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Dear Chump Lady, Can I go NC with my step-daughter?

Dear Chump Lady,

My D-Day involved a stranger texting me about my cheater’s profile on a “sugar baby” site. He had spent $30K (much of it my money) on sex with dozens of women. He eventually revealed that he’d had an affair during his first marriage — something he always adamantly denied, saying “I wasn’t sexually attracted to her, but I would never have fooled around. That’s not the kind of man I am.” Oh, and his university degree? That was a lie too. So I’m certain there are many, many more lies and more cheating that I don’t know about. Needless to say, I was obliterated.

He had presented himself to me as a good guy — my safe space, my refuge after my first marriage ended in infidelity. We marveled at how our love was fated, at what a blessing it was to find true love in middle age. Our love would move mountains! The stars sang for us! Our desire for each other was intense, and we jumped into commitment (or so I thought) very quickly. He love bombed me good. I’ve forgiven myself for falling for his act. He’s a very good con and I have a big heart. But I will never be chumped again.

After DDay, we went to therapy together, and he convinced me (for a very short time) to consider opening our marriage. I was vulnerable and in shock. But after just a month of talking about it, I put an end to that BS. It’s not what I want, it doesn’t reflect my values. And no matter how he tried to package it up, what he did wasn’t polyamory or ethical monogamy, it was CHEATING.

That time after discovery was painful on a level I didn’t know possible. Going in for STD tests, hearing details about his “arrangements” with these women, questioning my own reality, and finally, realizing that our marriage was an illusion and he is a liar and cheat. A textbook narcissist who used me in every way he could for nine years, violating my health, my financial life, my personal safety, and my well-being.

After I left, he tried to convince me to “work on ourselves” during the separation, so we could come back together in time (yummy, cake!). He told me I was his best friend, his one great love. He said that he would never love anyone the way he loves me, and he will carry me in his heart until the day he dies. The fact that he can say those things to me after what he did just confirmed my clear-eyed assessment that he is disordered.

I am awake now. I had my “Tuesday” — seven months after DDay and three months after I moved out. No contact with the cheater has broken the spell and freed me to move forward and create the life I want. I am safe, I am healthy, I am strong, I am free.

For a time after DDay, I checked his social media (not anymore – I’ve blocked him everywhere). The day I told him it was over, he started writing “poems” and posting them to Instagram. He even paid a marketing firm to grow his Instragram “base” (yummy, more kibbles!).

His posts alternate between “poor me” tales of a lost love (yes, apparently his story about our break is that I left him brokenhearted) and graphic descriptions of sex with his “new love.” He’s using the same language he used with me when we met. He’s saying he’s waited his whole life for a love like this. Looking at the dates, I realize that he emailed me to say I was his “one great love” and posted the very same thing about this new woman – on the same day. I didn’t respond, of course, and it doesn’t hurt my heart. It’s just disturbing and pathetic.

And here’s the thing (we’re getting to my question, I promise!) … his daughter is “liking” all his posts, including the ones with graphic sex. Awful for her, especially at an age when she’s coming into her own sexuality. I really feel for her, especially because her mom has been diagnosed with NPD. Yep, poor thing has two narcissists for parents.

The cheater and I married when his daughter was seven years old (she’s 15 now). He has 50/50 custody. I cared for his daughter in every way I knew how, and she and I got along just fine. I love children (would’ve been a mom if I could have), but I never really bonded with her, not in a heartfelt way. I always felt shame about that. But a lack of connection didn’t stop me from taking her to all her doctor appointments, attending parent-teacher conferences, planning her activities, helping with homework, taking her shopping and getting mani/pedis together, enjoying long talks about friends and boys and life, etc. Oh, and paying for everything.

The cheater was broke when we got together (just months after he separated from his ex — red flag #1 of thousands). I paid his daughter’s child support and her mom’s alimony for years. Also the cheater’s back taxes and legal fees, our mortgage, car payments, family vacations, and every other bill. I know, I know. I look back now and I’m absolutely shocked. But the cheater is a clever con and he love bombed me hard. I felt chosen. I thought we were a team. He sparkled. I spackled. I told everyone about the “potential” of the business he was building — I just didn’t tell family and friends that I was going into deep debt to finance it.

When I moved out, the cheater and I sat down with his daughter and told her that we love her very much and she didn’t do anything wrong, that it’s between us. We didn’t tell her what the cheater had done. We said sometimes things happen, life changes, we make choices, and we try to move forward with grace. She was sad, but it’s not the same as her parents’ divorce. Her mom and dad aren’t going anywhere. Her first question was “if you’re gone, will Dad and I ever do anything fun?” Hmm. She knew where the money was coming from, apparently.

I wrote her a long, heartfelt letter. I reminded her of all the people who love and support her, and I told her how sorry I am if this change causes her pain. She’s faced a lot of tough stuff in her life, and I told her how strong she is. I let her know that she will be okay, we will all be okay, and I’m here if she ever needs someone to talk to. I sent a few texts when I moved out, just quick notes to check in and see how her summer was going. She responded in a short, easy breezy way, which is her style. She didn’t initiate contact except one text to say she’s considering having sex and getting on birth control. I texted back, “Wow, that’s big! I’m so glad you have your mom and your dad to support you through this.” No contact between us since then.

The cheater, meanwhile, has begged me to stay in his daughter’s life. He told me, “you’re more of a mom to her than her mom!” He had his best friend reach out to me to say the same (he was best man at our wedding and knew about the prostitutes all along – not someone I trust). The cheater’s ex texted me to say I could see her daughter on her time whenever I wanted. I did not respond to any of them.

I do not want to hurt this child. But the truth is, I do not want her in my life. A connection to her is a doorway to her dad, and I will not allow that opening. He has proven to be a threat to my well-being. And I am not bonded with this child. I don’t particularly like her. I don’t dislike her, she’s just not my cup of tea. I don’t think I’m hers, either. It’s not for nothing that she’s not the one begging me to stay in her life. We remain connected on social media, and I can see that she’s having fun with her friends and doing her thing.

So my question, Chump Lady, is this: I have walked away from the cheater and will remain in no contact. Can I apply that to his daughter as well? Am I a cold-hearted bitch for walking away from a child? Do I have a responsibility to her that supersedes my decision re: the cheater?

Sincerely,
Ex-Stepmom Chump

Dear Ex-Stepmom Chump,

You have a responsibility to align your words with your deeds. And if you cannot do that, to be honest about it.

I let her know that she will be okay, we will all be okay, and I’m here if she ever needs someone to talk to.

You told her you were available for her. And she reached out on something big — first time sex — and you deflected it back to her parents with a breezy non-answer.

So your real question to me is “Can I ghost a teenager and not be a shitty person?”

No. Ghosting is shitty. Especially to a child to whom you devoted years of your life. You don’t like her? Very few 15 year olds are likable. By 15, teenagers have perfected their unlikable. That’s besides the point. Everyone in her life now is an unstable flake. I’m not saying you have to continue to PARENT her, I’m saying you may not mindfuck her.

I think the ethical thing to do here is issue an apology. “Dear Step Daughter, I know I said I would be here for you, but I’ve since realized that I need to maintain strict boundaries in my life with regards to your father. It’s not fair that you’re in the middle. I’m so sorry, but I have to go no contact for my sanity and healing. While you’re still a minor, any connection to you, is a connection to him. I’m sorry I misrepresented my intentions. I wish you all the best. — Ex-Stepmom”

Does that feel awful? It’s a boundary and it’s honest. Waffle-y half measures and promising support that doesn’t follow through is infinitely more painful — to her and to you.

I don’t fault your reasons for going no contact. That’s a sad part of divorce — rightly or wrongly we lose half of our former family. I wouldn’t read much into that girl liking her father’s posts — she wants his approval. She’s a kid. It’s fucked up and it’s no longer your fucked up. We can’t save everyone.

Does that sound cold? As a chump, OMG (raising my hand here) we want to save people. We feel responsible for things that we are not responsible for — other people’s debts, other people’s bad feelings, other people’s messes. We get a lot of kibbles for being caring, clean-shit-up kind of people. We’re needed! Useful! Special!

It’s okay to say no and recognize your limitations.

Some people manage relationships with their ex stepchildren. But this would take a level of meh for your ex that you do not have 7 months past D-Day. It would take a masterclass in boundaries, and you’re a person who was chumped to the tune of $30K. It would also take liking the person and desiring a relationship. We don’t do ANYONE any favors pretending to like people we do not like.

But the problem with being authentic and setting boundaries, is that often the receiver of the boundary doesn’t like it. Doesn’t like us. And to the people pleasing chumps, that’s kryptonite.

Fact is, the marriage broke up because dad is a predator. You would’ve continued to be a chump, and been in that child’s life had it not been for a kind stranger with a Sugar Daddy screenshot. The fallout is on him. It pains you to pain her. That makes you human. It doesn’t make you responsible.

You’ve pronounced your Tuesday, sworn you’ll never be a chump again. I’m not convinced. Going forward, please fix the picker and do the hard work on yourself.

I paid his daughter’s child support and her mom’s alimony for years. Also the cheater’s back taxes and legal fees, our mortgage, car payments, family vacations, and every other bill. I know, I know. I look back now and I’m absolutely shocked.

If you know yourself and do a brutal self-assessment, you won’t be shocked. You’ll understand why you did it (cue “I’m Needed! Useful! Special!”). Yes, cons are good — you’ve got to be better. That begins with knowing where you start and other people end.

Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at info@chumplady.com. Read more about submission guidelines.
  • This appeared in the forums and I stand behind my comments there. It’s not “no contact” if your X/STBX or his ex-wife (!!!) or his friends can reach out to you at any point. The Mindfuck Network is still open. While you say you don’t reply, here you are with a cheater dilemma because you are still in contact with these people. Block them all on phone or text. You say you have blocked them on social media but you can still see what STBX/X is up to through Kiddo’s social media. But the texts, from the ex-wife? his friends? HIM? You don’t have kids with them, and if you are still in the process of divorce and telling yourself that Cheater will agree to a better settlement if you don’t cut him off, you are still wide open to his con-artist blandishments. No contact, for real.

    The one thing you can do for this kiddo with two awful parents is to be honest. That’s the kind thing to do. I’m with CL here–I’m not convinced that you are at Meh and impervious to manipulation because—the Mindfuck Network is still open. Your timeline is not clear to me–you say you had your “Tuesday” seven months after D-Day. But you had only three months of not living with this man and you were healed? After nine years of marriage where he took $30,000 just for prostitutes and thousands more of your money to pay all living expenses, alimony and child support? He took you for several hundred thousands. And does this jackass WORK? Why were you paying for everything? Time after D-Day can give you clarity on how you were used and how you feel for a man who even lied about his college degree. But it doesn’t mean you’ve done the work to figure out how you were susceptible to his con artistry. And Kiddo’s comment about doing “fun” stuff suggests that the whole family, ex-wife and daughter included, loved the money that came with you. So any means of contact at all makes you vulnerable. And I can’t tell from your letter whether the Tuesday you point to was day before yesterday or two years ago. Either way, cut the ties and be honest about it. None of these people should be able to reach you by phone or text.

  • Oh Ex-Stepmom – I feel so badly for you (and his daughter).

    No, even if liked and loved this kid you would need to take big step back. So write the hard letter, the one where you acknowledge that you over-promised but can’t do it. The kid deserves respect & truth.

    So do you. Don’t try to buy love.

    Yeah, 14 – 16 can be awful, awful years for the kid & the adults in their orbit.

    Maybe in a few years the two of you will converse and as a young adult she may be more to your liking. Maybe not. But do close the door for now.

    Good luck to you. Fix that picker!

    • Something I think that’s being totally lost in this discussion is that “breaking up honestly” is something that happens between two equal parties who had free consent for the relationship in the beginning. Kids, biological or step, never had that and so relationships with them shouldn’t be equated to that. Minor children, whether we chose to give birth to them or committed to them as step-parents when we came into their lives, depend on the good faith of the adults who committed to parent them. Kids do NOT fall into the category of “other people’s” things that we can decide we don’t want to feel responsible for when we become hurt or mad at those “other people.” This young woman became this woman’s child at the tender age of 7 and was parented by the step-mom for over half her life. The step-mom feels moral unease for a good reason. When we are in the midst of hot and hurt feelings, it is most important to guide our behaviors by our cognitive moral compass. It’s simply not the right thing to do to “break up” with a minor child who is a dependent in every way on her parental figures. I get that the hurting, angry step-mom may not feel up to the task, but to talk about this relationship with her stepdaughter as if it were the same as consenting adults is to, well, spackle over the truth, and it does the inquiring step-mom no good in the long run. Sometimes our sense of shame and guilt are not feelings to explain away but to guide us to correct moral actions.

      • That’s fine, but she isn’t her parent, doesn’t have custody and I’m not coming up with any overarching reason why Stepmom Chump “has to” continue to be involved. She’s forced enough through the years.

        If stepdaughter misses her, she needs to ask her father why Stepmom left. She has two crappy parents. They now have a chance to step up.

        Stepmom needs to learn how to say “No”. There will be hurt feelings along the way. She may change her mind. But in the end, this teenager isn’t her peer or friend.

        I hope they both have a therapist and friends but it’s impossible for chumps to fix everything for everyone.

        She needs to put her oxygen mask on first. For a change.

        • Yes, she needs to put her oxygen mask FIRST, but if you actually listen to the flight attendants, that’s BEFORE assisting the children who need help putting on their masks! The teenager isn’t her friend or her peer, she’s the CHILD she formed a relationship when she married her dad. A child is not a pet or a piece of marital property to be returned. Wow. Cheater husband didn’t honor his commitment to her so it’s fair that she now not honor her commitment to the child? I’m sure his list of excuses sound the same. He wasn’t bonded, he did it for his own survival, and too bad the chump had to pay, but hey, he needs his own oxygen mask.

          • She isn’t her parent. She has no legal obligations to her.

            If she can muster support for her while also maintaining NC with her twisted ex, that would be great but also highly unlikely.

            Yes. They want the able-bodied to put on their oxygen mask first, regardless of age, before helping others. Stepmom needs to do that.

            She sounds depressed to me and to insist that she has to do anything for her ex-husband’s benefit is borderline abusive IMO. She has done plenty for years.

            She is tapped out. She needs to tap out or she may drag that kid down with her. NOT out of spite, but because she has nothing more to give and she can’t keep her resentment under wraps.

            Her intentions were great. She wasn’t able to do it. She can feel badly about it and still prioritize herself.

            Stepmom can’t save others if she doesn’t save herself. Plus she needs to quit rescuing others. In order to rescue someone, another person needs to be a victim. Chumps in general would be wise to get off of that merry-go-round ride from hell.

            • Sorry No Shit Cupcakes but I’m in FULL agreement with KAREN. We are not discussing “legal” obligations but moral ones, and the rule of being kind whenever you can. The stepdaughter is the only person in this shit storm who had no choice in any of it.

              We can stipulate that stepmom is in a shitty position, due to the Narco dad asswipe. But if she actually liked the stepdaughter, she’d find a way to be in her life. You can bet the stepdaughter thinks this, too.

              Chumps are usually the sane adult in a child’s life, regardless of whether they are also a biological parent. She doesn’t have to pay the stepdaughter’s college tuition or get her birth control. But in my opinion, ghosting the stepdaughter only compounds the wrongs already done to her.

  • but I never really bonded with her, not in a heartfelt way. I always felt shame about that. But a lack of connection didn’t stop me from taking her to all her doctor appointments, attending parent-teacher conferences, planning her activities, helping with homework, taking her shopping and getting mani/pedis together, enjoying long talks about friends and boys and life, etc. Oh, and paying for everything.

    This, too me, is something that you need to address. Do you have a therapist? I do not see how you could go through all this and not have a bond with this girl, what are you a robot? The oh, and paying for everything makes it sound like you are just mad you wasted your money.

    Clearly, the daughter seems to have a bond with you if she reaches out to you about first time sex and birth control. These are big time issues with a 15 year old. You have mislead this girl but the deeper question is why? She spilled her guts to you (teenagers don’t generally do that with adults unless there is a special trust.) and you are only concerned that she is link to her father. From your description, you are not the sane one but just yet another adult in her life who has let her down.

    • “She knew where the money was coming from.”

      It sounds more like she saw you as a caretaker and a mom because you ‘acted’like a mom.

      Don’t justify your lack of bonding with this child on her using you financially. That’s bullshit. And she wasn’t asking you for financial support, rather love when she was talking about birth control.

      Don’t feel guilty about being cold, accept this about yourself. Don’t put that shit on a teen. I agree with CL, don’t mindfuck.

      • Asking any child to understand and appreciate where the money comes from is ridiculous. In this case it’s self serving. Children don’t understand these things until they start to earn their own money and pay their own way. Please don’t take your anger at having been financially duped out on this child.

      • Yes, that question “How will dad and I have any fun?” doesn’t necessarily to me sound like she’s equating it with having money to burn on big indulgences, but more that the step-mom was the one who added those good times and quality of life to her life, while dad and bio-mom were the ones who just did for themselves. I have all kind of problems with this letter, I don’t understand where the letter writer is coming from, she seems to either be wanting to cut her off and using her lack of bonding as justification, whether she cares or not she can still make the decision to go no contact, but this whole, I didn’t care too much about her anyways, and she’s only after the cash side of things sound like a weak argument to justify her actions. So I feel she either did bond with this kids and just wants a good excuse to get out without feeling guilty (which I can understand) or is quit a cold unsympathetic person anyway. I am not sure whether her advice to the girl when she reached out was against her best instincts or not, but it would have been a shitty moment for the kid, who obviously felt this person was important enough in her life to go to and open up about very personal and private stuff. I guess I am feeling most sympathy for the kid having two shitty parents and if this writer is legit, she seems like a cold fish as well anyway. There’s just something off about this letter and it doesn’t sit well with me.

    • That nice speech at the beginning is just impression management if actions don’t align with those words later. Sounds good and makes you feel like a good person to say them.

      Honesty is better.

  • “But the problem with being authentic and setting boundaries, is that often the receiver of the boundary doesn’t like it. Doesn’t like us. And to the people pleasing chumps, that’s kryptonite.” SO MUCH THIS. I’ve been reading this blog for years now, and nothing has ever hit me as hard as this right here. Two parts to this post are so helpful to me: that chumps “feel responsible for things that we are not responsible for” and that setting boundaries is hard because deep down we want to be liked. These are the two biggest reasons I was stuck with my cheater for as long as I was, and for how I got into that mess in the first place. And outlining the deep reasons for not being able to set propert boundaries – this is why I’m taking my time and being single. People always say you have to do the work on yourself, but where do you start? Reading this today, I realize this is exactly where I need to start. Thank you again CL!!

    • MaryMary,

      Thanks for highlighting that CL comment, “…And to the people pleasing chumps, that’s kryptonite.” It took me a few years to start understanding this after splitting from my ex-wife who had forgotten to tell me about her boyfriend.

      This is a key part of my chumpdom that has taken years for me to be self aware about. Me, like many of you out there can cast themselves as being givers, emotionally available, trusting and so damn selfless. It sets up a narrative of being the pure victim, the well-meaning innocent who got absolutely hornswoggled and bears zero responsibility.

      Cheaters can all go jump in a flaming pit as far as I am concerned, but we chumps have a responsibility to check ourselves a bit.

      There can be a desperate need to be liked beneath the benign selves we project. This may be the biggest toxic thing we do to ourselves and others. Boundaries are essential and they are damn hard to establish when you want to please everyone. I still struggle with this.

      My moment of clarity on this happened after I broke up with a girlfriend (post-divorce from my cheater). I realized I wanted her to be my friend after I broke up, which in itself is a cheater-esque play for having cake. “Please like me. Can’t we all just be friends? I am so nice.” What a shitty thing to do to someone you break up with.

      • Chump Around! Thank you for that. So completely spot on to what I am learning about myself too. And in relation to the victim triangle outlined above from earlier commenters, the need to be liked sort of keeps us trapped in that triangle. With regard to my cheater, I spent a lot of time focusing so hard on all the ways he sucks (which was necessary for me to finally boot him and move on.) but now that I feel nothing for him, I still focus on him more than I should. I let his narcissism get to me while trying to coparent, and sometimes I find that I let myself engage in arguments with him (which is 100% of the time pointless). But I think some part of me does it so that I can focus on him as the bad guy and avoid dealing with my deep down issues of my struggle with boundaries and people pleasing. I am finally starting to learn that if I set a boundary that is important to me, and somebody doesn’t like it, then that’s on them. And that is a FIRST for me in my life. And I do also feel like I’ve been stuck for a long time and haven’t really grown as a person, and becoming aware of these issues and tackling them is a HUGE step forward!

        • @marymary, similar struggles here. It took me forever to see him as the bad guy, and now I don’t want to give up on that because it makes me feel better (#victim)

          Sigh. First it sucks, and then it really sucks….

  • This post is very similar to my situation. I have gone no contact (protective order) with ex narc and no contact with his family including his daughter who I helped raise and is half sister to my son. It is painful and I feel tremendous guilt over it. Right now it’s how it has to be. Maybe once she is older, her and her brother can have a relationship. For now , for my safety and my sons, it’s how it has to be. I hope one day she will understand.

  • Maybe all the kid needs and asked for is an honest opinion from a trusted adult but the response given was go ask someone else. That’s sad to me because I remember going through something very similar at the same age.

    It wouldn’t take much time or even a strong connection to let her know the truth. I don’t think sugar coating the facts is necessary at her age. If it was me I’d tell her exactly what happened and what her father is really all about. And let her know she can ask for an honest opinion about relationships and expect one, with no sugar on top. Maybe she’ll want one, maybe she won’t.

    I really believe chances are good she’ll experience narcissistic abuse in her life. Sure wish someone would have clued me in when I was young, I might have made better choices.

    • She already has experienced narcissistic abuse. Both her parents are narcs and the whole thing of reading graphic sex posts of dad’s is abuse. Both the chump and the daughter are victims here and both need help. The adult chump may not be able to help but she should know to find someone who can.

      The burning house analogy- Get out but call the fire department to help the ones who are left inside.

      • Exactly, this girl is experiencing abuse from that freak she calls dad. In her heart I’m sure she knows its messed up. The best thing the step mom could do is let her know it’s messed up behavior. The step mom could be a catalyst for positive change in this girls life. Sure its not easy but it is possible. I think we have to put ourselves out there sometimes. Kids actually do need our help.

  • Stepmom, I would add that your ex finds you very, very u$eful regarding his daughter’$ need$$$. And she is old enough (she has sex) to know it and sees very clearly which fowl lays golden eggs.

    • Exactly! Cheater narc ex certainly doesn’t want to pay out $$$ for dear daughter, even if he had the funds. Step daughter is well aware where the bread was buttered. That is the only reason ex wants Stepmom to stay in daughter’s life. Have a civil conversation with ex step daughter, let her know the best way possible her father is a loser and using people is no way to go thru life. Then cut ties. The odds of step daughter not picking up bad habits from narc parents are not in her favor.

    • I find the writer’s interpretation of that comment ambiguous and I would still like to give the daughter the benefit of the doubt with that fact that she might have admitted that her father is a no-fun, emotionally neglectful, do the bare minimum dad. She’s fifteen, so she has agency, but really, is she that clear ($$$$ wise) as to what the daughter actually meant?

      • I guess the true test, if she wanted to be bothered, was to provide emotional but no financial support, and see how it shakes out – ie whether the daughter would start asking for money etc or was happy just to talk. Too chumpy of me?

        • Not too chumpy… I agree.
          I’ve been raising my nephew for 7 years now, and it feels about the same as my birth children. I too have done: Dr. appointments, travel, driving him to school, conferences etc… Although he’s now 18 and acting like an immature jerk, I love him. He is mine. I lecture him when he needs it, enforce boundaries, pray for him… all the things parents do. We’ve been a part of each others lives, and I’ve been truly and wholly invested. I never had guardianship. When my sister in law passed away, she wanted my x to have sole guardianship. Guess who did all the parenting? Guess who he wanted to to stay with? My nephew knew that I loved him and would fight for him, and he knew that x probably wouldn’t. I don’t want to judge, but I just can’t relate to severing a relationship with a kid that is reaching out to you. I would draw the line at financial support, and like you said, “see how it all shakes out”. I don’t think that’s being chumpy. I think that’s being kind. If it’s not in x Stepmom’s heart to continue the relationship, then I agree with Chumplady, the young lady would be better off without the added mindfuck. Being a teen is hard enough without throwing in a mentally ill mother, and narc father.

  • I’ll be the bad guy I guess…

    To me, it sounds like he’s trying to keep you around his daughter so that he can continue to pawn at least some of his parents obligations onto you. If she goes without fun stuff on his time, that’s 100% on him, not you. Dad has been getting out of doing his part of parenting long enough. He’ll survive if he has to pitch in the next two or three years until she’s 18 and finished with high school with. Plus, it sounds like his daughter already knows her father is a lackadaisical dad anyway. It’s just not your responsibility and although others may disagree with me on this, I don’t think that most of what you did ever was. Paying his child support (and alimony)? Handling doctor visits and teacher conferences? What the hell is HIS responsibility in this? And he’s supposed to keep that after the divorce and everything he did? I don’t think so. Don’t guilt-trip yourself. None of that was your reasonability to begin with and it definitely isn’t now.

    Just tell her exactly what CL suggested. Maybe in a few years when she’s an adult and you’ve had more time away from her dad, you and your forget stepdaughter can get back into contact.

  • When deciding whether to keep or chuck a relationship, I always ask myself:

    (1) What am I getting out of the relationship?
    (2) What am I sacrificing for the relationship?
    (3) Have I made a promise to anyone (including myself) that I will maintain this relationship (e.g., the bonds of marriage)?
    (4) Do I have a duty to care for this person (e.g., child, ward, dependent adult) that overrides the fact the relationship is one-sided and draining?
    (5) What will happen to the person if I don’t maintain the relationship?
    (6) Are the negative consequences of ending this relationship for the other person my responsibility or someone else’s?
    (7) Does the person have someone else – anyone else – to turn to? They do not have to be as competent or kind as you are. Remember that.

    Unless you promised this child you would be their parent forever, then you don’t have a parental duty of care.

    It seems like she has other people in her life she could rely on, she’s just coming to you because she prefers you (for whatever reason).

    If you do feel a responsibility to her, is there is someone whom could help her in your stead? Does she have other cool aunts? Do you have any friends that knew her as a kid that could talk to her? Is there a Planned Parenthood office nearby?

    What is the consequence to her of your telling her that having that type of relationship is too difficult and will cause issues between her and her parents?

  • I had a NC relationship with my sister and a relationship with my neice/her daughter. When we were together, we kept the conversation about us and did not talk about other people. She knew why I was NC with my sister, who is one of my abusers growing up. …it sounds like your step-daughter doesn’t know why your marriage to her father ended….

    I wonder what would happen if you told her why you divorced him and fhat is what’s underneath your distance from him her…..it is a very awkward situation. (I think it would be awesome for her at 15 to have the truth if she doesn’t already….). She is related to your ex husband but she doesn’t HAVE to be a doorway to him. There is the option of that door being nailed shut and you still having a relationship that works for both of you. I have plenty of family fractures around this very issue due to addiction//abuse/alcoholism….you CAN keep the door closed with one relative and have a relationship with a connected relative. IF you want….

    I got a lot of counseling around this kind of thing and I highly recommend it…good luck!

    • I also have a NC with my mother…my husband’s sister…and have relationships with connected relatives. This is super tricky ground but it’s possible to navigate and it doesn’t have to be the enmeshed everybody or nobody at all, IF you want….

      • To further clarify…I am not implying you should be in a relationship with her…I just wanted to share my experience as a option…
        But I would for sure suggest telling her the truth about the disconnect if you haven’t already…

  • I raised my step daughters since they were toddlers. I divorced their mother while they were in college. They are the only children I have.

    I want to be in their lives, but they refuse. Mad at me for divorcing their mother and “destroying the family.”

    That is the heartache I experience. I have just learned how to live with it.

    • I am so sorry. I hope that when they are older and more mature, they will understand things better and return to your life.

    • I’m so sorry for your pain. Whether the child is biological or adopted or a stepchild (but raised as your own), when they reject you it HURTS! You loved them unconditionally. I hope for your sake that they mature and see that you didn’t destroy the family, that their mother destroyed it when she stepped out of the marriage. There’s a good chance that they will mature and see this. When/if that day comes, just accept them back into your life as ‘the prodigal sons’. You’ve learn to establish boundaries by learning how to live with their alienation. Maintain your boundaries for your own sake, and when/if they choose to come back to you, tell them that you have always been their dad. A ‘dad’ or ‘mom’ isn’t necessarily the one who donated the sperm/egg. The dad or mom is the person that took care of them when they were sick, went to their parent/teacher conferences, took them their lunches when they forget them, etc. You may have to wait till they have their own children and realize what’s involved in being a ‘mom’ before they understand how hurtful it was to you for them to shun you. But for your sake, I hope the day comes when they come back to you and apologize. Remember, they’re young right now, and essentially, stupid and self-centered right now. It’s ‘all about me’ and “their” pain. They’re not focused on your hurt or their mother’s infidelity. They’re still young. Be patient and have hope.

    • I raised the Traitor’s son with the Whore (who was his 2nd ex wife and I was never the OW), for almost 10 years. Since the Traitor left over 2 years ago, I have not seen this little boy. His other sons from his first marriage stayed in touch for a bit, but have turned completely over the last year. Now the 24 year old lives with the Traitor and the Whore. The 27 year old is renting the Whore’s old house from her. The 19 year old has not replied to any email or phone calls I made to him in almost 2 years. They all know what their dad and the Whore did to me. Also I am 90% sure that the Whore was the OW in that first marriage. The Traitor’s dad certainly thought so. Naturally when we were together we paid for all their costs together and I treated them as I would have treated my own children. Maybe that wasn’t good enough for them, since they haven’t told me why they chose to act like this I don’t know what their reasons are.
      I don’t know what sort of bond we had. I know I thought I treated them as I would have wanted my kids to be treated, I planned for their future, educationally and financially. On the other hand, they can’t have bonded with me in the same way, as shown by their behaviour now. It’s understandable in the sense that both their parents are alive so I was just a spare wheel I guess.
      I feel betrayed and this feeling is getting worse. In a way the oldest 3 boys’ attitude is the hardest thing to accept now about this situation. The Traitor is a sex-obsessed idiot and he has a son with the Whore, the Whore’s son is naturally his mother’s son and has to paint me as bad to preserve his parents’ image. But the other 3. I just don’t get it. They are adults and free to make their own choices. I understand the need and desire to get on with everyone to preserve their family. I would have been perfectly fine with them being Switzerland or cordial with the Whore since she lives with their dad and their half-brother.
      My conclusion is that if I ever get involved with a man who has children again, I will keep my distance and not be involved in the children’s lives.
      If the letter writer doesn’t feel a strong connection with this girl, I think CL is right, tell her that you need to distance yourself from her dad and anyone connected to him because of what he has done, at least until she is an adult.

  • I’ve written before about my x-family life. Married X, in 2000, when his son was 4 and his daughter was 5.5. I tended to them as the best I could. In 2009, they came to live with after a custody battle. The daughter went back to her mom’s when she graduated and the son stayed with us and still lives with his father while college. I was a parent/caretaker in every sense of the word.

    I understand the boundaries and I’m dealing with the “should I or shouln’t I” stay in their lives. I know the X has told that they should maintain a relationship if they wish but I think we are all in the same boat. They feel loyalty to their father (and I honestly don’t know what he has told them) and I’m sure they don’t know what to say to me either. I don’t know what to say them. They still have both parents and I’ve never been under an illusion that I was more than a stepparent.

    I sent both of them a text after D-Day just letting them know that I was so proud of them and their accomplishments, and their lives. I asked for forgiveness from my stepdaughter. We had the usual mother/daughter tiffs and I’m sure I didn’t always handle the situations with grace. She wrote back that there was nothing to forgive and that I was a good stepmother and had gone over and beyond for them. I didn’t realize how much I needed to hear those words. (there’s was lots of tears).

    It’s OK to have boundaries – I need them too. The fact is they don’t need me in their lives and I’m sure they have some sadness but I’m also sure that I don’t occupy their thoughts. And I need to move forward. Keeping in contact with them pulls me in and it’s not good for me.

  • Ex-Stepmom Chump,
    If this girl reached out to you about something that personal, she clearly felt she had a bond with you. Not treating it as the big piece of trust it was probably made her feel much worse. If you took her to appointments and what-not, I can’t see how you couldn’t bond with her.
    When she said “when are we going to do anything fun?” I don’t see that as “seeing where the money came from.” I heard that as “my dad is a drag, you were the one who made him do something with me.”

  • “But a lack of connection didn’t stop me from taking her to all her doctor appointments, attending parent-teacher conferences, planning her activities, helping with homework, taking her shopping and getting mani/pedis together, enjoying long talks about friends and boys and life”

    Does her own Mom not do these things with/for her? I know you said she was diagnosed with NPD but why wouldn’t her own mom be taking her to Dr. Apt and planning activities. Sounds like you are the cash cow and both parents know it. Don’t let them take advantage of you anymore. Sad for the girl and who knows maybe she is in on it too. If she’s short answered with you already and you didn’t feel a bond it might be a manipulation. I guess I just don’t have much trust in any people these days. They all want to take advantage of those willing to give and those wanting to help.

    I agree with CL send a note or wait to send a note if she even reaches out to you. Chances are she won’t ever reach out to you again. If I were in your shoes, I’d probably wait to see if she ever did reach out and then I would send a message about how you just have to stay out of things for your own sanity.

    Good luck and be THANKFUL you didn’t have any kids with the monster.

  • I am finding it very difficult to understand how someone could be so closely involved with a child from age 7 to age 15 and feel no bond or connection to her. Just wow. I feel very sorry for her … she has three problematic adults in her life. You would be doing her a favor by honestly backing out. I hope you don’t find yourself in the position of caring for children in the future.

    • If you’ve never been a stepparent married to a triangulating narc, it’s tough to comprehend. Try to imagine doing all of the heavy lifting for a child who isn’t yours and therefore rejects your attempts at bonding, whose hostility is encouraged by manipulative narc, whose aunts and uncles offer no help, no encouragement, all the while you are running in circles trying figure out if your partner is cheating or if it’s all in your head.

      Tying this into yesterday’s post, where are all the inlaws? Can’t they step up to the plate and take over some of the parenting or are they content to just sit back smugly judge.

      • My stepson (XH the Substance Abuser’s kiddo) was an adult when we married. I did a lot of heavy lifting there, helping him choose a school and begin the journey through Associates, B.S. and MBS degrees. Helped pay tuition and kicked in money for his wedding. We got along fine, but the bond was not an emotional one. He wasn’t the slightest bit interested in me as a person, but I saw him as a kind of arrested development case. Once he got “launched” into his first successful college experience, he was good to go. In dealing with him, I tapped my teacher mode, let XH be the parent other than on one notable occasion, and did my best to further his life. We are not in touch at all since the split but I keep in touch with his wife, his aunt, and his cousins–all females. I have a much stronger emotional bond with all of them.

    • Hey it takes one I am sorry your step kids treated you badly and you don’t feel like reaching out to them. But the question in this post is about going no contact with a kid who did reach out and was rejected by a parental figure.

      I think your lashing out at Dixie shows a level of anger that speaks volumes about why your therapist said what he or she said. I hope you continue with the therapy.

      A lot of chumps go on to new relationships and many encounter the step family dynamic and it can sure be a mine field. That’s why it’s so damn critical to heal ourselves prior to these new relationships.

  • I think it’s fascinating that in this collection of utterly horrible people you’re in contact with, the *only* one you want to fully freeze out is an entirely innocent child who is being actively abused by her father.

    You’ve clearly directed your (justified!) anger at your ex towards the safest, most powerless target around, rather than deal with him.

    Stop hurting the kid, get to a therapist, and write the letter CL suggested. You can’t change what’s done here but you can improve.

  • My situation with ex narcopath mirrors what the OP wrote. He had the same con and is the same predator just in a different body.

    When I left, I was devastated at leaving my two stepsons. They were 8 and 11 at the time and ex was particularly crafty at using his children against me as a punishment. If ex was mad and me for something, he would tell the boys they could stay up as late as they want! Because they were not morning people and were a nightmare to get ready for school. He knew this would upset me as our morning routine was tough enough. Or, he would buy certain groceries and school goodies for his kids but not share with my kids….. He KNEW the kids were my soft spot and used them well.

    The oldest boy was 11 and had ADHD. He struggled with transitions and had a hard time with school. Ex and his exwife had completely checked out of reality when it came to managing his behaviours and were, in my opinion, negligent in seeking the help that this boy needed. This boy does not respect women, harms others and animals, threatens suicide and is almost past the point of changing his trajectory towards prison. His formative years have come and gone and I begged, BEGGED, ex to get this boy help, and he half assed it but I believe the reluctance on both parents part is because they were both worried their son would say how abusive ex and exwife are towards him and they would both lose custody of him..

    The younger son was very lovely and kind and was still young enough to be “saved” but again, neither parent was willing to invest, and as a stepmom the only thing I could do was love him up.

    When I left, I felt tremendous guilt over leaving the boys. Ex narcopath would hoover and he was shameless. He would even get the boys to call me and tell me how sad their dad was, etc.

    After 5th dday, I contacted the exwife and confirmed everything ex narcopath did to me, he did to her first. I also missed the boys and wished to still have some form of relationship with them, which she was open too.

    However, I got a glimpse at exwifes parenting, and it caused rifts in our friendship. She was like ex – using the boys in her conflict with ex. Using them as a tool to manipulate. Encouraging them to hate the new gf and her kids.

    And I found myself in the same boat as OP, where the boys were having verbal diarrhea about their dads new gf and how they hated her and her kids and why can’t their dad just get back together with me. … it greatly affected my healing to hear these things and sent my spiraling into a deep depression.

    My friendship with exwife came to an abrupt end when she started telling me what ex and new gf were doing (a vacation that he had future faked with me that he was currently on with new gf) and delighted in my pain upon hearing it. She also told me the struggles that new gf was having with oldest stepson destroying items in the gfs house and laughing when one of her daughters fell down the stairs, and exwife was a little too smug that her son had done that, and that left me feeling sick and questioning why I was associating with a person like this.

    Many months later, I ran into my stepsons at a local subway and we were able to chat and catch up. Each encounter with them leaves me heartbroken and sad for days, crying to my therapist that I left them behind to the wolves… Her response was that I need to accept that I am no longer their stepmom and that they have two parents – value the time I had with them but accept that it’s over. The boys always invited me to their sports games, which I have explained that I will not ever attend because I do not wish to see their parents. They confessed that they have a picture of me and my kids from a memorable camping trip, and that they hide it and look at it often. I reassure them that I love then and hope them all the best in life, but we probably won’t see each other much in the future.

    The very last time I spoke with ex narcopath during our “pivotal 3 hour conversation ” he tried to hurt me by saying his boys always hated me anyways. At the time I was crushed. Now, I know in my heart that is not true.

    It is very difficult to leave behind people we love, especially when we invested and loved them as our own.

    To the OP: know that you are not alone in the situation and it feels like a lose not matter how you frame it…..sigh.

    • It may take years for those boys to figure out what you meant in their lives. I am still grateful to adults who saw my struggle and were kind to me.

      • “It may take years for those boys to figure out what you meant in their lives”

        Even if they never do, it does not mean that you didn’t make a difference and your actions weren’t worth it.

        Anything worth doing is worth doing even if you get no credit for it.

  • Ex-Step Mom — I feel for you. Your story of being with a sociopath and all the mind-fuckery reminds me of my own sociopath, though our stories are very different.

    I agree with CL on setting boundaries with the 15 year old. I wish and hope you will consider telling the step-daughter the truth: Her father cheated on you. You do not need to cover for him and certainly do not need to lie for him. People can handle the truth. Please do not underestimate one’s ability to absorb difficult news, even for a 15 year-old. It breaks my heart to read your response to her when she reached out to you to share she was considering having sex. She chose to tell you and you were dismissive; it must have been crushing and callous to receive that reply. I say that not to be mean, but to help you open your eyes. Telling her the truth will help her realize the consequences of one’s actions and she will hopefully follow your lead on setting boundaries with men who mentally abuse her like her father did to you. In time, she will respect you and understand, if she does not already do.

    I hope you find your peace. What your ex did to you makes me want to cry; I’m very sorry. Sociopaths leave a wake of destruction with everyone they touch.

  • I could be you, XSC. I was the second wife. There were 4 bio children and a stepchild who all “came with” Mr. Sparkles. 3 lived out of state and came every summer. 2 eventually came to live with us full-time (no, their mother paid zero child support). My sunk costs all-in are about $100K. Summer camps, airline tickets, sports, school clothes, I was the ATM because Mr. Sparkles had “bad credit”. When I think back now, sweet jesus.

    BUT – about setting boundaries with stepchildren… assuming there is a legitimate reason to stay in contact… what I have learned is that you have to be very upfront and very clear that the WALLET is closed. Only from there can you build an authentic relationship.

    I am not “friends” on any social media platforms with them, for their privacy and mine.

    I do not loan them money.

    I invite them over for dinner 2 – 4 times a year because I have a son that is their half-sibling.

    But it took me four years to get here. At one point, long after Mr. Sparkles had moved on (the OW dumped him) and found a new parasitic host, my stepdaughter asked if she could live with me. I was flattered – what a big “fuck you” to my X and his first wife (whom he continued to fuck throughout our marriage apparently). I thought – what an amazing validation.

    BUT… after 9 months… I realized quite simply that it wasn’t my responsibility Just as I cannot save every woman who gets involved with Mr.Sparkles from his cheating on them (which he does)… I cannot take on the responsibility for “saving” my stepchildren. I have a son to raise and I have a life of my own to build.

    For me, this sounds incredibly selfish… how do you not help a child? But even on airplanes, they tell you to put your oxygen mask on first. So for now, I love my stepkids from a distance. If they reach out, I respond – but I refuse to discuss anything relating to their parents. Not my monkeys, not my circus. I am trying to model behavior that shows boundaries don’t mean “angry”… boundaries mean “self caring”… and I think that is something every child of a Cheater needs to learn.

  • Oh, Boy. This situation is very similar to mine with ex-SD. The difference is, she’s now had 4 pretend mommies since her parent split up. Loyalty has been demanded for her with each new Schmoopie. And she’s just probably fucking tired of her Dad’s drama. She’s abandoned her friendship with my daughter as well, saying it isn’t fair that she and her Dad had to struggle while we still went on Vacations. Well, she’s right. But we didn’t cause this. Her dad did. And her dad lied to her about a LOT. Even petty stufflike telling her we stole his Christmas decorations and making her cry when they were sorted lovingly by me while I sobbed and put in boxes in the shed for his lazy ass to come get. He had NOTHING to smear us with, but man he tried hard. She was also told to keep her new half sister a secret. That’s just abusive.

    The situation was almost identical. No prostitutes, but he sponged off me for years. Groused about how I spent my money. Would leave me to pay for his daughter’s school fees, supplies, lunches and clothing. BOTH her parents did this. I was the one taking her to appointments, picking her up sick from school, making sure she had her black pants and white shirt for orchestra. I was perplexed how little these two seemed to care unless it was a chance to feud with each other. That poor kid.

    We were trying to live our lives and just heal. She knew she was welcome to visit any time. We checked in with her constantly and then less and less. She rarely reached out. So we let go. The door is still open, but never at the expense of accepting her Dad’s false narrative. You can see her dilemma. I do not blame her. If she reaches out I’ll treat her well. She is blameless.

    Let me tell you, I don’t think the child of narcissist who has put his kid through five different mommies, NINE half and fake stepsiblings and over a dozen living arrangements in her life needs to be vilified and shut out by another adult. It will probably happen naturally.

    Really being at MEH means we don’t blame children when adult relationships go awry.

  • As usual, I see a slightly different angle. With the water that is already under the bridge, I wonder, why write a letter explaining everything now? Who would that letter be for?

    If the stepdaughter is no longer initiating contact, and if your intent is to end contact with her, then maybe it is best to let that dog sleep. Unless you would be offering her something she *does* want/need, I’m not sure it’s anything but potentially hurtful to cite reasons you aren’t planning to give her things she does want/need. She’s 15. She’s not likely thinking much about how the adults feel in lieu of her own grief, fear, and paradigm.

    Now if the letter was going to be an apology for the prior response when she reached out, for letting your pain and fear motivate you to avoid reaching back openly, coupled with a description of what you can offer (support and love) along with what you can’t offer (like maybe how you’re not her parent so can only be a good friend, don’t want to triangulate with her against the dad because you can’t be neutral about him because he betrayed you and you don’t want to just spew useless vitriol about her father because that would only hurt her in the long run, can’t have contact with her father because it isn’t healthy for you, etc.) then I could see value and purpose in it. If you were saying “I AM here, and I can’t do parent things for you in place of your parents, but I can support you emotionally while you navigate those waters, and I’m sorry I said that so badly before”, that could be meaningful.

    I know some people have responded harshly here, and I realize I may endure the same for writing this. It happens. It’s all too easy to judge, and to ridicule rather than educate, online. But I think your intentions are ultimately good with this young lady and I think she (a) knows more than you think she knows, and (b) can’t possibly possess a full set of tools at this age to even know for sure what all she wants and needs in the face of her parents’ BS, let one to clearly describe her wants and needs to you.

    In summary, I guess I agree about the honesty and boundary setting, but I guess I disagree about the pathway to getting there. You will get a billion opinions, and you will need to choose what you think is right for you in the end.

    You are brave for thinking of her heart, and your own, and being willing to admit you may have made mistakes. I wish you peace and strength and improved boundaries and all the tools you need as you choose your next steps.

  • Probably the best (and most rip the band-aid) off response I’ve read from Tracy. It’s okay to go no contact, but don’t screw the teenager up even more in the process. The right thing would be to reach out to the stepdaughter, explain the situation and apologize and then throw her to the wolves, because there’s little hope for someone with two narcissistic parents…just saying 🙂
    Lovedajackass is right (like always) regarding no contact. Real no contact is the only way to a) save oneself and b) move on. I wish us Chumps would focus more on both. I joined a divorced parents group a few months back. One of the members has been divorced for over ten years and still hasn’t let go- every time he does, his ex shows back up with another sad sausage story and drags him back in.
    His life sucks. Another member divorced a narcissist and keeps dating the same type of guy…I’m aware and she’s aware and we can joke about it, but it’s all fucked up. Her life sucks too.
    But we beat on right, boats against the current…

  • She needs to be told her dad cheated on you, your not doing her any favours by covering up the crap her dad did, unfortunately she may think he’s the way all men are like but that’s not your problem, do you know what the biological mum is really like but only have your exs views, she needs positive male role models.

  • I can’t help wondering if the reason you never bonded with her was because her dad was a narcissist? They usually are in competition with their children for attention, And like most of their activities, they lie and manipulate. Are you sure it is your decision not to like her or were you lead to that conclusion by your ex. Image management works more than one direction.

    I think this child loves you. To reach out with such a personal thing. No kid does that lightly. I didn’t even do that as I had no one to reach out to at that age. I can’t shake the feeling, you have been played, And this poor kid is paying a far higher price than anyone else in this situation.

  • I’m coming at this from a different direction. I have three teenagers but really no blood family, just a sister who never contacts me, it’s all from my side. She sends cards and presents at Christmas and birthdays but doesn’t seem interested in our lives. All my support during the marriage breakdown has been from stbxh side, but that support has been tremendous. However, that’s one SIL and an elderly ailing FIL.

    I don’t have a wide circle of friends. There’s always someone, but my closest friend just went back to work and we don’t see each other too much. I’m not great pals with my work colleagues. Being selfish and turning this post to my problems, I do sometimes fear becoming lonely. And part of my ‘not good enough’ is that family didn’t keep in contact with me – tho I’ve never lived near them. But I also worry a great deal about my kids. They get along pretty well, but I just hope they will have some sort of support structure in the future.

    • AFKAC – Don’t think you weren’t good enough. Sometimes the other side of that coin is, if you came from a disfunctional FOO is that you were no longer any use to them. Hard to take I know, but it probably had nothing to do with you as a person. Hugs.

  • Just thinking….this blog is the ICU for one of life’s most painful, difficult, complicated, effed up traumas. So many of us are raw nerves without skin, making ourselves vulnerable with posts and emails. When I respond I have a shield of anonymity and distance with my electronic devices. I don’t think anyone brave enough to speak up here needs to be harshed. Even though my presence is in the form typewritten words on a screen and not interacting F2F, those words have energy and the power to harm or heal. I tell my daughter all the time that we have to be careful with each other. I feel like leaving this forum when I see or experience harsh here. 😢

    • I agree, Velvet Hammer. There are ways to have differences of opinion, and even to deliver a well-placed 2 x 4, that comes from love and concern for another chump rather than vitriol.

        • Velvet Hammer, I really like your analogy to an ICU. Being cheated on after a 21 year relationship and marriage was by far the worst thing that had happened to me, including the sudden death of my father. Nothing prepares you for it. My divorce was 1998 and yet I remember trying to explain to my friends how horrific the betrayal was.

          • I tell people it’s like waking up in an ICU, in life support, bleeding to death, with every doctor in the hospital standing around you, wondering if you are going to live, unable to help you, with NO pain medication. And you’re on another planet in an unknown universe where you don’t speak the language. I have been in an ICU because of asthma with doctors unable
            to help and wondering what to do….that was way easier for me….

            • I was married for 20 years, together for 27. My dad died suddenly of a heart attack. And I am sad to say that felt like a day at the park compared to this…. 😢
              (I have NO extended family and my husband, my only family besides our daughter, betrayed me….)

  • Still can’t get over the coldness toward this poor kid, no one would condone it toward a biological child but she was “just” a step so too bad.

    The OP chose to become a parental figure for years and had a family history with this girl. And yes recovering chumps have to learn healthy boundaries but my gosh we’re still human are we not?!

    • I think this really, truly comes down to one’s definition of child.

      Is this your child or not?

      The fact she’s a step-child and not a blood relative should not be the determining factor.

      I have a stepchild who IS MY CHILD.

      I have friends who do not feel the same.

    • NoMo, your response fuels my need to defend step parents.

      I spent a lot of time with my stepsons before I moved in with them and their dad (ex narcopath). My own two children liked them and they got along well and because I only work weekends, I volunteered to watch them alongside my kids during the summer months. We had a blast and bonded well.

      However, my family and friends all openly detested these boys. They did not like their manners, that they monopolized the conversation not allowing my kids a voice, they they broke everything they came in contact with (think: bulls in a China shop) and they were “too affectionate ” by giving hugs to people they just met.

      I excused stepsons behavior away because I was sold the story by ex narcopath that their mother was a bad mother and neglected them and that the oldest stepson was legitimately diagnosed with ADHD which made him talk. A lot.

      When ex narcopath asked me to move in, my family and friends all questioned me, whether I had “bit off too much” in taking these boys on. But I loved them and considered them part of my family.

      I did everything for these boys, as I did my own children, and it wasn’t easy. For some reason, when school started and we began living there, oldest stepson starting becoming very verbally aggressive during our morning routine. Asking him to do anything to prepare for school time resulted in him telling me to “fuck off”. Ex narcopath would leave for work, not a care in the world, while I am battling ww3 with his son.

      It got to the point where I looked at the other 3 children, who were watching me, with wide eyes, be disrespected by both stepson and dad, and I refused to allow stepson home in the morning with us. He could be dropped off at school early on dads way to work. After that threat, stepson smartened up.

      Then came stepsons yearly pediatrician appointment. I work with behaviours. I felt stepson was misdiagnosed with ADHD and was exhibiting major side effects to the medication he was taking for it. Dad had no idea what I was talking about and exwife blocked me from being allowed to attend the drs appointment. Yes, as a stepmom I was overstepping, however neither parent could explain any history on how or why oldest stepson was diagnosed with ADHD nor could they remember last time he had blood work done!

      So, according to his parents, I could care take for him, like a babysitter, and I could buy him whatever he needed, and when he got suspended from school ALL THE TIME, I could deal with the school and the fallout, but when it came to important decisions and medical care, I was was not allowed a say.

      And his mother created massive loyalty binds for him telling him that he did not have to listen to me, that I was a bad mom, etc.

      While things in my relationship to ex narcopath where coming to a crisis point, I realized that my future as a stepmom to these boys was looking bleak, because every week they came back from their mothers and it was a complete reset and always back to square one with their disrespectful behaviours.

      I was also receiving a lot of criticism from family and friends who were pointing out the vast amount of energy and time I was spending on oldest stepson vs time with my own lovely, sweet children and they were worried about the impact on my children being exposed to his rude behaviours. They questioned what the parents were doing to improve the situation (nothing) and encouraged me to refocus on my own children.

      All of this led me to have to choose between the safety, health and happiness of my own children vs my stepsons. It was an awful headspace to be in.

      I chose my own children and my sanity.

      In spite of all of this, I still care for stepsons deeply and worry who would be guiding them in life since his parents obviously could not. But they have extended family.

      I had to let them go. I cannot save them. If, as adults my stepsons sought me out for a healthier relationship then I would be open to exploring that possibility.

      However, to have an open relationship with my stepsons now, at their young age, opens me up to being targeted by BOTH ex narcopath AND the exwife, and I am completely NC from both of them for my own safety.

      And let me just add, that my own kids have a stepmom. She does well by them and they enjoy their time with her. I know that she acts as a buffer between them and their dad (he has a bad temper) and I know that she is responsible for planning fun activities and crafts. I have commended her on being a great stepmom, and even after saying that, I will admit that I do not particularly care for her. However, I have assured her that should she and the kids dad ever break up, that if my kids desire a relationship with her, I would help to facilitate that.

      And. Should my kids ever disrespect her, that I would be greatly displeased and she should discuss this with me so can plan how to handle it together.

      • Thank you for sharing all that! Stepparenting is so hard. I wish I’d had you as my ex-SD’s biomom! Sounds like you’re doing right by your kids and they’ll really benefit from it. I’m sure it’s hard to turn your kids over to another woman. Doesn’t matter if you like her or not.

        My biomom was abusive to the point that the cheater had to file a motion with the court to use parenting software for communication.

        That court-supervised software didn’t stop her from writing abusive emails to the cheater, interspersed with emails about how she still loves him and misses sex with him.

        She hated me from the beginning and did everything she could to poison my ex-SD against me. I just tried to steer clear of her.

        Her vitriol toward me for all of those 9 years made it very confusing when she texted me that I could see ex-SD on her time. I have to assume it’s not coming from a place of concern for ex-SD’s well-being. I did not see evidence of that in her, quite the opposite actually.

  • NO WAY is the OP at “Tuesday” after 7 months, she’s deluding herself.
    In my opinion it can take a few YEARS after the divorce is final to hit “meh” and a few years after that to finally hit “Tuesday”.
    For me, I’m almost 7 years past Dday and 6 after the divorce was final and was at “meh” 3 years after. I’m really close to my “Tuesday” and have completely moved on, have has little contact as possible with Ex and am happily remarried. The issue is that until the kids ALL are 18, I still have to deal with her.

    I was reminded of this recently since my oldest is over 18 and in college (he’s not living with her and she isn’t giving him any money for school or anything). I rightly and legally informed her that his child support was over. I was then bombarded with full on RAGE channel threatening me with legal action, etc. Have to love the disordered and expected it. She’s literally wanting to go to court to make me keep paying her his child support which is “HER MONEY”. The real reason is that she and the OM (now her husband) have for years been living high on the hog off of my money and the “tit is starting to go dry”.

    My advice to OP is what I do— treat everyone with respect and total honesty and her former step daughter deserves that as well. Also she really needs to go to therapy and “fix her picker” or history is going to repeat itself.

  • I know this is the minority position but really. The stepdaughter is a CHILD, and the chump is the adult who should act like one. This child, whom she’s parented since age 7, is another innocent victim and more helpless than the chump. Parents (biological or step/psychological) shouldn’t abandon their kids as part of their “self care.” All the stuff about not liking the child is irrelevant, selfish rationalization. Chump should grow up herself and treat others the way she wants to be treated — i.e. not disposable because of inconvenience.

    • I agree. It’s hard to think, but some parents don’t LIKE their biological children, but that doesn’t change their responsibility to them – not just as their offspring but as vulnerable human beings.

  • I think CL’s advise is spot on. Imagine all the heartache you could have been spared had the cheater handled their feelings in an adult manner instead of cheating. Instead, the cheater led you on with false hope, and little to no intent to commit to whatever declaration he was making.

    The way you have approached this child is along that same vein. While it doesn’t seem your intention is to deceive, use, and gain advantage (like the cheater did to you) in the end, intention doesn’t really matter if the outcome is the same… she feels lied to, discarded, deceived and played for a fool. No doubt your honesty will hurt, but you don’t get to control her feelings.

    In my opinion lying comes from a place of wanting to control. Sure people tell themselves “I lie because I don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings” but really, it’s because you want to control what they are feeling.

    The intent behind a lie can come from a place of causing someone to accept as truth what is false or invalid : the act of deceiving – resorting to falsehood and deception to gain the upper hand with the intent to “gain power over” or Lying can come from a place of perception; a way of controlling regard, understanding, or the interpretation of something; controlling someone else’s mental impression. Of course lies can be a combination of from both.

    My perception here is, you genuinely do not have an intent to deceive, but you DO want to control her interpretation of you, your actions, and how she feels. That’s not something you get to control.

    When my kids lie to me, as kids often do, and their excuse is, “I didn’t want to hurt your feelings” I tell them, “That’s not somesomething you get to control.”

    Polite lying is considered pro-social, because why would anyone who is a “good person” want to intentionally hurt someone else’s feelings.

    You can be polite and still be honest. Doing so means you give up the illusion of having control over how the other person interprets your honesty, and ultimately how they feel. Don’t get me wrong, I think polite lying has it’s place… “Yes, I really love that color on you! Isn’t going to result in life shattering fallout if you can tell that they really love that color and want some validation.

    In my opinion I think we as a society interpret lying backwards- we interpret lying from a place origin (intent), instead of from the reverse (outcome). The outcome being, the effect on BOTH parties.

    The hard part is being honest when we know the truth will hurt someone. When we have respect and concern for someone, we let them make assessments for their own lives based on truthful information. That means we let go of the outcome that WE want for ourselves… i.e. “I want them to think I’m a good, caring person.” It’s valuing the other persons faculties as equal to your own, and allowing them the right to make equal assessments for themselves.

  • A foster parent told me once every time she got a new child in her home the first thing she said was that she knew they loved their parents and missed them. She was not going to try to pretend to be their mother she was going to be their friend and to keep them safe. She said they did not have to love her but they did have to respect her house rules and to get along with everybody else. She said it took the burden off the kids immediately because they come into the relationship not knowing what to do and feel guilty if they don’t love you. I think this is true of stepparents and step children as well. Love grows or it does not, but respect can be there, and cooperation can be there. In this case once you write the letter, if you write the letter, then let it go. As a teenager she is moving away from family anyway. Her peer group is all important right now.

  • A complicated issue.

    I agree, of course, that NC with a cheater is the only path to truth and light and healing (and that includes NC through subsidiary friends on social media). However, it doesn’t need to entail NC with every single person connected to the cheater. I myself would have a difficult time relinquishing a child who had asked me for help. [This does not apply to anyone whose stepchildren decided to cut off ties to the chump.]

    Our pain is transitory; how we react to children (including, and perhaps especially, teens) can alter their psychological makeup. If the writer is to go no-contact with the stepdaughter, an honest letter is a must. However, consider whether it is a short-term strategy at the expense of a long-term benefit. If you truly have no bond with stepdaughter, then having her in your life in a year or two may not appeal. But if the “no bond” statement is simply a way to ease the pain of not having a relationship with stepdaughter, then explain to her that you are going to cut off social media ties so that you are not triggered by info about her father, but that she is welcome to reach out to you whenever she wants, and perhaps the two of you can catch lunch occasionally.

    And I mention the short- vs. long-term benefits for a reason; the pain after D-day and divorce is so searing that even slight reminders of the life-we-used-to-have can send us into a tailspin. Two years later, not so much. For example, Hannibal’s brother’s wife was morally on my side during the divorce (though she & her husband continue to see Hannibal and his AP/GF). Talking to her and seeing her in the first year was slightly painful as a reminder of the extended family to which I no longer belonged. However, 3 years post-divorce, I am thrilled we have kept in touch, and any news she feeds me about Hannibal is treated as gossip about someone I barely know. My continuing friendship with former-SIL also means I get to tangentially stay in her children’s lives (I have known them both since infancy). If my initial turmoil about the divorce had led me to cut off ties to SIL and my nephews, my life today would be impoverished instead of enriched.

    • I’m in the education field, and while I deal with college students instead of high school students, I find that the students don’t need to have someone they feel emotionally close to. Instead, they need to have a sane adult in whom they trust.

      This is probably the role that Ex-Step Daughter wants Ex-Step Mom to fill. Ex-Step Daughter has a couple of adults who bullshit her. Ex-Step Mom may not be emotionally close, but she’s stable and tells the truth.

      If Ex-Step Mom is okay with being a mentor and friend instead of a parent, then Ex-Step Mom needs to write a letter to Ex-Step Daughter telling Ex-Step Daughter the truth of the divorce and allowing Ex-Step Daughter to decide whether or not she wishes to have any contact with Ex-Step Mom. Ex-Step Mom needs to apologize for blowing off Ex-Step Daughter, and indicate that if Ex-Step Daughter is okay with seeing Ex-Step Mom as a friendly adult, then that would probably work out best for everyone.

      If Ex-Step Mom feels that she wants NC with the Ex-Step Daughter, she should still write the letter about the truth of the divorce, but also indicate that, given these circumstances and after some reflection, that it’s best for the two of them to make a clean break.

      If Ex-Step Mom tells Ex-Step Daughter that they’re going NC, then there is no going back. In the future, after Ex-Step Mom gets the therapy to fix her picker (2 cheaters in a row shows that there is a real picker problem and likely other issues, too), and starts to regret telling a 15-year-old to take a hike, there will be nothing that she can do to mend that fence.

      I would recommend telling the truth and setting the boundaries of the relationship. Be a mentor and friend, but not a parent, and indicate that if something comes up that the parent should know, she would report that to the mother (but not the father because of NC and the child does have 2 parents). This will establish distance between Ex-Step Mom Chump and her former step-daughter without damaging the child.

    • Excellent way to put this issue in perspective, Tempest. I have a similar relationship with my SIL and nieces. It’s not a day-to-day thing, but I love them and it’s great to have them in my life. But all of us both love XH the substance abuser and understand he’s made some destructive choices. That helps a lot. And none of us carry tales.

  • Honestly, this could be 85-90% of my story with exh2/The Evil One, minus the step-child issue. TEO mooched off of me, used me, then discarded and abandoned not only me, but our then-7-year-old Autistic daughter.
    I relate to your story on so many levels.
    I strongly believe he hooked up with several different women over the 13 years we were together, although he has always denied it, even the exit affair OWife.
    I’m on the flip side of your situation in which my two sons didn’t bond with TEO and when he left, my son’s actually cheered and rejoiced because they were no longer afraid to be at my house. They no longer dreaded having to have dinners, celebrations at my house. They were as free of him as I was.

  • What an honest, vulnerable kind of question about the dark side of stepmothering that’s taboo to talk about in society. Recommended reading: “Stepmonster” by Dr. Wednesday Martin.

    You were narcissistically abused for 9 years and are clear on the fact you got horribly used as a stepmom appliance. I wonder if the healthy part of you had the (unconscious?) sense that this was not going to be a forever situation, so you held back a bit on the bonding, while going through the normal, outward motions of mothering your stepdaughter. Do not be ashamed of your feelings. Stepmothers are the most unhappy type of mothers. It’s kind of a no-win scenario a lot of times. Give yourself some grace.

    • Thank you for saying this. I was not a happy step mother for a number of reasons. First was the ambiguity of the role, greatly enhanced by the Traitor’s manipulations. He kept telling me I was the only good female role model his children ever had, wanted me to adopt DS2 when he turned 18. I had to stand my ground to point out over and over again that all his children still had their mothers, whatever I think of them, and their mothers had not abandoned them. Second was that the oldest 3 sons stayed with us during the school holidays and came to see their dad, not me, and clearly wanted to spend time with him, but he would dodge them and leave them with me a lot of the time, to focus only on his son with the Whore. While I tried to make them happy, they were often not interested and resentful of being dumped like this. Things improved when they got older and got really good with them eventually but it was a long hard slog. Third is the usual parental authority issue when you’re the step parent trying to enforce basic house rules and courtesy and told “you’re not my mum” or ‘they’re not your kids” – except you’re cooking, cleaning, helping with homework, driving lessons, whatever, doing everything a parent does or but are treated like a housekeeper while you also pay half the bills…).
      So while I valued the privilege of being involved in raising these kids, it was not easy, it came with the unpleasant sides all parents experience plus the ongoing feeling of being just a servant or an appliance who constantly had to prove herself of greater value than the birth parents just to be allowed this privilege.
      Being the step parent was tough. In view of what has transpired in the past few months, I would never do it again.

  • Wow. Wow. Wow. This is all a lot to take in. A whole lotta cold bucket of water.

    I need it, and I’m grateful for it. Thank you all for taking the time to respond. I will continue re-reading and reading your responses as they come in.

    You’re right. I cannot ghost this child. How awful. She deserves my honesty.

    I believe a general, direct letter like the one CL recommends is right. I do NOT think it’s my place to reveal the cheating, and I know that it will only bring the cheater and his abuse barreling back into my life.

    Thank you, everyone. I guess I have a long way to go toward “meh” and my Tuesday is a long way off.

    • I just read your letter and I have no further advice. I just wanted to give you a buncha Jedi Hugs! Take care and be real.

    • One thing about being chumped: most of us are in this position because we have porous or nonexistent boundaries; we tend to the codependent, chumpy, rescuer side; and we have skewed ideas about our responsibilities to ourselves. So often when we post issues, everyone else can see that we are stepping on a nest of ground bees but we can’t see that ourselves. How I learned that Jackass the Cheater was disordered (and not a prince who left me for an MOW mother of three who loves blue eye shadow) was reading here. People here taught me that I had to fix my picker and learn to fix my life instead of other peoples’ lives.

      I hope you stick around. Your life will get better because this is a smart group but also a community of tough survivors.

    • May I suggest that when your step-daughter texted you about taking contraception, when you are still quite fresh from the bomb your ex exploded under your life, the subject itself may have been too triggering for you to deal with? First sexual experience, contraception, all that thrown in front of you after what he’s done to you…that would have sent me into a tailspin just a few months after DDay.
      Yes, be honest with this girl, tell her you need to distance yourself for a while because you need to heal from this unhealthy relationship. You can be honest about the cheating without demolishing his character. Truth is not character assassination. Leave the door open by saying it would be best to wait until she is 18 and resume contact then.
      Also, since she is not your child, I don’t know what the law says where you live, but you may not be allowed to discuss contraception with her and it could land you into legal trouble with her parents.

      Best of luck. Stick to CN, this is a great place.

  • I feel badly for this child. She reached out to the letter writer because she is feeling lost and alone and has nobody to turn to. There may not have been a connection but the step daughter might have thought (hoped) that there was, if for no other reason than that the writer was the only stable adult she had ever known. When she reached out, she was rejected and she doesn’t really know why. She is at an age where she really needs to feel loved and secure and she really isn’t getting that from any of the adults in her life although she is trying desperately to get their approval (hence liking her Dad’s posts). No wonder she is thinking about having sex at 15. She is looking to boys her age to get the love and attention she isn’t getting from the adults in her life. She probably isn’t going to find it there either, just more heart ache with nobody to turn to when it all comes crashing down.

    I am not saying all of this to place the blame for this girls despair at the foot of the letter writer. She has her own grief to confront and really can’t be there for the step daughter in the way the step daughter needs. She wasn’t the cause of this girl’s grief and the girl isn’t her responsibility. She she may have lead the girl on a bit and that is unfortunate, but I am sure it wasn’t intentional. If the girl reaches out again an honest response along the lines of what CL was suggesting would be in order. Otherwise, the girl may have already figured out that she needs to look elsewhere for her own validation in this world.

  • Wow. I think one of most enlightening parts of CL’s response is her last paragraph explaining that Chumps look for kibbles too. A Chump’s kibbles are having people saying we’re nice, or kind-hearted, or likable. We have to give seeking those kibbles in order to set boundaries and be authentic in our relationships.

  • I speak from the step-dad narrative. I married xw, her son and her daughter from previous marriages. We had a ‘patchwork quilt family’ (x’s words) AND there would be NO STEPS in our new family unit. OK, I was good with that. Solidarity.

    Her son bonded with me. He damn near duplicated my life history. Same path as me. He suffered abuse under his mother and is angry to this day at her for leaving me for OM. He’s supported me through this whole cluster-fuck. Still does.

    Her daughter was different. Entitled (Like I think Ex-Stepmom Chump’s step-daughter is). Got everything she wanted= Her brother calls her “the princess”. Her bio-dad’s died before this and she was drawing SS benifits of $900+ a month till she turned 18. She also got a sizable estate chunk. I advised her to buy land and a home cause she’s have a huge jump on life. I tried everything I could to show her affection. When I’d hug her she would freeze up and stiffen. Her real dad never showed her affection. Now she is married to a drunk/addict with 4 kids. Stuck with no career, no assets, no skills.

    I hated to say it and see it but she is mirroring her mothers footsteps. Not in my control sphere.

    After blocking all contact with her mother, I unfollowed SD on SM. I’m able to IM and go to her pages but I do not do this. I didn’t block her because I think there will come a day when she will need me in an emergency situation with her kids one day. I won’t give her money. I pretty much went no contact with her because it only led to drama and the x would re-appear from Fantasyland when the two colluded. I invested in SD’s future, upbringing and financing and parenting- complete with the “I can never replace your dad, but I’m here for you” talk.

    I can’t say or sense what SD feels. It’s better for me not to. I know she will feed any news to my xw and I don’t want any fuel added to the smoldering wreckage of our family. The fire is going out. And it is peaceful for me now. I’m to old for drama and am cottoning onto the boundaries thing. I’m re-evaluating what my boundaries are and where to apply them in ALL my FUTURE RELATIONSHIPS.

    I want no part of her or her mother’s crazy. We’ll see how this pans out downstream but for now, I am TOTALLY OK with NC.

  • I think you did the right thing to defer the talk of birth control to her parents. Big things, like that, is parents’ yard. You are not the legal parent. You haven’t said they beat her, withhold food, abandon her….but they just aren’t the most mature. Second, I don’t know if 15 year olds can get birth control where you live. But, how is she going to get there? If you drove her, paid for it, and it was in secret . . . then as a parent, I’d be pissed. While I agree with birth control for teenagers who are active (I have no religious opinion on it), that’s a legal parent decision. What if she does unprotected sex and gets an STD because she’s on the pill? What if she has a blood clot and dies (yes, it does happen .. . and there are clotting disorder diseases)? What if she is on birth control and her parents don’t know, and she has a medical emergency and the doctors need to know?

    You did your part, and she hasn’t contacted you again. Case closed. I see no need to send her some cold text dissing her further. This young lady has alot to deal with. If you sent a cold text, and she later committed suicide…..how would that make you feel?

    I don’t agree with slamming the door on a child. If she calls you up about little things (homework help, prom shopping, colleges), then help her make those decisions. If she mentions BIG things (like medical, running away, sex, abortions, drugs, suicide), then I’d discuss it with her but tell her that you are under obligation to tell BOTH of her parents because they are BOTH responsible for her well-being.

    And, Xs friend who knew of prostitutes is NOT your friend. As for him suggesting you keep an active role, I’d define the boundaries with friend (because he will likely tell X). “X and biological MOM are responsible for daughter. I don’t have custody and can’t get custody and don’t want custody. Whatever I do or don’t do, will be held against me.” Leave it at that. YOU don’t have the stretch marks.

    • In many (most?) states getting birth control is the teen’s decision and doesn’t need to be known about or approved by a parent. Neither does a teen pregnancy!!! so I support any adult who helps a young woman get the contraception she desires. If the teen felt safe asking her parents she would have. But she didn’t. So it’s time for a sane adult to step up.

      • It’s interesting from the psychological point of view that she called to say she was thinking about having sex. She’s probably decided on some level that she needs to choose between growing up to be an affair partner and a wife. In a strange way her call was a cry for help, and a goodbye. She’s going to model herself after the role model that is available now, the affair partners.

    • My boundaries with that “friend” would be wall with barbed wire on top. No contact at all, ever. No good can come of it.

  • I guess only the letter writer would know if it was a case of “safe” to ask mom/dad or just “embarrassed” to ask mom/dad or “relationships too fucked up” to ask mom/dad. Then, go accordingly. Better to be on birth control, then to be facing an abortion.

    So, I’m wondering…. Off topic… Do cheater dads of teenaged girls care if other boys use their daughters for sex? Will Cheaterdad have a Unicorn moment, that women should be treated with R.E.S.P.E.C.T? Would Cheaterdad be alarmed if their darling little girl said, “I want to be on birth control ….” Or, would the cheater father say, “See, females are horny too….even my daughter….(wink, wink)..” (gross, but that’s how they think…)

  • I can relate to your story very well. Ass wipe, the ex, had two daughters and I fell in love with the girls in the beginning. They were eleven and twelve. Their dad had custody and the mom would go months without seeing them. I felt so sorry for them so I did everything for them, while their parents did little to nothing. I would ask their dad for money to feed them, he would say they can eat oodles of noodles. I took them to school, picked them up, fed them, took them to get their hair and nails done, took them shopping for clothes, took them to the Dr, took care of them like they were my own girls. Paid for everything.

    Their dad never had money, he was a truck driver, he never helped with household bills, he was never there, and was hooking up with every Adult Friend Finder, Craigslist, Xpersonals, Uberhorny, truck stop whore he could.

    The youngest daughter even started stealing my jewelry and perfume and giving it to her mother. She was fourteen at the time.

    I heard from the girls twice after we broke up, both times they wanted money. Not even a hello. I answer the phone and I hear “Ms. Kim, can you give mom $20 for food? Please, if you don’t dad will make us go home?”.

    I said no, and haven’t heard from them since. I am more than ok with that.

  • Con artists choose to be cons because they are good at it. They know how to pick a mark, and they will con children, too. My youngest bonded with ex#2, because his narc father clearly showed preference to the eldest. Nothing could be worse for me, in both cases. I wanted both of my sons to feel equally loved and valued, and I considered them to be part of the package in a relationship with me. That was a sure fire way for me to be twisted and abused by both #1 and #2. I had to do a lot of work on fixing my picker, and setting boundaries, and convincing both sons that I would always be there for both of them, and could not explain the behaviors or choices of their dad or husband #2. I was lucky not to have stepchildren, I can see how that would cause issues, I did have to curtail relationships with the ex families, except for a SIL who also divorced ex#1’s brother. We are still friends. Extended family is hard, even if they are related only to you. There are a lot of us on this site who had narc parents, or other dysfunctions. I think much of that led us to become very chumpy. But the good news is we can heal, and eventually it will be Tuesday.

  • I was the child who was ghosted first by my father’s longterm girlfriend, with whom I was incredibly close, and later by my stepmother when she divorced my father. My father was a terrible husband and behaved badly in all of his relationships, including his relationship with my mother and me. As an adult, I understand that these women had to cut off contact with me because of him. That said, their abandonment, on top of my father’s abuse, left deep wounds. I did eventually “get over it,” to the extent that one grows up and moves on. But I can tell you that it is was devastating to lose them both, and what hurt most is that they just disappeared. Tell her the truth, so she doesn’t think you’re another person who can’t love her because there’s something wrong with her.

  • There are times when promises we make (thinking we have a good understanding of our circumstances) can become something we cannot fulfill (especially if we learn that our circumstances are worse or different that we thought they were).

    The fact that you were so financially abused…manipulates to be the single breadwinner for a POS partner who was actively and profoundly betraying you…well that is a real and profound thing.

    I am with Tempest and others who say that you owe her honesty.
    Extricating yourself from this is (from my POV) imperative for your well being, healing and sanity.

    Tell her that you must leave her life and why. Explain that you cannot fulfill the promise you initially made and share that it bothers you but upon learning the extent that you were abused, you simply must. Get her a book on surviving narc parents and wish her well.

    Her circumstances are her parents fault and you cant fix them.

    Lastly, I will share that I once had neighbors who were fucked up and had a little girl with a cardiac defect. I went out of my way to help this child and eventually saw that every time I rescued them, I allowed them to not function as a family and they just got worse. I extricated myself not only for me but in hopes that they would need to function better and possibly might.

  • Sorry but these responses blaming her for ‘abandoning’ the stepchild sound like typical chump-think :

    – A teen is automatically an innocent victim and has zero agency until she turns 18 and magically turns into an adult then poof!
    – I am responsible for saving others no matter how great my own pain.
    – the ex-wife (bio mother) is just evil, evil I tell you.

    You’re wrong. Many narc-kids who take after their abusive parent are incredibly nasty and manipulative and should be avoided. My son has been an evil child and a copy of his abusive narc dad, He got alienated as dad remarried. He is only 13 but extremely smart, nuanced, manipulative and abusive toward me. I try to love him and do motherly things for him, but I cannot like him or bond with him. He knows very well what he’s doing. He loves my $ and thinks he’s fooling me. Ha, luckily I don’t live with him, and the day he leaves for college is probably the day I cut contact.

    The victim blaming I’m reading today is just shocking. This poor chump needs to heal and I don’t even think she owes anyone any explanation. It will just settle off another torrent of hateful flying monkery.

    • “I am responsible for saving others no matter how great my own pain.”
      You make a good point and I have been guilty of this.

      I can see circumstances where a step parent may maintain a relationship and it could be healthy but the degree of abuse suffered, the steady attempts of the dad to hoover in and the false pretenses under which the promises were made to the SD all justify a healthy (but honest and respectful) building of boundaries by the step mom.

    • Narcs use their kids as a weapon. I watched ex narcopath battle with his exwife over their boys and it was always the most trivial shit. It always lead to the two parents fighting and it was exhausting to watch. I felt sorry for the boys. Especially when ex narcopath would turn his phone over to oldest stepson and say “see, your mother doesn’t love you….see how she went even drive you to xyz sporting event? Meathead…”

      I left ex narcopath and entered into a friendship with his exwife. She validated me and I got a relationship with my stepsons. Until I realized she was also a narc. I tried a friendship with her twice and it ended same way, both times.

      My therapist actively encourages me to have complete no contact with both ex narcopath and the exwife. So that means no stepsons. Which makes me sad, but it is for my safety and for my kids safety.

      Any interaction with the stepsons is eagerly dissected by both parties and I don’t want either of them to know what I’m doing or with who. They don’t get to know anything more about my life.

    • People can only manipulate us if we allow it. Chumps have been manipulated but the goal of cl is to help us figure out how and why we let it happen and stop allowing it in future relationships. Children and teens test their parents and try to manipulate. That is all children not just the children of narcissists. The parents job is to set the boundaries and teach them the way in which they should go. If you are struggling, rather than damn the kid to narcissism, get some help, therapy, counseling, professional advice. He is not a lost cause at 13. I am fine with writing off adult narcs in your life but kids, and teens, that is a cop out.

      • Feelingit, my father was a psychiatric nurse in a maximum security prison for over 30 years.

        During my time with oldest stepson, I would often consult with my father and get his opinion on how I could best help him.

        He said that in all his 30+ years doing his job, staff were always required to read the patients chart upon admit. He said the common theme with all of these patients was that they displayed cluster b traits from a very young age as evidenced through their histories. They often ended up in juvenile detention as early teens.

        He also worked with well known psychologists who studidd these patients, and wrote books about whether these people could be reformed and renter society. The consensus was that their personalities were formed by 12-14 years of age.

        My stepson was suspended from school 3 x in three months at 11 years old. Ex narcopath said that was a better record than the year before when he was 10 years old.

        The first incident involved him pulling and old school chair from the nearby river and rolling it, dripping wet and rusty, to the school. (This was on his mothers custody week, and she had a job that required her to leave for work before the boys left for school. She refused my offer to pick them up those days.) He tried to bring it in to the school and was denied by a teacher whom he then screamed that she was a c*nt, repeatedly, in front of other small children, parents and even throughout the school, and in front of office staff. He denied that he said it. They all scoffed and reminded him of the 13 witnesses.

        2nd incident was when he became laser focused on a handicapped kid in his class. He became paranoid that this kids was looking at him and in retaliation poured white glue on the kids desk, coating it.

        3rd incident was again directed at the same handicapped kid, whom he told the boy that “he should just kill himself because no one would ever like him” and then when they proceeded to gym class, he smashed the handicapped boys head against the cement wall. Luckily, the boy was not severely injured but did suffer from PTSD. I could not do enough to apologize to the boys mother and assure her we were handling it on the homefront. Except that ex narcopath refused.

        Oldest stepson was a bully to other children. He hurt animals. He had an underlying hatred of women and disrespected all of us. He threatened suicide. He was a deeply troubled child.

        His brother, younger stepson was raised the same way and did not display any of these characteristics, he was quite the opposite and very loving. Eager to please. Loved animals. He was kind and helped others in need.

        I was just as aghast as you, when my father suggested that: if radical intervention was not used on oldest stepson, in the form of intense therapy and behavior modification, then he would be a lost cause. It goes against chump nature.

        When I started therapy on my own, my therapist was highly alarmed at my stories of ex narcopath and oldest stepson. She suggested that based on what I said that ex narcopath was not JUST a narcissist, but possibly a high functioning psychopath. When I read the checklist of the traits of a psychopath, I could clearly see ex and oldest stepson.

        The therapist could not stress to me enough, the dangers of allowing my own children around oldest stepson. I had not felt he was THAT dangerous, but when all of these professionals are telling you the same thing, it’s time to sit up and take note.

        • I am a big believer in critical periods, but it would be very rare (even reckless) for a psychologist to diagnose someone with a personality disorder before 18. The DSM explicitly states that one should not diagnose NPD or any other personality disorder if “The impairments in personality functioning and the individual’s personality trait expression are not better understood as normal for an individual’s developmental stage or sociocultural environment.” A high degree of self-focus is normal for teens, and entitlement is a common feature of teens in Western cultures who have lots of things handed to them.

          Thus, while all adults who end up NPD (or Borderline or Antisocial PD) clearly exhibited traits at age 12-14, not all teens who have personality impairments at age 12-14 end up with a personality disorder. This is a key point, as it suggests intervention can lead to positive outcomes, and we should not merely discard teens with issues (most of them, TBH) into the dust-bin of failure.

          Many of them can avoid such a diagnosis with merely a single person stepping up to the plate to help them. The resiliency literature routinely finds that it only takes one significant person to steer a child away from dire outcomes, even when that child has multiple risk factors that predispose him/her to negative outcomes.

          One person who cares. That may be all it takes.

          • She didn’t diagnose it. However, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, do you need to do DNA testing to prove it’s not a platypus?

            “She suggested that based on what I said that ex narcopath was not JUST a narcissist, but possibly a high functioning psychopath.”

            I’m glad you protected everyone you could. Some people can’t be saved from themselves, all you can do is get as far away as possible.

          • I failed to copy another relevant portion. The therapist didn’t diagnose anyone she hadn’t seen.

            “When I read the checklist of the traits of a psychopath, I could clearly see ex and oldest stepson.”

            That was written by ChumpedinCanada.

        • I understand that there are some extremely antisocial children that go on to do horrific things as adults but I agree with Tempest and we can’t just write them off when there is also research and common sense that says there brains are still developing until they are 25 plus years and this woman was not describing violent criminal behavior.

          My only comment to add that struck me this morning is that many of us chumps have children who at times side with the fuckwit or do selfish and inconsiderate things. The latter being the definition of immaturity. Most of us would not and should not ghost our children. If you are going to take on the title of step mom, I think that you should be willing to do what a mom should do and that is act in the best interest of the children.

          I am happy to read that the author is seeing another side to the story and I hope she will continue to do what is best for this child because she has a very hard road ahead as does the letter writer and she has my sympathy.

          • Feelingit, I would like to believe that many stepmothers take their roles very seriously. It is the most difficult task I have ever done in my life, especially when both of the stepchildrens parents are narcissistic who undermine you the whole time you are trying to do right by THEIR children.

            For me, I realized that my own children’s safety was paramount to my stepsons. And realistically, if my ex narcopath had died at any point during our relationship, that day would mean the end of my relationship with my stepsons, anyways.

            I had no legal authority over my stepsons. Therefore, no power to direct oldest stepson getting the help he needed. And his parents did not want their dysfunctional parenting revealed if their son went to therapy.

            By the time I left, oldest stepson had escalated his behaviours and was threatening to hit my daughter, and even myself.

            I acted in the best interest of my innocent children by leaving.

            And my therapist would never diagnose someone she has not met. She simply provided me with more relevant information about cluster b personalities to stress the ramifications of continuing contact with these people. It’s a sad day when you give up hope on someone. But hope is what was keeping my stuck with ex narcopath.

            I would never allow my children to have a continuing relationship with ex narcopath after our breakup. He is a bad man.

    • An interesting book about psychopathic children is Jonathan Kellerman’s “Savage Spawn: Reflections on Violent Children.” He takes on the question of nature vs. nurture. The problem for many children with narcissistic or psychopathic parents is that they get the double whammy–whatever the biological component or tendency toward Cluster B issues as well as the upbringing with a parent who has those same problems. Kellerman is both a child psychologist and the best-selling author of the Alex Delaware mystery series. It’s a short book, $3 on Kindle and a worthwhile read if you are dealing with a kiddo who shows Cluster B traits.

  • Also, I highly doubt this step-daughter really was thinking about having sex. More likely she’s hoovering back her narcissistic supply by the usual means of huge emotional-like ‘cry for help’ …then start up some new drama. She sounds an extension of dad. I can just see the smirk as she texts.

    My mother and sister did this a lot and my 13 yo son tried it, but I shut it down. Same for the FB likes – why on earth haven’t you blocked it?

    Remember with a toxic family, the only safe way is no contact with everyone.

  • I guess the true test, if she wanted to be bothered, was to provide emotional but no financial support, and see how it shakes out – ie whether the daughter would start asking for money etc or was happy just to talk. Too chumpy of me?

  • I am finding a lot of the comments here today unbelievably cynical and jaded. All I can think is that this girl was seven with OP came into her life, and probably for the first time in her life she had someone who acted like a real parent to her, who treated her like she was worth something and although a lot of people are decrying the fact that she took over-responsibility for the child and overlooked the Cheater’s numerous boundary violations and entitlements, I have to applaud for her ‘in for a penny, in for a pound’ attitude toward that child. Chump was obviously very committed to her role as step-mother etc and yes it lead her into terrible waters, but she was a good stable parent to that child at the time.
    I know ESMC has been horribly abused by the Cheater, but I imagine that poor child, suddenly being told that her dad and Step-Mom are breaking up, not given any reasons, and then the woman she sees as a mom then rejects her, without an explanation. I think that is the biggest problem I have hear. I believe that ESMC needs to have a very frank discussion with Step-D about what actually went down to break up the marriage and explain clearly that she has to at this stage, while she is healing (I am highly dubious of her self-proclaimed Meh status) that she needs to not have anything to do with her, because it is so painful emotionally at this time. That it is nothing to do with the daughter, she has no blame in this, but this is the situation. Otherwise, it’s just screwing with the poor girl’s mind. Let her know that her dad’s behaviour has been the root of the situation, and if she is unhappy about it then she needs to approach her dad for further discussion and explanation. I am sure dad has smearing ESMC to the daughter anyway, but she still chose her to open up to. And yes, ESMC needs a good therapist, I am not sure whether she is devastated person trying to hold her feelings at bay, but her letter is strangely ambivalent and mixed up/disordered itself in her feelings toward the Step-daughter.

  • UPDATE FROM OP

    Thank you all for your candor and support.

    I have to admit, I didn’t expect to be called cold-hearted and disordered – not here.

    But I’ve learned people have strong opinions when it comes to stepparenting – it’s complicated and very difficult to understand if you’re not a stepparent yourself.

    And I realize I have long way to go when it comes to facing my own shadow.

    So … I sent my ex-stepdaughter the letter.

    Not as clinical as CL’s letter, but it was short and direct. I really examined my need to be “the good guy,” and I deleted anything that reeked of that. I did not mention the cheating. I do not believe it’s my place. But I did use CL’s language around maintaining strict boundaries / NC for my sanity and healing.

    I send it and let it go.

    • That is good to read. It’s a tough situation all around but being honest with others is important. Yourself, your stepdaughter, extended family, etc.

      Have you chosen to share with your family the extent of your financial support? You wrote that you didn’t divulge how deeply in debt you went for “his” business. Seems to me it was more your business if you were financing it. I doubt you will ever recover the money (blood from a turnip) but at least tell your attorney. It may play a role in the settlement.

      Good luck to you. Check out Stephen Karpman’s books while on your journey to Meh.

  • A lot of well said stuff here. Just one more thing. On a selfish note, what a precious, once in a life-time opportunity to have a daughter for life that you raised for the most part. This is a relationship that could carry forward through the rest of your life and could even ‘pay you back’ at some point in the future in terms of a deep connection with another human being that is unique and ‘family’ as you grow older. Even on selfish grounds alone I would suggest keeping the connection. If you let it go now you probably won’t be able to get it back. Yes you could explain the part to her about protecting yourself from her father, not involving yourself with the rest of her family, but letting her know you are there for her when SHE reaches out. By the way, most teenagers are money dumb and selfish 90% of the time.

  • I know what it is like to be a stepmom to two teenagers…one 14, the other 18 when we married, and then for 10yrs going forward. The boy (14) was a mild mannered gentle soul who would not hurt a fly…very much in character with his sweet chumped mother. I wanted to connect with him, but could sense that he saw that doing so would feel as though he was being “disloyal” to his own mother. So I respected his boundaries, treated him kindly, did everything I could for him, and still to this day am concerned about whether or not his dad’s influence over the years has impacted him. He ghosted me when his dad left me. I did not blame him a bit…that is what usually happens in an ugly divorce, and his dad and he run a business together to this day which would be too ackward. He took his “parental loyalties” quite seriously and I admired him for that.

    The Stepdaughter however, was18 when her father and I married, and on the other hand, was just like her father, my cheater Ex. The more I realized that the two of them were supremely arrogant and morally bankrupt, the less I cared to bond with her…I just couldn’t. She went out of her way to make a mockery of me at any given opportunity…both in front of my face as well as behind my back. She encouraged and excused (“liked”) her dads flagrant affair(s) both in her own parents marriage as well as in mine to her father. She also openly excused him when he got drunk one night and even attempted to have sex with HER too (failed attempt) when she was 17. This was the deal breaker that ended her own father/mother’s first marriage…and later after finding out about it, it was also the beginning of the end for my marriage to her father also. After I found out about it, I brought it up to them (because they continued acting WAY too handsy and intimate…constantly throwing around sexual innuendos to each other to my utter embarrassment), he and his daughter both ganged up on me in one accord and basically said that it was just a “one off” and for me to basically shut the fuck up and stop feeling jealous of their close father/daughter relationship. They were always very provocative with each other and it make my skin crawl. Sex was their favorite topic of the day. Something sick going on there, and THAT is why I could not warm up to her and grew to hate her father even more as the years rolled by…and why I was just as relieved to be rid of her as well as her father…her brother though, I will always miss.

    My point being…sometimes you cannot “bond” with a Stepchild even when you make a heroic effort to do so. The complex reasons are not always clear until much later into the marriage/relationship or even long after that marriage is over. In my case, it was because she was too much like her father in all the ways that were destructive to my soul. Maybe it was not her fault early on, but by the time she was in her late twenties/early thirties, I knew that she knew better but was bent on getting things back to the way they were prior to my “arrival”.

    • OMG, your family is eeriely familiar to mine. My stepson is a compassionate and driven young man, unlike his father. And my stepdaughter displays narcisstic tendencies. However, in my case sub my X’s sister for the daughter. My X and his sinister sister were always telling sick ass jokes and are a little close for me. I swear that the X can’t do anything without her approval. They are half-sibs but I wouldn’t be shocked if they had a relationship at one time. It’s just a feeling – that something that seems off.

  • I guess I’m going to be unpopular here, but I don’t see any reason to suppose the OP did anything wrong. I mean, it’s possible, but equally possible that it wasn’t.

    What I see here is a lot of chumps making projections. It is assumed that the girl (a teen) reached out about the sex question because she felt a bond. That’s possible. It’s also possible that the kid had good advice from 100 people and rejected it, and now is trying to triangulate her stepmother into supporting something that is a terrible idea. (Maybe the guy in question is a stranger on Facebook and she conveniently failed to mention that fact. Or something like that.) Kids do that sort of thing A LOT. And the fact that the kid suddenly wants support on this and then instantly vanishes when she doesn’t get the reaction she was hoping for suggests to me that this might have been the case. Maybe not, but definitely maybe.

    The problem with reaching out to people and trying to help them is that (1) you don’t actually control their response. It is likely that the lack of bond felt is just as much because the kid isn’t that interested in bonding. I’m hesitant to judge a stepmother who apparently really tried for years. And (2) if you can’t be everything to that person and the bond fails, people judge you far worse than if you never tried at all.

    I don’t think it is advisable to tell your step-daughter that you can’t talk to her anymore. She seems to be moving away anyway, so let it happen naturally. There’s no need to stir the pot. I think it’s likely that she just never really felt that close to you, and that’s why you never made the connection.

    I have a story of my own this way… I had a foster child, and I tried very hard to connect to her. It never happened. I felt terribly guilty. When she moved out, I assured her that I would always be there for her. But you know what? She never looked back. Only called to ask me to buy her something, and when I wouldn’t, she never called again. I realized then that the reason I couldn’t forge a bond was because she didn’t want one. Even though she had no one else in her life (no parents, no siblings), and she could have really benefited from having a mom, she just wasn’t interested.

    We assume that people want bonds if they need them, if it benefits them, but that’s not always true. And we can’t go blaming ourselves when relationships fail even after we tried. If the OP really did all those things she said and the bond still never grew… well, she tried. Maybe someday down the line things will change, so no need to burn bridges.

    But relationships take two people. You can’t force it on someone. If the kid isn’t interested at this point in her life, then she’s not. And I think the OP ought to be unburdened of the idea that if she was only a better step-mom, there would be a stronger bond. Maybe, but maybe not.

  • And then there’s this, “his daughter is “liking” all his posts, including the ones with graphic sex. Awful for her, especially at an age when she’s coming into her own sexuality. I really feel for her…”

    Care. Don’t care. So SMom recognizes that she has no bond with a child after 9 years (child was 5). Aweful for her? This is reportable. I really feel for her? Not enough.

    There are so many ways you could have supported this CHILD. This has nothing to do with cheating or maintaining no contact. It’s about abandonment and the impact this has on a child. Personally, I find this disturbing.

  • Stepmom Chump sounds as though she’s depressed. Not every relationship can or should be maintained, particularly when you’re trying to escape a narcissist.

    I’m certain she had every intention of reaching out to her stepdaughter and maintaining some sort of relationship with her but once she was out of the pressure cooker she hit the wall. She can’t do it. At least not now.

    Hopefully with some time, therapy and meds if necessary, she can reach out to the young lady again. From a better place. Without resentment. Without worrying about what her ex-husband can and will do with any information her former stepdaughter might let slip by accident, or in the heat of an argument.

    She needs to detoxify from the relationship. I hope she’s in therapy. Double-ditto for her ex-husband’s daughter.

    As our hostess wrote,

    “Some people manage relationships with their ex stepchildren. But this would take a level of meh for your ex that you do not have 7 months past D-Day. It would take a masterclass in boundaries, and you’re a person who was chumped to the tune of $30K. It would also take liking the person and desiring a relationship. We don’t do ANYONE any favors pretending to like people we do not like.”

    Insisting that this person MUST do anything for her former stepdaughter is more of what she has received throughout the relationship with her ex-husband. People may really WANT her to do it, but I think she has been hurt plenty and doesn’t need a second helping at this time.

  • Wow the comments are crazy on this post. Some of the speculations are quite a stretch!!! If Chump Step-Mom doesn’t feel comfortable having a relationship with this girl then why should she? All the comments about “well I just don’t understand, or I could never…” are not supportive at all. And then the guilt trip I am hear from some of you is just beyond! “The greatest relationship you will ever have is with a daughter”. Really? How is that constructive? Why are we trying to make this woman feel guilty, I’m sure she doesn’t need your help with that. We are not Chumps for nothing. Can we be a little more supportive?! Geeze! SMH!!!

    • PrisonChump

      I’ve livrd with a child who was in a similar situation. I’ve watched the pain as she was repeatedly abandoned. Children need and deserve to be loved by parents. Would any one of us want to sign up with a partner who couldn’t bond with our child. I don’t believe it’s guilt at all. I pray she doesn’t partner up with anyone else with children.

      • My ex narcopath never really bonded with my kids. He had his two and I had my two, and he pretend during the love bombing stage to be a great family man, but as soon as we started living together his mask fell off and he was a horrible father figure.

        He purposely sabotaged any time alone he had with my two children to the point where I refused to allow him to watch them if I wasn’t there. Nothing sexual, but just basic trust.

        One day he pretended to kidnap my 3 year old on his way out the door to work. Just picked him up off the couch and told him he was taking him to work, and walked it the door with him. I freaked out and ran outside, pulling my terrified child from him, but my son did not trust him after that. Or, the few mornings I worked and it was ex narcopaths responsiblity to get all the kids to school, he would forget my sons backpack with his lunch. The school would quietly feed him, and then implied they believed we were poor and couldn’t afford food! He allowed all the other children to pet the new puppies but felt justified in trying to exclude my son. Too many other examples to list.

        As for my daughter, ex flat out said that he had a hard time bonding with girls. He picked on her about her eating habits. He felt that she should be able to eat the same amount of food that his son, the same age (who ate like a tank) could eat. My daughter was a good 75lbs smaller than his son. It was just plain unreasonable. Also wanted to exclude her from the kids games on the family computer.

        My kids bio dad was much worse, and so my kids felt that ex narcopath was “nice” in comparison!

        After we split up, while I am crying to my therapist that I felt so bad leaving my stepsons behind, ex narcopath is already in a new relationship with a woman with two young daughters. When that imploded, he is now in a newer relationship with a woman with two young sons. ….

        I simply accept that ex narcopath is a shitty human being INCAPABLE of genuine feelings for others. He is a horrible father figure because he doesn’t put his kids first. He will never change. He doesn’t miss my kids or the other womans kids. They don’t exists on his radar.

        As for saying “I pray she doesn’t partner up with anyone else’s children…” THAT is extremely harsh and is a double standard. I left my stepsons behind and choose NC because I don’t want have their narcissistic parents using them to gain info about my life. I would tread much more carefully in future relationships that have step children. Technically I left then and am NC with them. Does that mean I should never partner again? No. I did a lot for my stepsons and have a lot of love to offer.

        Knowing how destructive my ex narcopath is to all of his stepchildren, I pray he Does Not partner. However, he did NOTHING for my children.

        I do not see any similarities between my ex and the OP. She was kind and caring and did motherly things for this child. She is allowed to be struggling at defining her relationship with her FORMER stepkid. She is here seeking guidance, not condemnation!

  • This letter has got to be one of the most disturbing letters I have read on here. Quite frankly I am appalled by you saying you never bonded with the girl and you don’t like her. I can’t tell. All those things you did for her shows you were the only positive mainstay responsible adult that should count on. You were there for her and I don’t know how you can say you didn’t bond with her. I am worried about this child if you slam the door on her but of course it is not your problem and unfortunately this child is going to pay for the bad acts of her father. I think you refusing to tell her the truth is an excuse. It is your place and she is old enough. That doesn’t mean all the gory details but you should tell her what you wrote to CL about all of the money and things you paid for all these years and the paying of your money on whatever he was doing with these women. It looks to me you are taking it out on this child in a subtle way because he “begging you to stay in her life”. This is your fuck you to him but through her. I am sorry but you knew better. What was his contributions when you were paying his child support, all bills and everything else and taxes even. Come on. You were nothing more to him than a cash cow. He used you but don’t make this child pay for it. I agree is you make it clear you cannot afford to pay for anything going forward for her. You have to take care of yourself and I agree with someone above who said if you close the door completely you can’t take it back. You don’t be afraid of what he can do. You put a stop to that now and do not him manipulate you again. You must tell her the truth.

  • UPDATE FROM OP

    Reading through all these comments, I feel the need to clarify a few things.

    (1) When my ex-SD texted me to say she was thinking about having sex and getting on birth control, she also told me that she’d talked to her dad about it. She said she just wanted to share with me because we’d talked about that stuff.

    I should’ve responded directly and honestly, the way CL recommended (and the way I did yesterday). But at the same time, I felt strongly that it was not my place. Not when she has a mom and a dad and not when she told me she’d already talked to her dad about it.

    (2) I did all those things for her over the years because I felt it was my responsibility. I realize CL is right and I got a lot of “I’m a caring, good person” kibbles out of it. I have take a long, hard look at that unhealthy quality in myself. But it was also simply a matter of taking care of child who was in my home half the time.

    I wanted that heartfelt bond with her but it didn’t happen. That didn’t stop me from caring for her. “I don’t feel deeply connected to you so I’m not going to take you to the dentist” isn’t my style. But it was really hard, all of it. Wanting that connection and not feeling it. If you’re not a stepparent, you might find this part hard to comprehend.

    (3) The shame I feel around not bonding with my ex-SD is the my most tender spot. I feel unnatural for it on some level, like I should love this child like my own daughter just because I married her dad. Talking on stepparent forums has helped me let go of that. It’s very common, what I feel. A sense of responsibility for the child without the heartfelt bond.

    (4) I revealed my greatest vulnerability here and some of your comments really hurt. Not the cold bucket of water advice like CL is giving. The personal attacks. The assumptions about my character. I’m not playing the victim here, I’m still glad I shared my story. I’m seven months out from a DDay that shattered my world and revealed my husband as a predator. I’m surprised at some of your responses. I would think chumps would have more empathy.

    • EXSC –

      You did really well. It’s a horrible situation for you to be in and you know what? I’m a parent. There were times when I didn’t mesh with MY kids so well either. There were times when I didn’t LIKE them due to what they were doing or saying. I may always have loved them but that didn’t mean they didn’t feel consequences for their misdeeds.

      Being a stepparent is even more fraught with freight.

      Seriously – I hope you have a good therapist. Even if you do, there are a few things you can do for yourself to figure yourself out and prevent getting conned by yet another jerk.

      Journal. A nice hardbound journal is a wonderful thing. Or it’s kissing cousin – a blog.
      Try to figure out your triggers.
      Practice ruthless honesty – at least with yourself.
      Stephen Karpman has a website, you might want to purchase his book.
      Check out heartless-bitches.com The articles are archived but there is witty gold in them. One or more may resonate.

      I don’t understand people who expect anyone to get everything right the first time. Every time. You did right by her for 9 years and it’s time for you to focus on yourself.

      A lot of chumps are stuck on the drama triangle and don’t know it (yet). So it’s easy to whirl from victim to persecutor. That’s true of everyone to some degree or another. It gets a bit murky over here sometimes is my observation.

      Being popular and well-liked is overrated. I’d rather be honest. I try to be polite and not abrasive, but there are times when I’m wrong and I’ll eat crow.

      Be true to yourself. Take care of yourself. If in the future you and she reconnect, it will be as adults. She may prove to be a wonderful adult woman and you will have played a part in it. You did your best.

      Go do you!

    • Actually, if you haven’t seen it yet, there was a post here on CN where the differences between ‘nice’ and ‘kind’ are discussed.

      Kind doesn’t necessarily feel good or generate as many kibbles as nice. But it’s a better quality feed!

      It’s like comparing Triple Crown Senior to generic heavy-on-the-sugar feeds. Nutrition versus sugar.

    • Ex Step mom Chump, I haven’t got children either, and I was step mum to 4 boys for almost 10 years. I think I know what you mean by not feeling a heartfelt bond but I describe it differently. I say that I don’t know what it feels like to be a mum, to feel that maternal bond with your own child, because I have never experienced it. The physicality of it, of carrying a child for 9 months, giving birth, breastfeeding, the deep biological bonding that goes on. I chose to look after these boys first out of love for my ex partner. Not out of love for these particular children because if I had loved another man with other children I would have cared for them. But over time, through the actions and the responsibilities of care giving I grew to love them, these particular individuals. And I also say that this is an appropriate way to bond. Care, affection and love grow over time along with the performance of these actions and these duties. I also think that fulfilling one’s responsibilities and duties caringly and kindly IS love. It may sound cold to some people when you are aware that you have not bonded in the instinctual maternal way a biological mother does, but you are being honest with yourself and us. Love is what you do, not just a feeling. Cheaters pursue this feeling type of love like an addictive drug and are not capable of focusing on the dutiful actions, the drudgery even, of love. That’s why they cause so much damage.

      Your original response to your SD was a lapse, it would have been better to explain that you needed to establish some boundaries, but no one is perfect all the time and you have been through a horrendous experience with her dad.

      I am sorry you got some unsympathetic responses here, but you also sparked a fruitful debate here on CN about step parenthood. Thank you for reaching out to CN, I hope you stay, and I hope that in time, when your SD is an adult especially, you can develop a healthy relationship with each other.

  • I am sorry to have said something rather hurtful. I do recognize the terrible ordeal you are still in the process of surviving and overcoming. I think your post struck a nerve with a fair number of us because of the innocence of the child in all of this situation. Please remember that many of us have to send our most cherished person(s) over to be “parented” part-time by the OW/OM. We are at that person’s mercy as to how our child is treated. So when I read your thoughts about your former SD, I cringe. That could be MY child depending on the affection and decency of some random person. So while I wish I could edit my original post to be more understanding, I still feel that children (and pets) do not deserve to be dropped at the side of the curb when they have not themselves intentionally hurt you.

    • I appreciate your reply. I’m not a mom so I don’t know how it feels to be in your situation, turning over your child to another adult. I can only imagine how heartbreaking and hard that is. It’s awful that parents have to go through that.

      The fact that my first post here – given all I’m facing right now – is about my ex-SD should tell you that her well-being is foremost in my mind.

      • One more thought … my ex-SD was never at risk with me.

        I may not have bonded with her in my heart, but I treated her with love. I may have been in full-on Rescuer mode (not healthy), but I took great care of her. The fact that I don’t feel a heartfelt connection to her doesn’t mean I don’t care about her.

  • UPDATE FROM OP

    I’d like to point out a few things. The cheater love bombed me, then used me to care for his child and fund his life, lied and cheated and f*cked dozens of prostitutes on my dime, tried to convince me to stay and open our marriage, and then within weeks of my moving out, started broadcasting to our family and friends that he finally found his one true love.

    All that, and what I’m worried about is my ex-SD. My first post – my chance to ask CL for her help – and it’s about my ex-SD. I think that says a lot.

    And yes, I realize that I’m bristling here because I want to be seen as “the good guy.” But seriously folks, I did not create this break with my ex-SD. Her father did.

  • EXSC –

    You might also want to explore why you would write a letter asking if you CAN do something or not. Clearly, you can. You were looking for permission to do what you felt should be done. Maybe you wanted guidance on how to do it, or how to best do it for your sanity (and hers, in the long run).

    I’m glad you reached out to her again and from a better place than you were initially. I really hope that she has even more adults in her world that she trusts now and in the future. You can’t be everything to everybody.

    “But I did use CL’s language around maintaining strict boundaries / NC for my sanity and healing.”

    I’m so glad you did that. It is going to help you in the long run.

    I wish you well for the divorce. I truly hope you can manage to get at least some of the money you sunk into the business out of him.

    Yeah – stepparents really get the crap end of the stick most of the time. If you do a good job, you’re accused of trying to take the other parent’s place. If you do a bad job, well, you’re a stepparent so you suck! If you are confused, you shouldn’t be. If you aren’t confused, you’re arrogant and not a ‘real’ parent anyway, so why should you get a say or sway over the kid? And now here you are and you’re being told that you owe your ex-husband and his child more than you’ve already given. That you are never going to be free of either of them even if that is what you want (now or ever).

    Nuts to that.

    I hope you make it to Meh before much longer.

    • Thank you for all that. And yes, I was looking for permission to do what I’d already decided was best for me. I’m not good at self-care and boundaries, obviously.

      What I got here was direction on how to relay that info to my ex-SD and for that I’m very grateful.

      • Hugs to you EXSC – It’s early days yet. Have a few more! If you’re in the US, have a wonderful long weekend. Try to do something FUN all for yourself. Yeah, yeah, work on the divorce stuff too if you must, but make time for yourself too.

        I hope your ex-SD appreciates your honesty. If not now, then someday.

  • Why on Earth is anyone marrying a person with children, unless they already love and are bonded with the child/ren? Yeah, that was never going to end well (for the poor child).

  • UPDATE FROM OP

    Thanks to KiwiChump for this:

    “I also think that fulfilling one’s responsibilities and duties caringly and kindly IS love. It may sound cold to some people when you are aware that you have not bonded in the instinctual maternal way a biological mother does, but you are being honest with yourself and us.”

    YES! That is exactly what I meant by “I’m not bonded.”

    I never felt the unconditional, primal love that a mother feels for her child. I wanted that! I felt shame that I didn’t feel that! I always acted with affection and concern for my ex-SD’s well-being. But I didn’t connect with her deeply.

    And as struggle to pick myself up after being punched in the gut, I have worried about her. I’m no longer doing all the things I used to do for her. I’m concerned because I’m not confident her parents will show up for her in that way.

    But CL is right, of course: “We can’t save everyone.”

    I did my best for her. I cared for her and treated her with affection and love. BUT SHE IS NOT MY CHILD.

    If I have learned anything through this hellish experience it’s that putting others before myself in an unhealthy way ends in ruin. I cannot risk my own safety and well-being because of an assumption (ego-driven, maybe) that ex-SD will suffer greatly without me in her life. She has a mom and a dad, and even though they’re both narcissists, they love her. They’re not going anywhere.

    So I guess my question for all of you who have berated and shamed me for not putting this child before myself is: why are you not holding her dad THE CHEATER to the same standards you’re holding me? Why do I owe more to this child than her own parents? And in a situation where I’ve been gravely abused? I don’t get it.

    • Ex-Stepmom Chump,

      The only person I recall referring to you as a “cold-hearted bitch” was you, in your initial post, when you were wondering if it was wrong to go no contact with your stepdaughter. I hope no one else has called you that! I know I haven’t, but perhaps you were expecting more “support” in the form of agreement? I hope you realize that support also comes in the form of honestly answering your question. If you are depressed, angry, traumatized, and feeling rejected yourself, it can be hard to see clearly, and you are owed honest opinions, even if they aren’t what you hoped to hear.

      I was chumped in my second marriage, into which each of us brought children from our first marriage, so I’ve been on all sides of this question. I’m mom to my kids, mom to his stepkids (my kids), and stepkids to his kids. I’ve experienced my devastation over being chumped, and I’ve witnessed their hurt over their “happy family” being destroyed, hard because I think our marriage had restored their faith in marriage after their original parents’ divorces. It wasn’t an option to not consider the feelings of my children and stepchildren to put “my feelings first.” I saw us in the same boat. I didn’t dump anyone over board because it was taking on some water after the cheater bashed it on rocks. This is how mothers think, and I include my stepchildren in that equation.

      So people in my position cringe when you say, “SHE IS NOT MY CHILD” after you describe being her psychological parent 50% of the time for over half her life, starting at age 7. The real life consequence of all those activities, love, and affection (well done, btw) you describe in the relationship with your stepdaughter is that SHE likely feels like your child. No, you aren’t her legal parent, but you asked what I thought was an honest question in your original post about your responsibility to her, and I assume you weren’t asking about your legal responsibility, but your moral and psychological ones.

      So the honest answer, is that yes, you created an emotional parent-child relationship with a dependent child, and so you do have some parental responsibility to her. It’s not over-responsibility in dad’s parenting, it’s just being responsible to the relationship YOU created. I say that to support you in your quest for truth not just soothing your ego. You told her you loved her and that it wasn’t her fault. Now you tell her that you can’t be in contact with her because of her dad? She’s not his appendage, she’s an individual in her own right, with her own sense of worth. As the mom and stepmom of 5 former teens, I guarantee you that she won’t internalize reasons, she’ll internalize rejection. Only you can decide if you still feel enough mother to this young teen that this matters to you.

      And yeah, it sucks to be a parent in a divorce with a ex-spouse you hate, especially when you have felt taken advantage of. But that’s HIM not HER.

      Btw, it’s not about being harder on you than her other parents! It’s just that you asked the question about your relationship with your stepdaughter and so the comments are directed to you.

  • UPDATE FROM OP

    Oh, and since many of you have asked if I’m in therapy. Yes, I am. Both individual and group.

    And I arranged for a therapist for ex-SD before I left. I don’t know if her dad/mom are taking her. I hope so.

    • Feel free to adopt me! LOL.

      JFC, you extended yourself in every conceivable way for your SD’s sake. It’s way past time for her parents to step up. Luckily for her, even if they don’t she had 8-9 years of someone actively caring for and parenting her. Hopefully that will protect her from the worst of it between now and turning 18. If college isn’t in her future hopefully she’ll find a good way forward in a trade or skilled profession.

      I don’t know if you’re a pet person but you may enjoy having one in your life. Autumn is coming, if you can find a guided trail ride it’s a lot of fun. Or go hiking with friend. Getting outside and doing stuff is also good for our minds & bodies.

      Your picker may be bent but I must say, he did a great job picking you. You’re a resourceful kind person who provided love (the verb!) and care to your SD. Him too. I hope you enjoy lavishing yourself with your time and talents too.

  • Reality is that this girl is not her child. The subject matter of that text was the girl’s first sexual experience and contraception. She is only 15, the age of consent here in NZ in 16, I don’t know what it is where Ex Step Mom Chump lives, but this is a minefield. Pointing out to this young girl that it was a good thing she had her mum and dad to support her was appropriate. This is a boundary; the girl has 2 parents who look after her. How would any mother react if a step mom got involved into advising her daughter on this subject, let alone the father’s ex-wife?
    On top of that, being contacted on this subject by the cheater’s daughter must have been triggering in these circumstances.
    Some people are warmer and more affectionate than others. That doesn’t mean they do no care. In addition EXSMC also said that she has not been able to have children but wanted some. I can relate to that. I can assure you that getting on through life when I tried and tried but did not manage to have a child means that I’ve had to brace myself and rein in a lot of my maternal instincts and cravings.
    As No Shit Cupcakes said:
    “stepparents really get the crap end of the stick most of the time. If you do a good job, you’re accused of trying to take the other parent’s place. If you do a bad job, well, you’re a stepparent so you suck! If you are confused, you shouldn’t be. If you aren’t confused, you’re arrogant and not a ‘real’ parent anyway, so why should you get a say or sway over the kid? ”
    Yep, it’s even worse when you’re the step mum who hasn’t managed to have her own kids. You also have to fight your own maternal instinct all the way when parenting someone else’s child 50% of the time and they’re not much of a good parent. I’ve been there, parenting the Traitor’s DS4 since he was 2 and a half years old, potty training, learning to ride a bike and to swim, doing everything but always having to remind myself that this is not my baby and I can’t take over. I wouldn’t be surprised if EXSMC has done what I did, nearly choked my maternal instinct to death so as not to overstep this boundary whilst taking on full parental responsibilities a lot of a time anyway. No wonder she feels she didn’t quite bond with this girl. She probably couldn’t allow herself to.
    She did her best raising this young girl, arranging for therapy at the end of the marriage, now she needs some time and some space away from this family to heal.
    I agree that it’s possible this will be hard to hear for this young girl, so I hope EXSMC explained this kindly and left the door open to a relationship when the girl is an adult or if this young girl is in real trouble. The cheater is using his daughter to manipulate EXSMC so it’s best to be NC for the time being.

  • This child is not your responsibility. You are unable to be the type of parent she needs and that’s okay, you could never be that anyway. It’s true, she’s the only one who hasn’t done anything wrong and it sucks so completely that her family is falling apart, but that is her fathers fault, not yours. You are correct, maintaining contact with this girl is being still connected to him in some way. If having a relationship with this girl hurts you, you cannot do it and clearly this is what is happening. I think the cheating and break up of your marriage has tainted this relationship for you, not that you ‘never bonded with her.’

    The whole situation sucks. She did nothing wrong, you cannot be the parent you want to be for her (and don’t want to), neither you nor her broke this family up and it’s not your job to fix her family life – that’s up to her shitty parents. I’m sorry it turned out this way, you’re not the bad guy here and if you need to sever this connection then do it.

    Maybe in five years or so, you will be in a different place and she won’t be in her fathers custody, but forcing this on yourself now is just on much.

  • UPDATE FROM OP

    Thanks to Karen for calling me out on a few things and offering her candid feedback. I hear her point of view loud and clear.

    “You created an emotional parent-child relationship with a dependent child, and so you do have some parental responsibility to her … I say that to support you in your quest for truth not just soothing your ego.”

    You’re right. I cannot go no contact with this child and soothe my ego that I’m a “good person” at the same time. I have to choose. I choose no contact.

    “This is how mothers think, and I include my stepchildren in that equation.”

    I hear you. But I am not a mother. She has a mom. She has a dad. I was a parental figure while I lived in her home. But I don’t anymore.

    She hasn’t replied to my letter, where I used some of CL’s language about no contact but softened it a bit. I don’t expect to hear back from her. She hasn’t blocked me on social media.

    She’s posting happy photos of her with the cheater’s new woman and her little kids. The cheater apparently brought this woman into my ex-SD’s life just weeks after I moved out. They look like a happy family, but it’s got to be hard for her to deal with change that is so swift.

    Throwing me in the mix right now might just make things harder for her. Maybe I’m saying that to make myself feel better. I don’t know.

    • Dear Ex-Stepmom Chump,

      No judgments here on you as a good person. You had hard, painful choices to pick from in a confusing and heart-rending situation that wasn’t your fault. If you weren’t a good person at heart, you wouldn’t have asked for feedback about your course of action in the first place. (Cold hearted bitches don’t ask for feedback.) I’m so, so sorry that this ever happened to you! All of this swift change is hard on you too. Regardless of any differences of opinion regarding the stepdaughter, the one common agreement on here from EVERYONE is that you deserve to heal. YOU deserve to heal! That’s what you tell yourself to feel better. Peace and light to you.

    • ESMC, p.s. btw, out of curiosity, if you’ve chosen “no contact”, why in the world are you still monitoring stepdaughter’s social media?! That seems the worst of boundaries for you — no personal relationship for you and SD but all the pain of seeing her with dad and his new family?! fwiw, I personally wouldn’t “unfriend” her, just block her posts from your feed so you don’t see them.

    • “She hasn’t replied to my letter, where I used some of CL’s language about no contact but softened it a bit. I don’t expect to hear back from her. She hasn’t blocked me on social media.

      She’s posting happy photos of her with the cheater’s new woman and her little kids. The cheater apparently brought this woman into my ex-SD’s life just weeks after I moved out. They look like a happy family, but it’s got to be hard for her to deal with change that is so swift.”

      Stop pain-shopping. Time to block the kid’s posts. Give yourself time and space so if you two should get in contact someday at least one of you will be in a better place.

  • I think you need to be honest about what I see as the true reason behind the relationship you had with the stepdaughter: you were spackling. You didn’t bond with this child, like her or even love her, but you gave her that impression to keep her dad happy, didn’t you? Look at me …mothering your child! I also suspect that you enjoyed “one -upping” her mother. And now you need to make the “hard decision “of going nc, for your emotional health??
    . Sorry but I can’t be supportive of a chump that would use a child and then dump her.

  • UPDATE FROM OP

    I sent my former SD a note like CL suggested. I didn’t hear back from her (to be expected) but I did get an email from the cheater.

    He said I abandoned his daughter and hurt her. He said he didn’t know why I would do that. He said I’m a better person than that.

    Classic blameshifting, right?

    • Ex-Stepmom Chump,

      My DDay was September 2nd, and I could’ve written your letter roughly 90% of your letter. I never married my stepdaughter’s dad (child support payment issues), but we were together for 8 years, engaged and living together for 6.5. My SD is 16 now and lived with her dad and me full time for the last 3.5 years.

      I did mom things, but not having had my own kids, I also am incapable of knowing what it feels like to have that mom bond. I care deeply for SD and often did things for her and with her, do I love her? Yeah, I think I do. Is it unconditional? I don’t know. She’s 16 and has been a hormonal beast for at least two years now. Teenagers are hard to like sometimes. But, she and I got along well.

      Cheater was broke when he and I got together as well and also was “building a business”. I spackled and played Whack-A-Mole with red flags. I paid the bills and in the end, he took me to the tune of $80k.

      Ex and SD moved out a week ago. She is angry with her dad (knows why he and I are splitting). I have chosen to stay in her life, but I’ve also learned to set boundaries.

      Step parenting is the hardest thing I’ve ever done…and that includes DDay! No matter what you do, you feel like you’re not doing it well enough. You have all the responsibility with very little (if any) of the authority and there’s always someone waiting in the wings to heckle you when you stumble.

      Keep in mind, narcs always play the pity card. So, he is either blame shifting you, or he’s trying to get you to feel bad for him/her/both of them so he can continue to manipulate you. Work on those boundaries.

      Hope you’re doing well. And thanks for posting this letter. Reading the letter and all the responses have helped me in my decision to stay in my SD’s life. I just need to make sure I set up good boundaries and stick to them.

  • Sisu, thanks for sharing, and I’m so sorry you’re going through this. You’re smart to be setting healthy boundaries. The infidelity and financial betrayal you’ve been through is so devastating. I know – I invested about $200K into my cheater’s business, a business that rarely turned a profit. He shut it down weeks after I moved out. I guess he was done playing office.

    I’d love to hear how things are going with your SD – she’s lucky to have you in her life. I think one thing that’s different in our situations is that my former SD lives with her mom half the time. Her mom is difficult and has narcissist tendencies – but she’s around and they’re close. It must be so hard for kids when their stepmom leaves and they don’t have their mom in their life. Keep us posted – sending you good wishes.

    • SD’s mom is in her life. They just don’t get along well. The odd thing is, after DDay, SD’s mom has been much nicer to her. So, hopefully, they can start repairing their relationship.

      Communication between SD and me is ok. I text her every few days to say hi and see how she’s doing. I make sure not to ask about her dad at all and focus on her, her friends, school, etc. It’s only been two weeks since they moved out, so I don’t know how our relationship will be in the future. I expected to see her at least once a week, but haven’t seen her in almost two weeks.

      • Sisu , I hope things continue to settle down with you. You are very kind for checking in on her. She is lucky to have you.

        Since May when I moved out, my communication with my former stepdaughter has consisted of theee texts.

        One from her in June – telling me she was thinking about having sex for the first time. My reply – saying I’m glad she has her mom and dad to support her through such an important choice. And then my text/email in August explaining that I’m NC with her dad and I’m so sorry but I can’t be in her life.

        I know it is right, no matter how painful for all of us. But it tears me up.

        I admire you for being there for your SD the way you are. It’s generous and brave!

        • Often times, doing the right thing isn’t easy. You have to look out for you, I get it.

          I’m working toward NC with my ex. I’m not there yet, but am getting better at it.

          Thanks for the kind words. You be good to you 🙂

  • So I followed this particular thread because it is close to my heart. I raised a little girl that was alienated from her mother because her father has control issues to put it mildly. I had a baby with said man. In order to save myself and my baby I had to cut them all loose. I was disenhearted by the way fellow chumps were putting down step moms and dictating how we should be. It was not an easy breezy choice to give up that precious little girl. It was a matter of self preservation. No one knows your life and no one can criticize it.

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