I’m losing my hearing and my patience with my dad’s girlfriend (among other things)
This is a repost blog.
Original posts by Letter Writer #1204 at Captain Awkward. Only the original questions/updates are reproduced here - to read Captain Awkward’s advice, click through to the original links.
Dear Captain Awkward
I (she/her) am having some issues with my father’s partner (also she/her). I don’t know how much of my discomfort and dislike of the woman stems from the adolescent area of my brain screaming “you’re not my mother, you don’t get to tell me!” and how much of it is legitimate and may be tackled or minimised.
A little context — my mum died 11 years ago, when she was 59 and I 26, from cancer. A couple of years after that, my dad met Cersei and hit it off. She was also recently widowed, they were each still in love with their spouses but willing to explore a new relationship together. So far, so happy. It’s now a number of years later and it seems like they’ll be together until death does them part (but with no suggestion of marriage being on the cards — a fact of which I am quite thankful).
Here’s the rub, though — Cersei will make every situation about her, and will make it clear that a) no-one has ever suffered like her, and b) your suffering is nothing. A recent example; I have been diagnosed with moderate-to-severe hearing loss. This is a very emotional thing for me. I’m 37 and have no family history of hearing loss, it’s pretty frightening that I’m going to be wearing hearing aids very soon. Cersei’s response was two-fold. First — “Oh, I should probably get my hearing checked too, I’m forever asking people to turn the TV up!” (Great! OK! Fine! I’ll tell you where I went, the test was free. Go forth and get your testing done.) Secondly — “I don’t think your hearing’s that bad. You can hear everything I’m saying.” Stop. Stop right the fuck there. You haven’t seen my hearing deteriorate over the last 3-4 years from jokes about “wow, your hearing’s lousy!” to friends saying “no, seriously, I am concerned about your hearing, for it is lousy.” You don’t know how much detail I miss in conversations, you don’t see me struggling to hear the TV and trying to avoid switching subtitles on for everything (my husbandface finds them distracting) and FUCK OFF do you get to minimise what is a very frightening situation because I can hear you clearly in an enclosed space when you are sitting 2 feet from me with no background noise.
My usual tactic is to be quite abrupt. “I don’t think your hearing’s that bad” — “Yes, it is. It really is, and here are examples of how bad it is.” My dad will step in and tell her to rein it in when people are getting visibly frustrated with her but she will then laugh this off all cheerful — “Oh I’m in trouble again!” — and I know that it’s going to happen again next time.
Captain, it’s got to the point that I avoid seeing my dad if I think Cersei is going to be around. I don’t want to lose my relationship with him, but I don’t want to spend more than a couple of hours with her at a time because I know that I’ll get angry and try to keep my cool, I’ll be upset by what she’s said this time for days after, and I won’t actually enjoy seeing my dad.
Is there a way that I can get her to self-moderate more? (Possibly not, she’s in her 60s, and what’s that saying about old dogs and new tricks?) Is there a way I can teach myself to react less? Do I need to just stop telling my dad anything significant that’s happening in my life, on the assumption that telling him is akin to telling her?
– Desperate and Going Deaf
9 Sept 2019: UPDATE
I got my hearing aids a couple weeks ago, and since then my life is inestimably better! I can hear everything so well, I feel like Daredevil. I’d never realised that the clock in my lounge (which I’ve had over 8 years) audibly ticks, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
With regard to husbandly, he realised how important subtitles were to me when he wanted to introduce me to a film. We tried it without subs at first, and I was straining to hear the voiceover (Morgan Freeman’s voice is better than warm caramel, but it’s also kind gravelly and quiet!) — so he switched the subs on. I was able to watch, and hear, and fully engage with the rest of the film. It was beautiful and made me cry. We talked about it the next day and he asked what I would have done if the subs hadn’t been on. I told him — truthfully — that I would have given up on engaging, and gone to bed. He then set subtitles to be on as the default option every time we watched anything together, and apologised for sometimes switching them off if he was watching something on his own after I’d gone to bed and forgot to switch them back on, until I got my brand new shiny magic ears. Now I don’t even need the TV as loud as he does.
With regard to not-my-step-mother (yes, I’m deliberately creating a distance between her and me in my mind, it might not be the healthiest thing to do but it helps me), hubs and I have agreed that she will not be invited to our house again. Any interactions that we have with her will be at a location we can — and will — walk away from. That might be a nice restaurant, or my dad’s house, or recently a garden centre, so we can hang out and have nice “family times” but also we decide when time’s up and that’s when we walk away. We also sometimes see my dad on his own; he understands that she can be frustrating, and isn’t going to force us to spend time with her for the sake of it.
I’ve chosen not to engage with any hearing impaired communities, online or offline, for the moment at least — but I know the option exists, so I might in future. There is someone at work in a similar situation so I’ve reached out to her for advice on equipment that helped her with using a phone headset with hearing aids (I work in a call centre, and any time I cover my hearing aids — including with a headset — I get feedback…equipment is coming, it’s going to take a few weeks maybe, apparently it’s the best thing since sliced bread).
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