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Marrying a man with stepdaughter who hates me

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#1 User is offline   stepchild

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My fiance and I are getting married, we have been together for over 5 years. In this time, I have interacted wtih his daughter no more than a dozen times. My fiance has been divorced from his ex-wife for over 12 years and she has not allowed him to take a role in his daughters life. She is a sophomore in high school and her mother is on her 5 th husband, my fiance was her 2 and it lasted two years. His ex loves to call about every three months and let us know that the child is in trouble or she wants more money. My fiance already pays about $500 a month in child support which I think is absurd since he never gets to see his daughter. Now for my role, the ex-wife constantly brings up the fact that I need to play the role of a step mother to his daughter, the funny thing is that I am about 10 years older than she is, my fiance is older and had her at a very young age. Every time we are in the same room it is kind of awkward because we have never gotten to know each other, I believe this is in part of his ex-wife and her controlling nature. She won't even let their daughter go to my fiance's parents with us when we go on weekends so needless to say she is very controlling and unmanageable when it comes to a lot of things in life. In fact, my fiance only really sees his daughter on holidays, sad I know and we live in the same town. I would feel much more comfortable being a friend to my fiance's daughter because I feel she does not need another "parental figure" in her life but could use a friend to talk with. She is very busy with school, has a job and is often in a lot of after school activities. Also, when we try to invite her to things her mother says no or never gives her the message that we have made contact. I believe she erases messages we leave on the answering machine. To make a long story short, how I deal with a 16 year old girl who has a bitchy mother who only calls when she "wants" something from my fiance who already makes sure his daughter is taken care of?

#2 User is offline   emily4families

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Your frustration and concerns are more than understandable. I wish I'd been able to intervene 12 years ago. There's an important book you and your fiance need to read called Divorce Poison by Dr. Richard Warshak. What you are experiencing is a phenomenon called "parental alienation" and it is a serious problem for your stepdaughter and her father (and you by association). This book will give you some insights into what's been happening, and also some clues at how you can overcome some of the damage.

In terms of your relationship with your stepdaughter, I can totally related. I'm only 13 years older than my oldest stepdaughter, and my stepmother is only 16 years older than me. Follow your heart and connect with her in ways that feel right to you.

Below is an article I wrote for stepparents in similar situations that you may find helpful.

How to Have Peace No Matter What


One of the most persistent and common complaints I hear from stepparents is their frustration with ex-spouses (their’s and/or their partner’s) whose behavior is intolerable.

Two things:

1. Treat them with respect – knowing that they will never change

2. Treat yourself with respect – and stop wishing that they would change.

Their behavior may look like it is about you, but it really is not. They are letting you know their own level of unhappiness and dissatisfaction in the world, and they are using you or the situation as a way to feel victimized – instead of taking action and choosing to love their life.

In my experience it is HOPELESS to wish, want, need, hope, pray – that THEY will change. I’ve heard clients report how they have tried all sorts of communication strategies that are supposed to be so effective with zero results. I’ve heard so many complaints about how the former-spouse will agree to something and then turn around and do the opposite – and my clients are always so surprised EVERY time this happens.

I feel a need to repeat here a definition of insanity that can be very helpful: Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

Here’s what I tell couples who are struggling with these issues – stop focusing on what is wrong about THEM and start focusing on what you do have control over – your responses to what the ex-spouse does in relationship to you and your family.

Oftentimes, when couples begin to shift their focus, they discover that it has been serving them to look outside themselves at what is so wrong about the other person – the one they cannot change. It allows them to feel victimized, helpless, hopeless, and righteously indignant. They get to feel superior, knowing better than the former spouse how to parent and deal with new families and new lives.

The remarkable paradox that occurs is that when couples shift to:

1. compassion for the former spouse, and

2. taking full responsibility for their participation and choices in relationship to the former spouse,

change does occur – it has to. When one aspect of the family “system” changes, all members have to shift as well.

When the new, second wife is able to release and let go of her resentments towards the former wife, she is able to be much more at peace with whatever the ex-wife is doing. By becoming a “lover of reality”, you get to actually enjoy the drama of life, instead of feeling only wronged, victimized, and hurt by life.

Freedom and peace come from meeting life fully with what it brings you instead of wishing, hoping, or needing life to be different than what it is.

Action Step: The next time a former spouse pushes your buttons and you feel frustrated, angry, or hurt –

1. Acknowledge your feelings and seize the opportunity.

2. Ask yourself what you “get” out of believing that you are being treated a certain way.

3. Honestly appraise how you approach life when you hold onto your beliefs about the former spouse and why you think they are behaving that way.

4. Ask yourself how you might be different if you did not believe those things about the ex-spouse.
Emily Bouchard, MSSW
Life Coach, Speaker, & Trainer at Blended Families
Author, "Conquering Conflict: Techniques and Strategies for Resolving Blended Family Conflict"

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