strugglingSM's picture

enmeshed parenting

I'm dealing with one child who seems to have an enmeshed relationship with BM.

Some examples:

1) When BM is angry with DH, all of a sudden this child is. DH wanted to pick the kids up before going to the school science fair. We were going later than BM because DH needed time to get home from work and change, but were still going to be there during the fair's open hours. One child worked on his project with us, so we were actively involved in science fair prep. BM texted DH when she was at the fair - "are you coming? We've walked around the whole fair and we're leaving now." DH replied and said "yup, planning to be there around 6:30pm. I'll drop by to pick up the boys around 6:20pm" BM launches into an attack about how DH "just forgot about their science fair and now you're trying to blame me." Then said he was "disrupting her schedule" and he "should have planned in advance." He was like "fine, I'll go without the kids." She knew that she didn't want DH to tell the kids he went alone, so she then said "I'll bring the kids back to the school myself" because "I don't want you coming to my house." DH always just waits outside in the car when he goes to her house, so I'm not sure why she was so concerned about that, but she was. After her flurry of texts, DH gets a call from one SS, who angrily says "dad, why are you picking us up?" DH says "because I'm going to the science fair and I want you to show me your project." SS says "you've already seen my project. I don't want to go with you." DH says "fine, I'll take your brother." There are other examples, but that one is the most glaring.

2) BM tries to make SS feel as if he can't survive at our home because she is not there. SS - who used to be able to fall asleep just fine - had a meltdown (he is 11, so too old for meltdowns), about how we had too many rules and he couldn't sleep at our house. He called BM (at 11pm) and demanded to go home. He then told me he had to call his mother every night before going to bed because "I have anxiety like my mom." He then called his mom (which he was with us) and according to her, asked her to text DH to ask him to get melatonin for SS because SS "didn't feel comfortable" asking his dad to get it for him because he "knew he wouldn't get it for me." Even if SS does not call, BM will call or text him multiple times a day when he is with us. The kids are only with us EOWE, so it's not as if they are away from her for extended periods of time. Last visitation weekend, she texted to ask him how his football weigh in went (this was after she told DH that she was going to go "in case SS needs me", but then decided not to show up), when he responded "fine", she replied "what's wrong?", he replied "nothing" and she kept pushing the issue to find out what was "wrong" with him. She typically calls this SS at least twice, sometimes three times during his weekends with us, while not calling or contacting the other SS at all during that time. They are twins, so it's not an age thing.

3) BM tries to undermine DH's parenting when the kids are with us. Recently, DH told SS that he did not approve of his participating in videos that his friend was posting online because in those videos, they were swearing, saying racist things, and saying sexual explicit things. DH put SS on the spot and asked him to explain what something he said meant. SS become embarrassed, had a meltdown, ran off and hid and called his mother demanding to go home because "dad is being mean to me." BM then sent DH a string of angry texts saying "I'm going to come to pick him up." "He's always unhappy when he's with you." DH just said "he's fine", because after his initial meltdown and storming off, he went inside and was fine hanging out with his father and brother.

4) BM mirrors SS's inappropriate emotional reactions back at him. During the last school year, SS was upset about his report card (not sure why, since he doesn't work hard at school at all). According to his brother, he started crying that "I got all 2s" and called his mother all upset. In response. BM sends DH a series of long texts. "I need to talk to you immediately." "I'm dealing with a frantic child and I need to talk to you." DH and BM have it in their parenting agreement that they only speak to one another in cases of emergency. DH called both SSs to find out what was going on. The SS in question told DH he had a "bad day", but told DH he was fine. DH texted back "I talked to both boys and they seem fine. What's the issue?" BM sent him seven long texts about how he was so unreasonable for not talking to her on the phone. How he was being a deadbat dad and how could he expect to be included in anything if he wouldn't talk to her on the phone. I said to DH, she could write all those long texts to you and she couldn't just say "SS had a bad day at school. I'm thinking of changing his medication. Could we talk about that?" Instead, she just ratcheted everything up a million notches because she was frantic in response to her child being upset. According to DH, she's done this in the past, where she can't deal when one of the children is upset and needs someone else to comfort her, instead of her comforting the child.

I'm not trying to fix this situation and have worked to disengage myself, but I'm interested to hear about others' experiences with enmeshment. What are some resources that better helped you to understand, cope, or disengage. What are some future pitfalls I should be on the look out for? My SS is just now entering middle school, so I'm only expecting this to get worse, as his own lack of emotional coping mechanisms will make his turbulent adolescent years a wild ride, but combined with his mother's lack of emotional coping skills, I expect them to be unbearable. I'm also just looking for moral support from others who have made it to the other side of similarly overly dramatic situations.


KH4573's picture

She sounds emotionally

She sounds emotionally immature and full of anxiety which she is likely passing along to her unfortunate children. Over-parenting these kids will give them low self esteem among other issues. I'd head for the hills.

Templeton21's picture

Well your BM sounds just as

Well your BM sounds just as nutty as the BM I have been dealt and I wish I had some answers for you. My SD has also stated she has "anxiety" but then when you ask her what it is she doesn't even know. Totally projected on her by crazy BM! I have found for my own sanity the best way to deal with any of this is telling SO to keep me out of the loop on what crazy BM is texting/flipping about and to disengage from SD as much as possible. I basically only communicate with SD at my house if she is doing something that involves/affects my boys! SD knows how to manipulate SO and BM and get her desired results....lately though I have made it clear that it isn't working on me!

Recent incident (just b/c I too want to vent and to show you that you aren't alone in the madness)...and I apologize b/c this will be long...and again I only reacted to it b/c SD involved my son.

A few months ago we were swimming at my dad's house. After swimming my dad and step mom made us dinner but asked the older kids to eat outside b/c they were still wet from swimming. Well my son was mad about it and my SO got on him for being mouthy (nothing I object to b/c I was agree that he was being mouthy and needed reprimanded for it). Well my son (a bit of a hot head) was pissed off and told SD that he hated SO and was going to have him offed and he hated living with him and wanted to commit suicide! Well SD didn't tell us about it (a week before we got on her about constantly tattling and told her that it needed to stop but if there was a life/death/dangerous situation that is not tattling and to tell us). So SD goes home and BM "forced her to tell her what was bothering her" so SD tells BM about this and BM has her call SO and tell him. Of course he tells me about it and I confront my son about it and tell him he can't be saying he is going to have SO offed and I am obviously concerned about him saying he wanted to commit suicide b/c he is tired of living with SO and SD. He apologized and said he was just mad and didn't mean any of it but I also told him that suicide isn't something to threaten and I'm concerned and going to put him back into counseling because of it. Situation handled as far as I'm concerned and of course I'm watching my son closer b/c those statements were concerning. Well then SD starts school and within the first week I get a message from SO saying that I have to call SD's school counselor b/c she told the school counselor about this b/c she was so worried and anxious about it! At this point I am livid (to me SD is using this as an excuse to get out of class and get attention...she used to fake injuries for attention but people caught on to that). I'm also livid b/c now she is involving her school counselor and has told everyone but me when I had already made it clear that if there is a dangerous situation that she is absolutely not going to get in trouble for tattling and it isn't tattling. She made it out to both her mother and the counselor like she was afraid to tell us "tattle" and super anxious about it. Yet, she still tattles about any other tiny little thing she can...so I don't buy that crap. SO tells BM that we are upset that she went to the counselor and not us...BM defends SD and says it is her "safe place and he is a bad dad for not advocating for SD in this situation" oh and that she told SD that SO was going to talk to her about it and she is really upset and anxious and afraid he will yell at her so he needs to be nice to her about it! Ugh! I did indeed call her school counselor and thanked her for her concern and found out that she had only brought up the one incident that we had already addressed but had I not been so livid at the time of calling her I would have turned it around on SD "I'm concerned that school hasn't been in session for more than a week and SD is already having issues and still anxious about this even though it had been handled" LOL! Anyways, as much as I try to disengage with SD the next time she was over and my son was not at home (b/c he doesn't know all this BS and there is no need for him to) I said to SD, "SD, I am not upset that you were "concerned" for my son, I'm upset that you told EVERYONE but me and then acted as if you were afraid to tell me and your father even though we have made it clear that you could tell us things like this!" That little brat knew exactly what she did and she didn't expect me to say anything - she just put her head down and mad her "sad face" and acknowledged yet again that she could tell us these things. Thankfully SO was right there backing me up!

Sorry for the long reply! LOL! Just needed to vent myself I guess!

strugglingSM's picture

I can relate on many levels.

I can relate on many levels. I try to feel sympathetic towards my SSs because their mother has emotional problems, but I can't make myself use that as an excuse for their manipulations. They are old enough now that they know they are being manipulative. My friend is a child counselor and she said to me "sometimes, kids are just a-holes."

Templeton21's picture

Exactly, I feel bad that SD

Exactly, I feel bad that SD is learning from her whacked out mom that thinks she is the greatest mother ever because....she has TWO degrees! LOL! Obviously that makes her an expert! I agree that at her age (10) she knows what she is doing now! Some kids are just a-holes for sure. Heck mine definitely can be but they aren't ALL THE TIME!!!

thinkthrice's picture

Funny, SD stb 19 had

Funny, SD stb 19 had had"anxiety" (sheer projection) since the breakup of Chef and the Girhippo. At which point the Gir doctor shopped and got meds ladeled down her throat.

SD is a sarcastic, entitled, domineering, animal torturing bully. Definitely no anxiety.

"I don't feel COMfortable with..." Code for "I don't like it when adults can see through my and mom's bullshit."

Author of "The Guilty Parent Trap"--Amazon Kindle

strugglingSM's picture

If SS truly does have

If SS truly does have anxiety, as his mother has self-diagnosed, then why isn't she getting him help? It's worth mentioning that he says "anxiety" is what keeps him from sleeping, but it may be the fact that he stays up all night watching YouTube or playing video games. If you do that enough, that will also impact your ability to go to sleep.

Also, I think BM has a personality disorder, not anxiety...she uses her "anxiety" to get meds herself. She used to use a friend whose father was a doctor to get her prescriptions, but she's not friends with that person anymore, so she had to go to someone else.

Templeton21's picture

My SD takes some sort of

My SD takes some sort of heartburn medicine for her "anxiety" and she has a daily inhaler for her "sports induced asthma" and she doesn't even take it properly 1/2 the time she is with us. As far as I know she has only had 2 asthma attacks since she was diagnosed with this (2 years ago). The first one (which is why she was diagnosed with it) was at cheer practice and they were running (she hates running) and another time with BM. Never once at our house and she goes outside and jumps on the trampoline and goes on hikes with us and everything and I've never even seen her even have trouble breathing. I hate to question a medical issue but given her history of faking and her mom's love of overreacting I am not convinced she has any type of asthma.

Coco72's picture

My SO and I were just talking

My SO and I were just talking about this, and how his crazy ex projects her mental issues onto their 10 year old son. Just the other day we were driving and my SS was playing his Nintendo Switch and kept "dying", then I hear him say "triggered" over and over again. Later my SO told me that that is his ex's favorite excuse, that every time the kids weren't listening, or something wasn't going right, or he caught her in a lie, she would say she was being triggered and had to take her meds and find a quiet place (locked in her bedroom). I told my SO he needs to help SS learn the difference between being frustrated and being triggered or these issues were going to become more and more prominent. It's like her words are coming out of my SS's mouth.....

Templeton21's picture

Yikes! Good Luck! When you

Yikes! Good Luck! When you have a crazy BM influencing kids so heavily I kind of feel like it is a lost hope.

Coco72's picture

That is exactly how I feel!

That is exactly how I feel! My SO keeps saying that SS will grow up and see his mom for who she is, but I really don't think that is what is going to happen. BM uses their son to meet her emotional needs. He has to tell her he loves and misses her numerous times before he gets off the phone, every Sunday when he goes to her house they have to "snuggle" because she has been lonely and missed him so much while he was gone. A couple of weeks ago my SO and her got into an argument about a change in the pick up time so SS could attend a family holiday party with her, next thing I know she is calling their son telling him "sorry dad said you can't go" which was not what had happened at all, SS is hysterical in my car, it finally gets figured out, and SS is making excuses for BM's behavior. I think this poor child is going to feel like he has to take care of her forever! And my SO is oblivious.......

Templeton21's picture

Ugh, I feel for you. The BM I

Ugh, I feel for you. The BM I deal with doesn't use SD exactly the same but she still creates chaos with her antics. Like the other day SD wanted to come over with her cousin and we already had a full house (my mom had come in from out of town...a planned visit...SD wasn't normally supposed to be there on that day so it shouldn't have been an issue to tell her that it wasn't a good night b/c we had a full house). Well of course BM tried to guilt SO into taking SD anyways and replied with "okay, I'll tell her but she is going to be disappointed"...so the eff what. Kids shouldn't be told yes to EVERYTHING they want. BM constantly tries to pull that stuff with SO and SO then buys into it and feels bad and caters to whatever "SD" wants which is really what BM has manipulated the situation into. Now SO is a "bad dad" again according to BM b/c he didn't take SD on time he wasn't even scheduled to take her. SD has learned if she acts sad and pouty she gets what she wants. This time she didn't so obviously me and SO are the bad guys!

Ispofacto's picture

These children really don't

These children really don't have a chance at normal lives. Once you swallow that pill, you will be resigned and it won't matter as much anymore. Almost like you can get a bowl of popcorn and watch the BS unfold. But you still need to limit your exposure to this toxic spillage.

As for the future, my DH made a commitment to me: in the [likely] event Killjoy grows up to be exactly like her mother, she will not be welcome in our home. I hope he was serious. If not, we may have a split in our future. I don't think he realizes how doomed she is.

Restraining orders are just another way of saying "I love you".

BM to DD28, DS26, DS22 • : * ¨ ¨ * : • Custodial SM to SD13 - aka "Killjoy"

Coco72's picture

I guess I'm having a hard

I guess I'm having a hard time figuring out how to limit my exposure, or disengage in all this mess. First I am a type A personality, so yes I am controlling and not good at letting others handle things, this is exacerbated by the fact that my SO is so use to her manipulation that he doesn't see it happening until I point it out. Here's an example from New Years......45 minutes before we are suppose to be meeting BM for drop off/pick up she calls their son and asks him (he's 10) to put dad on the phone because she needs to talk to him about grown up stuff. Then she asks him if he would like an "extra day" with their son, and if not is he okay with him going to a sitter. My SO tells her that we have plans (big mistake) and getting a sitter is fine. I hear all of this going on as I am getting ready, and I am getting more and more pissed by the minute. Finally I can't hold my tongue any longer and I ask my SO about it, he's like she just wanted to make sure I was okay with him going to a sitter....blah, blah, blah. I said are you serious??? That is what yo think is happening here? No, she is trying to guilt you into keeping him for another day so she can go out for New Years, because now she can throw in your face that she has offered you more time with your son, but you chose your wh*re (me) over your son. Who calls to ask if it is okay if they get a sitter??? So, I take a couple deep breaths and finish getting ready, and as we are walking out the door, DING goes the cell phone and he gets a text that she's "running a little late".....of course she is, because he told her we have plans, so now she is going to do anything in her power to ruin our plans. So on our way we go to the meeting location, and SS pipes up and says mom just texted him and she doesn't want him to have to spend new years eve with a stranger, and daddy has plans, so she's changing her plans and she's gonna stay home with him tonight. She shows up 50 minutes late, and as we are driving away here comes another text, "sorry I was late, have fun tonight, Happy New Years". And I want to strangle her!!! So how do I not let this get to me??

Templeton21's picture

Wow, okay, we might be

Wow, okay, we might be dealing with the same BM. This was SO's year to have SD (also 10) for New Year's. He told BM that we weren't doing anything b/c SO worked the next morning at 6:30am and that she could keep SD if she wanted to. Normally BM would jump all over keeping her (b/c for 4 years BM made it clear that I wasn't allowed to watch SD...even SD knows this and SD would be alone with me the next day - which I really didn't want). Well now BM has a new bf so she gave SO crap about offering to let BM keep her and suddenly it is not a problem for me to be alone with SD?!?! Guess what...I don't want to watch SD at BM's convenience! BM is always trying to guilt SO into whatever fits HER needs...not SDs...and making it out like it is "in the best interest of SD". Ugh, I always have to point this out as well! It is exhausting! Disengaging is kind of hard. I have been working on it. I decided that I will completely disengage from BM. I tried in the beginning to get along. She wanted none of that. I told SO if he is going to continue to cater to his exwife then he could go back to her and I didn't want to hear any more of what she texted or called him about b/c it only upsets me. That is really key. Not knowing what the dumb twit is saying causes me less rage Eye-wink SD I just refer her to dadeetz (awful nickname she came up with) at my home and let him deal with her. I thought that SD might grow up and become aware of her mother's ways and be different but now I'm beginning to believe she will grow up to be a narcissist just like BM b/c that is what she is being taught Sad

Coco72's picture

I really wanted to get along

I really wanted to get along in the beginning too, but at this point I would drive right by her if I saw her stranded on the side of the road. She has made my life [email protected] I have disengaged, mostly, with BM. I don't communicate with her at all, she is blocked on social media, and from my phone. Once I had to do drop off because my SO was on call at work and literally couldn't get away, but I would only agree to meet her at the police station parking lot, and she was not allowed to get out of her car or speak to me at all. I guess my only "engagement" with her is my SO telling me when she contacts him, and I've asked him to do that because she manipulates him and he doesn't see it. But she gets to me in little ways, like there are a few loans that even though they are divorced and my SO is financially responsible for his truck and the camper, she still signed the loan papers so in the banks eyes she is authorized on the account. Just last night I called to make a truck payment and the address on the account had been changed, to her address, they never lived at that address together so there is no reason for it to be on the account. It's like no matter how hard I try to not have contact with her, there she is!

Templeton21's picture

Exactly! Once I realized

Exactly! Once I realized that I was going to be put through hell regardless of whether or not I was being a nice, caring person and trying to have a decent relationship with BM I gave up. I used to have SO tell me about their communication and try to help him develop boundaries but when I realized that was causing ME more stress than good I quit that as well. BM manipulates SO terribly. She is so predictable though. SO doesn't even have to tell me what she said I can already tell him what she is up too or will say with limited info from him. I just told SO that he needed to stop letting her guilt him into whatever she wanted and stop telling me about what she is saying because if I hear 1 more time about how SD is more important than me and my family I will totally lose it. BM tries to cross every possible boundary that SO lets her. I told him to man up and get his balls back from his ex b/c I am not going to stay with a man that continues to cater to his ex b/c it is easier than the conflict. We shall see if he actually does that but I know for sure if he continues to regress back to that him and SD can pack up and go!

Coco72's picture

Thank you Templeton21!! Your

Thank you Templeton21!! Your responses help a lot. It is scary there are so many crazy ex's out there, but it's helpful to know that my situation is not unique, and I am not alone in all this. I am pretty lucky that my SO is usually pretty good about not contacting her, and he is supportive of my feelings. I hope yours does as well. Smiling

Templeton21's picture

You're welcome! I know it

You're welcome! I know it helps to have others in the same situation to relate with. I also read "Say Goodbye to Crazy"...another member here suggested it. Very useful when dealing with high conflict crazy exes!!!! Just started reading "Stepmonster" a lot of members suggest that. Hopefully it is good! My SO is pretty good about not contacting BM unless he has too...it is BM that is always calling him for crap she could text...he can't control her but he could also just ignore the call. After our big blow up recently he has been way more supportive of my feelings Smiling I'm glad you have a supportive SO!

Ispofacto's picture

My DH never speaks with BM.

My DH never speaks with BM. She is allowed texts and emails only. She doesn't get to know what we are doing, ever. I actually broke up with DH and kicked his ass out of my house regarding this issue before. This is a hill I would die on.

Restraining orders are just another way of saying "I love you".

BM to DD28, DS26, DS22 • : * ¨ ¨ * : • Custodial SM to SD13 - aka "Killjoy"

Templeton21's picture

Ispofacto, I am at the point

Ispofacto, I am at the point that I am ready to kick SO out if he keeps over communicating with BM and catering to her b/c it is easier to not fight with her! His EX relationship shouldn't come before his current relationship!