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Debbie, from South Africa (submitted 3-22-2010)


Name: Debbie
State or Country: South Africa

I am 46 yrs old, I have no children and my husband is 50 yrs and has a daughter 26 yrs and a 19 yr old son from his 1st marriage. We are both recovering addicts, born again Christians who met 4 yrs ago and will be married for 2 yrs in May. When my husband & I met he was estranged from his daughter; their relationship had broken down due to him at that time not being able to stay sober etc and I think didn’t want to go through the cycle of hope and then be disappointed. But my husband and I made a life decision to stay sober and he especially being a drug addict did and does everything he needs to, to stay clean. Although my husbands ex-wife divorced him because of the drugging, there relationship has always been amicable. (We are a mixed race couple which in South Africa is still frowned upon especially as in our case I am "coloured" and my husband is "white"). My husband lived with me from the beginning of our relationship , so I think that it was curiosity on stepdaughters part plus hearing that her dad really seemed to be on the straight and narrow that my stepdaughter befriended her father again.

In the beginning everything seemed to be 'rosy" , the children seemed to be accepting of me, the son is to this day. Their mother was out of work at one point and my husband got her a job at the company her worked at, he even gave her a lift to work everyday. The children came around to our place weekends , it seemed like a miracle that we all got along so well!! My husband had only started drugging the last 5-8 yrs of a 20 yr marriage, but up until that point, he had always been a good husband and father, i.e his family was well provided for, he had his own successful businesses, his family wanted for nothing, until the drugs took over and he lost everything ... apparently the ex-wife just sort of gave up, and the daughter took over the mothers  responsibility; in this time period my husband, it seems, did get clean and would revive his business more than once and it appears that it was the daughter who more than the ex-wife was involved in this endeavor. By the time we met it seems that my husband and his daughter were making decisions regarding the family. I am not confrontational and ignored it when the daughter would make sarcastic remarks or be rude but this was always done when we were alone and i thought it would seem petty if I complained to my husband about it. But things really took a turn for the worse when we announced our engagement, the daughter felt that it was unnecessary (as we were living together just fine) but my husband and I felt that as Christians it was the right thing to do; by then we felt so blessed and believed that God had brought us together and we had made so many mistakes in the past.

We just want to live a life that is pleasing before God. Even the ex-wife started being unfriendly. We got engaged in DEC and by then my husband was sober almost 2 yrs (apparently before that he had never been straight (drug free)  longer than 6 months at a time. The daughter asked if we could all have christmas together that year, as it would be the 1st in so many years etc. At this point I was still in Lala-land, I had watched an interview with JADA PINKETT where she said that the best thing stepfamily relationships was for the new wife to when it came to Xmas gatherings  etc to be inclusive, i.e I agreed to us all having xmas lunch together at their home.  Well from the minute I set foot in the house the ex-wife remarked on the outfit I wore, looking me up & down & saying how glad she was "she didn’t have to dress to impress a man"... and i'm like OK? Then she decided that this lunch was the appropriate time to dish the dirt on my husband - up until this point she had only ever mentioned that except for the drugs was always a good father and husband... this is when I realized that I needed to be careful and on my guard ... well, to cut a long story short, in the past 2 years my relationship with my stepdaughter has broken down irretrievably; she's manipulative if she doesn’t get her way , she wanted to be  privy  to what I believe is my  and my husbands business , i.e our bank accounts, able to log into her fathers internet banking account; when I insisted on boundaries , she started acting as if I do not exist, walk into our house, put on this big friendly act, but then ask her father if he would give her some of his "curry powder', walk into our bedroom and then ask him where HE had bought the new duvet set when sheknows full well I bought it; when her  brother told her that after an operation the father had a bad night the evening before, she made a point of rushing into our house , past me, only wanting to hear from her father-- I could go on and on. My husband doesn’t seem to think that her behavior at the least is just rude or he thinks I am exaggerating as like I said she does her mischief mostly when his back is turned, and maybe the mistake I made was not to confront it when it happened and now it seems to him as though I am the one that is telling tales. Then when I refused last year to have Xmas lunch with them, she now refuses to visit, my husband feels that he’s in the middle, that what did he say last night "that because of me his children don't feel welcome in our house", just because I insisted on boundaries, he says they don't understand "boundaries." I never said they could not come to our house, and I can honestly say that I have never been rude or ignored them, or deliberately made them uncomfortable, they try my last nerve all the time, made sure that there mother who was retrenched and had other job offers but refused them, but guilted the father to allow her to work at the company he is sub-contracting for. 

Now my husband and I who generally have a wonderful relationship are fighting all the time, as he goes into a rage everytime he feels that a  conflict between me and his family is brewing, mostly if I question anything I need clarity on. I have reached the stage where I am beginning to hate his daughter. My letter may seem very one sided as I only talk about what she does or has done...but the daughter and I haven’t actually had a direct confrontation. You could say the "boundaries" I established were communicated via the father , she in turn would just getter madder, and just stay away and act all aggrieved. I want my marriage to work , but I cannot allow my step daughter to manipulate me into giving in to her to keep the peace or her father happy. What can I do; what am I doing wrong?


Comments ( 4 )
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#4: by Sheena on 08.27.2010 @ 05:21am CDT

Dear Debbie

I myself am from South Africa and seem to be in the same situation as you, my husband & i barely even smile at each other now, & I am at a point where I want out of this marriage. His daughter's is driving me insane. They are so manipulative & he never ever see's my side. Please contact me @sheenap@webmail.co.za I need someone to pray with & both of us are in the same situation.
#3: by Jeanette Mericle on 06.09.2010 @ 09:57am CDT

As I read your story, I am reminded of my "blended family" situation as well. One thing that has come to me as I've tried to understand others behavior in the last year, is that any blended families reality is this: "There are a multiplicity of people affected by A CHOICE that only two people made." The two most important people that have to take responsibility for appropriate behavior in a blended family, are the two people that made the choice to create the blended family. You and your husband have to come to a place where the boundaries are set with respect to each other first and foremost. The boundaries cannot be derived from jealousy, resentment, or any kind of negative emotion on either side. I don't know about you, but, when I made that choice, little did I know how very difficult it would be to sustain the "rosy" reality it all seemed to be in the beginning and steer clear of negative emotions and to make choices of character. The only two people you can control the behavior in a blended family is, the only two people who made THE CHOICE. I think to myself often, Our God, the maker of the mighty Universe, must have something as simple as people and their relationships already figured out. Finding unconditional love in a blended family must be attainable somehow, through him giving us the wisdom, strength and endurance. God Bless...and my thoughts and prayers are with you, not only because I'm a fellow christian sister, but because I know the shoes you're walking in.
#2: by L on 05.04.2010 @ 07:09am CDT

I am so sorry to hear about this. I can understand it, however, b/c I see similarities between my life and friends' lives who are remarried. It is a really tough road. I don't have a formula or a specific answer for you. I wish I did! I would use it, too. Boundaries are very important. It is my observation that these fathers and stepdaughters don't know what to do when they are finally introduced to 'boundaries'---if they had had boundaries in the first place, they probably wouldn't be where they are today. Try to talk with your stepdaughter like you would to a co-worker with whom you don't particularly enjoy--cordial, but not best friends. Try to keep unnecessary comments from your husband. He just can't keep it objective- he takes it personally, it's his daughter! This is one place men CANNOT compartmentalize. I will pray for you right now. God is bigger than even problems such as these. Blessings on you!
#1: by Laura Petherbridge on 05.04.2010 @ 06:58am CDT

Dear Debbie-
This is Laura Petherbridge, Ron Deal's co-author on The Smart Stepmom. I wanted to let you know that a team of people in Capetown are working toward bringing me to South Africa in Sept. It's very likely that I'll be conducting a stepfamily workshop wile I'm there. I think it would be a great help to you. Please look on my web site under schedule for details and who to contact. Blessings Dear Sister, Laura

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