Please contact Evil Stepmom at ESM@evilstepmom.org with your questions or ideas about stepfamily living with 17-30 year olds.

 



Dear Evil Stepmom
What to Do When Your Stepmother Invades Your Privacy

Dear Evil Stepmom, 

I really need some help here. I'm twenty-one years old, living at home with my father and stepmother. When they got married about three or four years ago, everything was fine. Stepmom was always sweet and talkative. Never missing my birthday, and trying to include me during holidays. Well, all that dissipated. I would move out with my real mom, then always end up back at my dad's house.

Now, a few years into their marriage, things started to get really ugly. I've caught her looking through my room, even READING old journals of mine. Thinking she's Queen of the House. Between the dirty, rude looks I receive every time we pass by, to the ridiculous accusations and comments she always seems to have stored up, I CAN'T TAKE IT ANYMORE, I feel I am a victim. There is no use to going to my father for help because he has no backbone toward her whatsoever. It's pathetic, and makes me feel less important. What can I say to her? How do I handle this? The constant attacking and defensiveness from 'mommy' needs to end.

Sincerely,

The "Bad" Child

Dear NOT-Bad Kid,


There’s a lot going on here: your stepmother’s attitude toward you—once quite positive—has changed, your father won’t take stands for your privacy with his wife, and you feel invaded and victimized by your dad’s wife in their home.


The first thing I’d get to work on is a plan for moving out of both your mom and dad’s homes. This may take a while, so you’ll need strategies for dealing with living there in the interim, which we can discuss. But if you’re feeling like a victim, you either need to take some clear stands for yourself or not live in that environment.


Let’s talk about your exit strategy first. You will need to start looking for a friend, family member, or trusted other you can move in with. Alternatively, you could look for a place of your own, but that can be space and cost prohibitive.
 The important thing is that you get busy looking both for a place to go and for people who can help you get out of the situation you’re in in an organized way. This means you should NOT move in with the guy you started seeing a month ago, the shy new girl at work, or the drum teacher who put up a room-for-rent sign at your favorite coffee shop.

Going from one bad situation to another is not going to be good for you. 
Talk to people you know well and who know 
you well about where you might find reasonable rentals and people who might make good housemates to share a place with. The person who cuts your hair, the people at your dentist’s office, local colleges, and Craigslist are just few places to begin your research.
 Look at lots of places, keep an open mind, and be patient. As soon as you're working toward your independence, you will feel better.

Now let’s talk about some coping strategies for the period between now and when you move out.
 For the sake of any future relationship, you will probably want to talk to your stepmother about her invasion of your privacy and about the negative vibe that seems to be developing between you two. You could tell her that you always thought you had a good connection with her, but that recently your relationship seems to have soured and you don’t understand why.
 She is likely to defend herself with blamey claims about things you’ve done to disrupt her marriage, disrespect her husband, or somehow slight her. If she does, don’t attack, don’t defend, and don’t apologize. Thank her for talking to you and tell her you’d like to think about her answer. Period.

If, after careful consideration, you can see any truth in what she has said, acknowledge it to yourself. If you see that you had some part—no matter how small—in the change in your relationship with your stepmom, let her know that. If things were going on at school or at work or with your boyfriend and you weren’t aware that you were being cranky, thoughtless, or aloof, own your part. Do not apologize for anything you can’t honestly take responsibility for, and NEVER apologize to appease someone--not your stepmom, not your dad, not anyone.

In a perfect world your stepmother would apologize for invading your privacy and assure you that it wouldn’t happen again. However, I do realize that anyone immature or insecure enough to read someone else’s journal is not likely to take responsibility for that behavior. So don’t get your hopes up. But don’t sweep it under the rug, either. You deserve to take a stand for your right to privacy, even in their home. 
You are an adult, and unless your dad made it clear before you moved in that journaling is not allowed in his home, then your stepmother should not be snooping in yout personal space and property.


Another path you could go down would be to not directly address the negative tone of your relationship, but to work on improving it slowly and steadily through your actions. If you were to choose the action path, then you would put a lock on your bedroom door or invest in a lockbox where you would keep your personal items. You would ask your dad and stepmother if there are ways you could be helpful to them around the house, then do some of those things.

Better yet, do what you see needs doing without asking anyone. Be polite and courteous, stay out of the public spaces in the house and keep your stuff in your room. Go to the library or coffee shop to read or study, work, sleep over at a friend’s place once a week. And KEEP WORKING ON YOUR EXIT STRATEGY.

I know how frustrating it can be when your dad allows his wife so much influence over your relationship to him and your comfort in their home. I know it feels unfair. It is. But lots of remarried men just don’t know how to take strong clear stands with their partners about their children. These men feel torn, stuck in the middle, and often get frozen with fear of upsetting the people they love the most. The whole family suffers under this lack of clear leaderhip.

Chances are not good that your dad is going to get any better at this, so you are going to have to be a family leader for a long time--which you are already, because you’re out there looking for serious help with a difficult situation in your family.
You wouldn’t be living at home if you could afford to be someplace else, I understand that. But you can’t afford to stay very long in a place where you don’t feel welcome. It will wear you out emotionally and take away your energy for getting on with your fabulous life. So get working on a plan right away, no matter how long it takes you to make it real.

I hope this helps stimulate your thinking. Please write again any time; I’d love to hear how you’re doing.

Stay strong ~

Kimberly 
(AKA: Evil Stepmom)


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