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Stepmother is stopping my father seeing his granddaughter..

(23 Posts)
mrsgordonfreeman Thu 22-Nov-12 16:41:08

Long, so TL;DR - my stepmother is preventing my father spending any time with his granddaughter because she dislikes me and my husband.

I do have one, and she is becoming a problem. I wondered if anyone had some advice.

My mother died in 2006 and my father remarried about 18 months later.

My stepmother has some mental health issues* that she refuses to get any help for, and which have become increasingly worse. Recently she has pretty much refused to even acknowledge my husband's existence. She shudders (actually shudders!) if my husband speaks to her. We are not welcome to stay over at their house any more.

She and my father came to visit for my daughter's third birthday a few weeks ago, but she didn't even get over my doorstep. She went home. To Leeds. From London. She refused to say why. My father stayed and had a great time without worrying about his wife and having to make excuses for her for once.

The thing is, I could just ignore her and pretend everything's normal, but I want DD to have a relationship with her grandfather, and my stepmother is blocking this. My dad's father was physically abusive and we didn't have much of a relationship with him, but I think it's a terrible shame that the same thing is happening.

I don't know what to do. I don't dare call my dad in case she answers or email in case she sees it. I don't want to exacerbate her problems but at the same time I really want my father to enjoy DD's childhood. She's already 3 and only sees him a couple of times a year, briefly, as that's all my stepmother can handle.

*social anxiety and depression. She says she won't see her GP because she will "only get pills."

HecatePropylaea Thu 22-Nov-12 16:46:22

Unless she is chaining him to the radiator, she isn't stopping him. He is choosing to go along with her. It is him you need to take it up with. He is making a choice.

Why he is making that choice is something you will only find out if you talk honestly with him about how hurt you feel.

CogitoErgoSometimes Thu 22-Nov-12 16:47:12

I would call your Dad (risk her answering and find a way to deal with it), tell him what you've said above & say you're worried about his DW and are very sorry how things have deteriorated. You can't pretend the situation is normal and I don't think you have to go out of your way to maintain the relationship with your Dad either. If he can't or won't do something about her behavioural problems/mental health issues/attitude and he allows her to come between him and his family then that's really for him to sort out.

PandaNot Thu 22-Nov-12 16:51:46

I would be really worried about my step mother actually! Unless something awful has happened between you all that is not normal behaviour. Ad the fact that she came to London fro Leeds, even though you don't get on, to me shows that she is willing to attempt some contact. Your dad is capable of having a relationship with your daughter if he wants to.

SundaysGirl Thu 22-Nov-12 16:56:59

But he stayed didn't he? Therefore she did not stop him on that occasion confused. You can't phone your dad in case she answers? Really? Just pick up the bloody phone, speak to your dad and have a conversation. Jreez

mrsgordonfreeman Thu 22-Nov-12 16:59:51

PandaNot, we did talk when he was here without her. He explained that they never actually talk about anything, he assumed she wanted to come and she didn't say that she didn't.

They never argue, they just sit in silence and stare at the walls. He isn't allowed to do any of his hobbies any more: creative writing and fishing.

He is also terrified, simply terrified, about being alone and very worried that she might leave him if he forces the issue.

We all acknowledge that she isn't very well, but you can't force someone to seek treatment for a mental health problem. She's of the old school, so a mental illness was something to be ashamed of.

We haven't done anything. We've been quite respectful of her and have tried to be as helpful as we can. We are both quite talkative and like having discussions about things. We learned early on that she can't cope with that (she takes disagreements about things personally), so we stick to the weather and her health on the rare occasions that polite conversation is warranted.

scorchienne Thu 22-Nov-12 17:00:07

I agree with Hecate, he is making the choice as to whether he sees you. DH and I have a similar situation and have come to the conclusion that if FiL wanted to have a better/closer relationship with us then he would.

My StepMiL is actually lovely and before we had our Dc there were no problems, we went on holiday together, spent lots of time together but since DC arrived she seems threatened somehow? She was/is an easy scapegoat to explain/make excuses for why FiL doesnt want to spend any time with his son/DgC but at the end of the day the decision is his imo.

Its difficult though, I feel for you

CogitoErgoSometimes Thu 22-Nov-12 17:10:47

"We all acknowledge that she isn't very well, but you can't force someone to seek treatment for a mental health problem"

You can't force them but what you can do is ask their GP to pay them a visit and carry out a mental health assessment. I've mentioned this before on this forum... I asked the GP to visit a relative who I suspected of having a serious mental illness. I simply said that I was worried about her behaviour and they took me 100% seriously, paid her a call and she ended up in hospital being treated for paranoid schizophrenia. The people this relative lived with, like your father, were too close to the problem and too worried about the fall-out.

mrsgordonfreeman Thu 22-Nov-12 17:14:05

Sundays, I would, but she listens in to his conversations and gets upset if he goes into a different room. Indeed he usually has to talk on speakerphone so that she does not feel left out.

BuddyTheChristmasElf Thu 22-Nov-12 17:15:39

usually when a partner visibly dislikes their OH's family without any water under the bridge, it is because the OH off loads to the partner about the family but the OH is much more practiced at hiding it IYKWIM.

If DH tells me anyone was really shitty to him I feel defensive and angry

PandaNot Thu 22-Nov-12 17:17:57

I think it is really hard and I was trying to say that you had done anything wrong, only that there is obviously more to it than it appears. My mother has anxiety issues and also refuses to seek help so I know how frustrating it is. I think the fact that she did actually come down shows that it's not as clear cut as she just doesn't want to be there. I think it sounds more like she 'can't' be there for whatever reason, seemingly anxiety related.

When you say he isn't allowed to have hobbies what form does this 'not allowed' take? Why doesn't he just go and do them? Again I'm assuming there's not an issue about taking time off work or financial reasons.

PandaNot Thu 22-Nov-12 17:18:33

'Wasn't trying to say' obviously in the first sentence!

mrsgordonfreeman Thu 22-Nov-12 17:21:14

During DD's party my father was very wistful and said how much he enjoyed seeing her, and his other grandchildren.

But then again, he has a history of telling people what they want to hear.

mrsgordonfreeman Thu 22-Nov-12 17:26:28

Panda, what I mean is, when they do things, they must be doing them together. So he can't, for instance, watch TV or write whilst she knits. He must sit with her.

He can't go out to fish by himself and leave her alone.

Whilst it's mostly unspoken I think she has a history of domestic violence, or unkind treatment of some sort, and again comes from a generation that saw it as shameful to discuss.

mrsgordonfreeman Thu 22-Nov-12 17:30:17

Buddy, that's interesting. When my mum was alive, my dad did attend some quacky sounding psychotherapy following a breakdown and she "happened across" the notes from one session where he had complained about his family and said that his work colleagues were more like family to him.

My mum was understandably furious that he'd shared this with a counsellor and not her. And also that it wasn't his family's fault that he'd isolated himself from them, partly from a fear that he might become abusive toward them like his own father had been.

ivykaty44 Thu 22-Nov-12 17:30:25

I think there are two issues here for you, one your step mother and secondly your mother. Your mother is missing out on your grandchild growing up and now your step mother - in your eyes - is making your father miss out on his grandchildren growing up.

How you deal with this I don't know.

If your mother was alive would they have visited more frequently than your father does now?

blisterpack Thu 22-Nov-12 17:35:26

What can you do though? She is a grown woman so she can see or not see anyone she likes. Same with your dad, he's a grown man so it's his battle to do. If he wants to not see you to have a quiet life with his wife then that's upto him as well, even if you don't agree with it. It is him you should be talking to and telling him about how it's making you feel. But ultimately that's all you can do.

Floralnomad Thu 22-Nov-12 17:36:29

Your fathers choosing to live his life like this. You can talk to him and voice your concerns but ultimately he is a grown man and its his decision. When you say he can't do hobbies does she beat him up or something?

Beamur Thu 22-Nov-12 17:37:56

Your Father is being feeble and spineless. Don't blame this on your Stepmother.
FWIW my Father is also married to a woman who would rather I did not exist - he has effectively chosen a quiet life over a relationship with me and his GD.
Be nice and tell him you want to see him (and her) and see what happens. If it doesn't happen (and you know already that it won't) don't blame yourself and don't beat yourself up over this.
Your stepmother sounds very controlling but your Dad is going along with it...

mrsgordonfreeman Thu 22-Nov-12 17:42:44

Flora, no, but she goes into an almost catatonic state. Her eyes glaze over and she will not respond to anyone, not even him. She refuses to eat and sometimes won't leave her bedroom.

As I said, they never ever argue. It would be far healthier for them both if they did.

waltermittymissus Thu 22-Nov-12 17:53:42

mrsgordon I feel for you but really, blaming your stepmother for your father's lack of effort is not right.

You say she's preventing him but she's not. Unless, as a PP said, she is physically restraining him!

I think you need to tell your father to start making an effort and stop using your stepmother as the excuse not to.

Sioda Thu 22-Nov-12 18:11:41

So when you were young your father isolated himself from his family (including you) because he was afraid of becoming abusive like his father? Maybe now he's treating his GD the same way. SM is just an excuse. If it weren't her it would be something else. Sounds like when you were young it was his work that was the excuse. He finds reasons to avoid intimacy - understandably following his own childhood abuse. I think you're focusing on your SMs role too much to avoid considering your DF's treatment of you when you were younger.

He's had a breakdown in the past and he's now being controlled and emotionally manipulated by your SM (however unintentionally). He's terrified of being alone. SM's just a symptom of his own mental health problems and he needs to get help for himself. Maybe you could suggest that to him? If he was willing to go to quack psychotherapy years ago he might be willing to try again with something more helpful.

BTW although it may be neither here nor there I'm not sure how understandable your mother's reaction of fury to what he told the psychotherapist was. She shouldn't have read something so private. It's like reading someone's diary. He had a breakdown and a history of abuse by his father - of course he was going to tell the therapist about feelings he had that he wouldn't tell her because they would be hurtful. That's how therapy works. Especially for someone who has a problem with usually telling people what they want to hear.

mrsgordonfreeman Thu 22-Nov-12 22:42:54

Thanks all, lots to think about x

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