It's been a long week...

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by LostSF, Jul 8, 2010.

  1. LostSF

    LostSF Guest

    I'm laid off right now and as fate would have it, SD (14) is grounded for lying.

    So it's been a long week for both of us. SD has spent the entire time when wife is at work (9-6, Mon-Fri) hiding in her room in the basement.

    She literally only comes upstairs once during the day, to get lunch. She makes herself something quick, and then takes her food back downstairs. She only speaks to me if I speak to her, and then I only get a one word reply. And most of the time she waits to come up until she hears that I'm out of the way -- having a shower or outside for some fresh air.

    Not once in the last week has she come upstairs to go to the bathroom, to get a drink or to see what the sun looks like. Just that one trip upstairs each day, as quick as she can do it.

    As soon as wife comes home, SD is willing to surface. She'll eat dinner with us, but if wife and I are both in the living room after dinner, SD goes back downstairs again. The only way she'll stay upstairs with wife is if I leave the room or the house altogether.

    On days when SD is home completely alone she spends most of her time upstairs -- playing video games, watching TV or just reading. But as soon as I'm in the house... downstairs she goes.

    This behaviour isn't anything new. At best, SD seems to tolerate my presence (which never lasts more than a few minutes), but most of the time she either acts like I don't exist, or like she wishes I didn't.

    But this is the first time we've spent the whole week like this, so it's really starting to wear on me.

    I had hoped that, if I was nice, friendly and respectful to SD, if I didn't try to disclipline her or act like I was her father, that she would warm up to me. But it's been 4 years now, and she's worse with me now than ever.

    Every now and then she warms up just a bit (like laughing at a joke I make or talking to me without attitude in her voice), and I think (hope) that things are starting to get better. But it never lasts.

    I normally wouldn't post about this, because so many people on here have stories so much worse than mine.

    But I'm just feeling really hurt by her right now. I'm a grown man, and I'm sitting here on the edge of tears because this child acts like she absolutely hates me, she won't tell me (or anyone else) why and she gives me no signs that its ever going to change. She would rather sit in her room all day, for days on end, then be in the same room as me for even a few minutes.

    I wonder sometimes what SD will be like with me 10 years from now. Will she realize how badly she's hurt me, when all I've tried to do is be good to her? Will she feel regret? Will she apologize? Will she change the way she is with me?

    Or will she continue to treat me badly? Will she come and visit wife, or will wife have to go and visit her... without me? Will she invite me to her wedding? Will I be allowed to see her children?

    wife (and I suspect many of you) prefer to focus on the here and now, but because there just aren't any good times with SD for me in the here and now, I can't help but hope that we'll have a better relationship in the future. Even though I have no reason to believe that will ever happen.
  2. LostSF

    LostSF Guest

    Well, it just happened again. wife is away for the evening, and SD has only been upstairs twice all day (lunch and dinner). But I just left the room for a minute and sure enough, she came upstairs, went to the bathroom and got a snack. When I came back she headed right back downstairs again. Didn't look at me, didn't say a word.

    It honestly feels like she's trying to punish me, but for the life of me I don't know for what. Several people (including two therapists) have asked her why she treats me this way, and she just says "I don't know."

    I just keep switching between trying to build a relationship with her (which doesn't work), trying to ignore it (which also doesn't work -- sooner or later I have to admit to myself that it hurts and frustrates me), thinking about getting a divorce and leaving (never seriously, but the though does cross my mind from time to time) and wanting to scream at SD for making me feel this way (which I would never do).

    I just feel.... helpless. What am I suppose to do?
  3. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    WOW! It sounds like you have a real challenge. Is your SD well behaved for her mom? For others? How is she in school? With friends? In public?

    Does SD say awful things to you and do awful things like destroy your stuff simply to be mean, or is she just completely ignoring you? What does she have in her room to entertain her? Tv? video games? books? phone?

    Many 14 year olds spend as little time as possible with their parents. I got a job at 14 and worked 3 days a week after school and on Saturdays. We only had a tv in the den so if I watned to watch tv I had to go out of my room. I actually got along very well with my parents for a teenager - and was extremely close with my mom. I still spent most of my time at home in my room. Homework, reading (have always been an avid bookworm - hence the job was in a used bookstore where I could get all the books I wanted for free, LOL), and sleeping.

    Your SD is taking this to an extreme, but I don't know if it is terribly uncommon.

    I think you need to see a counselor or psychologist to help you work through these feelings. It DOES hurt to be shunned by someone you are prepared to like, love, or even just get along with. I don't get the impression you have other kids, so you may have unrealistic expectations about how a teen stepdau should behave. I don't have stepkids so I don't know what is normal either. For a short period my bro married a woman with teen sons and that was a disaster. Her boys refuse to speak to her or visit most of the time because the way he behaved to her and to them. And that marriage has been over almost 5 years! But my bro is one of the meaner difficult children I have ever seen, esp for one who is not currently abusing any substances.

    You can choose to be very hurt by her actions, or to react in another way. I don't think her behavior is reasonable by adult standards, but she isn't an adult. Can you remember anything of how you would have felt about a step parent when you were a teen? Kids today have a LOT more freedom to express themselves, esp ones who have parents who have split up. There is often guilt that lets the parents tolerate more than they otherwise would. Talking to a therapist about this would help you figure out what "normal" behavior for a 14 yo girl with a stepfather really is. It also will help you figure out ways to handle your feelings of rejection and hurt. We really can choose how to react to situations, and working with a therapist would help you be more able to change your reaction. Heck, you can choose to feel sorry for her because she is missing out on a great relationship with someone who would be really caring and supportive. You cannot get to that point with-o some help though.

    If you love her mom, don't make your relationship about how her teen daughter is behaving. The SD may feel disloyal if she still has her dad in her life. If she doesn't, she may feel he will come back and love her if she doesn't bond with you. She may even feel that there is no way you could like or love her because her father left her mom, isn't involved with her, tells her not to have a relationship with her or encourages her to be nice to you. Regardless of which of those things (if any) is going on, talking it out with a therapist will help you handle it with patience and understanding.

    If you continue to react with such hurt, this situation, and likely your marriage, will go downhill. Probably very fast.

    So rather than put pressure on her mom, which won't help, go talk this out with someone who has an idea of how and why teen girls do what they do. Someone who can help you figure out how you want to handle the situation, rather than just reacting to it (which really does give the SD far more power over you than is reasonable). I hope that seeing a therapist helps. You problem won't have to go for a long time, just for long enough to know what is normal and how to handle it best.

    Sorry things are so upsetting.
  4. Shari

    Shari IsItFridayYet?

    Maybe this is just off the wall, but I wonder if this is just a power play?

    In dealing with my difficult child 1, it was all about control, and anything he could do to maintain it. In your situation, maybe she is doing it because it gives her a sense of control over you because she's aware that it hurts you... and its not so much a need to hurt you as it is a need to feel in control (a common theme with difficult child's, especially; but a lot of teens, really)

    What would happen if you never let her see you hurt by her behavior? If you had a friend over or talked on the phone (and laughed a lot) while she was in her lair? Went out and fished or golfed during the day, and just really gave her a good month or 2 of enjoying your life (even if you have to fake it) despite her attitude towards you...?
  5. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    My husband was the stepfather and I had a good ear as to why the kids would not accept him. First of all, it was worse when he tried to play a parental role and get involved in discipline and better after we decided that my ex and I would do all the disciplining. These are things my kids told me:

    "He's not my father. I love Dad, not him."

    "You picked him, not me. I don't have to love him. I never will." (They do get along now that they are all growed up)

    "I wish he wasn't here. He's an intruder" (Two of my kids were teenagers)

    "It was so good before HE came around."

    "He's mean. I don't have to listen to him." (He wasn't mean)

    "I don't like him. He's not my father."

    Etc, etc, etc. A lot was resentment that I was divorced from their father and they were sad and uncomfortable seeing me with somebody else. And they did have a point. I wanted the divorce and I picked their stepfather and I couldn't make them like or accept hm. They do now, but it's been fifteen years. I think perhaps your stepdaughter is telling you, "I didn't ask for the divorce or the remarriage and I don't accept you in my life." But things can change a lot as t hey mature. Your stepdaughter knows darn well why she won't give you a chance. As yet, she just doesn't want to talk about it. And, remember, time is your friend. My kids are used to my hub now and the early resentment is long passed. I know how hard this is as I saw it first hand. Don't trivialize your feelings or problems.
  6. DaisyFace

    DaisyFace Love me...Love me not

    Hello Lost--

    I realize that you have written your post from the point of view of the "Step-Father" and are viewing the situation as a "when will she accept me?" type of thing....

    BUT--depending upon what kind of difficult child your SD may NOT be a "Step-Father" issue at all.

    My 15 year old daughter treats me as though she absolutely despises me...her real Mom. When asked, she can give no logical explanation as to why she has such venomous feelings towards me. All the things I would love to share with her, do with her, do FOR her are all rejected. She acts as though I surely have some hideous ulterior motive.

    It is VERY hurtful.

    I often have fantasies about running away--getting a divorce and leaving difficult child with her Dad (yeah, he'd LOVE that--NOT!!!), but like you, I haven't seriously comtemplated leaving. For now, it's just a fantasy to get me through those hurtful days.

    On the bright side (yes, believe it or not)...hiding in her bedroom seems a lot better than out-and-out confrontation. At least she is staying out of your space!

    And if you can distance yourself emotionally just a bit--you might find it amusing to picture her in her bedroom, crossing her legs "doing the bathroom dance", and thinking please, please PLEASE let him step outside before I wet myself!!!

    Hang in there!
  7. KTMom91

    KTMom91 Well-Known Member

    We still have some of this going on after ten years. Miss KT is rude, hostile, dismissive...and it HAS gotten better, but not to the point that Hubby or I want it to be. I agree that it's about control, and it also seems to be a contest about who I love more. If I'm upset with Hubby, than Miss KT wins. And she keeps score. Everything is a competition with her; if dinner is her favorite or his, what I buy at the grocery store, which one I ask to help me..."I don't want to get the laundry, make Dad do it!" She seems herself and my Hubby on the same level, the same social standing, not getting that she's the child.

    As much as it hurts you, and I know it does, your wife is feeling pulled apart. Your SD wants her on her side, you expect that she be on yours, and she probably just wants it all to stop. The harder you pull at her, the harder she'll resist. While I didn't want to be in the position of taking sides, and I hate being placed in the middle, there were times when I took the side of whoever would shut up first, just to get some peace. Not good, I know. Now I ignore them both, tell them both to knock it off...and Hubby says I treat him like a child. Your wife is in a position where nothing she does is right, as long as there's open warfare in the home. If you are able to not take your SD's attitude personally, it will help.

    Good luck.
  8. aeroeng

    aeroeng Mom of Three

    I fought with my older sister until I was about 15, then we became best of friends. That was until she met her soon to be husband. Oh how I hated him. He was not a bad person, he just took her attention away. She had someone else to love. He took the attention that I felt belonged to me. A pre-teen's jealousy of their parent's attention can be a strong thing, even when they spend most of the time trying to make their parents miserable.

    On the positive side I believe that most (not all, but most) teenagers get over the jealousy as they mature. So yes I think it is likely that someday you will be able to develop a closer relationship. It just might not happen until she is 21 though. You need to develop a plan on how you will manage living in a situation until she does turn around. Ideas are:

    - Find things that you like to do. I.E. put some resources and effort into things that make you happy, and take care of yourself too.

    - Build up your social network so that you can spend time with people who treat you well. Go on a date with your wife every now and then WITHOUT the kids. (And don't talk about them on it). Maybe volunteer some until you get a job again.

    - Let her be the little snot. Don't beg for the attention or jump when she finally gives you some. When she does something good, smile and let her know you approve, but don't get overly excited.

    - Don't push. No threats like "If you don't come out here xxx privilege will be taken away!"

    - Don't bribe. No rewards for treating you like a human.

    - Make sure that wife spends some time a lone with SD, so she does not need to fight for the attention.

    - Even if she does not like you she still needs to follow common rules of behavior. Have your wife explain the "decency" rules. She must say hello, please and thank you, and be civil.

    - Even if you are not religious you will need to take a Christian approach. Forgive, and forgive a thousand times regardless of how mean and cruel she can be. And then when she needs you, (and sooner or later she will need you for something) smile and respond like she had been your best friend all along. No I told you so, and no sny comments, just be there for her when she needs it.

    - Give thoughtful, but inexpensive cards and gifts on special occasions like birthdays without expecting anything in return. The object is to let her know you are thinking about her, but not showering with elaborate gifts.

    My sister once told me that as a mother she felt she had to be a water fountain. She had to sit there day after day with the water ready for her son to come to her for a drink. She could not force it, she could not even ask. She had to simply wait for the child to come to her when he needed it.

    Also remember to post when it gets frustrating. You might not have the same stories as others, but your feelings are still important.
  9. LostSF

    LostSF Guest

    Thank you everyone for your thoughtful and insightful posts. I really appreciate it.

    There were a lot of questions and ideas, so I'll try and respond in summary.

    SD is somewhat of a difficult child with wife too... she regularly lies (and when wife tries to get her to stop she tells her "I'm going to keep lying, get used to it"), she (tries to) manipulate wife using guilt and anger, she's often rude and hostile to wife, etc. She's not at the "smashing things" or "going into a rage" level, but she's regularly disrespectful and hostile to a lot of people, to the point where all of her extended family, many of her teachers and even most of her classmates seem to avoid her.

    However, it's really a love/hate thing with wife... she'll be angry and say/do things that hurt wife, but then she'll come to her for love and affection. But with me it's all hate, and I think that's what I find so hard -- if there were even the occasion "good" day, when she just treated me with basic respect (like saying good morning and good night), it would help. But for four years now, unless I speak to her, she says nothing back... and when she does speak back it's usually with attitude. She has also told several people, including her boyfriend, other relatives and her therapists that she hates me, but doesn't seem to be able to say why.

    As far as discipline, that's totally wife's department, although I do give my opinions when wife and I are speaking privately. I've also recently tried to stop doing anything that she might see as a "father's job", e.g. saying goodnight before she goes to bed (which seems to bother her every time I do it). At first I thought it was helping, but this last week shows that's not the case.

    I agree that the "spending time in her room" thing isn't abnormal for a teen... but she also completely ignores me when I'm in the room. Whenever she talks, she always starts it with "Mom...," even when I'm sitting right there with them. She rarely makes eye contact or even looks at me, she has never spoken to me unless I speak to her first, she'll get up and leave the room if it's just her and I there, etc. These things by themselves are one thing... but after living with it every day for several years I'm just feeling worn out.

    I do understand where some of her resentment of me comes from -- she was always much closer to wife than her boyfriend, and I think she's jealous of the attention her mom gives me. We've tried very hard for a long time to make her feel a) included (by doing things as a family) and b) valued (she and wife regularly spend "girl nights" out together, I'll sometimes leave the room or the house so they can have some time together and talk freely, etc.

    Plus as MidwestMom suggested, SD does feel a loss of control -- she didn't choose to have me in her life, and I think she resents that it's me saying good morning and good night to her and being in "her" house and not her father. I can understand that, and I empathize. But sometimes I just feel that being punished for SD's hurt and pain is not what I signed up for when I got married. But I know I have no one to blame for that but myself.

    I guess I just expected that after a period of adjustment she would warm up to me or at least be able to tolerate my presence... but if anything it's getting worse. I actually was trying what Shari suggested, to be happy in spite of the way she is with me. The night before I posted, I turned up the music a little louder than usual, sang along and just tried to enjoy being alive. But I honestly think that made her more resentful, becuase her tone with me was even worse the next day. It almost feels like she thinks "if I'm not happy, no one else should be happy either."

    I do agree with the suggestions of me seeing a therapist, of getting out of the house a little more and of not putting wife in the middle. I unfotunately did the last of those last night, and it ended with both wife and I crying in the bedroom. Not a good night. As a result of our conversation wife told SD that she needed to start treating me with basic respect, which SD did not like at all. She's been a little better today, but there's still plenty of attitude in her one-word replies. It makes me sad that I consider SD saying "yes" or "no" without attitude as a good day for us.

    And really, that's all I want. I don't expect SD to say she loves me, or to think of me as her father or even a father figure. All I want at this point is some basic respect. This is something that both therapists have tried to work on with SD -- telling her that she doesn't have to like me, but that she should treat me with the same amount of respect that she'd treat any other person that was in her home. But no dice. Actually, the last time the therapist suggested it, SD threatened to move in with her father. It's like she decided it's her right to hate me, and that no one is going to take that away from her.

    But I really appreciate hearing from MidwestMom that things got better in their house. That's the hardest part of it -- not knowing how long it's going to be like this. SD alternates between saying she's going to run away when she's 16 to saying she's going to live with us until she's 30, and the thought of another 5, 10 or 15 years of living in a house like this makes me wanted to curl up in a ball (or run screaming for the hills). What gets me through is believing that things may some day get better, so thank you for helping to fuel that hope.
    Lasted edited by : Jul 9, 2010
  10. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Hehe...a lot got better when the kids started seeing their father for who he is.

    But it took a long time because, as my grown daughter has told me, "I didn't want to think about another man touching you. It made me angrier than I can even explain."

    Although people don't want to admit it (as I didn't want to admit it) our kids, even teens and sometimes adult kids, hate seeing their parents with other "honeys." And, sure, we deserve to be happy too, but kids don't understand and accept that we love somebody other than Dad and often this leads to deepseated resentment that sometimes goes away and sometimes doesn't. My youngest daughter has a lot of friends who have to bounce from house to house because of divorces and none of them like it nor do they particularly care for at least one of their parent's SO's. It's not really about you. It's about her mother lealving her father (or vice versa) and her love for her father that you replaced in her mother's life. At this time, she's not over that.

    It's common for teens not to explain their true feelings, even to therapists. But I'd bet the farm it's all about Mom and Dad and the divorce. A divorce isn't something kids really get over with no damage. My own kids had a hard time and hub got the brunt of it. But, yeah, they moved out and are all on their own now and things are much better. In fact, they include my hub like he's just part of the family. but it took all this time.
  11. LostSF

    LostSF Guest

    Thanks again MidwestMom.

    My SS expressed his hurt in various ways after his parents separated, even after I had been on the scene for a while. I remember him crying at Christmas and saying that all he really wanted was for his family to be back together. That never really hurt me, because I understood that it was hard for him. And I believe it's because he expressed those feelings in a healthy way and got them out that he is now very accepting of me and my relationship to his mother. He's even told his mother that he really looks up to me and wants to be like me when he grows up.

    But SD never really let those feelings out... at least not in front of anyone. And I thnk that's part of the problem -- she never grieved properly for the break up of her family. But her behavioural issues existed long before her parents split up -- screaming, breaking things, being rude and disrespectful to family and strangers, etc, so I think her issues have just been exasperated by the pain she's felt from the divorce.

    wife has suggested that she's using me as a target for all of her hurt and anger... she won't be mad at wife or her boyfriend for very long because she craves their love and acceptance, but she feels she has nothing to lose by taking those feelings out on me.

    Again, I can understand all that, but I guess my problem with all of it is... where's the accountability? What human being (adult, child, rich or poor) has the right to treat someone like they don't exist, for years on end? Am I really expected to just sit and wait, hoping that she'll change her mind one day and accept me? The whole situation just goes against my fundamental beliefs -- that people need to be accountable for their behaviour.

    I think that's the part that I find most offensive about the whole situation... it's the suggestion that some day SD will decide I'm not so bad and then what? I'm just supposed to smile and act like her abuse and disrespect from the last however many years didn't happen? And what is it I'm supposed to feel when and if that day comes? Gratitude? Relief? Joy? I'm not one for pretending that the past didn't happen, and I firmly believe in people being held accountable for their actions. So am I supposed to put that all aside when/if SD warms up to me?

    I don't know how your husband did it MidwestMom, but I'd be very interested to hear about it.

    And I think the other part that really bothers me is that, if the roles were reversed and SD was my child, I know I would be dealing with the situation very differently. If my child disrespected my partner (or any other person, for that matter), I would handle it the same as if she was disrespecting me. She would be told it wasn't acceptable, and given consequences each time it happened. If my daughter decided to ignore and speak rudely to wife on a daily basis, my daughter would be grounded and doing extra chores on a daily basis, with this phrase repeated over and over: "you don't have to like her, but you do have to be respectful to her." It just seems like common sense to me... you should expect your children to treat your partner with the same level of respect that they treat you. But wife just doesn't see it that way.

    But at the end of the day I know I chose to be in this situation, and I'm not sure what it is I'm really looking for other than to vent. My options are to stay and try and make the best of it, or leave. Sadly I know I'd probably be happier overall if I left, but I do love wife very much and feel very loyal to her. So hopefully therapy and a more active social life will help me to deal with all of the pent up frustration and hurt I'm obviously feeling.
    Lasted edited by : Jul 12, 2010
  12. toughlovin

    toughlovin Guest

    Hi Lost,

    I am new to this forum....but just read this thread. It sounds like you have good insight into what the situation is and a lot of the reasons she is targeting you for her anger and resentment. I think the thing to really remember, and the truth of this comes through in your posts, is her behavior and even her feelings about you are not really about you. They are about her parents divorce and whatever that dynamic is. You in a way are an unfortunate bystander and target for her feelings but they are not really about you as a person.

    I say this with some experience. My parents got divorced when i was 23. Long story i won't go into but I was pretty angry with my dad (for good reason) and when he got remarried to an old friend my brother and I literally refused to have anything to do with her. I actually don't regret that because our anger at him felt pretty justified and still does actually. My relationship with my dad was almost non-existant for 10 years. I then went through some of my own work on stuff and decided to reconcile including his wife. I remember when we first all got together she asked me if there was anything she and I needed to work out. I looked at her and said I don't have a problem with you and never did, this was always about my issues with Dad. And it was true. Was it unfair to her and perhaps unkind that for those 10 years I would not have her in my life. Probably.....but at the time given the issues and circumstances it was the only way I could express my disappointment and feelings to my dad. And the message was always intended for him not her. I did go onto to develop a much better relationship with my dad and I became very fond of his wife over the years so it worked out for us in the end. But you see I behaved that way as an adult child who was out on my own supporting myself.

    So yes see a therapist for yourself.... and dealing with your own hurt feelings. And possibly have your wife go to.... to help figure out what strategies there may be for her in dealing with your daughter and her behavior in general and her behavior towards you in particular.