Originally Published: April 2, 2017 6:01 a.m.
Dear Annie: Please, I’d like your confirmation that the family situation I’m in is not normal. I am in my second marriage, and all of our children are grown and raising their own families. When my husband and I got married, we had all of our adult children in the wedding. During the reception, it was discovered that my stepdaughter’s boyfriend was carrying a gun. He created a big scene, and police were called. After many months, I got over this particular incident. Fast-forward to 10 years later.
This stepdaughter has married that man and has children with him. He is an alcoholic and an abuser. The SWAT team has been called on occasion to defuse his actions. She, unfortunately, does not press charges against him, so this pattern continues. Each time she “leaves” him, she calls her father, my husband, for money to help her get some type of housing. Within a week of her request and her stating that she is done with her husband for sure this time, she returns the funds and goes back.
My problem with this, other than the fact that it’s a constant emotional roller coaster, is that her father has heart and anxiety problems. Each time she disrupts his peaceful life, it puts a great strain on him. I am concerned about his health, because I see what this does to him each time she calls with the same problem. As a stepparent, what can I do?
I tried to be supportive toward my stepdaughter in the early days, but I am finding it harder and harder to do so because nothing changes and it affects my home life with my wonderful husband. Thanks for letting me vent. — Worried Stepmother
Dear Worried: I have a feeling that this situation is causing your husband anxiety 24/7, not just when your stepdaughter calls for money. The most pressing matter here is the safety of your grandchildren. At best, they’re in an unhealthy environment; at worst, they’re being abused or witnessing the abuse of their mother. Call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline (800-422-4453) to consult with professional counselors who can arm you with information, and call 911 if your daughter or grandchildren are in immediate danger.
And don’t give up on your stepdaughter. On average, a victim will leave her abuser seven times before finally leaving for good. Your husband is right to offer his support. But being supportive doesn’t mean riding the emotional roller coaster with her. Instead, he should stand at the station, ready to offer a hand when she steps off. Counseling (by a therapist or religious adviser) and relaxation techniques, such as meditation, could help him insulate himself from the stress in the meantime.
For more information and resources, visit The National Domestic Violence Hotline’s website, at http://www.thehotline.org.