By Baila Sebrow

Question

I am the product of a wicked stepmother. My biological mother was not emotionally well, unfortunately, and my parents had to get divorced. My father remarried a divorced woman who turned out to be a horror. When they were dating, she acted sweet like sugar. My siblings and I didn’t trust her, but we went along with it for our father’s happiness. She insisted that we all move into her home like one big happy family.

Right away, she was mean to us, and made us feel unwelcome. She actually said that we are intruders in her home! I’m the oldest of the children, and I made sure that everyone behaves, does their chores, and everything she asked us to do, so that our father will have a good marriage. Then she started putting him down too, and insulting him by making fun of him and calling him names, and that she did us all a favor by taking us in. He used to not answer her, to keep her calm. She always complained that she has to cook and bake for us. When my father or I would cook, she would throw it out and say that it’s disgusting. There was so much more that went on, it would take a book to write about it.

One night, during her fits, she decided to throw me and my siblings out, and things got so bad that my father had to leave too. The real reason I’m writing to you is that she’s telling people that her marriage ended because of me. She is making up stories about me that never even happened!

I’m in shidduchim now, and it’s hurting me. People believe her because she’s a teacher, has a bunch of friends, and she is very good to her own children who are not married and also, to her grandchildren. My father is so nice that he doesn’t want to talk bad about her, so it’s making it seem like she’s telling the truth. She’s looking to remarry and needs a good excuse to explain why she’s divorced two times. Please help me. My father knows that I’m writing to you.

Response

Though such circumstances as you described do go on, they are rarely addressed in shidduch forums from the perspective of the mistreated stepchild. Particularly, because you are in shidduchim and you have evidence to believe that she is hurting your chances for finding someone compatible, this does need to be brought to the forefront.

I am so sorry for all you have endured—your mother’s illness, the divorce, your stepmother’s mistreatment of you and your siblings and your father, being evicted in middle of the night by that woman, and your father’s troubles, too. You have all suffered at the hands of a demented, selfish woman.

Fairy tales have featured wicked stepmothers since the beginning of time and have given a bad name to women who take on the responsibility of taking care of her husband’s children from a previous marriage. In the best of circumstances, they are viewed as less affectionate and unfair to their stepchildren. Fortunately, in real life, there are stepmothers who treat their stepchildren no differently than their own. Sadly, that has not been the case for you.

It sounds like this woman wanted to marry your father, and in an effort to gain his favor, she went out of her way to be nice to you and your siblings before the wedding. I don’t know why your stepmother insisted that everyone live in the same house. I want to believe that she was not intending to be abusive. It might be that she was hoping that since you were of marriageable age, you would quickly find a guy to marry. It is also possible that she assumed that if there were other adult children, in addition to you, you would all find a place to live on your own. I don’t know what your father and this woman discussed before they got married. But it is very obvious that your stepmother regretted her decision and took her bitterness out on all of you in a horrific way. Whatever was going on in her head, and regardless of how she tries to justify her despicable actions, there is no excuse in the world for being abusive to children. Especially since you and your siblings had been through such trauma before she came into your lives, she should have gone out of her way to be sensitive and understanding. Instead, not only did she mistreat you and your siblings, she is disparaging you to the extent that you feel it is hurting your chances for finding a good shidduch.

I could go on about what a terrible woman she is, but right now the burden of fixing the actions of your ex-stepmother is on your father—he must speak the truth; it’s his responsibility. I get that he is a nice person, and likely does not want to engage in lashon ha’ra, motzi shem ra, or rechilus. But with all due respect to him, he is the only one who can change the nature of the outcome. If this woman is well-known and is going around saying that you ruined her marriage and your father remains silent, then as much schar as your father is getting for not talking badly about his ex-wife, he is committing a great disservice to you and your siblings.

It could be that he still has some feelings for his ex-wife and he wants her to remarry and move on with her life, so, therefore, he is not revealing the truth about what went wrong in their marriage. But you are his child. His first obligation is to you. There are many ways he could go about handling the situation while still not allowing you to be considered the culprit. He could make it very clear to people that whatever went wrong in his marriage was between her and him, and it had nothing to do with any of his children. So what if she comes out looking like a liar?

Even if this woman refuses to take any responsibility for her part in the breakdown of her second marriage and in fact believes that you caused the divorce, that still does not give her carte blanche to place you in a negative light and for your father to remain silent. Silence is perceived as acquiescence. That he is not contradicting her in any way is enough for people to believe anything she says. Your father is empowering an evil woman. Please show him this response.

I know that you have much to deal with, and you cannot shoulder this anguish on your own. You need to reach out to as many people as possible to help you combat your plight. There must be other family members who are familiar with your father’s marriage to this woman. But even if there is no one else to help you, contact the rav of your shul or any rav in your community. I am sure that anyone who hears the details of the circumstances will offer to step in and do whatever is necessary on your behalf. That does not mean that anyone could stop your former stepmother from continuing to malign you; she is on a selfish mission to find a new husband. As long as there is no other person to thwart her wickedness, it will appear that her words are true. That needs to stop ASAP. Though there will be two sides to the story at that point, at least it will cause some doubt in people’s minds.

I will leave you with this thought. Every day I get calls and e-mails from parents and singles who believe that someone is ruining shidduchim for them. I do not claim to know how Hashem operates. But I do know that Hashem is mezaveig zivugim. And when it appears that a shidduch was ruined because of what someone said or did, the shidduch was not meant to be. There are countless situations where evil-mouthed and jealous people did everything in their power to destroy a shidduch. But if it is meant to be that two specific souls are to be bound in marriage, no mortal can ever mess with that in the long term. The couple will find a way back to each other. No chassan and kallah stand under the chuppah one minute earlier or one minute later than is predestined. Hashem is continually creating shidduchim and arranging the marriages. He never stops to sleep. As long as you are determined to get married, and you never allow your former stepmother to spoil your own morale, your shidduch will come to you. Do not lose hope, and do not believe that she has any power. Hashem is the Al-mighty G-d. n

 

Baila Sebrow is president of Neshoma Advocates, communications and recruitment liaison for Sovri-Beth Israel, executive director of Teach Our Children, and a shadchanis and shidduch consultant. She can be reached at Bsebrow@aol.com. Baila also hosts The Definitive Rap podcast for vinnews.com, Israel News Talk Radio, WVIP 93.5 FM HD2, and talklinenetwork.com. Questions and comments for the Dating Forum can be submitted to 5townsforum@gmail.com. Read more of Baila Sebrow’s articles at 5TJT.com.

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