Family

Stepparent

I’ve had five different stepparents. Two I liked and three I didn’t. One of those that I didn’t like, was married and divorced to my mother twice. He raised me through most of my childhood years.

He was abusive. But not very often physical. Mostly it was mental and verbal abuse. My mother, my siblings and I were frequently the targets of his inner, unresolved conflicts and anger.

He also molested my sisters. He lived to the ripe old age of 82, but my mother divorced him for the final time, some 20 years before he died. But the divorce occurred long after her children were raised and the damage to us had been done.

If you are a parent, married to or preparing to marry an abusive person, you might want to be wary of what lies in store for you and your children down the line. I’m not sure what that will be, exactly, but I can relate what happened in my own family.

All of my sisters married and eventually divorced abusive men. One of my sisters developed multiple personalities. Sometimes she goes into fugue states, wandering away from home and reemerging somewhere, a thousand miles away, with no memory of where she’s been or how she got there. Sometimes she’s locked away in mental hospitals for her own protection. She’s neglected her health, and is now a mental and physical wreck.

Another sister had her nose and jaw broken by an abusive husband, requiring major surgery to her face. She emerged from her last divorce with little money, and had to restart her life at the age of 45. She came close to serving time in prison one evening, as she stood over this husband while he slept, holding a baseball bat over his head. But she resisted temptation and divorced him instead. Finally, after three failed marriages, she found a good man.

My brother has been happily married most of his adult life, and has been fairly successful. But before he set out on the strait and narrow, he was doing hard drugs. He joined the Army on his 18th birthday, but had a problem with fighting and going off into drug-induced rampages. On one occasion he trashed the barracks. This led to a court-martial and discharge. He had to work very hard to rebuild his life after the military, but in the end all has turned out well for him.

I too emerged from childhood with a messed up mind. I was depressed, confused, and poorly equipped for survival in this wild world we live in. And that was compounded by poor physical health. I dropped out of college. I failed to notice, or failed to care about, one golden opportunity for success after another. I came close to suicide on several occasions. But eventually I developed the insight needed to turn my life around and build a successful marriage and career.

My mother has ended up an odd old duck. She’s poor, but spends her money like water. Then she begs for more from her children. She has a nervous talking habit that never quits. It drives everyone nuts. She remembers our childhood very differently from the way we remember, and sometimes speaks wistfully of that ex-husband who molested her daughters. We kind of avoid her, and she lives alone.

This is no sob story. I don’t have much to cry about. For the most part, I feel happy and fulfilled, no thanks to my ex-stepfather. This is a warning. Think of your children when deciding who to bring into your life. Abusive spouses come and go, but your children will always be your children. You want them to always love you, don’t you?

The human spirit is very resilient. But it’s most vulnerable during the tender years of youth. Abusive parenting doesn’t toughen children up. It weakens them. But when or if they restrengthen as adults, their strong spirits will never forget what they endured. And they will do their best to avoid any further abuse. Even if that means avoiding those who raised them.

Categories: Family

94 replies »

  1. I had a mentally ill birth mother. I thought she was making deliberate choices to damage the lives around her until I was in my thirties and understood mental illness better. It didn’t make her any safer, but it helped me to understand that boundaries were healthy and right, no matter what anyone else said.

    There were abusive stepparents, and I had to forgive them once I was free of them. Drinking their poison only hurts ME, and then I leak venom over the ones I care most about – a very bad thing. I became codependent, and wanted to control everyone and couldn’t control myself. I went to work recovering from it after a family counselor explained what was sabotaging my life. I’ve made amends to those I hurt, and repaired what I could. So I am finally living my best life in the last two decades. Life is very good, and I’m thankful for that. Especially when I see other walking wounded folks my age who are still doing things the way I did, for the same reasons I did them.

    Your story took courage and sanity to tell, no matter what else you might think. I’m glad that you were able to work out ways to do better and to find value in your life and goals. Way to go!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Good for you, getting past the bitterness and moving on with life. I think the best way to keep an abusive parent or stepparent from controlling you as an adult, is to let go of the angry thoughts and get on with life the way you want to live it.

      I’m glad life is good for you now. And there does seem to be a lot of walking wounded out there, who haven’t yet learned how to let go of their childhood. Tragic.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Wow… this is ironic considering a discussion with someone just last night, but along the other line. Considering several cases of extraordinary “success” in people’s lives (in the sense of building truly happy and highly rewarding lives), I suggested that a common denominator was a childhood in an emotionally safe, supportive and loving environment. Of course, that simplifies things in a way that can’t be considered an absolute. But it certainly seems to be a big factor.

    Kids, I suspect, form the initial the frameworks of their minds around the emotional environments in which they exist… maybe a sort of world-view that makes everything else respond to expectation. Seems reasonable, as we all start out helpless and have to construct an entire universe, both physical and emotional, from trial and error. We see it in animals, but tend not to think about it in ourselves. You can care for an abused dog, but it doesn’t mean that it will be able trust you or want to go for walks. Conversely, happy people seem to be confident expressing themselves and taking the kinds of risks that can improve their lives.

    Makes one wonder what one generation with no abused or neglected kids could do for a nation.

    And, I commend your sister for not solving her problem with a baseball bat. Life’s better solutions tend to leave less of a mess.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree with your common denominator as something that improves the chances of helping children to grow up to find success. But based upon my experience, and that of most of my siblings, I think it’s not an absolute requirement. But I’m sure it helps immensely.

      It would be nice if all kids could grow up being loved and cared for. I think that would work wonders for our society as a whole. I doubt it’s possible, though. There have always been abusive parents, and I suspect there always will be. No amount of laws are going to stop it.

      I’m glad my sister held back. I’d hate to have to visit her at the state pen.

      Liked by 3 people

        • I don’t know how enlightened my objectivity is, but I will give you the best explanation I can think of at the moment, on how I came to terms with my abusive childhood.

          First, I haven’t completely come to terms with it. I don’t think that’s possible. Any traumatic experience we go through, will haunt us from time to time as a natural reminder of situations we are best off avoiding in the future.

          Life experience, along with introspection also helped. As we grow older, we tend to grow wiser. And avoiding the chemical escape routes probably helped me face my past and mentally process it with clarity.

          I’ve read a number of self-help books that have inspired me also, helping me to get past the old habits of learned helplessness that are acquired from abuse. Many self-help books are full of candied horseshit, but I’ve found that some can be very inspirational and thought-provoking.

          When I was 35, I began practicing meditation and studying Buddhism. This helped me develop insights that also have helped me handle the challenges of life, including the challenges of my childhood memories.

          Perseverance and a refusal to be bitter, or to wallow in hatred, also helped a lot. I try to avoid poisoning my mind with hatred of others. That frees my mind up, and prevents the reverse psychology trap of doing the opposite of what my abusers would want me to do. Thus I avoid being controlled in a sort of opposite way. I believe that true rebellion comes from doing what you think is best, whether or not it sits well with those who would control you.

          Liked by 2 people

  3. I had some similar experiences, but I guess I am too old to worry about that now.

    It has given me a perspective that my kids don’t quite understand. They think that I have an exaggerated sense of how privileged they are because my perspective of childhood was that parents weren’t really interested that much in how their kids felt. For instance, if I had told parents or adults that I was depressed and not interested in school work, I would not have received sympathy if anyone listened to me at all. In fact, I might have been laughed at. I was mainly a little person that had to be housed and fed. So, it seems to me that today’s kids are far too interested in their feelings and egos and stuff. But maybe I am weird.

    Liked by 4 people

    • I think there’s something to be said for acknowledging the feelings of others. It doesn’t mean you have to be controlled by them.

      But even so, I wouldn’t have minded so much having my feelings ignored or laughed at, if that’s all that went on. If I had just been left alone and not targeted for abuse, I think my childhood would have been far better.

      There’s no such thing as a perfect parent. But one thing parents can avoid, is going out of their way to purposely mistreat their children. That’s a no-brainer. If they just follow that little piece of advice, there’s a good chance their kids will have a healthy upbringing.

      Liked by 4 people

    • Sorry that you have shared some similar experiences as a child too! A child’s feelings should be acknowledged and not made to feel like they are invisible or don’t matter. Glad to know you have risen above too! Impressed with both you and Tippy.

      Are you weird? Wellll…..now that you mentioned it, I’m kidding! πŸ™‚
      But you do have a point about today’s kids and their expectations! Like Tippy said, its not about being controlled by them and catering to their every whim. Acknowledging their feelings is not the same as telling them they are always right!

      Liked by 3 people

  4. I am sorry to hear about what a difficult childhood you and your siblings had. I wonder why some of you seemed to have survived and went on to have a productive and fulfilling life, while some of you did not.

    I feel grateful for having loving parents that supported me in everything I did, I wish I had let them know of my gratitude more often.

    And I still make many of my decisions based on what impact they would have on my children or how they would react, even thought they are all adults now.

    I’m sure your story was difficult to share, but it does offer hope to those who may be going through a similar situation.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks. Ironically, the sister with all the mental and physical problems also became quite rich. Nonetheless, I wouldn’t describe her as successful.

      You are very fortunate to have had such parents. When I was a kid, I envied other kids who had parents like that. They gave you a priceless gift, with their caring and love.

      Sounds like you’ve been a good parent yourself, and for that your children are lucky.

      My story wasn’t that difficult to share. It’s just one story of many, as many others have similar tales to tell. If I had let my childhood keep me beaten down, without ever rising above it, then maybe the story would be difficult to tell. But as it is now, maybe I’m bragging.

      Liked by 3 people

  5. Sorry to hear what you have gone through TG, and I can only imagine the negative influences you grew up with, but I take my hat off to you for what it must have taken to become the person you are today. Well done TG. It is a pleasure knowing the person you have become … well at least the person you show us here! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 3 people

  6. The cycle of abusive relationships can be passed on through the generations, like any other characteristic. At least it was in my family. My grandmother, my mother, me and one of my sisters…Once I became aware of it, I tried very hard to break it for the next generation (and hopefully generations after). My daughter, after having had several abusive boyfriends, has found a good man. I think the cycle has been broken by her.

    Deb

    Liked by 3 people

    • Yes, it’s habits we form from observation. My siblings and I looked after each other. I think that’s what helped us break the cycle. We knew, based upon the feedback we gave each other, that we were being abused. And so we knew right from the start that this wasn’t the best way to raise children. I feel fortunate to have had the siblings I’ve had. Having a good father, albeit divorced from my mother, also helped.

      Liked by 3 people

  7. Yes, my childhood was better than yours! My father left two legacies …. he had a violent temper (he once threw a chair against the inside of our caravan/trailer and the wooden arm pierced the aluminum outside panelling.) He only hit me once that I recall. The other legacy was his determination and perseverance. I recall overhearing a conversation with my Mum “Well Olive (her name), the only bloody way we’re ever going to own our own home is if I build the damn thing myself.” His father was a labourer in the construction industry so he knew a little, but he befriended some local builders in our subdivision, and brought home piles of books from library. After he had completed it, he wanted to build another one, but a more striking design … and he did. I inherited (?) his temper, but quickly realized how much it was costing me to replace broken items and decided that are other ways of handling frustrations. I have never been interested in building my own home, but have repeatedly gone beyond my “ability/comfort zone” for many different reasons over the years.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. My heart aches for you and your siblings when I read this. I hate at how so many children grow up being so wounded by the ones who should have been there to love and protect them!

    But I am so glad at how you have risen above! It is a pleasure to call you a friend. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Wow, Tippy, this just came out of nowhere. I’m sorry for what happened to you, your mom, and your siblings. Being able to talk about it helps, and I’m glad you decided to share your experience. No one knows why some people bounce back and others don’t. I hope your siblings can come to terms with what happened and find peace, as you have. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s actually a rerun from a previous blog, about 6 years ago. I’ve been winnowing the wheat from the chaff and putting what I think might be the wheat, on display.

      Thanks. Most of us have come to terms with our dysfunctional childhood, but there’s one sister who I think still has a way to go.

      Liked by 2 people

  10. I’m so sorry to hear what you had to endure, but how good to see you’ve survived. And that you can be open about it. I wonder how many people try to hide this kind of thing and never talk about it. My mom was a wonderful person, my dad was an off and on alcoholic that made life uncomfortable at home for everyone, especially my mom. I was angry with him for years, but finally gained peace when I forgave him before he died.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Wow, so sorry to hear this Tippy. I don’t have stepparents, but I can say confidently that mental and emotional abuse is harder to get over than physical pains. You’re admirable because despite everything you went through you still try to keep us readers smile most of the time. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks. Yes the psychological effects of abuse can be very challenging. And I think this is more so when you experience such abuse as a child. But it’s a challenge that can be effectively dealt with, with some perseverance.

      Liked by 2 people

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