Your Questions Answered: Stepdaughter Troubles

1 12 2009

Yesterday I was at my BF of 4 years house and his daughter was coming over for a visit. She is home from school (working on her masters) and has always been the center of attention. She EXPECTS everyone and everything to revolve around her. For Christmas she has already let everyone know she must have more presents than last year (last year she had 26). Nobody will ever say anything to her, they walk on eggshells and just say that is the way she is. She is 27 years old, has never had a fulltime job and I believe is a career student. I went to say hello to her and my BF had told me that she is upset that I didn’t make time to see her earlier in the week (I work a fulltime job) and I had sisters in from out of state.

So she is incredibly cold and just pats me on the back. She went upstairs and I followed her so that we could talk. What started out as a normal conversation to clear the air turned out to be ME attacking her and her mother. I ended up saying what nobody else would- she is a self centered brat. She actually ordered me out of HER house (it is her father’s) and then proceeded to tell me to get out of HER family. I ended up leaving, on my own accord, but today is a totally different story. She went back home this morning and now my BF is acting weird. Distant. I am suddenly the evil GF. The dtr did say that she hopes I will be out of his life by the time she gets back for christmas and I wouldn’t put it past her to make him choose- me or her.

Why is it that everyone KNOWS there is an elephant in the room but nobody wants to discuss it? Am I in a losing battle?

Dear Reader,

When I first began reading your letter I assumed your stepdaughter was a teenager. The fact that she is 27 years old is disheartening to say the least! But your story illustrates something that very few newbie stepmothers know: Stepchildren of ANY age will act out when a new stepparent comes on the scene. Even adult stepchildren in their 50s can have a tough time when a parent remarries. I do think you’re in a tough spot.

Dad is caught in the middle.
Even if your stepdaughter is a brat, her father is her father and loves her no matter what. By confronting her directly, you have given her ammunition she can use with her dad to put distance between the two of you. Usually the best way to handle a situation like this is to work with your partner so you and he are on the same page and then dad is the one who confronts his child.

Stepdaughter is feeling threatened.
This sounds like a territory battle. She clearly thinks her father’s house is hers and that her father is hers, too. In her mind, you are out to steal these things from her. In order to create a relationship with her you need to come at her with a no-threat message so she understands you’re not there to keep her from her dad.

Dad’s heart has closed toward you.
When a parent sees a girlfriend or stepmother fight with his children it triggers major guilt. He’s the one that caused this situation by bringing you into the picture. That can also trigger a trust issue with you. He can’t trust that you have his daughter’s best interests in mind and so he goes into protective dad mode. That means he begins closing his heart to you. There may be an elephant in the room, but it’s Dad’s responsibility to deal with it, not yours. To heal your relationship, you’ll both need to have an open discussion about what happened.

You are important, too.
Forming a new stepfamily is challenging to say the least. But when you have outright hostility and conflict like you do, it’s important that you consider you are bringing to the conflict. Why are you so angry at this girl? What about her makes you feel threatened?

You’re all going to need to do some healing of feelings and trust in order to move forward. I would suggest that you start with a conversation with your boyfriend about your feelings. Do everything you can to stay calm so you can be rational as you talk. I would also suggest that you apologize for putting him in the middle. Ask him what he thinks you could do to help his daughter feel more comfortable with you. Compassion and empathy are the most powerful tools a stepmother has.

And finally, make sure you have the support you need. Stepmothering is so hard. And if you’re not married it can make it even more challenging because there is a sense of impermanence. It’s critical that you have friends you can talk to so you don’t feel like you’re crazy or alone.
 

 

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