Stepdaughter’s behavior is eating my soul

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

I am re-married. Out of our combined family of 7 kids, I have one step-daughter who is 23. She is single, just had a baby.My problem is this: without exaggeration, she is a chronic liar. She has charged us with child abuse that the courts decided was just parents disciplining an unruly child, she was arrested for shop lifting, she stole our credit card and went on a spending spree, she broke and entered our house and used it as a whoring house the week my husband and I went on vacation. She can’t hold a steady job. Nobody wants her to stay at their house because she can’t be trusted. Even her mother has arranged for an apartment for her that her mother pays the rent and utilities. She gets food stamps for her and the baby. She leased a car over a year ago, and then took off with the car, has not made payments. Now the car is due for inspection and registration. Of course, without a title she can’t do this. She has lied and manipulated us over and over. Her mom and dad still bend over backwards to help their poor little baby girl. I think enough is enough. This stuff gets so under my skin. They don’t do this for any of their other kids.

My problem is this, she does all these things that aren’t right for any normal person. I’ve had enough. I’m tired of the lies and the hurt and the fact that she has too many excuses as to why she can’t get a job. These things eat at me on a daily basis. I want to find a way to let it go. I know she will never change, although mom and dad are always holding out hope. How do I get these things to stop nagging at me? It eats at my soul, nags at my heart, and never lets my mind rest. How do I let it go? How do I walk away from this vile disruption to my life? I need peace in my life and there is none when she is part of it. Do you have any suggestions? I’m desparate for relief from all the anxiety she causes me.

I’m sorry this is so long, but without giving you a brief background, you wouldn’t understand how I feel. Thank you for your help.

A: It’s so hard to watch a young person throw her life away and also to watch her parents be continually hurt. It’s hard to feel powerless as a stepparent while you watch your partner be eaten up by worry and anger and perhaps shame. It’s hard to be the one whose needs get set aside while the parent continues to fight what looks like a losing battle.

Her parents love their daughter and continue to hold out hope that if they stick by her she will turn around. At 23, this isn’t an unreasonable hope but they may need some help figuring out how to love her without enabling the situation.

You are right. There is little you can do – but you can do a couple of things. First, you can try to draw some boundaries around what directly affects you. Don’t get into arguments with her. Don’t argue with her dad. Don’t lend this young woman money or leave her alone where she can take something you value. And, second, you can find a therapist to work with all of you – mom and her partner if she has one, dad, and you to help you all get on the same page about how to best manage the daughter.

Sadly, you’re not alone in this situation. There are thousands upon thousands of parents who find themselves caught between being totally exasperated with an adult child and yet loving them too much to stop protecting them. Fortunately, you’re not alone in this. Therapists and youth counselors have had to figure out strategies to help families deal when an adult child is out of control. When you make calls to local therapists, be sure to find someone who has lots of experience working with the complicated dynamics of stepfamilies. You need to feel like part of the adult team, not an outsider in the family. Hopefully, taking some action will relieve you of some of the anxiety.

Meanwhile, I hope you and your partner don’t let this tear the two of you apart. He needs your love and encouragement. You need his love and support.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

Photo

 

 

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 28 May 2009

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2009). Stepdaughter’s behavior is eating my soul. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 24, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2009/05/28/stepdaughters-behavior-is-eating-my-soul/