Struggling w/ a jealous stepdaughter
Thank you for your website.
I’m needing to have help with the struggles of being a stepmom.
I've been with my second husband now for 5 years. In May we got custody of his daughter. I try so hard to give her lots of love, show kindness, but I feel she could care less. I have hard time showing affection to my husband, each time I do, which is rarely ever, she gets jealous and marches off and vents her boyfriend or friends how I’m trying to take her dad away from her and she can’t ever be with her dad alone because of me.
Which may be her perception and we've explained to her that no one is ever going to replace her. As a matter of fact she gets almost all of his affection in the house. I go to work very early in the morning so go to bed at about 8pm and after that it’s them. He doesn’t come to bed with me he stays up to watch tv with my step daughter.
Its almost like she’s very territorial over him and it makes me feel very uncomfortable in my own home and all I want is peace and everyone to get along, and I want to be able to show him affection. She sits a lot of times practically on top of him and drapes her legs all over him, I can understand how this would be appropriate for a 10 year old, but not a 17 year old.
He's explained to his daughter that she shouldn’t be jealous because she gets most of the affection in the house.. Many times I just distance myself and this is causing strife because I don’t want to show my husband affection for fear of causing discourse with my stepdaughter.
I know these are normal feelings for a stepchild to feel. I just wish she would see that I need as much affection from her dad as she gets from her boyfriend. She is very self centered, very disrespectful and manipulative at times. We've caught her in so many lies and its like she doesn’t worry about how its going to affect others involved. But her daughter never makes her accountable for her behavior.
I’m really struggling and don’t want to be in a loveless relationship but I feel like this is where its headed.
Thanks for your time,
Sincerely, “Out of ideas and sad”
Dear “Out of ideas and sad,”
I can certainly understand why you are feeling badly about the ways things are at the present time. From what you’ve said, you have been very accommodating to both your stepdaughter (SD) and your Husband for quite a while. That shows you have a big heart and a determined willingness to ry to have peace in your home.
Sadly, many teenage stepkids (skids) take full advantage of their situation and what happens in you get power struggles all over the place. They hold their parents hostage (one or both) and it is very hard to watch. I totally understand this dynamic. Let’s see if, in this short letter I can offer you some support and ideas.
(Note:It is a big topic and I don’t want you to think it is an easy situation, just that I only have 30 minutes to reply to something that we could spend many hours discussing and debating.)
First thing that struck me is that your husband seems to have decided that he is going to make his daughter his primary connection and you his mistress (in the attention hieracrchy, no sexual connotations implied AT ALL) When a divorced dad does this, it is so very hurtful to the wife, to you, to those of us who are stepmoms. I’m so sorry for the pain you are feeling. I get it. Now what can you do about it?
Have you read the smommentary about dealing with Rude teenage Stepkids and the one about “Stop trying”? Both of them will give you some ideas for changing your reactions to her attempts at controlling your lives. Have you read and shared the great book about teenagers, “get out of my life…” by Anthony Wolfe? In this, he breaks each chapter down to the topic and then how differently girls and boys reaction to things. He states that teen girls need connection AND to look like they don’t so they connect and start arguments so they can be connected and still seem like they could care less all at the same time. He says the boys just want to be left alone.
Can you and your hubby work together, showing his daughter that after 8pm is his time with her but before that HE wants to give his attention to his wife? Can you and you hubby set up some ex-free, kid free dates that are as important to him as his time with his daughter? Is he willing to stop letting his daughter control his life, his actions and model for his daughter the way she should be treated as a future wife one day?
When divorced Dads realize that they are modeling behaviors for their kids, often their backbones will straighten for their intentions are to do no harm and they usually haven’t thought about that. Dad’s who are afraid of their kid’s, to the point that they turn over control of their actions to their kids at their own expense, usually turns the big strong, attractive man we love into a “wimp” and that is so sad, so upsetting, so hard to watch and often puts an emotional wedge in the marriage.
If you husband is open to learning more about how to handle this situation, that’s great and as mentioned there are a few books, easy reads that will help him and you two as well. If he is not willing to change and you feel that you’ve pleased your case as best you can, then you are the one facing some decisions. This is also not a pleasant process.
There are ways you can probably become OK with her not liking you or reaching out to you, right? From the sounds of it she is exhibiting some narcissistic behaviors. If her bio-mom is a naricissist, there is going to be an even stronger pull for her actions. If she is just being a manipulative teen, then maybe it is better for all of you that you stop trying with her and look at it as a way to reduce the pain you are experiencing when she is around.
If you are needing some attention from your husband and he is refusing to give you the love and attention and affection any wife deserves, that is an issue for the two of you (even when you can see the SD is putting pressure on him, HE is the one allowing it). He may say he feels he’s being torn between the 2 of you but it is that he is being blackmailed by his own daughter and that is a hard thing for any man to acknowledge. If only you could give him some new reasons to change his behavior.
Is he open to getting creative with you? Can he suddenly become an early morning lover, when teens are usually in a deep deep sleep so you could expect privacy? how would it feel to set you alarm ½ hour earlier than normal and “surprise him?”
Could you get creative about your time together, almost like you two are new acquainted lovers? Can you get past the anger, process it please, and get creative with him? Does he want to make changes or has he become resigned to having no choice as long as she is around? This is hard to watch as well, but sadly more common with dad’s who’ve been worn down over the years.
Is it time for you to find some couples activities that do not include kids so that you and your hubby can socialize, get time away from SD in a socially legitimate way to give your hubby that support in case his daughter complains.
It is not likely that she will change, so you and our hubby are the two candidates for change.
Here’s a wild thought: Would you and your husband consider going on a double date with your SD and her boyfriend, like adult couples, so she can begin to look at her connection with her boyfriend like yours with your Dad? Just an idea!???
It feels like you are starving for some loving attention from the man you love and this is a valid, important need that you have a right to claim. I will hope that he will be open to trying something new with you as it could break the spell of her manipulations and give you two some much needed mutual TLC.
If you haven’t found it yet, there is a bulletin board forum for stepmoms (smoms) with teenage stepkids skids) and you will get lots of support and a bunch of ideas if you want to read and participate there. I know doing more and more is hard when you are already so tired of trying to hard. However, this effort will be for you, for your hubby and for your own well-being, instead of trying to get SD to be different, which is a power struggle that rarely succeeds with a win:won result.
Good Luck in your process.
I hope this is helpful.
Remember you do deserve to be loved and to have your needs met.
Take Care, Cathryn