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We got it so wrong

(22 Posts)
teaandakitkat Mon 08-May-17 19:32:37

Trying to find the right balance between length of post and not drip feeding.

I met dh when his dd was 3 and his son was 7.

Their mum was against me from the start. Sd would go home and report back to her mum on what had gone on when they were with us. (I'm not angry with her about this, she was just a kid). Whatever I said or did got twisted into the worst possible interpretation. the kids would be home half an hour or so and dh's phone would ping with a message about what I'd done wrong. It was endless and wearing.

I wasn't allowed to be alone with her, wasn't allowed to take her to the shops, not allowed to comment on what she was wearing, ask what she was doing in her spare time, say anything about her schooling. It got to a point where I was anxious the whole time she was here, I didn't want to say anything wrong, most of everyday conversation involves asking a question about what the other person has done or thinks about something, or is planning to do.

Something happened one day which just made me decide I'd had enough. I stepped back. Was always polite, but didn't get involved in conversations. Encouraged dh to go out with his kids, take them to his parents for the day, whatever, wherever I could leave them alone without me I did.

I realise now that this was so wrong. I walked away from her. I shouldn't have done it. We should all have been equal points in a family circle, instead we ended up basically in two separate families. I wanted so much to be close to her at the start, I believe she would happily have been close to me, but her mum did all she could to prevent that, and I gave up.

Looking back now, I can't believe we let this happen. I am angry with my dh for not standing up to his ex many years ago and saying "look, tea is my wife, we are a family, sd and ss are part of our family, so just back off and let the kids be a part of it without all your negative nonsense". But he didn't, because he was so terrified of her making it difficult for him to see them, and I didn't because it ultimately had to be his decision.

Anyway, fast forward 15 years, we're still together, still happy, but sd is miserable. She's left college and is seeing a counsellor. Her mum says it's all our fault. I would say that all the adults in her life let her down.

Her mother spent years making everything about us negative, creating barriers that didn't need to exist.

Dh thinks that if her mother had behaved decently then none of this would have happened, he was doing his best to keep things calm and so it's not his fault either.

I think her mother set about creating a mindset of 'dad's bad new family, you are not included', I think dh didn't stand up to her, and I stood back and let it happen. So we are all to blame.

I don't know what to do now though. I can't fix what's past.

Dh is in major defensive mode, won't acknowledge that we did anything wrong. He thinks he made the best decisions he could at each point trying his best to keep things calm with the mum and therefore for the kids. Which he did. But maybe it needed a massive row 10 years ago instead of this dragging on.

I feel that I somehow want to acknowledge to sd that we didn't do the best we could. I wonder if that would help her in her counselling. I feel a bit like no-one is being honest with her. Dh thinks she should just put it behind her, lots of parents have kids who are not together and it hasn't taken over their lives.

But this did affect her whole life, in a way that it doesn't for other kids, because of the way all of the adults in her life behaved. None of us did right for her.

I don't know how I would explain it though, without sounding like I"m blaming her mum (who I think is largely to blame as the instigator of all the trouble), and I"m still of the view that I don't want to get between her and her mum.

All her life she's been told that we are the bad guys, do I just make it a whole lot worse if I say that actually her mum wasn't that great either?

Sd actually said to her dad the other day "I don't know who to believe.". That's so sad.

What a mess, and poor girl still stuck in the middle.

Her older brother seems largely unscathed by this all, I never got any hassle from the mum about spending time with him. He naturally did more with his dad I suppose, but we never got texted about things I'd said to him or conversations we'd had. Weird.

Sorry, this has gone on and on. I didn't mean it to. It's been therapy writing it down even if no-one replies. Thanks for reading x

lovecamping Mon 08-May-17 19:37:16

What an awful situation. But it's good that you've recognised it.

Maybe a letter, not explaining what happened or fault. But just to say you acknowledge you had a part to play and let her down. But you do love her and will help if she lets you.

Hope it works out

Allthebestnamesareused Mon 08-May-17 19:37:58


You did what you thought was right for her at the time as did your DH and no-one can ask anymore than that I am afraid.

I suspect Mum felt she'd lose her DD and possibly her grown-up friend DD if she allowed you in at that time.

If channels are still open with DSD I think I would just explain that you stood back as you didn't want to step on her mum's toes but always hoped that there would be a friendship available with her at the point she needed it.

RadarLoveBug Mon 08-May-17 19:41:50

Honestly I wouldn't drag up the past unless she wants to talk about it. You might tell her you're open to talking about anything she wants to and leave it at that. She needs to move forward and to be supported now. So if you want to support her now then find a way.

Dredging up her childhood through the distortion of years past which focusses on her mum being the baddy is no good and won't help. She had two parents and she has two parents. For the most part you need to let them sort this. She's young, she's hit a bump. She needs less drama not more! So help her find the skills she needs.

ElinorRigby Mon 08-May-17 19:46:23

My stepdaughter also felt quite mixed up when she went to university.

It's a time when you have a bit more distance from the adults in your life and start reappraising everything.

It is always risky to embark on any discussion which would involve being critical of a parent, so I think one steers clear.

I think it's about doing one's best to be a consistent and caring adult presence and trying to support her as she carries on growing up.

CocoaLeaves Mon 08-May-17 19:47:10

It is not about who she believes, it is about who she becomes herself. Part of growing up is recognising your parents are not perfect. But it does not help to have someone tell you they are not. What are your SD's needs now? That is what matters.

ProphetOfDoom Mon 08-May-17 19:51:38

My male best friend is in a similariish situation with his much younger dd saying she doesn't know who to believe. He's made mistakes to be sure but the real damage has been done by her mother. Like you he understands why the mother has behaved as she has, even if he cannot approve her actions, and a conspiracy of silence has built up.

The dd has a counsellor through school and in that setting my bf has travelled thousands of miles to give his dd answers to anything she wants to know. Her mother refused to attend. Would that be possible...some kind of family counselling?

Scentofwater Mon 08-May-17 19:55:08

Don't tell her that her mum was in the wrong. I'm sure she knows it but she doesn't need you to tell her. It will hurt her more than you may realise for you to criticise her mother.

My family were similar. I now feel very lucky that I have an excellent relationship with my father and my stepmother. I spent nearly two decades hating her before I realised she wasn't the bad guy I had been told she was. My mother also wasn't the evil woman my father/stepmother were so keen to tell me about either. They were all rather childish and spiteful.

My advice would be to nurture as close a relationship as you can with her now, but don't address the past. You may well still be able to be good friends/family. It may take a really long time for her to get to trust you but if you like her it will be worth it.

teaandakitkat Mon 08-May-17 20:49:20

I'd never tell her her mum was wrong. We spent years protecting her relationship with her mother, we never said a bad word against her and look where we've all ended up. I wouldn't change that now.

I feel like no-one is being honest with sd still. I haven't a clue about her mum, but dh is still refusing to acknowledge that he could have done better. I actually am quite angry with him I think. His attitude is that she should 'get over it', but I can't help thinking that a tiny bit of honesty from him might help her see that yes, she partly does have a reason to be messed up.

I know he did his best at the time, but it turns out he could, and with hindsight should, have done different. I don't think him acknowledging that is necessarily bad for him.

But I think he worries that if he admits anything then her mum will just turn it round and go "See! I told you it was all his fault! I've been telling you that for years!"

After all these years, still worrying and second guessing what the mum will say.

But you are all right, anything I do now is just me guessing what sd might need. I won't do anything other than be around.

We rarely see her now so it's going to be hard to fix, but it is what it is.

Thanks for reading.

swingofthings Tue 09-May-17 05:59:54

I don't know how I would explain it though, without sounding like I"m blaming her mum (who I think is largely to blame as the instigator of all the trouble), and I"m still of the view that I don't want to get between her and her mum.
I don't think this would help her at all because it sounds that it is more about justifying yourself that you were right at the time, that her mum was wrong and that you should have confronted her to make it clear that you were indeed right.

It is not very clear from your post what are the specific issues that mean that your SD is now having issues that requires counselling. You say that all her life she's been told that you were the bad guys, are you suggesting that this is the core of her mental health issues.

The role of the counsellor is to get to the issues. It could be that indeed, she is angry and confused about being lied to and missing out on a good relationship with her dad/you, or it could be that the years of feeling stuck between two parents constantly trying to blame each other other things that were meaningless has left her constantly wary and therefore growing anxious, or of course, her issues could be with her failure to learn to cope with stress, new situations, etc... which is not directly linked with your situation.

My advice would be to let the counsellor do her job. She is now an adult and can choose to have a relationship with you if she feels she has missed out and wants to make it up. Whatever you do, don't make her issues about you and what you did or did not do unless she herself brings this up specifically because most likely, her problems are not about this at all but about the pressure to try to be the perfect girl to both her parents who had very different expectations and tried to convince her that they were both right and the other wrong.

ItsNiceItsDifferentItsUnusual Tue 09-May-17 06:11:26

This may all come out when she's talking to her counsellor anyway. When I was in my 20s I started therapy and was clear in my mind that a lot of my issues were to do with my Dad and his behaviour (left the family, remarried etc). Through therapy though, it actually kept coming back to my Mum and how she framed and dealt with things. Which isn't to say that my Dad was in the right - he wasn't - but it massively opened my eyes as to why, often, things have been so damaging. There were two parents each being shit in their own way. My relationship with my Mum subsequently took a nosedive, unfortunately.

Mombie2016 Tue 09-May-17 06:14:38

Oh dear. I can't understand why some women are willing to do this to their children. My own mother did similar and my Dad did go along with it to start with (e.g. he wasn't allowed to take us to his house when his new wife was there so he had to sit with us in the car park all day - we were never allowed to sleep over because Mum didn't want another woman putting us to bed shock Despite the fact she was also remarried and her new DH obviously lived with us hmm and was a nasty wanker to boot ) Eventually there was a big row and the result was we didn't see our Dad for years - he had a court order but she flouted it constantly and he didn't have an endless pot of money to keep hauling her back and besides, they did absolutely fuck all to force her to stick to it. Anyway I've now been NC with my Mum for over a decade and my two siblings are very LC with her. We are all very close to our Dad, however. (Who subsequently divorced his second wife who we barely knew but is now happily married for a third time to our amazing Step Mum who's been in my life since I was 16)

I think a simple "We all made mistakes but did the best we knew how at the time" would suffice. It's basically what my Dad said to us, acknowledged responsibility but didn't blame it all on our mother even though it was largely her fault.

This shit is exactly why I did encourage ExDP with his new DP and our DC. Unfortunately she was a complete twat who refused to engage with our DC and and he did dump her after around 18 months because she was awful. I'd bloody love my DC to have an amazing Step Mum like I've got.

flowers Hindsight is a beautiful thing, isn't it?

user1486915549 Tue 09-May-17 09:31:19

I would also say ( in the nicest possible way x) that it is not all about you. She is her own person and is having professional help to find her own way through life.

Faithless Tue 09-May-17 10:45:57

Rather than trying to guess what she needs, why not ask her. Something like "I don't feel like we always got things right when you were younger. Now you're older, please tell us what me and your dad can do to make life easier for you?".

Don't mention her mother at all and focus on the support you and your husband can provide as she gets older and more adept at articulating her feelings. Maybe you can find a way to re negotiate your boundaries with her, and develop a closer adult relationship which is different to the one you had when she was a child.

teaandakitkat Tue 09-May-17 11:51:40

I'm not going to do anything unless the initiative for it comes from her. Apart from just be here as usual if she wants to be around us. Apologising or trying to explain myself is really more for my benefit than hers I realise.

The more I think about it the more I think my issue is with my dh, her dad, who is refusing to acknowledge that we maybe could have done things differently and better.

It just seems to me that it might make things easier for sd for someone to say to her that yes your childhood wasn't great and this isn't all in your head, rather than dh's approach of just telling her she's over-analysing and should just move on.

But you're all right, it has to come from her. All I would be doing is adding another layer of someone else's version of events on top of what she's already had to deal with and that wouldn't be fair.

Poor kid.

Magda72 Sat 27-May-17 09:12:56

Tea, I am now in somewhat the same position as you were years ago. My Dps kids live in another town & he travels there at weekends to see them. They are all teens and pre teens & they have little interest in coming to stay with Dp & I. Like you I am now standing back as their mum said one two many nasty & untrue things about me & I'm just leaving Dp to it.
It's awful things have played out this way with your dss but I think you need to cut yourself & Dp some slack. You both did what you considered best at the time & it's possible that even if you had dug in and battled with dss's mum the outcome would have been just as stressful for dss albeit in another way & she'd still be seeing a counsellor.
It is VERY difficult to 'blend' successfully when a parent is bitter & just not on board because no matter what stance you take the child/children in question will be caught in the middle.

HildaOg Sat 27-May-17 09:17:57

Your husband shouldn't have introduced you so early and the mother was right to keep you distanced. A lot of women cross boundaries and think they're the new mummy!!

If you had both waited and discussed boundaries with the ex in the first place, she wouldn't have needed to protect her child and family from you.

So blame your dh and yourself. The ex could only react to you trying to take her kids. You were the ones who could and should have put in proper boundaries and standards in the first place.

user1486915549 Sat 27-May-17 11:21:20

What nonsense Hildaog.

workingmumsarebad Sat 27-May-17 18:36:27

OP - I think you have summed up things really well.

I come at this from a mum whose kids had an SM who was never physically nasty but emotionally was abusive.

I have always tried to remain neutral, never screamed reported back - bar he feeding the DCS a food that gives them profuse diarrhoea! and never slagged her off -it was v hard.

Too often on this forum I hear, disengage, step back and do nothing let their father do it all. For my DCS - v young they saw this as rejection of their new family. AuntyX did not speak to them other than to say hello, never did things, would ignore them if they asked for a drink etc. The non engagement with the blended family by the SM was emotionally abusive.

In your case , everyone is to blame - you were part of a whole.

I really get angry when people on here say disengage - it is the worst thing you can do, not just for now but the future.

Magda72 Sat 27-May-17 19:54:56

Workingmums I totally see your viewpoint but I do honestly think there's a difference between trying to give space & disengaging & unfortunately even with the best of intentions we don't always get it right.

workingmumsarebad Sat 27-May-17 21:28:29

magda I agree the balance is fine and hard but the disengagement and leave their DF/DM to it alone is as damaging as any arguments.

At the moment my almost SDCs - get some negativity about me, but I remain resolutely polite, cheerful and inclusive. I have seen the reverse and its effects on my DCS, I would not wish this on the almost SDCs and they are significantly older thanmine were.

I work on the basis, that they will never be able to say that I was rude, ignored, disrepsectful etc. They will be told if they are being naughty, dangerous play etc but they lay the table like mine do, clear it like mine, do, we all sit and talk about stuff. If they ask I do help, if they do not then I sit and wait.

To have someone ignore you, "disengage" and watch them behave normally with their father/mother and other DCS, just makes the poor child think there is aproblem with them.

Magda72 Sat 27-May-17 21:32:46

Thanks for the insights. In my case my exes Dp was initially very full on with my dcs & they found that very stressful. So, regarding my Dps kids I have worked off my experience and felt they wanted space. I see now that the flip side of that is that they can also view me as disinterested.

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