I’m Fearful Around Some of My Stepmom’s Family. What to Do?

I'm a female, just turned 21 last May. I currently live with my stepfamily. My dad remarried five years ago and I had no choice but to live with my stepmom's family, which includes her mother (step-grandmother) and brother (step-uncle). My stepmother is very nice to me. But my step-grandma and uncle are the ones who are not really nice to me ever since. I often get hurtful words from them. Either they say words right in front of me or behind my back. Most of the time, my step-grandmother even threw things around me. They never do it in front of my stepmother. So I'm having a hard time convincing my dad and stepmom that I'm feeling uncomfortable at home. I think I am now experiencing emotional trauma. I cry every day, and I lost appetite. I feel scared every time I'm left at home with them. I even fear using the bathroom or staying long in a certain area of the house when they are around. I don't know what to do now. Please help! —Stepped On
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Dear Stepped On,

If you fear that you are in danger of actual physical harm, please get out of that house! Do not stay in a dangerous situation. Whatever your reasons for not extricating yourself from this situation and no matter how valid those reasons might feel, you must put your physical safety first and foremost.

It sounds like you feel powerless, isolated, and stuck. Being uncomfortable in your own home feels pretty awful, I’m sure.

I understand that at age 16, you didn’t have any choice about where to live. Now that you are 21, I wonder what keeps you from making different choices? You say that you are having a hard time convincing your dad and stepmother that you are uncomfortable in the house. It sounds like you are hoping that your dad or stepmother will do something to change things for you. That is giving them a lot of power and control. What can you change for yourself? What can you do to protect yourself?

I understand that it may not be feasible to change your living situation for a variety of reasons, but you do have options. When your step-grandmother or step-uncle say unkind things to you, you can choose to give those words power or not. You can choose to let their words impact you, or you can choose to see those words as a reflection of them and not you.

When you feel powerless, change seems impossible. It can seem like nothing is in your control. I recommend talking with someone who can understand the full picture of what you are experiencing. Talk with someone who can work with you and your specific circumstances. A trained therapist can help you find your power and help you discover what you can change so that your home life is not so intolerable.

Best of luck!
Erika

Erika Myers
Erika Myers, MS, MEd, LPC, NCC is a licensed psychotherapist and former educator specializing in working with families in transition (often due to separation or divorce) as well as individuals seeking support with relationship issues, parenting, depression, anxiety, grief/loss/bereavement, and managing major life changes. Although her theoretical orientation is eclectic, she most frequently uses a person-centered, strengths-based approach and cognitive behavioral therapy in her practice.
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  • Annie

    Annie

    September 14th, 2013 at 4:48 AM

    Do you think that your step mother has no idea about what is happening? I mean after all, this is her family and she did grow up with them. You would think that maybe she has some kind of clue about what kind of people they are? If that’s true then maybe you could talk to her because she would know exactly what you are talking about.
    I know you are trying not to step on toes here but you have to think about your own safety

  • Layla T

    Layla T

    September 14th, 2013 at 5:11 PM

    Um, these people seem seriously demented. I would steer clear when possible.

  • gary

    gary

    September 16th, 2013 at 3:50 AM

    I love it that the therapist’s answer here is to ask what things you can start to do for yourself to make some changes because it is obvious to me that the stepmom and the dad either have their heads in the sand or they see what is happening and see nothing wrong with it. Either way this is neither a safe or a healthy environment for you to stay within. So I too would like to ask are there some things that you can do on your own to make some changes happen for you? I would encourage you to try to move toward some financial independence, get out from underneath their thumb so to speak and then you can have a choice as to whether these are people you would like to continue to have in your life or not. When you are young and dependent on others then somethimes you don’t have too many choices; but at your age I think that you probably have a lot more than you think and maybe it is time to start acting on them.

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