothers...no rules, etc. there. She is an honor student carrying 3 D's.
Her father is so afraid of losing her that he parents out of fear and guilt. He still feels bad about the divorce but mom has cheated with many many men all of her life and currently going through another divorce with 2 young children.
How do I live in this and still respect my husband and sd?
Is respect not earned?
Her dad and I are good enough for $$. Patterns between parents aren't good.
No boundaries or communication.
How do I continue to stand by and watch the sd self destruct and how can I respect my husband for lack of boundary setting?
I realize that he and bio mother are the parents....I have raised a child previously and encouraged my husband to set up a behaviour contract for phone usage, car usage, etc. To no avail. Because my husband rotates a 24 hour shift, I have done pickups for children.
Life becomes very difficult with my husband when I set up boundaries and I told him I would pick and choose what I do with and for the kids. Of interest is that his older son left 2 yrs ago in a snit because he didn't want to play by the rules.
He went by his mother and failed to graduate high school....He has just come back into our life now. Sd is playing the same ticket....HELP!!
Part of me wants to just pull up and leave as I don't know how to detach from it all. Counseling has been tried to no avail. I have chosen to pretty much back away from it all but this takes the cake. What about her safety when 2 parents have their heads in the sand?
Thanks for your help and support. Amy
Dear Amy, I can certainly understand why this situation is upsetting. There are a couple of things that come to mind right away.
It’s very hard to watch someone doing something that we feel is wrong. It’s very easy to go into judgment about their choices/actions and this state of judging creates a riff between us and the people we are judging as bad or wrong. (If you want to read my article about “Feeling Judgmental?” that will give you more insights into this tempting state of mind.) As you are feeling more and more right (which from all accounts you are, it’s going to widen the gap between you and your hubby. This can be very painful and I understand the desire to escape from this seemingly unending source of pain.
However, you do have some choices. It is time to make a decision. Do you want to be right and disconnected or happy and connected? (I wrote a Smommentary-essay about smom-ing- by the same title if you want to read that for more compassion and ideas about this choice.)
Can you decide to leave the parenting choices to them AND free yourself from any sense of responsibility for the skids? This can be challenging especially when we’ve been involved in their care, see a track record of similar decisions and results AND believe we are right. Making the decision to turn over the whole arena of skid decisions (and consequences) is something you CAN do so it will feel more powerful than the standing on the sidelines pleading your case and/or waiting to say, “I told you so” out loud...and thinking..”You dumb bastard.” As you realize that you DO have a choice, you may see that given the situation and circumstances it is the choice that gives you the most relief and gives your relationship the best chance of connection.
The choice to stop thinking about their child-rearing choices is an important step. Instead of feeling like a victim of their “dumbness” you can realize that they have made it clear they are not interested in your feedback and they are the parents and NOW you are making a choice to take care of yourself.
When we make this powerful choice, we are also going to have to face the feeling of being somewhat disconnected. This is going to bother or not bother you depending on your own emotional tapestry. Many times we caring stepmoms do, help, serve, contribute out of a desire to be connected to the people in our lives. This isn’t wrong, it’s noteworthy. If our need to be connected clouds our ability to honor our own boundaries and do what is good for us and our needs, then it’s time to switch out attention to ourselves so we can set new boundaries--which you are doing. Good for you.
Whenever we are feeling resentment, it usually means the exchange between giving and receiving is out of balance. As we adjust what we give out, we may find we feel better about the situation. This increased sense of well-being is good feedback that we’re on the right track in terms of boundaries. It can be hard at first because people are used to being served by us, but as we realize what’s happening and how out of balance things are...that anger can be positively used to help us set and keep new boundaries. You’re on the right track.
In terms of losing respect for your hubby...I can also completely understand that. Bee there, felt that. I wrote about it in a post that is now in “Cathryn’s Mailbox” and it is about a new way of dealing with Divorced Dad’s guilt. Please read that and I believe it will address several of your thoughts and hopefully give you more compassion for yourself and your hubby in this nightmare experience he’s going through-even if he can’t/won’t admit the full impact of what he’s feeling.
Creative problem-solving and new emotional boundaries are two big challenges here. Can you find a way to re-direct your attentions to something other than their bad parenting decisions so you can get back in touch with the love and admiration you had for the man you married? How can you help him, instead of judge him? How can you help yourself and set new boundaries KNOWING deep down that since you can’t change them, you care going to have to change yourself...if you want to be able to feel good about being there.
M coach Kit used to say, “Nothing changes until you do.” This is a situation where you are really out of control of what these folks in your life do. As you can move into accepting that hard reality (it was hard for me anyway), it can be so empowering to being focusing on what you can change, do differently and re-frame as your responsibility (or not your responsibility).
You may even feel some relief as you let go of feeling like you have to be the voice of reason among the folks in your world right now. What can you do with this newly freed up energy? What project have you been meaning to start? Finish? What can you now focus on that you can control? Your health? Fun? Study? Hobby? Job? Other relationships?
Regarding your SD and her behavior. This is indeed infuriating but for a whole other reason, in addition to her lack of concern for her own welfare or responsibilities. When we watch skids do things we were NEVER allowed to do or never got the chance to do, it sets off all kinds of internal emotional alarms. If you review the other letters in the Mailbox, you’ll see i’ve written about this from deep personal experiences.
If you want to follow-up on anything here, just send me another email and we can have “round 2” together. I’m happy to do that as these are meaty and important issues. If you want to work privately, we can do that also.
From my perspective your well-being and your connection to your husband is the most important thing, in that order. Realizing that you CAN make decisions to help yourself, even if the results don’t look as you planned, will be very freeing. You will be able to use what is happening to learn so much about yourself, your needs and what makes you feel safe and happy...IF you choose to take this approach.
I wish you lots of insights, Ah Ha moments and new choices and boundaries to help you feel like the joyful, happy, powerful woman you were when you first fell in love with your Hubby. Good Luck in your process, Cathryn