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To have no clue what to do about ex's new wife 'unloading' her problems on DD...

(13 Posts)
balia Thu 30-Jun-11 22:41:11

DD is 16 - gorgeous, clever, just finished her GCSE's. Have been split with her dad for over 8 years. (He was a compulsive liar, big drinker, serial shagger etc). He got remarried maybe 5 or 6 years ago to a lovely woman, does a lot for charity etc. Although she favours her own DC's (who are all older than DD and before becoming independent lived with their father) over DD, has always tried hard to be pleasant to her.

Ex has always been unreliable and has had to be bullied into seeing DD and has let her down on numerous occasions, often blaming his wife and making out that she is causing problems. This weekend he is supposed to be taking DD to her prom. She wanted him to, he has a nice car, I'm collecting her. He has been making various noises about not being able to take her, due to his wife being unhappy about it, as it is her daughter's birthday.

So DD tonight called her Dad, got SM, and decided to ask about the prom. SM broke down, said she didn't want him to drive as he is drinking heavily again, will drive drunk, is lying to SM all the time, she can't cope, has tried everything etc etc. Basically unloading a lot of adult stuff on DD, about her own Dad.

DD was polite, supportive as she could be, was a bit down and quiet afterwards. We just went to back up plan for prom (as he can't be relied upon we always have a plan B).

What should I be doing in this situation? Obviosly my first priority is DD, but do feel sorry for SM...oh and the daughter's birthday is not for another 2 weeks.

jugglingmug Thu 30-Jun-11 22:49:12

Dont think you need to do anything tbh. Your DD can't be totally unaware of her dad's failings? I think you offer her an ear or shoulder and tell her it's not her responsibility to sort her dad out, or to apologise/make exxcuses for him.

Sorry your DD has such an arse for a father sad

A1980 Thu 30-Jun-11 22:52:08

I don't think you need to do anything either.

Your DD is 16, not 6. Also if her father is going to be driving her places, I think your DD should be aware he's drinking again.

CogitoErgoSometimes Thu 30-Jun-11 22:52:31

Give DD some suitable come-back tactics for if it ever happens again. Phrases like 'sorry but I can't take sides' might help

amicable Thu 30-Jun-11 22:52:35


I think that as your DD is (nearly) an adult now, that the best that you can do is support her, and talk with her about this stuff. I don't think you can ask her SM to not burden her with any more, especially if it is true (which I got the impression from your post that it probably is?). Sounds like the SM is generally decent to your DD and is trying to protect her from a drunk driving father.

Sad situation all round clearly, but I think all you can do is just support. I'm sure your DD has already realised that her dad is an unreliable git sad, so I doubt this will come as news to her. Also I think it does us no harm to start realising at around your DDs age that 'grown ups' are real people too, with problems and unhappiness etc. This may strengthen her relationship with her SM iyswim.

balia Thu 30-Jun-11 22:55:25

You are right, completely right. I guess it just brings back a lot of memories about how I was when I had to face the reality of what he was like. I do feel like phoning her and giving her some support, letting her know she isn't loosing her marbles and he really is like that.

I'm glad I'm out of it.

plupervert Thu 30-Jun-11 23:03:23

If she has been under so much stress and has only cracked now, it's unlikely this will be more than a one-off.

My mother dumped a lot on me when I was about 16-17 (post-divorce, my father was being an arse, drink also involved), and I saw her as I ought not to have done, but a 16-year old can be quite robust, especially if she feels secure, as you evidently make your DD (you left a no-good marriage, you ensure she has backup plans, you think she is gorgeous and clever, etc.). The fact that she had the presence of mind to be polite, and is now just quiet, rather than sobbing her eyes out, show that she can keep upset at bay long enough to think about it. She will want to talk it through - possibly not with you, or start a journal, but as long as she is doing that somehow, she is unlikely to be very damaged.

As I said, you don't know yet whether it will be more than a one-off. It sounds as though he could be on his way out of the SM's life as well, which could help her regain her poise and reassure your DD that the situation is being dealt with.

As for her father, it is extraordinary, what degree of doublethink people are capable of, when a family member is being an arse. Your DD must already know he was no good to you as a husband, but has compartmentalised her relationship with him, in order to have a relationship with him. It is possible that she needs to have a relationship with him out of insecurity or guilt, so if it becomes harder to ignore his faults, she may struggle a bit.

However, again, you may not be the only one who can help her; indeed, it would be healthy for her to have another outlet, so she can vent her feelings without concern for your feelings.

It's all a bit vague so far, but you haven't given much background...

tethersend Thu 30-Jun-11 23:06:48

I disagree. My parents split when I was 16 and they both 'confided' in me- as a consequence, I carried a lot of their emotional baggage which I found incredibly difficult.

I don't think any 16 yr old has the maturity or self confidence to say- "Actually I think it's inappropriate for you to tell me this" to an adult who is in tears. Adults breaking down is still scary for a 16 yr old.

I think you should speak to your partner's wife, but perhaps just to ask her in a friendly way to let you know if she is concerned about drink driving or any other ex behaviour which affects your DD. I suspect she knows it was inappropriate to unload on your DD, but in case she doesn't, just ask her to voice any concerns directly to you. I wouldn't get involved with bad mouthing your ex, or even agreeing with her that he is a twat, just keep to the concern about your DD.

tethersend Thu 30-Jun-11 23:07:49

I don't disagree with plupervert, I disagree that your DD is old enough to deal with this.

hairfullofsnakes Thu 30-Jun-11 23:20:16

I'm sure she didn't mean to offload - she probably just cracked, poor lady!

springydaffs Thu 30-Jun-11 23:25:30

oh hang on, not sure I agree with the advice here. imo 16 is too young, and she shouldn't be being used as a dumping ground, particularly about her own father. Yes, she may know the truth but she doesnt need an adult (SM) - who should know better - using your daughter to offload her grief and anguish about her husband.From what you have said, SM doesn't particularly respect your daughter, and to use her to dump on confirms that. I don't know if you could approach SM directly and ask that she doesn't do this, doesn't dump on dd. I know, I know, it probably won't go down well but you can't approach dd's dad because he's a moron ie totally unreliable and dd just shouldn't have this shit put on her - it's true but that's besides the point. Sometimes I think we need to step up to protect our teens who, although they like to think they're grown up (and are a lot of the time) are too young for things like this.

plupervert Fri 01-Jul-11 08:42:07

Yes, it is inappropriate, and adults shouldn't offload their baggage onto children, but please don't panic. As far as we know so far, this is a one-off, and the stepmother is probably mortified that she has done such a thing. If she has never said anything like this before - and it can't be a new situation - it seems clear that she (SM) has been able to button it up, and that she knows that that is the right thing to do. She was probably caught off guard by the phone call and her "D"H had just done something particularly awful.

Furthermore, she is "only" a stepmother, so will have less emotional impact on the girl (notably in her feeling less of a sense of responsibility for someone who is not her own mother).

By contrast, of the girl's real parents, the ones with the most emotional impact, balia has not done anything of the sort. Nor, come to think of it, is the father: he bails out when he is not in the mood (drunk?). This girl luckily has a buffer of silence against the worst her father has done and is doing. (And he is doing it - still!)

It's not nice for this to have happened, but as long as it is a one-off, it is manageable, even by a 16 year old.

tethersend, please don't feel I'm downplaying your experience. It is very hard to be dumped on long-term like that, and especially by parents themselves. However, it sounds as though this girl is lucky enough to have buffers which should provide her with some emotional protection. If balia can understand the nature of that protection, she can strengthen it. smile

hairylights Fri 01-Jul-11 08:50:50

Op I think offering this woman some support is a great idea. My rx had different issues, but after I left him I was astounded to find he'd treated his ex (my dsd mum) almost exactly as he had treated me. It really helped to have her reassurance that it wasn't me

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