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Worried about my mum - second husband controlling

(15 Posts)
Worriedaboutmum Wed 14-Nov-12 01:24:25

Hi, have name changed as some RL friends know my username on here.

My DM and step dad have been married for 7 years. In that time, DM appears to have morphed into a different person - new (his) views on everything from child rearing to immigration to what kind of car to drive. It feels like she's gone from being an independent, professional, outspoken pillar of the community to a Daily Mail reading moaner who criticises everything both I and my DBs do - despite the fact that we're living the kind of lives she brought us up to live, if the makes sense (all adults, own lives, marriages, I'm the first of us to have offspring). All the views she now expresses seem to start with 'step dad thinks...', making me want to scream, 'what do you think though?' - and they tend to be negative stereotyped views of the type she'd have questioned herself five or six years back. It's really quite wearing and at times, pretty shockingly be honest.

There is lots of backstory and so to avoid drip feeding, step dad is an old family friend who got together with DM when she and my DF divorced. Before their marriage, he was like a jokey, surrogate uncle figure. The older I and DBs have got, the less amusing he's become and the less enamoured we've been with his ideas and views, particularly given how DM used to be.

I guess what I'm interested in is if anyone else has come across a situation like this and what you've done about it. If anything? I feel like it is only a matter of the before this all comes to a head and I'm starting to think about cutting them both out entirely, something I never thought I'd hear myself say.

What I really can't work out though is if DM is happy with her new life and views, in which case I'm disappointed in her and shocked at the hypocritical way she now behaves - or if she is actually in an emotionally abusive relationship that she could need our help to escape. I don't know if I've explained this well at all (suspect not) but to give a few examples, DB1 is very intelligent, she used to be proud of our academic achievements but now joins step dad in criticising the amount of time he's 'not had a proper job'. He got a full PhD scholarship, which is an achievement in itself and has never asked her for a penny towards his studies so there's no reason for her to thnk like this. Similarly, she used to be so pro breastfeeding but has basically told me that I should wean DD and that she shouldn't become so dependent on me. There really are times when I wonder if she has had a personality transplant!

Sorry for the length of this and if anyone can help me figure this out, thanks so much in advance.

Worriedaboutmum Wed 14-Nov-12 01:28:49

Forgot to mention, this really worries me, she recently inherited a sizeable sum from my GPs estate. She has shared all of this with step dad, who, being generous, has a bad track record with money (and a mean streak). I think she is making herself really vulnerable but she can't seem to see it.

OpheliaPayneAgain Wed 14-Nov-12 06:19:03

She has shared all of this with step dad, who, being generous, has a bad track record with money

She's married, she would share her assets, that's what married people do. If the reverse were written, people would say he were practicing 'financial abuse' by with holding money from her.

But that's the crux of it, deep down, I think you may see her spending your potential inheritance with an outsider.

HissyByName Wed 14-Nov-12 07:21:46

Have you tried talking to her alone?

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 14-Nov-12 07:36:31

I think all you can do is challenge both your DM's views and your stepfather's views, the same as you would anyone else. People often change over time and, if someone has a relatively weak personality and/or low-self esteem, they can absorb the opinions and mannerisms of the people they happen to be closest to - in this case, her DH - in order to get their approval. If you object to the sniping and criticism, then it's a case of picking your battles and standing up for yourself. Don't hold back. Suggest your DB does the same and you stick up for each other.

If you want to scream 'what do you think?' therefore, do it. Keeping quiet does no-one any favours. BTW I don't think it's wrong to be worried about what she does with her money if her DH has a bad track record. However, it is hers to do with as she wishes.

HotDAMNlifeisgood Wed 14-Nov-12 07:41:19

Tell us more about step-dad's "mean streak"

Worriedaboutmum Wed 14-Nov-12 18:16:09

Hi and thank you for the replies, I am not in the UK so there's a time difference, hence the late response.

Ophelia - I know, it's just she was always so careful with money, never used credit cards, always told us to save up before buying anything, took out PPI back in the day, cautious is an understatement. Step dad has always been the reverse, thinks nothing of living month to month, scraping by, spending what he doesn't have (despite having a pretty good job). He's been like this since we were children, and we've known him as a family friend for years. I think my mum has gone into this naively and shared everything with him as he's her husband and that's what married people do do. However, she now has no money that isn't jointly held with him, no escape fund as it were, nothing. And I'm scared for her that one day she'll need a care home or nursing home and step dad will have pissed it up the wall, or more likely used it to pay off his numerous debts. The only thing that makes me upset re any potential inheritance is that DGPs were also frugal types, very make do and mend and to amass the amount they did had to work and save bloody hard. I don't want step dad to benefit from that.

Hissy - I never get to speak to her alone. Ever. I use Skype as am overseas and every time I call, I get both of them, him chipping in in the background. It's almost as though he censors her conversations.

Worriedaboutmum Wed 14-Nov-12 18:21:20

Cogito - I have tried to do this on some occasions and know I need to do it more, particularly as I don't want DD to hear his crazy racist, misogynistic views go unchallenged as she gets older and understands more. Since last night I have emailed both my DBs and asked them what they think and both have emailed back to say they agree with me, which I was sort of hoping they wouldn't do but at least confirms I'm not going mad. DB2 says he's going to actively remind her of her old views as it were next time something comes up, so I think this is something all three of us will adopt.

I absolutely agree that the money is hers to do with as she wants, I'm just worried that she is being used and taken for a ride. She is so naive about some things, eg when she and DF divorced, the house they sold was valued at remortgage value rather than sale value so it was easier for my DF to buy her out of it (he didn't want to move). She didn't want to cause a fuss and so basically lost out herself financially.

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 14-Nov-12 18:23:55

When she was with your DF, did she actually have views of her own or do you think she was parroting his?

Worriedaboutmum Wed 14-Nov-12 18:31:50

Hot - where to start?!

Despite now having a sizeable nest egg, he does everything on the cheap (always has done). He will do anything possible to save a few pennies and thinks Matalan and Tesco clothes are appropriate for every occasion. My DM always used to dress well, always smart and well presented. Not necessarily expensively so, but she did not dress like she does now. At all.

He thinks anything beyond basic ranges of whatever it might be is frivolous. He constantly criticises DB2 who is very well paid if he spends more than £20 on a pair of jeans, calling him wasteful and spoilt, when he works hard and deserves to spend as he wants.

DM recently bought an iPad so she could Skype us more easily. He persuaded her to get an older one as it was cheaper. But it doesn't have a camera, so now she can see DD when we Skype but we can't see her. DM is devastated about this but won't buy a new one as that would be considered wasteful...

Other things, there have been times over the years when my step sister has really struggled (husband left). Despite at times being in a position to help her, even if only with a loan, he is of the opinion that she should stand on her own two feet and has never once offered to help. I've lent/given her money in the past but he would not dream of it.

There are a million and one little things, eg if we travelled home to see them (long flight and train), they wouldn't collect us from the station but expect us to get a taxi as they wouldn't want to be inconvenienced. DM never used to be like this.

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 14-Nov-12 18:37:21

I think you need to suggest a girls' weekend away and get her talking... You're entitled to say that you're worried about the personality and attitude changes and that you think her DH is not being very supportive or a good influence. It's a delicate business because lonely/weak people will often make poor choices in partners and interpret any direct criticism as an attack. However, it could get her thinking.

Worriedaboutmum Wed 14-Nov-12 18:40:24

Cogito - no, she very much used to have her own views when she was with my DF, DB1 even remarked on this the other day, saying that with DF, the power balance was pretty even but with step dad, it's like he's the dominant one (quite perceptive for him I thought).
I just can't reconcile the person she's become with how she used to be. Total about turns on fundamentals, e.g. she brought me up to believe I could do anything but now openly agrees with step dad when he says my husband shouldn't cook as he's out at work all day, some of the racist clap trap he spouts is abhorrent and she would never have stood by and let anyone say that kind of thing a few years ago. Fast forward to now and it's like she has become a mini version of him. My great aunt has actively stopped inviting DM and step dad round as she can't stand him, so not only is DM becoming more and more distanced from her three children, she is losing touch with other relatives as well.

Worriedaboutmum Wed 14-Nov-12 18:45:30

Cogito, thanks for such a quick response. I agree, I need to speak to her alone, but this is tricky when we're a lengthy flight away and phone or Skype conversations seem to involve him. I don't even know where her lack of self belief has come from as she was always such a strong, popular person. She told me recently that one of her closest friends from school (they go back years) has hardly been in touch since she and step dad visited them and I hate to say it, but I imagine it will be because of him...

olgaga Wed 14-Nov-12 18:49:22

People do change as they get older - that's a fact. You're not the same as you were as a child or as a teenager, or the young woman you were before you got married and had a child.

Similarly, your parents don't stay the same as they were when they, and you, were young.

You can disagree with her, and be irritated and frustrated by her personality and opinions, but I doubt that will achieve anything but make her irritated by you. You have no more right to tell her what she should be thinking than your SF does.

The only question is - is she happy? If so, then there's no point raising any of these other issues with her.

You're leaving yourself open to accusations that it's all about the money if you do.

Unfortunately she is her own person and she married this man of her own free will. Also controlling men like your stepfather actively like taking seemingly previously strong (in their eyes at least) women like your mother down with them to their level as that gives them a bit of power in the relationship. She has sadly allowed herself to be controlled. Abuse after all is about power and control. She may not want to acknowledge to anyone let alone her own self that she made a mistake in marrying him and does not see him as abusive in any way, let alone controlling. Also abuse in insidious in its onset and she may well have minimised or ignored it. She certainly did not recognise (perhaps due to lack of awareness) or see any red flags.

You cannot change her but you can certainly change how you react to the two of them. You cannot help anyone who does not want to be helped.

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