How can I emotionally begin to handle the end of my relationship with my ex-stepmother? This is the end of a very tangled family situation and I have no idea how to deal with it. I feel terrible.
posted by athenadanae to human relations (35 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I seem to use MetaFilter a lot to help me better understand social relationships and get a better sense of what the right thing to do is, and it's really helpful. I really appreciate that this resource exists.
I feel very emotional about this issue but I will try to be as factual as possible for clarity's sake.
Some background, very long-winded:
When I was younger, about 13 or 14, my father married my stepmother and she and I began to have a relationship. At first it was based on the family group (which included my twin sister and I, she and my father). Later, my twin sister moved to live with my mother full-time and later my aunt. Her reasons were complicated but my father had a lot to do with it. He is an ex-drug addictand my stepmother believes he has Narcissistic Personality Disorder. At the very least, he is not mentally healthy, which makes sense since his father is diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Anyway, after my sister moved out my relationship with my stepmother deepened and we began to rely on each other for support against my dad. This culminated in their breakup, and I stayed with her instead of moving with him. He physically and emotionally abused her, and I know he has a history of being abusive towards my mom as well. My life with my stepmother was severely limited but I had a strong sense of stability which I thought was worth it. Neither of my biological parents were able to provide this stability. They both have mental health problems and my mother is poor, unemployed and has a four-year-old to take care of.
My stepmom was very judgmental, and I often felt like her yes-man. I very rarely raised my voice against her and hardly ever criticized her to her face. She started all conflicts between us, as she is very confrontational. Our dynamic was strange, which we both acknowledged. I was afraid that we had a codependent relationship. She would say things to me like, "Of all the hell I endured with your dad, you are the good thing that came from it." and "The spirit of your grandmother [who died maybe a year before my dad met her, and was a co-parent] found me to take care of you girls." I didn't want to betray her and make other stronger relationships, and as a result I didn't really make newfriends in high school. After high school, I broke away from this and moved an hour and a half away for college.
So here's my story:
Recently, about a couple of weeks ago, my stepmother helped me move out of a house where I rented a room. A couple of days later a friend of mine (my twin sister's boyfriend) told me that he had had a long discussion with my stepmother which led to an argument which concerned me. He said that my stepmother had said several hurtful things about me which caused him to realize that she had some issues and wasn't as trustworthy as he had thought. He described the conversations to me and showed me part of it which took place over facebook IM. (He ended the conversation with, "I can't continue this conversation. I'm going to go talk to Athena.") I was very distraught by this (will explain in a bit) and didn't talk to her for a day. She left me a voicemail saying, "You have been ignoring me for 24 hours. How would you feel if I ignored you for that long? I bet not very good. If you continue acting this way towards me, I will be forced to cut you out of my life completely, as I don't need the drama." A few hours later, I tried to call my voicemail and ended up calling her back on accident. (I had intended to wait a few days and calm down before I talked to her.) We both voiced that we had some frustrations and I agreed to head over to her house then and there to talk about them. I went over, talked to her for about twenty minutes, yelled at her, and was then kicked out of the house forcibly (she grabbed the front of my shirt). She also yelled that I was just like my father, her ex-husband, that I could never come back again, and that she was going to "throw my shit out onto the street."
A complication to this situation was that maybe a week before that, I transferred $1500 from my bank account to hers. My father had been giving me $250 a month to help me with living expenses. (Initially, he had been giving it to my stepmother after they split up and he moved out, to help her with living expenses for me. She took a parental role with me and we had a close relationship for years which was somewhere between a friendship and a parent-child relationship. After I moved, he began giving the money to me. He did not give my twin sister equivalent support because she had cut off contact from him before he and my stepmother broke up.) I offered this money to my stepmother after I moved out for college, since I knew she depended on it to make rent and I had financial aid. She refused it and suggested I hang on to it in case something came up. In the months following, she and I talked about it and I gradually was convinced that I should look at it as more of a security fund for her, myself and my twin sister, since they deserved it as much as I did. When I moved to where I currently am staying, I payed a lot of money for the deposit, first and last, and some Costco and Ikea stuff my roommates (friends) and I bought for the house. I also paid too months' extra rent, which I couldn't really afford, because I really wanted to be able to move here with friends. My stepmom was very opposed to this and also didn't like the friends I was moving in with. Also, it upset her that I spent so much money on this and also wasn't careful with other money i spent (on clothes, food, etc.) One thing she said was, "I shouldn't be nickel-and-diming while you are buying leather jackets." She suggested I transfer money into her bank account and if I needed it I should ask her, so I would have more accountability. I agreed. Shortly after this she cut off contact with me.
Today, my biological mother called her and asked her to give me that money back. I hadn't pursued this because I knew, from the facebook conversation she had with my friend, that she felt entitled to the money. What she said (and I directly read it) was that since my dad had screwed her over, she did deserve the money. But I had talked to my mom and other family members about this and they were all very upset and urged me to try to get the money back. Later in the day my stepmother sent me an email. I won't post it here because it's long, but I will post it if anyone thinks it's important. Essentially it said that I had been spreading lies about her stealing the money from me, but that I knew the truth, which was that I said she could have it because I owed her. She charged $20/hour for her services, and she had spent many hours helping me move. The moving van to move me to my college town and back was $400 each way, which was
$800. And then there were three months' rent ($1500) which I owed her since I suggested my boyfriend could rent a room from her for three months while he waited for his friends' place to open up. (These plans were never finalized.) She said that this was the closest she could come to breaking even. It ended with a bolded "I want to wash my hands clean of you. Get out of my life."
I feel so, so emotionally unresolved.
These are the things that really are weighing on my mind:
- Why did she change her mind about me so fast? Was it all the money I spent while she was "nickle-and-diming"? What is my responsibility--should I blame myself for spending money? I mean, she really was on a smaller budget than I was on financial aid.
- Why did she think I was like my father, and how can I make sure she's wrong? My dad is definitely fucked up. I've always wanted to not be like him. Being super crazy mentally ill is my worst fear. But I feel like she used this to hurt me. She knows how to make me feel like a horrible person, and that's what she has done. Essentially what she talked about when she talked to my friend was how much I was like my father and if I knew, I would probably kill myself.
- She has a history of weird codependent relationships. Am I a codependent person? Did I attract this? I don't just want to be another person in her life she keeps for a while and then decides is crazy and cuts off. I see now that I am. Can someone understand this and explain it to me?
- I just feel like I don't live in a world where this makes sense. I feel like I loved and trusted this person and I was convinced they were a good person and they thought I was too and they just turned on me.
Should I email her back and try to stand up for myself, or try to fix the relationship? Not having it there is a huge relief actually, but I feel really bad. I know I hurt her and she truly is doing what she thinks is right. I never intended to hurt anyone. I really feel bad. But for once I want to not be the one who apologizes. She also said all the stuff I had at her house has been "disposed of," including my birth certificate and security card.
What can I do to be a good person? This all makes me feel crazy. I just want to make people happy, goddammit.
My stepmom cut me off. How can I know if it really is my fault?