Dear Stavroula: The Problems of a Prospective Stepmom

Dear Stavroula,

For a year-and-a-half I have been in a relationship with a 45-year-old man who has a fourteen-year-old daughter. He and his ex-wife split up five years ago on her initiative (she had an affair with their koumbaro). I am 43 years old and have no children. My partner is a very affectionate and giving man and his relationship with his daughter is very close. She often stays at his house, she has most of her things there, since her relationship with her mother is not at all good. When I first met her, she was quite friendly with me and I felt that we could have a close relationship and that she could see me as her second mom.

However, since her father and I decided to move in together and get married, her behavior towards me changed abruptly; it has become rather hostile. When her father is not in the room with us, she ignores me. I talk to her and she does not answer. When we are at home all together, she does not speak to me, and everything she says begins with the phrase “Dad…” as if I did not exist. She constantly and in a variety of ways monopolizes the interest of her father. For example, she constantly has something that concerns her and asks him to discuss it in private.

The situation has started to tire me out. What should I do?

Maria Ch.

 

Dear Maria,

Your husband’s daughter is a child and in pain, as are many of the children seeing their families dissolve for some reason. This girl experienced the separation as a nine-year-old who was able to balance and feel safe first and foremost through her relationship with her father, since she is not well connected with her mother, but you suddenly appeared and naturally she feels threatened. She is afraid of losing her father’s love, wondering whether she is no longer important in his life, whether she will find herself alone between her two parents and their new families.

On the other hand, you also feel threatened as the girl tries to get you out of what she considers her own family and outside her relationship with her father. You are probably wondering about your place in the life of your beloved, and you are afraid he has a greater weakness for his daughter than he should and wonder whether it will affect his relationship with you.

It is a difficult and complex situation that is normal and can be improved if there is a disposition to improve it. It takes time and patience.

First of all, as far as your relationship with the girl is concerned, it is a good idea not to have the expectation that you will take the position of the mother, so that you will not be disappointed. As bad a relationship as she has with her, she has a mother and when she feels that someone wants to take her place she will react badly.

This does not mean that you will not be able to have a good relationship with your husband’s daughter later on, and that’s what it is all about. Give her the time to understand that your goal is neither to replace her mother nor to take her father away from her. The goal is to offer her friendship and love and to be close to her when she needs you to hear her or support her if she asks you.

When the girl relaxes and has become used to your presence at home, suggest doing some things together, like watching a movie, going for a walk, going out for lunch. So, you start off with slow but steady steps to build your relationship and become more involved.

For now, your attitude towards her should be steady, loving, respectful, and understanding. Show her that you understand that she wants to spend her own time with her father and that you also agree with it and make it easy for her. Organize moments for them to spend time together, for example, reserve a table in a good restaurant, get tickets for a concert they can go to, or anything else you think they would like to do together.

When you talk to her on your own be calm and polite and do not push her on anything. If she reacts badly to you, do not take her behavior personally and do not make the mistake of getting involved in a fight with her, no matter how much she provokes you. Do not forget you’re dealing with a kid. However, set your limits. Make it clear to her that all you ask is for her to treat you with the same respect you treat her.

Finally, be honest with yourself about your relationship with your partner: Is this for the long haul and are you willing to fight for it? Surely, it is not at all easy to live together with children who are not your own and only if the couple has love and respect can they solve the problems that arise every day.