Next time my stepdaughter comes to stay, I want to escape to a hotel. Am I being unreasonable?
Not at all, says our elder. Stay out of her way, and don’t let her create tension.
I have been married to my husband for 13 years. We both have children from another marriage before ours and we have two children together. My issue involves my adult stepdaughter. She is continuously disrespecting me and other people in her life. She calls me vulgar names and my husband never stops her. I get upset with her and him. I feel like my husband is also disrespecting me by not stopping her. I have tried to talk to him about this but he is worried about losing her as a daughter and won’t stand up to her. She is coming to stay the weekend with us and I want to go get a hotel instead of fighting with her. My husband is fine with me leaving so he can see her. I am furious. I feel as though my husband is choosing her over me and my feelings. I want to just say she is not welcome because of how she acts. Am I being unreasonable? Should I go to a hotel? Make them go to a hotel? Or just act like everything is fine?
Your stepdaughter sounds to me like she is a very unhappy and hostile person. I don’t know why she is this way, but I do know that people who are content within themselves do not lash out at the other people in this crude fashion. They do not call their stepmothers vulgar names or otherwise disrespect them. I know that your stepdaughter’s attacks feel personal, but trust me: they are not. By your own admission, it is not only she treats this way. She treats other people in her life the same way and is generally just not a nice person. Your husband realizes that her behavior is out of line, but he is worried that if he says anything to her about it that she might walk out of his life and never come back — and he’s right; she might. You probably wouldn’t be sad if this happened, but he would be. Even though she behaves badly, she is still his daughter and he still loves her.
That said, I don’t blame you one bit for being furious with your husband for failing to stand up for you. You are his wife and he should not allow anybody — including his daughter — to speak to you this way. But his refusal to say anything to her is motivated by fear of losing her, not disrespect for you. He is not choosing her over you; he is caught in the middle and taking the path of least resistance by doing nothing. If he could control his daughter’s behavior, he would. But he is fairly certain in his own mind that saying something to her wouldn’t improve her behavior; it’d just made her madder. Maybe you think he should say something anyhow, and I don’t disagree. But there is another, even simpler, solution: just remove yourself from the whole situation. This is the solution you yourself proposed when you offered to stay at a hotel during her visit. If you follow through with this excellent plan, you will not be around to serve as a target for your stepdaughter’s misplaced anger — and you will enjoy a nice, relaxing little vacation in a hotel to boot.
My daughter’s stepdaughter behaved toward her the exact same way your stepdaughter behaves toward you. She was surly and mean to my daughter and never missed an opportunity to say something hurtful or snide to her. This made my daughter feel very resentful toward her husband, and this resentment was negatively impacting her marriage. When my daughter told me about it, I advised her to take away her stepdaughter’s power by getting out of range of her abuse, i.e., to leave the house and do something nice for herself whenever her stepdaughter came to visit. I suggested visiting a friend, going to a movie, eating at a fancy restaurant etc. She decided to do this for herself, and both her own attitude and her relationship with her husband dramatically improved.
Your stepdaughter is trying to make you feel as miserable as she feels. Don’t let her. She is trying to create tension between you and your husband. Don’t let her do that either. You don’t have to hang around and put up with her nastiness though; you can leave instead — and I suggest you do just that. Maybe with you out of the picture, she will turn on your husband, and he will learn what it feels like to be treated with the same disrespect by his daughter that he allowed her to treat you with.
I hope this helps. I am always here if you’d like to talk more about this. Please write back if you can to let me know how the visit goes. I will be thinking of you.
Letter #: 446954