Bitch, advice, ignore…repeat

This morning I woke up to a string of texts from my friend Jane, as I do most mornings. The topic, as it is most morning, Jane’s on-going frustration with Mary, Dick’s oldest daughter. It is Thursday and this is the third morning this week, because they have the girls, that I have had the same discussion with Jane. And not just this week, pretty much every other week for as long as I can recall. To be clear, I totally understand Jane’s frustration, if I were in her place I don’t think I would have lasted as long.  While the life of a step-parent is difficult, Jane’s is damn near impossible, especially when it comes to Mary.

I have touched on Mary in previous blogs, but let’s give this girl a deep-dive, shall we. She is about to turn 16 years old and while most “normal” girls her age are all about boys, shopping, spending time with friends and getting their driver’s license, Mary has no interest, in any of those things. She has told Dick she has no interest getting her license, hates to shop, and she has no real friends. Now, before anyone get all sappy feeling sorry for poor little Mary, she has no friends because she chooses not to. She is artistic, very talented in fact, but she has zero interest in taking classes to develop those talents. She makes zero effort to socialize and when she does, it is more with her sister’s friends who are a few years younger. She is smart and can told a conversation on a variety of topics, I know this for a fact, I’ve had conversations with her, but unless she is 100% engaged and in control of the discussion, she will sit, not just quietly, but uncomfortably awkward, to the point the at others are uncomfortable as well. She is hateful and rude to her sister, Jane and Dick, and due to her recent diagnosis of depression, no one will say anything to upset her. Now, I am not making light of depression or mental illness. I myself have suffered with bouts of depression and anxiety and have a family history of other mental health issues- but with Mary, I see more a manipulative teen working her parents and therapists against each other to keep anyone from really making her do anything to improve her situation and relationships.

For the past year Mary has been openly dismissive (at best), rude and hateful to Jane. The reasons have been analyzed in countless discussion between Jane and I, between Dick and the therapist, between Dick and Jane, even between Dick, Jane, myself and my husband- literally nothing has changed, other than Mary is more brazen and feels more in control of the adults in her life. Dick has voiced his frustrations with the main therapist that Mary has been working with, telling her that the suggestions to rebuild the relationship with his daughter are falling short and expressing concern for behaviors he is witnessing. Just last week in fact, he sent a detailed email about his concerns, to which the therapist replied that the process takes time and to be patient. This week, she tells him that Mary can cut back sessions to twice a month vs. weekly. Hmmmm, how odd that Dick sees no improvement, actually in some areas things are worse and now they are going to cut back on sessions. I have told Jane and Dick that I feel Mary is manipulating the therapist, telling her what she feels is the “right thing to say” to convince her that she is fine and doesn’t need therapy (which she has been against from the start, but it was ordered by the court due to the uncooperative nature of the family dynamic between the girls’ parents).

I feel like Jane is on a merry-go-round, an endless loop of bitching about Mary, asking for advice, ignoring the advice and repeating the same pattern day after day. I want to be there for Jane, as I know she has few, if any, other friends who understand the life of a stepmom, but it’s getting exhausting. I have told Jane to disengage. Mary is old enough to take care of herself, make her own meals, do her laundry and whatever else she needs. Anything more, she  needs to ask her father. If Mary can not be civil, then there is no reason for Jane to be her chauffeur or maid. I’ve suggested focusing solely on her relationship with the younger daughter, Sue. Make plans to do things outside of the house with Sue on the weeks the girls are home (as Jane does not work) vs. feeling you are a hostage in your own home. I said that maybe seeing the benefit Sue is getting from being decent may make Mary rethink her choices with regards to her attitude. Nope- day in and day out Jane sits at home fuming over how Mary will grunt if spoken to or literally hide to avoid engaging with Jane in any way (yes, Mary hid in the pantry the other day thinking Jane had left the house!). I couldn’t live that way. Life with “the girl” hasn’t always been easy, but there has always been civility in our home and my husband has always made sure I was treated with respect.

So, I’m at a loss. I want to be a good friend, but I’m literally worn out. I know that sounds selfish, Jane is actually living this nightmare, not just dealing with texts, calls and late nights with lots of talk and even more adult beverages. I guess I will continue to do as I have been, listen, offer encouragement and suggestions, then vent to you fine folks to I can purge until the next round. Cheers!

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I love you, but….

I truly believe that my husband is my other half. No one, not my ex-husband, former boyfriends, friends or even family have seemed so close to me in my entire life. We are very similar, but with enough difference to keep life interesting. We genuinely enjoy spending time together, he’s my best friend and my first choice of who I want to hang out with, always. That said, because he is so much like me, there are times he gets on my last good nerve. These times don’t happen often, but this weekend it happened.

My husband is smart, well read on so many topics and loves to debate is his point, often to the “death”. I love his passion and while 90% of the time we are on the same side of the debate, the times we aren’t, watch out. Again, being we are so similar, I too have great passion and we will get into heated debates. Nothing too serious and without fail at the end of the day we can put anything aside, because nothing is more important than our relationship. This weekend the debates were more with his mom, which is where his passion comes from. I woke up yesterday asking if he had apologized to his mom yet, as I really felt he crossed a line. He had not and had no intention of doing so. I let it go, as I was in no mood to ruin my Sunday with carry-over drama from the day before.

This got me thinking about the shit we let go for the sake of the relationships in our lives. Not just with a spouse, but we all make allowance for those people closest to us, allowances we would not afford a stranger on the street. My husband’s mother is a perfect example. While I feel he owes his mom an apology, not because he was wrong, but for how he handled himself, I am typically on the opposite side of her in most of the time. We don’t have the same views on many thing, yet it doesn’t keep me from loving her and having a wonderful relationship. When she pushes me too far, I tend to physically remove myself, as I don’t want to be disrespectful and the debates are usually nothing so personal that I feel I need to cross a line to make my point. There have been friends I have fallen out contact with because we were on the opposite side and I couldn’t let it go any longer. Maybe it is due to the changing political climate over the past several years, but what was once water cooler talk seems to have a far greater personal impact than it once did. I don’t completely cut everyone out of my life who doesn’t see things the way I do, that is not how mature adults act. You have to find a balance.

What is your line in the sand? What are the things you can’t let slip, no matter the stakes? I have a few, but this isn’t really about  what pushes me to the breaking point, but how I handle it when I’m there. I do not like confrontation, I don’t know many people that do, other than my husband upon occasion. Since I will do pretty much whatever it takes to avoid confrontation, often my first reaction is to give the benefit of the doubt. To excuse a comment or behavior as an isolated slip in judgement. The second time, well, as the saying goes, fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. That is when I will make every effort to talk to the person about how I feel and how their behavior is affecting me. If there is open and productive dialogue, even if we can’t come to an agreement, I can agree to disagree and move on. I have said my peace, they know how I feel and should things escalate in down the road, they know where I stand. However, if my attempt to have a mature discussion is met with defense and devolves into an argument, well I have no problem cutting my losses. I’ve gotten to a point in my life were I don’t need to be “right”, I just need to be heard and if someone can’t hear my side, well, whatever relationship I thought I had with them wasn’t at all what I thought. Yes, it hurts to walk away from friend and even family member, but there is also very freeing to have that weight lifted, because as time passes you come to realize what a burden those relationships can be.

So, you can love someone with all your heart and still be annoyed with them, doesn’t mean you don’t love them, you may not like them in that moment. And you can let go of someone you thought you loved when you start not liking yourself for what you put up with to keep them in your life.