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Stepdad... was this EA and how do I deal with it along with new baby?(21 Posts)
I'm having a hard time trying to sort out my relationship with my mum and stepdad in my head, and how to move forward with it once my baby is born. I've seen some amazing advice from posters here to people in a similar situation so I thought posting would be a good idea.
- biological dad left mum before I was born, mum and I lived with my grandparents, with aunties and uncles staying for short periods in and out (large family, they were back from uni/travelling etc during these times) til my mum met my stepdad when I was six. I remember this period of my childhood as a very warm, loving time in a big tumbledown relaxed house surrounded by people I loved and trusted.
- Mum and stepdad married when I was six and we moved into his small top floor flat. He and I clashed pretty much from the beginning and the relationship worsened until I moved out at 18. I had a breakdown and attempted suicide at 19, and have struggled with mental health issues and train wreck romantic relationahips on and off ever since (I'm now 30). I'm now married to a wonderful supportive husband; the MH issues have been better for the last few years but still rear their head.
Main issues between stepdad and me:
- He was and is incredibly controlling over his environment and the people in it. For example, his flat was immaculate, and no one could touch or change anything in it. To this day, nothing there reflects my mum, her tastes or preferences. This extended to my space too - I was never allowed to choose my own decor and was required to keep my bedroom door open at all times. At one point, a list of chores was laminated to my bed, to be completed every morning. If my bag was on my bed, or some books on my desk/clothes on my sofa, he would blow up over it and often get angry at me for crying. On a few occasions he went through my drawers and even my bin without permission, just walked in and started going through my things. All of this made me extremely anxious and resentful of not having my own space.
- He seems to think that there is a single 'right' way to think, feel, behave...basically to process and interact with the world. For example, from day 1 I was criticised for being 'too sensitive', and later for my weight, clothes, etc (I was never overweight but my mum is very skinny - this=ideal). My mum has a rare skin allergy which means she can't spend much time in the sun; she is also vegetarian. Despite this, holidays were always to sun spots and he always wanted to eat at steak places etc. Still now, he presses my mum into doing things that he sees as fun or the 'right' thing, never taking her opinions or preferences into account.
- I was sexually abused as a young teen. He said I had to take responsibility for 'my part' in it.
- He would 'punish' me for some things - I was never sure exactly what - by just refusing to talk to me, once for a full 2 weeks. For other, seemingly tiny, issues (ie bag on bed) it would be a full-on shouty lecture lasting hours.
- Despite several job changes, ostensibly to reduce stress, he continually justifies his behaviour and requirements on grounds of being exhausted and stressed. He continues to speak to my mum in a way I find abhorrent and to ignore or overrule her wants and needs.
I have some resentment to my mum for allowing all the above to happen, and not protecting me. However, I know her and love her in a way I don't him, and I know she considers herself worthless which in turn enables his behaviour and makes me angrier towards him.
On the other hand...I'm scared that a lot of this just sounds like whiny pathetic teenage griping (especially seeing it written down). He also portrayed me as a 'troubled teen' which I think always made me doubt whether what I am starting to tentatively think was emotional abuse, was in fact just that.
Anyway, sorry for the essay. I think I've covered the main points though there's a ton more examples and shades of crazy I could add...my questions are basically:
1 Am I justified inseeing this treatment as abusive? If so, I have no idea how to deal with it!
2 My gut tells me I want to keep my baby away from this influence. However, my mum, two step-siblings and I along with our extended family have invested a lot of time and energy in creating what I feel now is a myth of a happy, slightly mad but very tight family. Hiw on earth do I protect my child while not horribly upsetting everyone else?
Eesh. Thank you. And sorry again for the essay!
Yes, it was abusive.
I would play it by ear. If he starts to be controlling when you visit then leave and tell him why. Repeat until he behaves and if he doesn't see your mum at your home without him.
Yes without a doubt it was hugely abusive. Your mother is a grade A enabler. (Sorry, it was her job to keep you safe and happy as as child - she didnt. Instead she put her relationship first) I wouldnt go near either of them. Its not so easy to understand the love you feel for a child until you have one yourself but when your baby is born I think you will get what I mean and the answer to your question will become clear. You will literally lay down your life for this little one, yet your mother stood by and allowed her husband to terrify your childhood and make you miserable..for me it would be no contact, no excuse for committing or allowing that type of abuse.
1. Yes, it sounds awful
2. Someone on here said something very wise last week, along the lines of 'when you're a parent you have to face things or your children have to,'
I think in your position I'd be seeing my big extended family, but I'd be cracking down on any behaviour like that from your step father the very first time, and every time it happens. You're an adult now -,^he cannot control you^ and you have to shield your child from this.
Can you prepare by thinking up some examples of things he might do? Then rehearse with your husband how you will react?
For example, child puts a mucky paw on something, step father erupts. You calmly pick up the child, say something like 'baby is two months old, your shouting at her is absolutely unacceptable.' Then leave.
The key is emotional detachment, consistency and having the backup of your dh. Be prepared for behaviour like that to trigger some powerful feelings in you as well. It might also be a good idea to have an innocuous code word or phrase you can slip into conversation that you've agreed with dh beforehand - if you use it it means you want to leave.
Good luck to you. I'm not surprised you are anxious, he sounds like a horrible bully. But you have the power now. You live with your dh, you do not want to or seek his approval and he cannot control you.
And if these measures don't work, then simply don't see them, your child's welfare (and your own) is too important
The difference here is that you will step in to protect your child from your stepfather. Blaming a child for suffering abuse is horrific, especially as your mother stood by and let this happen.
He doesn't control your life now, even if he does control your mother. You can stand up to him.
Yes abuse and extremely controlling, probably made your mother feel incredibly grateful that he took her and you on.
Just to clarify, the sexual abuse (so sorry) was not by him?
Was he this way with your step siblings?
As others have pointed out, you are in control now, if anything were to happen you are deal with it however you chose, have it out or walk away. Has he mellowed with age or is he the same way?
He is highly abusive and your Mum did not protect you. I would not want my child anywhere near these toxic people. I am very happy for you that you found yourself the loving, supportive partner you deserve
I agree he is very abusive. Do yourself and your DC a massive favour.
Have the fall out now and keep this vile man away from them.
You cannot ever trust your mother to have your DC over night if they will be around this man. My mother wanted my step father back despite all the abuse I suffered. She would never have seen my DS in the same room if this had happened.
Your mother never protected you. She is clearly in an abusive relationship but at 6 she massively let you down.
You didn't 'clash'. He was a grown up and you were a child.
None of it was right or normal or acceptable. Your mum has really let you down by putting you in that situation to grow up in.
And I wouldn't take the baby there ever. I would let my mother see the baby on neutral territory or at my own home. I wouldn't let him see the baby and I wouldn't allow my mother to see the baby without me being there. Ever.
He sounds horrible. YANBU to want to keep your child away.
TBH I think if you keep your distance or challenge his behaviour you will almost certainly end up rocking the boat. I also think it's time to rock the boat. It's a lie that you're all one big happy family, and you're under no obligation to perpetuate that lie. If it upsets your mother that you see it like that, well, that's her guilt talking.
Yes, it was abusive.
Yes, your mum was complicit by not saying/doing anything, but I guess he abused (or still abuses) her too?
Thank you all for your replies. I am caught between feeling relieved at not being crazy and terrified at where to go from here... also a bit heartbroken at the impression people have of my mum, although I totally understand your perspective - in fact, I confronted her about her bystanding in my early twenties after a bout of bad MH issues. She was obviously so upset that I've never wanted to raise it with her since, though I do talk to her about how my stepdad treats her. I guess it's a bit sinful in my family to criticise my mum - she seems so perfect: selfless, beautiful, and cursed by a rubbish partner in my biological dad and an issue-laden daughter in me...
To clarify, sorry - the sexual abuse was by a guy at a hobby I did with my mum.
My stepdad was a bit more relaxed with my stepsiblings, though they didn't live with us so it hard to say how it would have been if we'd all lived together. I do know his divorce from his first wife was at least partially due to them disagreeing on how to raise their children, and he/my mum had very different reactions to my stepsister's eating disorder and mine (they shouted at me, grounded me and told me I was copying her).
Ironically, I am really close to both stepsibs, and we call each other brother and sister. They've said they don't know how I managed living with him full time, but I'm not sure anyone in the family is really aware of how bad it was.
I would assume he is not going to have any influence over your precious baby, and make that assumption clear - 'obviously we can't come to yours mum, because of stepfather. When do you want to come to mine?' Etc. Make sure your dp is always present when you have to engage. If your mum won't come round without him, sacrifice time with her.
Now you know what it is to have a child, to have them love you, look up to you, your past will rear up I fear. You do need to look for some help processing this. You will get very angry, sad, afraid, and all sorts of confusion because you simply won't understand how your mum and her h did what they did or allowed it to be done to you.
Do what you feel is right. Limit contact and don't take a single crappy remark for that vile man again.
I guess it's a bit sinful in my family to criticise my mum - she seems so perfect: selfless, beautiful, and cursed by a rubbish partner in my biological dad and an issue-laden daughter in me...
This is all part of the family myth, and part of the way your mother protects herself. How can she possibly ever be at fault when she's selfless and has such rotten luck with awful men?
It's bollocks. She has agency too, she's not a totally passive victim. And she stood by for years while you were abused. I don't think you owe it to her to keep quiet about how you feel now that you've got your own child to protect from this toxic dynamic.
Hissy is also right that having your own child to take care of will stir up your own anger and betrayal at the way your stepfather abused you and your mother failed to prevent it.
Can you find a good therapist to talk this through with?
Thanks again all. I think seeking therapy is a good idea - my husband suggested this as well. He is a survivor of abuse himself and has done a lot of work on addressing the ingrained, toxic patterns of thinking and behaviour from his childhood in order not to carry them on with me or our baby. I'd like to do the same - it's one of my biggest fears that I won't be able to trust my instinct with my baby, or show them the love I already feel, because my past will rear up and get in the way (if that makes sense...)
My priority is my new little family, but I guess part of that is working on myself and my past too.
No lovely, your upbringing won't impede your instincts, but the feelings and the memories you have will jar and be at odds with each other
You will get very angry, but that's absolutely fine, part of getting through it. But therapy will be a safe place - private too- for you to examine all the issues you face.
Saintly mother, authoritarian father, issue-laden daughter, all distinct parts in a family drama that deliver some kind of satisfaction and validation to your M and SF. Whatever you have done in the past or will do in the future is going to be manipulated by them in a way that allows them to sustain and reinforce these roles. They may have assigned you a role that as a small child you were unable to to refuse, however, as an adult you can decline to participate any further. You are not "issue-laden". You are a survivor, a much-loved wife and soon-to-be-mum.
I think that counselling is a great idea. It has helped me see my own dysfunctional childhood in a more objective way and relieved me of much of my confusion, guilt and sadness. I also have much clearer boundaries and the confidence to maintain them.
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