- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 22, 2009

Dear Ms. Vicki,

My stepdad is a jerk, and my mom stays with him because he is an officer. I am reminded every day by both of them that I have to act and behave a certain way so that I won’t cause problems for his career. Do this, don’t do that, smile, speak, sit, I feel like a show animal or something.

Why should I give a rip about him when he is so rude and unconcerned about me and my life? He never says hello, asks how I am, how school is or how my day is. The only person he cares about is my little sister, and it’s because he is her father. It’s sickening how my mom caters to him.

When I’m older, I’m never going to let a man treat me like this and I will never let a man treat my children the way he treats me and my other sisters and brothers. He is making all of us miserable, and my mother does not get it.

I’m biracial, and I know this is the reason he does not like me. He is often making bad comments about my race, and I don’t like it one bit. He also makes fun of my body type and other people who look like me, like we are people who have no business on this earth. Ms. Vicki please say something to my mother to help me.

— I Just Want To Be a Happy Teenager

Dear Teenager,

If your mother is allowing your stepfather to make disparaging remarks about you and does nothing about it, then she is as much at fault as he is.

This should not be your fight. You should have every opportunity to be a healthy, happy teenager, and your family and your home should be the No. 1 place where you feel you belong. Your stepfather is out of line.

I think you should confide in a respected teacher or seek a counselor for support and guidance. You might also consider talking with a trusted family member or even a youth pastor who could help. You need someone to listen to you and understand. It’s important that you like who you are and that you feel good about yourself and the way you look.

In the meantime, try to get involved with school activities, clubs and organizations. This will help boost your self-esteem and possibly limit the amount of time you have to spend with your stepfather.

The last thing I would like for you to do is to tell your mother to write me. I would love to talk to her. As I said earlier, I don’t think this should be your fight. If you are not afraid to let your mother read my response, then do so. Let me hear from you. I know you deserve better.

Dear Ms. Vicki,

My husband was passed over for lieutenant colonel last year, and it’s been hell living with him ever since.

He is devastated that he did not get promoted, and I am very angry, too, because of all of the sacrifices I’ve had to make for his career. I feel like I didn’t get promoted either.

I don’t want to see the people in his unit, his bosses or the other wives either. I have stopped volunteering or participating because I think it’s such a stab in the back. Other people who got promoted aren’t half the officer that my husband is.

I would really like to help my husband cope with his anger, but I can’t because I am so angry, too. I don’t have a career because I bought into the premise that being an Army spouse is a “job.” The downside to this thinking is that when things like this happen, no one is concerned whatsoever about me or what I’ve been through.

My husband has become very moody and agitated. He isn’t talking much and the children are even asking, “Mommy, what’s wrong with Daddy?” Some days, my husband doesn’t even want to go to work.

I just want to know how to help him cope and get through this. What happened here? Didn’t my husband kiss enough you-know-what to get promoted?

𔃉 Coping with non-promotion

Dear Coping,

It’s normal that waiting for promotions is stressful. We know our spouses and loved ones have worked hard and deserve the promotions for their effort and sacrifice. However, stress becomes unhealthy when we become depressed and angry, and withdraw socially from loved ones, et cetera.

My advice to you is to remove your feelings from this equation right now. You can’t help your husband move forward if you are angrier than he is. You must be objective.

I applaud you for supporting your husband and for volunteering in your military community. I know others appreciate your efforts, too. Conversely, we must do these services because we are passionate about what we do, not because we are looking for some reward, i.e., a promotion for our husband. If you say your husband did not “kiss enough you-know-what,” that shows you are not genuine.

Again, I think it’s honorable that you have been supportive of your husband’s career. However, you have to realize it’s his career, not yours. My husband is also active-duty Army. If I am honest with myself, I must admit that the Department of the Army sends nothing to me in my name, except an occasional survey. This is OK with me because my husband is the service member and not me. I love supporting him in every way possible. That’s what spouses do for each other.

On the other hand, I don’t look for certificates, accolades or promotions for my husband based upon my volunteer efforts. You and your husband must come to grips with his nonselection for promotion and realize there is a next time in his future. He will be looked at again for promotion next year. In the meantime, you both must realize your current behavior is destructive for everyone, including your children. Reach out to trusted family and friends for support. You can’t isolate yourselves right now because that would only make matters worse.

If you would like, consider speaking to a clinical social worker or professional counselor for support to help you work through your anger. Call Military OneSource at 800/342-9647. They will connect you to a provider in your local community. This is not a personal failure on your husband’s part. Your lives are one big puzzle; this is only one piece.

Vicki Johnson is a licensed clinical social worker, military spouse and mother of three. Her Dear Ms. Vicki column runs in The Washington Times on Thursdays and Sundays. Contact her at [email protected]

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