Parenting Stepchildren/Healthy Boundaries

Advertisement


Question
The situation is complex.  The mother of my step-children has been unofficially diagnosed with narcissistic / histrionic personality disorder and identified as engaging in poor parenting, including treating the oldest child as an adult confidante, encouraging negative reporting, and exerting influence and control over parenting and activities within the household of my husband (the children's father) and myself.  The children live most of the time with their mom.  There is indication of parental alienation both of myself and the children's father.  My relationship with the children began (as most would not believe) in a very positive light.  The children, over time, were all extremely close to me, wishing to call me mom (which I did not allow in deference to their mom) and turning to me to attend to their hurts and problems rather than either their mom or dad.  This closeness caused great concern to the children's mom who then began a successful campaign to destroy any closeness between the children and myself.  The current situation is that there has been alienation from myself, the step-parent, and I am in the situation of being regularly emotionally abused by my step-children, sometimes in brutal, relentless fashion.  For some years, I have dealt with this both rationally and with faith in the future: we have consulted therapists, engaged in family therapy (that was successful and therefore forced to be terminated by the children's mom), and more.  My dilemma is that I am now at a point where my personal safety and health is of paramount concern.  As an alternative to divorce, I have tried to take healing "time-outs" to nurture myself and restore my sense of person.  No matter what approach my husband and I have tried, the abuse is continuing at an accelerated and damaging rate.  I am left with the intuition that my only way to protect my long-term health is to remove myself permanently from this situation.  Can you offer any hope otherwise?  My husband has genuinely tried to do what he can but is caught in his own misery of not wanting to lose his connection to his children.  His ultimate choice is to beg me to hold on and be strong so that in some distant time, we will have our marriage and a close family life with the children.  I have slowly watched myself become a shadow, a version of my former self that existed when I was in an abusive relationship.  I see all the signs and know that previously extrication worked -- I healed and was able to reset my life in a positive way, with time and nurturing and positive, healthy connections with other people.  I can see that if I extricate myself, again, from an abusive situation, I will be able to heal myself once again.  I am now significantly older, in a stage of life when restarting seems more difficult and less full of hope of what can be regained.  I have spent 10 years as a step parent, helping both my husband and his children be nurtured, to grow in many ways, to enjoy and celebrate life.  I, myself, and dwindling down into a mere ghost of who I can be.  The abuse is taking its toll, and I know I desperately need to find a way to cope and prevent myself from being destroyed.  Outing from the marriage and the lives of the children seems the only way.  Please, do you know of an alternative?  The abuse is unbearable and will not stop.  My husband seems helpless and only wishes me to "hold on" while he and his children bond over my efforts to keep the family together despite my fading sense of personhood.

Answer
Please let me know the ages of the children. If you really love tour husband then yes there is a way... please tell me more about your relationship with your husband and some of the techniques you used before to regain your sense of self.  
Also I am currently travelling and can give a better response on Sunday if I have more information.
Rick



First of all do you love your husband.  Are there any issues in your relationship other that dealing with the children. If you do love him and you really want the relationship to work, then there is a way of getting through all of this. Any relationship takes work...and yours may take a bit more if you are willing to put the work in.

I am going to tell you some very hard things to hear. But first let me tell you that what you feel is real... it is tearing you apart inside and I can see how it can make you feel that your sense of self is fading.

Now for the hard part.  Your feelings are your feelings.  No one can make you feel anything unless you let them.  That means that all of the feelings that you have are YOUR feelings.  Only you can allow others to hurt you or take away your sense of self.  

You and only you are responsible for every thought you have, every feeling you feel and every action you take.  That means that your husband and his children and the bio mom are responsible for their thoughts, feelings and actions.... NOT YOU.   You can not change them.  You can only change you... and you are the only person that can change you....and they are the only people that can change themselves.  It is NOT your responsibility to change them, to be the one to bring the family together.  When you take on that responsibility you set yourself up to be the victim.  And I hear that very loudly in what you said in your email. You are the victim.  But as I said only you can allow yourself to be the victim. But you can only change these feeling you have IF you really want to change them. I get the sense from what you said that you only want to escape, because that is what helped in the past. If your husband is emotionally abusing you then I would say yes...get out of this situation, because you are worth more as a person that to be a victim or to stay and be a martyr.
But I do not feel this is your situation.   

I would very strongly suggest that you seek out a professional to help you through these feelings.

You need some support and guidance to deal with you feelings. If you would like me to help you get started I can offer you some help as a family/relationship coach. Please let me know if you want to continue.

Rick

Parenting Stepchildren

All Answers


Answers by Expert:


Ask Experts

Volunteer


Rick Olson

Expertise

As a stepparent of 4 children and a family coach, I can answer questions about the issues that arise in step-parenting including discipline,blended families, boundaries and guidelines.

Experience

I have 18 years as a stepfather, and over three years as a family coach focusing on unifying, strengthening and empowering families.

Publications
My wife and I have written 2 books on Family FUSE Your Family - Family: Unify Strengthen Empower! and Raising Families

Education/Credentials
BA(Recreation Administration) Grad Studies in Urban and Regional Planning and Design Certified as a LifeSuccess Consultant/Coach

©2016 About.com. All rights reserved.