Stepfamily Issues

Personal stories about stepfamilies, childhood and general family issues.

March 09, 2010

homes break for good reasons

Selena is 45, an only child of a broken home and has herself recently divorced. With three young teenagers at home to care for she settled for being a stay at home mom until her post-divorce stresses subsided and during this period she grew closer to her mom than she ever thought possible.

"I remember mom being bitter and twisted when dad divorced her and married a younger woman," says Selena, "and she kind of took things out on me for still loving my dad and spending time with him."

"Anyway, we all went our separate ways as families do," sighs Selena. "Mom had a few boyfriends but never married again, dad moved overseas and eventually I got married and had kids. And now I am trying to pick up the pieces of my life after divorce and of the mountain of problems I have the one that really got to me, really upset me, and nearly drove me into a straight jacket was the anonymous harassment."

"There is really no such thing as an anonymous harasser," says Selena. "Deep down you know who it is, and why he or she is doing it. I knew my ex-husband had to be involved -- he had been caught out sending me stupid anonymous letters when we were married -- but when you're going through a stressful time like separation and everyone seems to be annoying you, or you them, the anonymous harasser might be one of several people -- not the obvious one."

"I had to discover exactly who was sending me anonymous hate letters, making anonymous calls at 3am, dropping garbage, excrement and dead rats on my doorstep and otherwise attempting to drive me nuts," says Selena, "and because an anonymous harasser needs to gain a reaction in order to win the kudos he or she needs it had to be someone I was confiding in. I wasn't talking to my ex or anybody who knew him -- and that's why I was confused. He picked the kids up at weekends, had a nice time with them, and didn't bother me face to face."

So who was Selena confiding in about the anonymous harassment? Who was getting a reaction from her that satisfies his or her need to know that their anonymous harassment was working and causing her distress?

"If you've confided in a couple of people like I did," explains Selena, "then you need to check them out as you would a new person in your life. You need to draw up a list of these people and ask yourself what do I have that they don't have. If you're rich, are they poor? If you're famous, are they nobodies? If you're young, are they old? If you're beautiful, are they ugly? If you're slim, are they fat? If you're employed, are they unemployed? If you're happy, are they miserable? If you're single, are they partnered? If you're healthy, are they sick or disabled? If you're stable, are they unstable? If you've got children, are they childless? Etc."

While none of these differences - and hundreds more that you can add to the list - actually means that you should mistrust people who don't have what you have, Selena believes that you should never, ever discount anyone in your life as being incapable of being an anonymous harasser.

"The reason why the harassment is anonymous," explains Selena, "is because you know the harasser in your daily life and trust him or her."

"Another angle," says Selena, "is that two people are involved - one of whom may be deliberately or innocently conveying your reaction to the anonymous harasser."

"If you've recently denied a friend or family member a favor or a cash loan - or changed the relationship in any way," says Selena, "then that's another clue. But sometimes people bide their time for years before they exact revenge, so don't jump to hasty conclusions."

Revenge is a very powerful motive for anonymous harassment, and imagine how sweet that revenge will be if the person carrying it out can get away with it anonymously at the same time as remaining in your life as a friend, lover, family member, or whatever.

Selena had the shock of her life when she discovered that her anonymous harasser was her mother, and yet deep down Selena knew that her mother was angry at her for being too busy to drop by as often as the old woman wanted her to and probably still harbored grudges from the time of her divorce many years ago.

"Another big factor to consider when drawing up your suspect list," says Selena, "is to work out which one of them has the time on their hands to play the dirty tricks. In this respect, my mother scored very highly because everyone else had jobs, kept regular hours or lived too far away to be able to snoop around my place early in the morning, but I just refused to believe that my own mother was capable of being such a snake in the grass."

And yet, by eliminating one suspect after another only one person remained - the one person in the world that Selena thought she could trust. Her mother!

"The best way to overcome anonymous harassment," says Selena, "is to stop reacting to it and to stop telling people about it. The more people you tell, the more suspects you have."

Selena was right, though, in suspecting that her ex husband was involved. Her mother may have had a little axe to grind with Selena, but her ex husband had a big axe to grind and together her mother and ex husband were having great fun at poor Selena's expense.

"I never knew that my mother and my ex had any sort of relationship after the marriage ended," says Selena. "It was a double betrayal."

What she had, that her ex husband didn't have, was the children and the old family home. And what she had, that her mother didn't have, was just about everything!

"My life's a mess right now," admits Selena. "I've had to cut my mother out of my life, there's no way I can ever forgive her for what she's done to me - and at the worst possible time, too.

"Staying in the old family home is not a good thing for divorced women to do, I know," says Selena, "but when children are involved it is not wise to move house and uproot them from friends and schools and because I want them to have a continuing relationship with their father I can't move too far away in any case. I guess I'm stuck!"

"I've had so many problems and so much heartache lately," sighs Selena, "and throughout it all the one person I relied on for support was my mother."

"When homes and families break up you'd think that everyone would have the best interests of the children at heart and would do their best to help the person left with the day to day care of them, wouldn't you?" asks Selena. "Well, I've just disovered that the people you depend on most to do the right thing by you and the children are the people most likely to be hurting you every which way they can."

"Apart from sadistically feeling good about hurting me, what on earth did my mother and ex have to gain by driving me mad?" asks Selena. "Had they gone too far and caused my death by heart attack or something, sure they might have been happy to be rid of me and to gain financially from it, but would they have been happy having to raise the kids on their own? To cook, wash, clean, pick up and drop off and generally run themselves ragged looking after them?"

"I don't think so," adds Selena, "and for as long as I live I will never understand why people in these situations don't think through what they're doing. Broken marriages and homes are a fact of life. They're bad for parents and children alike, and no sane person in that situation -- and particularly outside it, like my mother -- goes about deliberately making things worse."

"So far, I don't think my kids have been damaged too much by the anonymous hate letters, the anonymous calls at 3am and the dropping of garbage, excrement and dead rats on the doorstep and neither have I -- but who knows," sighs Selena. "The last thing I want is to become bitter and twisted like my mom and start resenting my children's relationship with their dad, and even though I have far more reason to become like that than she did I am making a superhuman effort to keep myself together."

"Without my mother's collusion my ex would not have been able to harass me, so she is the one who is most at fault," says Selena. "And, come to think of it, it was probably that fault in her personality that caused my dad to leave her in the first place."

"Believe me, now that I've gone through it all myself I can honestly say that no home gets broken without a very good reason."

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Copyright 2006-2014 all rights reserved Stepfamily Issues