Red Flags – Day 53

Judy’s Story

It was the most traumatic experience I ever went through.

It was about 11 years ago, I met a man that I fell in love with; he had 3 kids and a grandchild.  We dated for a year and then moved in together.  Before that everything was fine, the kids like me, I liked the kids.

There were a couple of red flags, I caught him in a couple of stupid lies; I couldn’t understand why he would lie about something so stupid.  Even one day before we moved in together, I caught him. He never fessed up and it was so friggin’ stupid, I broke up with him then.

We had a strong connection so that’s why I suppose I went back to him.  We were 250 yards apart when our eyes met, it was instantaneous; we were hooked on each other, like karma, like it was meant to happen.

Another red flag was that he never legally divorced his wife.  They had been separated for several years.  But I always felt like we were in limbo (I broke up with him for that too). He went away and thought about it, a few days later he came to my apartment. He was crying.  “You made the biggest mistake of your life by moving away” and he promised me that he would get a divorce and that he would have kids with me and he would marry me.  We’ve been separated since January 2008 and he still hasn’t divorced his wife.

He talked me into moving in with him. We lived together for 2.5 years and during that time we had nothing but problems.  I’ve come to realize that many of the problems are typical step family problems.

His two oldest kids were going into college and one younger who was in 4th grade; 2 girls and a boy.  My boyfriend had partial custody (only at weekends) and he never disciplined his son.  He only had a short time with him so he didn’t want to argue with him.  After a year his son ended up moving in with us full time.  He continued to not discipline his son; that was his practice at the time.  Now the mother was like the holiday parent and she wasn’t disciplining him.

I got nothing but grief from him and his mom every time I tried to discipline him.  His dad always sided with him so I ended up with no authority and a lot of arguments.  The son’s mom made it hard on me, told lies to the kid and talked badly about me.  It didn’t matter what I did, she would criticize me.

Even my boyfriend would make fun of stuff.  His son wouldn’t eat very well and I tried to get him to eat balanced meals.  It didn’t matter what I cooked, he didn’t like it.  Every day eating became this big problem.

His son’s mom was out of work for a long time; she was clinically depressed, wanted to borrow money all the time and was suicidal.  When she had disasters, he always tried to bail her out especially in legal aspects.  So her car was in his name and when her electricity went out, he went over and helped.

I didn’t want her to be a big part of our life and he was regularly putting her above me.  I was criticized because I wasn’t helping her; it made me feel like there was something wrong with me, like I was this really mean person.   He started believing all her lies, all the stories she told about me. His oldest daughter tried to break us up too, by spreading rumors about me.

We broke up about a dozen times; I lost count after 7.  Each time we would get back together.  The last straw was when we were renting a house with Clarence, he was a chauvinist.  He wanted us to renew the lease.  I wanted more time to find somewhere else; to extend on a month by month basis.  You see there were drug addicts in the building and my boyfriend was an avid marijuana user; it turned him into an asshole at times.

My boyfriend wouldn’t go and talk to the landlord (who didn’t do business with women) so I ended up having to talk to him.  I asked him to put his wife on the phone and we worked out a lease agreement that gave us one more month. Somewhere in the conversation I got really frustrated and called Clarence a chauvinist.

Several hours later he put the notice on the door that we had to be out by the end of that month, in 2 weeks’ time. My boyfriend blamed it all on me instead of taking responsibility for his contribution.  We moved to the new place and then I left him.

I told him we’d work on it for a year with the belief that he would make changes but that never happened.  The step family foundation taught me about the dynamics of step families that gave me a lot of support and a reality check.

The plan was for him to start disciplining his kids and to set boundaries with his ex-wife.  You know his son would call him mom to rescue him from me if I asked him to clean his room.  He say ‘she’s being mean’ and then his mom would take him out for fast food.

One of the things I learned was how I put myself into that situation.  I kept telling myself that I was not a victim but I did put myself in to that position.  By the time I got out, I felt like I only had a shred of my sanity and it took me a year to get back to myself.  I got to a place where I know I’ll never ever put myself in an emotionally unhealthy situation like that again. But I would choose to be a stepmom again.

Even though I’m not in a romantic relationship now, I have a lot of really healthy relationships around me now; my friends and family, sisters and mom.

I had been in a depression myself so I wasn’t paying attention to those red flags.  Our own state of mind is what determines when we get into these kinds of situations.  Looking at your own state of mind is what reveals it all.

It was the most empowering thing that came out of it – my emotional and mental health.

–          Judy Graybill can be contact at and

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