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Two teenage step-daughters, diet pills, poisonous ex and new stepmother (that's me!)

(18 Posts)
wickedstepmother1608 Tue 26-Apr-16 11:27:02

This is long - too long - so sorry .....

My DH and I married quietly and discreetly 6 weeks ago (lovely lovely day). We had been together a year. His ex (they never married) left him five years ago, taking the children for no other reason than she was bored and thought DH was boring and she could do better. I was his first 'real deal' since their split, and she did all she could to split us up, including turning the kids (18, 16 and 13) against me because whilst she didn't want their dad for herself, she certainly didn't want anyone else having him and him experiencing happiness as a result. She has lied and cheated and stolen her way through his money and claimed benefits whilst working and sitting on £100k 'hidden away' (she is currently under investigation for fraud). She spends the not inconsiderable maintenance sums we pay her on herself yet DSD aged 13 is walking round this week in school shoes with holes in them.

The eldest (DSS) now at Uni was a horror last year to both DH and myself, but the move away from Mum, and his first proper girlfriend (who we adore as does he!) have softened him considerably and he has matured and become a well rounded young man. We don't talk to him about his mother (she's made it clear he isn't much use to her now hes 18 and she no longer gets maintenance for him or child tax credits) and she has made it clear that his 'g/f isnt welcome because she is non-white Jamaican. We don't have the room (housewise) to have them live with us, but they do come and stay and we enjoy their company very much. A massive change from last y ear when the three of us couldn't be under the same roof!

So, we both know things can and will change for the better.

However, my two DSD are 17 and 13. Both live with Mum apart from one evening and one Sunday a week when they are with us. We have had issues with stealing from Dad's b ank account (using his debit card unbeknownst to us), letting Mum into the house when we were out (and her taking our financial documents and post) and general lying. The youngest DSD has a relatively sunny disposition and is generally pleasant and polite. The 17 year old is not. she is grossly overweight, terrible acne, plasters herself in make up 7 days a week, and is becoming less and less communicative. Conversations are only initiated when she wants something. We treat them all equally with birthday and Xmas monies and small monetary rewards for good grades. We do some lifts (although the mother made it clear she didn't want me to running them places) and we pay their mobile phone contracts (£40 a month each) until they are 18. They have small jobs, but don't save.

Two weeks ago, they damaged one of our wedding presents, when they were both fooling around in our en suite. They denied it. They regularly stain the carpet and furniture with make up, pens and drinks. They come to ours and plonk themselves on the sofa and never move for 8-9 hours until they are called for lunch or tea. We have tried encouraging them with walks, a shopping trip out or the like, but they aren't interested. Instead they ask when we are going to take them on holiday - having become resentful of the fact we had a three day honeymoon in Llandudno, and a few nights away at my Dad's!

We explain fairly and gently the money situation (we are both self employed, running our own business and money is tight) and that we are downsizing to a much smaller but owned home soon now that funds are released to buy. Mum has a larger home of her own, bought through DH's generosity and the money she 'saved' whilst claiming benefits. She has a well to do boyfriend who takes her out and about and wealthy parents who have helped her financially all her life.

The eldest DSD is soon to turn 17. The deal was we would match what she had saved through her Saturday job and Christmas and birthday monies to buy her a car, pay for lessons and insurance. She has £24 in her bank account. She has spent all her money on make up, clothes, chocolate, going out with her friends, pop concerts, festivals and now - it transpires diet pills. She told us last weekend that she wouldn't take them if we bought her a gym membership. We said no - as past experience has shown she won't get up off her bottom to use it - she abhors exercise and walking anywhere. She wants us to buy her brothers car off him, to give to her, to learn to drive. but that wasn't the deal. We have suggested, gently and with kindness, that to help the weight loss, we will pay for a professional counsellor (there are some long standing issues with self esteem and not opening up that are underpinning her problems) but she said she doesn't need any help from a counsellor. She refuses to weigh herself, wont tell us what she does or doesnt eat, but every Sunday like clockwork - a whole pack of chocolate biscuits is taken from the cupboard and eaten on the sofa with fizzy drinks. The diet pills are sanctioned by her mother - bought online for £25 from some unknown web site.

She is polite to me because she knows I will brook no nonsense. But to her father, in front of me, she is rude, disparaging, disrespectful and sharp. In the past, I brokered a peace between them, but feel now its got to the point where words must be said. As they are only in our house a few hours a week, I feel there is a very limited amount I can say or do. DH feels that they are almost strangers, having been turned by their mother into little clones of herself. I don't feel ready to give up yet, but I'm really struggling for ideas as to how we can improve relations. Whilst DSS turned a corner when he left to go to uni - that is looking unlikely with eldest DSD and certainly, as long as youngest DSD continues to come for the twice weekly 'contact visits', eldest DSD will too, even past age 18 - if only on mother's orders!

Advice please? Thank you!!

Bananasinpyjamas1 Tue 26-Apr-16 12:47:28

Run for the hills!

Well, no, you've just got married. There's a lot going on here. I think if I were to do this again I'd take a good, hard, look at the Ex and if she's too much trouble, I wouldn't get involved with the man, even if he had a million pounds and look like George Clooney. Just no!

JennyOnAPlate Tue 26-Apr-16 13:11:19

Do they get punished for bad behaviour? I don't understand why when they're damaging your property and being rude and disrespectful you're paying for mobile phones and discussing buying a car? That would be straight out of the window if I were you.

JennyOnAPlate Tue 26-Apr-16 13:11:23

Do they get punished for bad behaviour? I don't understand why when they're damaging your property and being rude and disrespectful you're paying for mobile phones and discussing buying a car? That would be straight out of the window if I were you.

wickedstepmother1608 Tue 26-Apr-16 13:26:25

Bananas - I hear you! But I love him and I can't hold him responsible for the actions of a misguided and poisonous woman who is plainly unhappy and unstable.

Jenny - sometimes it takes another person to state the blindingly obvious before it sinks in! you're right - why am I talking about a car and paying phones? Well, we made the car gesture before the problems started, but it could still be withdrawn and probably will be. The phones DH pays for and I don't think he would stop - he feels its something he did for DSS u ntil he was 18 and so should for the girls too. But there is always the threat of removing the privilege and that is something I hadn't considered before now. The thing is - they wouldn't accept that it was a punishment, as they deny having broken the bathroom cabinet (solid oak, both corners smashed in/off after they had been messing around in our bathroom for an hour and a half). They denied it was them, as they always deny any spillages or breakages. The lies are a feature of their mother - and the inability to take responsibility for their actions - things they have learnt from her. But I can see there is room for maneouvre with the threat of sanctions - so thank you for that. Much appreciated.

mouldycheesefan Tue 26-Apr-16 13:34:48

You said you would match what she saved. She saved £24 so that's what she gets. Hard lesson. But hand outs like cars should not be expected.
The weight thing must be getting her down and she obviously feels bad about herself and is in a cycle of eating too much. I would focus on tackling that whether it be through counselling, cooking healthily together, joining ww perhaps together, doing sports or walking etc on weekend. She may be nicer when she feels better about herself.
The issue of them making compensation for the damage also needs to be resolved, maybe they could do cleaning, car washing etc for you to pay it back, could help with the weight loss.
The mother and her finances are a r d herring don't give it headspace.

SushiAndTheBanshees Tue 26-Apr-16 14:07:25

Honestly? Their dad has to step up and deal with this. There's only so much (not very much I think) thy you can do as a SM. These kids have a lot to deal with, especially if the mum is as you say. They need time and constructive effort from both parents, there's just no substitute. If that's not going to be forthcoming it'll be a question of weathering the storm as long as you can.

Bananasinpyjamas1 Tue 26-Apr-16 14:33:40

Yes that is true, it's his Exes actions or his step children's actions. They are both pretty negative for you at the moment.

In my pretty jaded experience, of course you should have a good talk with DP, of course he should step up, and you should expect him too. Unfortunately, there are often too many layers from the past that can hold him back. It's unrealistic to expect a DP, afraid of losing his kids affections, to change very quickly.

I wouldn't be afraid of putting down your own boundaries directly with the kids. It will cause conflict but better now than later. I found that by stepping back too much, leaving it to DP, can also just undermine yourself. You ARE an adult in the house, you can make some basic, simple, fair rules yourself. If the rules are fair for all, then it won't damage anyone's relationship. If they let it, that's their call.

Good luck! Feel for you! You are not alone! flowers

MeridianB Tue 26-Apr-16 15:36:12

Congratulations on your marriage!

As for the rest - thoughts in no particular order:

* Keep working on the relationship with the young one - you could be one of her only positive role models.
* Take away any keys to your house if you haven't already. They don't need them if they are only there for a short time with you?
* Disable the TV when they visit.
* Don't buy fizzy drinks/hide choc biccies.
* Ignore demands for holiday.
* Deduct money for carpet cleaner/anything they break from their phone money. If they don't own up then they both get no phone cash that month/however many months - it might encourage one to bring the other into line/grass up her sister. Were you out when they messed up the bathroom?
* Do NOT budge on the car thing. Just don't. She's taking the p*ss. Match the £24. Done.
* Talk to your DH about the diet pills. He needs to act. Anything bought from the web is really dangerous. It's horrific that her mum is doing this. She could kill her own daughter!
* Talk to your DH about standing up to the 17yo's rudeness. He or you (or preferably both of you) need to say something every time she is rude. No one should be speaking to anyone in that way. The 13yo will copy if it's not checked.

Good luck!

wickedstepmother1608 Tue 26-Apr-16 16:25:47

Thank you for all your suggestions, support and excellent advice.
DH and I were advised by the police last year to cease all contact with the Ex. This was after she made false claims against us both for harassment. As the children are old enough to communicate directly with us, and there is no court order governing contact, the police advised us to 'cut her off' and the result was much needed peace and calm.
DH and I both 'parent' the DSDs and DSS together - we agree on all things, and speak to them as a pair about issues. However, we could not make headway with DSS until he left home and his mother took against his g/f on acount of her skin colour - then he saw the light and realised that his mother was not the person he thought she was, and that after all, his father and I had a point. Since that moment of revelation, DH and I have taken great pains NOT to criticise his mother or indeed talk about her with him - other than to listen sympathetically when he gets upset about her attitude. The two DSS - arent going to be out of the sway of Mum for some years yet, and are very much of the opinion that Mum knows best, is best, and have even taken against their own brother at Mum's behest now that he is 'out of favour'

We removed all the keys last year when we were still living in DH's former 'matrimonial home'. That went down like a lead brick, but had to be done. The house we are in now is rented, but we have had a safe installed in which to keep keys, cards and cash, and the door to the room where the safe is, is kept locked when the children are with us so they can't access documents and other 'valuables' too big to go into the safe.

We have disabled the sky PIN so they can't watch films etc, and charge us but we have discovered that the Sky Go App on DSD's phone is being used by their mother to watch Sky at our expense at their house! The App is being disabled when we move house shortly to our own home.

Deducting money from them is difficult. The bills for the phone are paid out of DH's bank account by direct debit, so not sure how we deduct. There will be a conversation this weekend about the phone's being cut off unless a greater modicum of respect is shown to their father.

Both DH and I had a long discussion with DSD about the diet pills. she is 17, has her own bank account and own money and we cannot physically stop her ordering them. Her mother sanctions it. She will not acknwledge that it is anything other than a good thing to do becuase her mother does it. Short of asking social services (?!?!?!?) to get involved on the basis of possible neglect (?!?!?!?) i see no solution!! There are major self esteem problems, and will power, but our suggestion for a professional paid for by us, adolescent psychologist to help her was met with derision - she doesn't need any help she says. I know, that until someone acknowledges there is a need for help, they won't accept it, so we wont be pushing that again.

The car thing - there will be no money for a car until she has saved up herself. Likewise driving lessons - a small amount as birthday money and then she must pay for the rest herself. We cannot afford the insurance and she doesn;'t want DH to teach her (prefers mum - god help every driver in Shropshire is all I can say!!) so Mum can pay the insurance to put her on her car. Which more likely than not wont happen.

The fizzy drinks and choc biscuits. We have them in the house, becuase we live there and its our house and we like the occasional treat. I don't see that I should hide them from a 17 year old if she has no will power when all she does is bring her own from Mum's!! I empty the waste basket each morning after they've stayed over and its full of chocolate bar wrappers, none of which have come from our house! But I take the point that if they are removed, she will have to question why and then a further talk can be had about her scoffing them.

The damage to the bathroom was caused when we were in the house - they had asked to take a shower in our bathroom, and 90 minutes after locking themselves in, the cabinet was found to be damaged.

Id like to say at this point that I am far, far from perfect, and I have had real issues getting to grips with three bright, personable and through-no-fault-of-their-own emotionally damaged young people. Im sure they feel its been difficult with me as well. As a believer (having been brought up that way) in tough love, boundaries and excellent manners, I am probably a harsh disciplinarian, but I make no apology for having standards. DH does too, but we both know we can only do so much when we have very limited time with them and influence over them.

I do very much appreciate however your suggestions and I've found being able to talk like this, and hear your words of wisdom, incredibly helpful and thought-provoking.
Thank you everyone.

Lunar1 Tue 26-Apr-16 18:20:55

Where is your DH's responsibility in all this? You lay so much blame at their mums door but he has been a dad for just as long.

You have only been around for a year, that's 17+ years of things happening that you have one side of the story for.

How quickly did you live together? I think any teen would struggle against a step parent being so involved so quickly.

Wdigin2this Tue 26-Apr-16 19:48:52 have a hell of a problem going on here!

I really don't know what to say to you...particularly about them damaging your bathroom/carpets etc, I have to admit, it would make me incandescent with rage! I know that wouldn't be helpful, but they are not little kids, so all this is totally uncaring behaviour, and really disrespectful to their father and you!

Tough love is probably the only answer here, if the 17 year old is overweight and doesn't want advice from you...don't give it. If she wants a car, but doesn't want to work/save for it...don't buy her one and just refuse to discuss it! If they can't be trusted to treat your home with respect....don't trust them, watch them every minute! And change the phone payment system to a monthly cash allowance, to cover everything you normally pay for...which can be withheld as and when you and your DH consider necessary!

I know you think their behaviour is a result of their mother's influence, but you can't do anything about forget her! It's now time for their father to start properly parenting them!

nephrofox Tue 26-Apr-16 20:15:22

Agree with meridian.

Also, you don't have to bow down to this. They're practically adults, perfectly capable of holding a polite conversation and not lying about breaking things. You say they're more polite to you than their dad? That speaks volumes about how useless he is!

wickedstepmother1608 Tue 26-Apr-16 21:26:03

Thank you again one and all. You've given me much food for thought and I appreciate your taking the time to post your opinions.

There is one thing that slightly puzzles me. Several of you have commented about DHs lack of parenting skills and him being useless. I'm missing something here, cause I don't see that.i see us both trying very hard to be reasonable, offer firm guidance and boundaries to the children.

There is one other consideration.

My DH is not an intellectual. He was born three months prematurely weighing just 1lb 8 ounces. He is an exceptionally hard grafter, a very gentle man who is emotional, kind hearted and perhaps not as worldly as the rest of us. He has difficulty with his memory and struggles sometimes to keep up with a chain of conversation. He is a loving, loyal and devoted husband and father. His daughters are aware of his challenges, and despite my asking them to show compassion and understanding, they do not because they see their father through their mothers gaze, as an idiot. with that message being reinforced five and a half days a week, whilst they are with Mum, both DH and I are struggling to make head way.

Sunshine87 Tue 26-Apr-16 21:37:38

Sounds like things has been rushed lunars right you haven't really had the chance to develop a relationship with your step children before you've moved in and married In a space of a year. I think they are trying their best to piss you off and remove you from the situation to be honest. It is down to your DH to put the SC in place in regards to treating the house.

Lunar1 Tue 26-Apr-16 21:47:29

Your last post says it all. They have had him as their dad all their lives and all of a sudden you are some kind of team trying to sort them out.

Your dh chose to have three children. Unless he was classed as a vulnerable adult and wasn't capable to consent to have children due to a disability.

You need to back right off. You are seeing things so completely one sided it's ridiculous. I'm not surprised his children are trying to piss you off you have come into their life like a steamroller.

Lunar1 Tue 26-Apr-16 21:47:31

Your last post says it all. They have had him as their dad all their lives and all of a sudden you are some kind of team trying to sort them out.

Your dh chose to have three children. Unless he was classed as a vulnerable adult and wasn't capable to consent to have children due to a disability.

You need to back right off. You are seeing things so completely one sided it's ridiculous. I'm not surprised his children are trying to piss you off you have come into their life like a steamroller.

MeridianB Wed 27-Apr-16 09:11:37

It's great that you sound so buoyant and optimistic/constructive.

What if the TV was 'broken'? Just take the fuse out of the plug. They will HAVE to find something else to do. And there is no way I'd be letting the app thing continue for a second more.

Allied ot this, can you change their phones to PAYG and give them cash each month/load the phones with/for them when they have earned it? The whole thing seems open to abuse as it stands.

I get the dilemma about the diet pills - it sounds as if she would go behind you back anyway. How does she buy anything online aged 17 without a credit/debit card? (I may be out of date here! blush). I think your DH has to consider whether there is anything he can do for her to prevent her getting sicker (now and in later life) - through the pills and/or weight-related conditions. It sounds like this is the last chance he may have to do this before she is of age.

The bathroom damage is an odd one. Why would a 17 yo want to be locked in a bathroom with a younger sister for a shower, especially if she has hangups about her body? It soudns like they were intent on mischief. Guessing they are not allowed to do this any more. I'd definitely be docking the money though. Half each for repairs.

I think your DH is getting a bit of a hard time on here - to me it sounds like he is a good man who tries to do the right thing and gets taken advantage of and is stuck for ideas on what else he should do.

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