Transcribed from my video at www.youtube.com/askvictoria.
L is engaged to a man who has a previous family. He does not set boundaries and he is passive when it comes to dealing with his hurricane borderline personality adult daughter. She is in danger of completely being a door mat with this new family. Self analysis is needed to find out why she is putting herself in this situation and allowing all this boundary breaking. Also l needs to get clear on what she wants, needs and what her limitations are with respect to this new family she is enmeshed with.
Today I want to answer a viewer question, but first I’m going to read you the letter:
“Hi Victoria, I just watched a video of yours and I’m compelled to write. I’m involved with a wonderful man and he’s asked me to marry him. His and potentially my future family consists of four adult children, that the ex-wife brought to the family from a previous marriage, plus three biological children of his, ages from 12-16. The ex-wife has moved out-of-state with yet another man. She has been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder/narcissism, in addition to the 24-year-old daughter who is also borderline personality. Though the ex has not been too much of an emotional toll on me, learning to deal with the older daughter (I will call her A) is a daily challenge. A is married with a four-year-old child from a previous marriage, but they (A and her husband) consistently fight and break up weekly. She always runs home to daddy with her daughter and belongings in tow. This is very much a revolving door at daddy’s house. I have personally labelled her a tornado; she storms in, creates a disaster in her surroundings, and storms out as though nothing has happened, leaving the disaster for others to clean up, emotionally and physically. Recently one of their fights became physical. This was the first physical episode I have witnessed. I have witnessed the verbal abuse she expresses on the family on many occasions and although she and I have done well, I was recently on the receiving end with her expressing resentment toward me because I told her and her husband to get out of the house during the physical fight.
“Though it hurt me very much, I have come to terms with this, and discussed it in detail with the father. He is hopeful and I let it go. I recognize the pattern and not take it personally. I have been aware that my fiancé is what I call passive to the behaviour and I’m only guessing it is from years of trying to deal with it. I have also recognized that he sets few to no limits with the younger three children. There appear to be no lines they won’t cross, and they have a sense of entitlement. [red flag!]
“I have invested a tremendous amount of emotion with this family and a lot of physical work trying to make their house a home, not to mention the children seeing me as an additional source of money [red flag]. I have a career and would add 45 thousand to the family income. Their mother stayed at home.
“My question to you: where do I fit into this family? Will I always feel used, or can I set limits? Will there ever be peace? I divorced eight years ago and raised two sons. It was very challenging, but one is happily married with two babies, and the younger one just left for college. I raised them knowing the value of a dollar, and that you can only get what you work for. Now I am in a situation where that is not respected by children. Is it possible for me to keep my values and level of expectations with this new family? Side note: dad works out-of-state, so he is only home every two weeks, two weeks I am alone to deal with everything [red flag]. I do love this man very much and want a future with him. We always get away for a private weekend every month; we call it recovery weekend. [we’ll talk more about that] Any advice you can offer is greatly appreciated. Thank-you, L.”
L, I’m a little concerned about you, because on the one hand, I see that you don’t have a lot of power in the dynamic because they’re his kids, his family, and here you are trying to save them and model them after your family, and what you’ve accomplished. I don’t think that’s possible. I think you need to have a very strong conversation with your fiancé in which you lay out your limitations, your boundaries, your needs & wants, and stick to them, because it sounds like you’re enabling dysfunction, which I don’t think is what you want to do. I think your intentions are really good, but the best intentions are paved to hell sometimes. So I don’t want you to get into a terrible place emotionally yourself, feeling used & abused, because you have not followed through on your boundaries. You cannot follow his lead, because his lead sounds like no boundaries, very passive. If you’re going to get into this family, you need to be very clear about what you want, need, and what your boundaries are, and stick to them, and have everyone know that they are those boundaries. Also, be willing not to be liked by everyone. Clearly you can bend over backwards, leap tall buildings, turn yourself inside out into a pretzel and they still may not like you or appreciate you. So might as well set the boundaries in a fair, kind and loving way from the outset. Number one, when you get married your money will be yours and your fiancés, but let’s have some division because I don’t want your money to be usurped by the whole family. I know it’s a picky issue, money, but it’s an important issue given our economy and given general boundaries. I’m very concerned about this.
Number two, draw a boundary with that A daughter, because it does not sound healthy or that letting her stay there is helpful to her or her family even a little bit. So a boundary is, she’s an adult, she fights, there are issues, let them deal with it. They don’t come and camp out. Your fiancé could follow your lead on this. If he doesn’t, I would be thinking, red flag. This is not going to stop. How we do some things, L, is how we do everything. If he has no boundaries with this daughter, what’s to say he won’t have boundaries with future situations, walking all over the home and you?
I think that your recovery weekends, you take as a good thing. I think of it as, you guys are operating from fight/flight emergency constantly, and when things are great on these recovery weekends, it sustains you through the hell or the dysfunction during regular life. So that’s a red flag for me.
Number two, he goes away for two weeks, and you deal with everything. Why? That’s not, in my opinion, fair. It is what it is, but while you’re doing that, you need to know that there are certain consequences to choices you’re making, consequences on you. You’ve raised your family already. What’s all this? I would be looking inside to your own emptiness, what’s going on with you. You sense that this is a problem, obviously if you’re writing me. So what’s this all about? What’s the source of this? You’ve got to ask yourself, what is the source of your allowing yourself to be treated like a doormat at times? And it’s only going to get worse. Be very careful with yourself. Look at all the red flags that I spoke about. Also, get a list of boundaries, number two. And number three, get a clear agreement with your fiancé around money and around how you allow that home (which is now yours too) to be accommodated to. I do not think that the adult daughter should be allowed to splay her tornado all over everybody.
Keep us posted. I just want to say good luck, get your boundaries in order. And self-value. You’ve done a lot of good things. Self-value, my dear. You are someone who needs to make sure you really value yourself.
I’m thinking about all of you. Blessings!
Victoria Lorient-Faibish MEd, CCC, RPP, RPE
Masters in Educational Psychology
Canadian Certified Counsellor
Registered Polarity Practitioner
Registered Polarity Educator
New Decision Therapy