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How to help my DH feel better about step dad making him feel rejected.

(38 Posts)
SmashingPumpkins Wed 14-May-14 16:57:52

Hello, have namechanged for this only as I don't really divulge personal stuff on here and I have RL friends who might be able to out me from reading this post and I like my anonymity!

I'm asking for help because my DH is feeling rejected by his step dad (will call him SD) and I don't know how to help him. SD has been in DH's life since he was 9 - married DH's mum and they has a DD together when DH was 13. DH considers the DD to be his sister and they were brought up as brother and sister (they are never referred to as half siblings). SD was a father to DH and they have a good solid loving relationship. DH's bio dad is pretty flaky but they are in touch.

SD and DH's mum divorced and remarried other people about 15 years ago. DH has continued a father/son relationship with his SD despite this.

SD now has a terminal illness and DH is pretty devastated - for him he is losing a father. We are trying to make the most of the time he has left but it is all rather fraught and tough on everybody.

DH went to see his SD on his way home from work yesterday (he and his present wife live near us and we see them regularly). SD told DH that he will be leaving all his assets to his current wife and his DD (DH's half sister) and that DH will receive nothing. SD said that he sees this as normal as DH is not his 'blood son'.

SD for various work and family related reasons has a lot of valuable assets - we are talking hundreds of thousands of pounds. DH feels terribly rejected by a man who he loves like a father as he is making a clear and deliberate decision to leave nothing to DH. This feeling of rejection is not at all about money for DH - it is about the symbolism and feeling hurt and mistaken over the relationship he thought he had with his SD.

Of course we fully expect SD to make sure that his current wife is looked after after his death and we fully expect him to leave assets to his DD. And of course SD may do whatever he wishes with his money. I cannot stress enough that this is not about DH wanting money - it is about how this makes him feel his SD considers him, basically "no son of mine" despite 30 years of closeness and what DH thought was a loving relationship.

Thank you if you have got this far! The only comforting thing I can think to say is that SD is possibly of an older generation which sees family ties differently to our generation and believes that money/goods should stay within a 'blood line' but that this doesn't necessarily mean that he does not consider DH 'family'. This isn't helping DH at all - he feels very hurt and confused and is feeling desperately sad that his SD's days are numbered and that whilst he feels he is losing a father, the 'father' in question doesn't appear to feel he is saying goodbye to a son. He is very confused and I don't know how to help.

Thanks for any wise words...

Jan45 Wed 14-May-14 17:05:11

I don't blame him, that's disgusting, clearly he's going to feel crap, I don't understand how he can do that.

Yeah he's maybe old fashioned but what he is doing is downright cruel.

BitterAndOnlySlightlyTwisted Wed 14-May-14 17:25:20

Money doesn't and never will represent love. He's had decades of his SF's love and nothing, not even being unacknowledged in his will can take that away. Honestly, some people's daft ideas about "blood-lines" would make you think we were still somewhere in the 16th century. I suspect the SF doesn't really understand how cruel he is appearing to be or he wouldn't have done it. Discussing the contents of one's will is a pretty low-class thing to be doing in any case.

We won't go into what my mother decided to do about her will and discussing it with all and sundry beforehand. Caused ructions and heartache and all over a relatively small amount of money, too.

SmashingPumpkins Wed 14-May-14 17:41:16

Yes, I think it is cruel too. I hate talking about money so find it difficult to express what I mean, I hope people will understand what I'm about to say... I think if SD didn't have much to leave then it wouldn't be so hurtful. DH could rationalise it by saying that he wanted to look after his wife and DD and there wasn't any 'spare' to make a gesture to him.

But that isn't the case. I imagine that DH's sister will be left more than enough to say buy a house outright (if that is what she chooses to do). It would have been financially easy enough to leave a big sum to the DD but make a gesture towards DH. We consider this SD to be a grandfather to our DC and I think that is hurting DH too - that neither he nor his children seem to matter.

He's had decades of his SF's love and nothing, not even being unacknowledged in his will can take that away.

Yes, this is true. I think he feels that a rug has been pulled out from under him and now he is doubting those years and wondering if he has been loving SD like a father whilst SD has been kindly 'letting' him do that whilst not having anything like the same level of feeling towards DH.

I thought it was weird for them to have the conversation at all but I guess SD is trying to sort his affairs out in the time he has left and wanted to actually say something to DH. Perhaps to save him the embarrassment of showing up at a will hearing (do they actually exist?).

SmashingPumpkins Wed 14-May-14 23:44:54

Just revising to say that DH has lived with his step dad since he was seven not nine years old (not that it makes much difference) . We have been talking about things tonight and he is feeling terribly hurt.

I have no words.

Charley50 Thu 15-May-14 06:30:13

It seems very hurtful and your DH upset is totally understandable. Not sure how he should deal with it, apart from telling SD how he feels?
Do you think maybe SD has a thing about looking after the 'ladies' and that men must make it on their own in the world? Or could it be that your DH is doing fine for money and SD doesn't think he 'needs' it and doesn't see the symbolism of doing what he's done?

Rebecca2014 Thu 15-May-14 09:20:29

This is really hard because If you try and talk to him about it, he may think your dh is just after his money?

ravenmum Thu 15-May-14 09:46:22

Might the SD feel uncomfortable about treating your husband equally to his natural daughter? It is admirable that he has treated him as her equal within the family, but perhaps he's worried his daughter will be hurt if she is given exactly the same financial gift as someone he is technically unrelated to. If not worried, he must at least feel uncomfortable.

Giving your husband nothing and blaming it on that technicality (as if he can't do anything about it) relieves him from having to "decide" exactly how much more his daughter is worth to him than your husband, e.g. giving her 70% and your husband 30%. Just giving her everything and putting it down to blood might feel easier to him than trying to balance things out in some complicated way.

SmashingPumpkins Thu 15-May-14 09:59:21

I suppose there could be those elements charley. DH and I do ok for money, we work and are not extravagant. We have a pretty average income I think. We are pretty typical shop in Aldi, go on camping holidays, type people. DH's sister and her husband probably earn a bit more than we do but are in the process of buying their first flat in an expensive town.

Having discussed things more with DH last night I do think it is to do with "blood line". Apparently things are being put in place to make sure the money that comes to DH's sister is protected so that it doesn't become her husband's. Which I actually think is a good idea as IMO her DH is emotionally abusive. He also isn't very sensible with money. However I doubt that those are the reasons the money is to be protected, I really think it is about keeping it in the family.

As all this unfolds other stuff is coming out that is hurtful to DH. It does seem that his SD really doesn't consider him in the way that we previously thought. I suppose we thought of DH as very much his step son whereas SD seems to consider him as "my ex wife's son from her first marriage". Which of course DH is. It is just a shame that SD has been referring to DH as "my son" when he introduces him to people for the last 30 years. Just as he refers to me as his daughter in law, and our DC as his grandchildren.
What we don't understand is why there wasn't a shift in their relationship when SD and DH's mum divorced. He continued to be very much part of our lives, was named on our wedding invites as one of the parents, we have regular family get togethers, etc. We spent part of Xmas day with them last year FFS. DH was in his early twenties when his mum and step dad split up - they all lived together as a family from when DH was seven until he went to university.

SD knows how flaky DH's bio dad is (goes no contact for periods of time, never gave child support to his mum, etc) and he knows that DH feels he has 2 dads and struggles with feelings of disloyalty to his bio dad due to his love and regard for his step dad. DH has always referred to his SD as a rock and constant in his life sad

To make matters worse, DH's mum has always favoured his sister.

Oh well I suppose when the chips are down all these sorts of things come out. It is distressing how often illness and death can really shake what you thought were your family's foundations...

Quitelikely Thu 15-May-14 09:59:46

WOW. How hurtful. You are right it is the symbolism of the whole thing. What does your husbands mother think of this? What does his sister say?

I suppose this is a bitter pill to swallow but I guess you dh just has to let it go or it could cause him alot of emotional anguish for years to come.

I would be gutted too

SmashingPumpkins Thu 15-May-14 10:21:54

Yes Rebecca, exactly. Plus it feels awful to be "hassling" a dying man with upsetting emotional family relationship issues.

DH really just wants to hear that he counts for his step dad.

Good points ravenmum. It is true that it is admirable that SD was such a dad to DH all this time. We are beginning to think that much of it may have been from a sense of duty and the idea that DH was needy due to his bio dad being so crap. Which is all very kind but it isn't the same as genuine love. DH thought his SD loved him, now it feels like he is very fond of him and feels he has a duty to him. (This isn't just about the will, there is other stuff coming out)

Of course DH was needy when he was young, he was a young child when he first met his SD and it was made very clear to him that he was to respect him as a father.

It is horrible for DH to feel that what he considers love and regard for his SD is perceived now as "neediness" by both his SD and his mum. He was a child when they met and had to make the best of what the adults imposed on him. He is now feeling very very patronized and also feeling weird about his relationship with his sister who all of a sudden now seems to be a half sister. Their relationship has been tricky for years now due to their mum favouring her and SIL being generally quite self absorbed bordering on selfish.

I'm really angry with the lot of them.

Jan45 Thu 15-May-14 10:31:27

I was in a similar situation a few years ago, my half brother (my mum's first son) never got on with my dad even though my dad raised him from a very young age, there's no love lost between them.

My dad, who had bought our council house years ago sold it a few years ago (my mum passed away some years before). This house was never inhabited by my half brother, he'd left home at 18 and joined the Navy.

Anyway when my dad sold said house my half brother went ballistic as my dad never gave him any of the profit but gave to myself and my other siblings, it was so awkward, I tried speaking to my dad and explaining that my brother should have got same money as us, my dad very insistently disagreed on this.

Eventually my dad relented and gave my brother half of what he had given to us and he only did it cos we were all up in arms about it.

When my dad passes I don't know what the right thing to do is, my heart says split any inheritance with my brother but my dad has said to all of us that he does not want him to have any of his money, so what do you do, who do you go against?

DIYtrainee Thu 15-May-14 10:34:29

Do you think your DH could ask his DSD to be left something sentimental, rather than of value? A favourite picture, a watch, just something personal. How do you think a request like that would be received?

Because that might be enough for your DH to feel better about all of this.

Jan45 Thu 15-May-14 10:38:18

Thing is I think the damage has been done, your DH is not going to forget how this had made him feel, ever.

No wonder you are angry too, it's really unfair.

The amount of families that fall out through this sort of stuff is staggering, once you put money in the mix it evokes all kinds of emotions, and it's not all about getting your hands on it, it's about feeling you matter.

ravenmum Thu 15-May-14 10:38:21

So his sister might cause a fuss if your dh gets the same amount as her? That too would suggest to me that SD is trying to wriggle out of an uncomfortable situation, blaming it on the lack of a blood connection so it isn't his fault, knowing that your dh is going to cause less of a fuss.

It is a shame that we only really look properly these things in a crisis, isn't it? I have a lovely SD and SM but I've always had a huge hang-up about not wanting to be a burden on either second family. I've thought about inheritances before (no millions here), and have tried to pre-empt this kind of situation by persuading myself that both parents should leave everything to their second families, and that I'd be very big about it because my half-siblings mostly need it more than me. Yeah, right.

Miggsie Thu 15-May-14 10:50:08

Does the SD realise he is causing a family rift that may never heal?

No wonder you DH is so upset, he is basically being cast aside as if he means nothing at all.

I think it is valid for your DH to say to SD "I regarded you as a father, you clearly never saw me as a son".
To leave him nothing at all is so hurtful - and the "I can't help it" line is clearly a cowardly way of saying SD didn't want to make a decision, possibly mum and the sister suggested how he should write his will?

ravenmum Thu 15-May-14 11:11:36

I don't think you should feel as if you are adding a further burden to the SD when he is already in a bad place. What your husband is saying is that he valued their relationship extremely highly. That's a huge compliment to the SD and something which should make him feel deeply touched if you can get it across. Getting it across will be hard, and your husband will have to work out very carefully how to word it. (I'd go for a letter myself as I know I'm shit at expressing things out loud!)

Your husband doesn't have to ask for his share of the money; he "just" has to establish that this is not a sign of how much he means to his SD. He must mean a lot to his SD, whatever things look like now. Maybe the SD can't bear to think that your husband will be devastated, so is sticking his head in the sand and pretending it isn't happening.

People always say how much they regret not sharing their feelings with a dying person. How often do you hear someone regretting that they did have a heart to heart? This chance to grasp the nettle might be a prompt for your husband to confront other issues that have been nagging away in the background for years.

pointythings Thu 15-May-14 11:33:28

This is very cruel indeed. My mum's SD did this to her, and it was all the more bitter because out of 3 siblings, she was the one who looked after him in his last 2 years - she was there 2-3 times a week, doing his shopping, keeping his flat tidy, making appointments and so on. Then he died and left all his money to her two half sisters - she got nothing. My cousins were all left money, my Dsis and I again got nothing, because we were not 'real' grandchildren.

The thing is, I don't even think he did it out of viciousness, it was just his ignorant mindset. Asking for a personal keepsake might well be a good idea - if the response is 'no' that will be devastating, because it will tell your DH that his SD is not the man your DH thought he was, but at least he will have clarity.

My mum's story had a happy ending - her siblings pooled their money and split it 3 ways in defiance of their father's wishes, and they made sure my Dsis and I got our share too. I wonder whether your DH's half sister feels bad about the whole thing?

EverythingCounts Thu 15-May-14 11:45:20

That is harsh. I find it hard to believe people are so set in their thinking by now about relationships. Of course this is incredibly hurtful for your DH.

Asking for a personal keepsake might be the way for your DH to broach his hurt feelings. I think he deserves to have some kind of say about this, though I can see how difficult it seems to do so with a terminally ill person. Agree with raven above that it's better to do than to have regrets later than he never said anything. The hurt has already been caused - but there might be a chance to repair some of it.

rosepetalsoup Thu 15-May-14 11:53:43

Hi, this is interesting for me as I think I will be in the same situation. My dad married my stepmum when I was little and I have no other mum. However, I think it is the case that his will goes to SM and her will divides between her children (not my dad's). She is younger and so it is likely I will get nothing.

I do think about this and what will happen if there is a long time without my dad, I will want a relationship with her, and then I will feel sad if I am excluded in the will (though I won't say anything).

SmashingPumpkins Thu 15-May-14 12:03:10

Jan45 thanks for sharing your experience - that sounds awful. How distressing for you all, I'm sorry you lost your mum. You and your siblings sound very fair with regards to your brother.

DIY - I think DH sort of assumed that he would be left something of sentimental value (he and SD played a lot of chess together for example so something like the chess set, especially as no-one else plays). We now think that we have been mistaken and that he will receive strictly nothing. We will see how things pan out in the time left but I don't think DH could bring himself to ask for something after the comments about 'neediness' - I suspect that he would feel that the poor left out step son asking for a sentimental keepsake would be kindly indulged but I think it would damage his self-respect (unless he and SD manage to have some sort of miraculous air clearing heart to heart).

Jan45, I fear that you are right - the damage has been done. There isn't really anywhere to go with this. As you say, this is not about getting hands on money it is about mattering but with money being involved you can only look like ruthless grasping ambulance chasers if you speak up.

Ravenmum, I have no idea how my SIL will react to her brother receiving nothing or how she would react to her brother being given a similar sum to her. She is quite an odd person, she is very much under her mother's (and her husband's) thumb. She and DH were close as children, despite the age difference. He loved his little sister and has always been very protective of her. As adults their relationship has deteriorated partly due to their mum's favoritism and partly due to SIL's self-absorption and no doubt partly due to DH not being very good at calling lots, although he does call. She is very nice but sort of floats through life quite passively. For example DH had a health scare last year and had to have scary tests for a life limiting and disabling genetic condition, SIL never called to see how were getting on and didn't even mention the whole thing when we next saw her (she lives far away so we only see her a few times a year). I don't think in the 30 years I have known her she has ever really asked me how I am. She is very much the coddled baby of the family which of course is not her fault but she is in her 30s now so about time she grew up a bit.

I very much doubt that she would say anything to her father about all this. I think she is quite intimidated by him and I know he has also hurt her over the years by not being very emotionally close. I think she will passively go along with whatever happens. I suspect that she would think it not quite right if she and DH were to receive exactly the same - but then we think that too. DH never thought that would happen but he did think a gesture would be made. Like you ravenmum, DH has never wanted to be a burden and we will accept what is happening with dignity even though it is hurtful.

Miggsie, I don't think SD does realize the potential for a rift and I'm certain that he would not want to be the cause of one. I suspect he thinks that we would be out of order if this were to upset us or make us 'cause trouble' within the family. I think he would think we were making a fuss about the actual money side of things.

Ravenmum, DH plans to write a letter. You are right that there should be no regrets about things left unsaid. It will be a very tricky letter to write, in part because he will have to make himself terribly vulnerable to more rejection and in part because we would be very hurt if it was taken as us asking for cash. We have no intention of questioning the money side of things at all with any of the family.

Thanks so much for all your posts, it is really helping me to work this out. It helps a lot that people understand and think DH is being badly treated.

captainproton Thu 15-May-14 12:08:31

Do you think that SD thinks that your DH will inherit from his own father who may be flaky but is still alive? And yet his own child will now not have a father. We are torn what to do about our wills at the moment because DSS who I have known since he was 9 (but only visits EOW) has a mother and a SD, as well as his father my DH and me. He stands to inherit far more than our 2 ever could hope to if we were to split our money 3 ways. Because he has potential to inherit from his mother too.

However, DH has set up a savings plan that is quite healthy which is intended for DSS to have when he reaches adulthood. Our 2 children will not get this but they will probably inherit most of the estate from me (I am a bit younger than DH and probably more likely to survive him). I would however never leave DSS out, I would want him to have something, personal posessions, a small inheritance not quite sure how to do it though.

It's hard and very confusing. Plus with such a big age gap, and the fact I came into DSS life when he was 9 I don't love him like a son, I do love him and I do care for him, but not the same as my baby boy. Also DSS in no way sees me as another mother, which suits us fine, we all get along fine the way things are.

My mother left all her money to her partner, who proceeded to inform everyone as she laid dying in hospital. It was an awful experience, my aunt had to beg him not to throw out all the photos from our childhood as we wanted them. It was hard, and it took a while to get over it.

Maybe I might just leave it all to charity (not much to leave though)!

SmashingPumpkins Thu 15-May-14 12:18:20

pointythings, your poor mum. I'm so glad her siblings did the right thing by her.

Something DH feels sad about is that a couple of years ago when his step dad and sister were hitting a rough spot in their relationship (due to his emotional distance), DH got involved and risked his own relationship by confronting his step dad and urging him to go and see his daughter and sort things out. Which to some extent they did and DH played a very concrete role in that. And now it seems the two of them are tossing him aside.

rosepetalsoup your situation sounds difficult. I hope your step mum is good to you in the future. Blended families/step families have the potential for so much heartache.

SmashingPumpkins Thu 15-May-14 12:28:58

captainproton all the family know that DH will receive nothing (other than perhaps debts) from his bio dad. His dad lives abroad and earns very little and has lost everything after a failed business and a redundancy in a country with little by way of employment law/welfare state. He needs to come home soon to sort out some affairs but he cannot afford the plane ticket - we are paying for it.

Your plans for your DSS sound very fair. How awful about your mother especially the photos. I'm sorry. These things do take a lot of getting over, hope you are OK.

BalloonSlayer Thu 15-May-14 19:03:01

I can understand why he is hurt but I wonder whether, as others have said, that the reasoning behind it is that your DH has two parents who may die and leave him money, and to leave part of the DD's inheritance to him would mean that:

DH gets inheritance from 2.5 people.
DD gets inheritance from 1.5 people.

. . . sort of thing

My sister has 1 Dc with her DH. He has two other DCs with two different women who both own their own houses. My sister felt upset that if when they eventually die, her DC would end up with half of the house (my sister's half) plus a third of her father's half = 0.67 of a house, but the other twop siblings would get all their mothers' houses plus the .67

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