Care and Feeding

I Gave Up My Room to My New Stepsister. Now She’s Made Some Absurd Demands.

My family will force me if I refuse.

Woman holding up a television screen in front of her face.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Getty Images Plus.

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Dear Care and Feeding, 

Three months ago, my dad asked me (in a non-pressuring way) if I could move out so there was room for his girlfriend and her daughter who I had never met. I gladly agreed, as I am 22 and had been looking to move out for a while. I moved into a nice one-bedroom apartment and am loving it so far! Only one problem: My stepmom (“Lauren”) and my stepsister (“Elisa,” 15) continue to make demands.

Elisa got my old room (obviously) but she demanded my TV as well. Of course, I refused, but I was met with a temper tantrum. So my dad stepped in and told me “The move has been hard on Elisa, and you are being selfish not to give her your TV.” I PAID FOR THE TV. I said no, so he replied that he was giving Elisa the TV anyway and that I’d be sorry I’d ever been born if I treated Elisa “this rudely” again. What the hell? So my dad basically stole the TV and gifted it to Elisa. And then Elisa demanded loads of my other stuff, and my dad and Lauren forced me to surrender it.

Fast forward two weeks later, it was Elisa’s birthday. She was having a huge party with everyone in her school and the entire family. I was invited and politely answered that I would not be in attendance. Lauren and my dad told me I “had to come whether I liked it or not.” So I came, and Elisa treated me like her personal maid. She didn’t even call me by name. Just “stepsister.” When I told Lauren and Dad about this they said that it was Elisa’s birthday so it was her rules. There were so many more incidents, but I won’t describe them all. Two days ago they invited me to go on holiday with them. I turned them down, but apparently, I have to go because “Elisa needs me.” Seriously, I’ve tried everything. They’re leaving in a week’s time and have said they WILL force me if I refuse. A little advice?

—Stepsister’s Maid

Dear Stepsister,

Your father, stepmother, and stepsister are being wholly unreasonable toward you, and I am so sorry that you are going through this. At 22, however, you are at a point where you can and should determine who gets to be in your life, and in what capacity. I don’t know what your relationship was like with your father before he got with Lauren, but he has shown you that, for whatever reason, he is inclined to put their needs before yours. Perhaps in his desire to please his woman, he has decided that you should be as accommodating as possible and sacrifice yourself to humor a child whom you barely know. This is unfair and really shitty parenting, and I think he’s left you no choice but to erect some serious boundaries between you—which would be healthy for both of you, either way.

Let your dad know that you’re disappointed at how he has chosen to prioritize Elisa over you, and by how she has been allowed to get away with treating you. Explain that you have no desire to travel with people who do not treat you with respect, nor is it your responsibility to cater to your 15-year-old stepsister.

You have to stand firm here. You can’t allow your dad or his new family to bully you. Refuse the trip and don’t waver on that decision. Let them all know that you are happy to spend time together if you can count on being treated well during that time. Otherwise, none of them will see you anymore. It has to be as simple as that; as long as you allow them to mistreat you, it sounds like that’s what they are inclined to do. Hopefully, your words will serve as a wake-up call for your father, but if they don’t, you have to be strong enough to remove yourself from the equation accordingly. Wishing you lots of strength.


Classic Prudie

My stepdaughter has never forgiven me for marrying her father after her mother died over 20 years ago. I have never tried to be her mother. I just want a civil relationship like I have with her brothers. I gave up when during her baby shower we got her a stroller and signed it “Pop Pop & Nana.” My stepdaughter bluntly informed me that her baby has only one grandmother and in no way was I her. Since then I have stepped back and sent my husband to see her alone. Now my stepdaughter is in the middle of a nasty divorce and has to go back to work. She wants me to watch her two children.