I am 23 years old.
I have a nine-year-old stepdaughter.
When my stepdaughter’s father, my husband, first started dating, we didn’t have his daughter around us all that much. He now since we are married he expects me to be around his daughter every day. He expects me to be with her more than he actually is with her. I do not want to be with her that much as we don’t have a great relationship now. I really am not used to being around children so much. How do I form a bond without being easily annoyed with her?
Hi there, I’m glad you found us. I did read your final question (twice) and I will address that however first I would like to bring your attention to the imposition of your husband’s expectation of you. His expectations are common but that doesn’t make them fair, right or something you have to live with. Can you honor your annoyance as an emotional signal that something needs to change?
Differing and unspoken beliefs about the “Rules” of being husband and wife are the source of many stressful feelings between mates. It sounds like your husband hasn’t included you in these changes, perhaps assuming that now that you are married you will do whatever HE expects you to do as his wife? Perhaps, he assumes you have the same beliefs? Perhaps he’s enjoying having you there to pick up “woman’s work” without realizing how that he’s respecting you and your rights as a EQUAL partner? I’m not trying to cause trouble between you, just help you become more conscious of the power of beliefs so evaluate this situation from the position of empowered choice.
So often we “eager-beaver Stepmoms” offer (and do) so much for our partners. Many times we do too much all with great intentions. We want to help them. We want to be part of the new family and often, we do things as a way to be included. It’s real easy to feel left out, maybe even a bit guilty, when we’re so happy about our new relationship but our partner and his kids may still be grieving and dealing with un-healed divorce wounds. (There’s an article about over-giving and one about divorce guilt that may be helpful you.)
As a new “wife” and woman of the house, this is an important time for you and your husband to consciously look at your beliefs about these roles. Many older husband’s carry a passed down version of chauvinism; that it’s woman’s work to care for any children in the house. Many women were raised to believe that too. Thankfully, these are JUST beliefs and not laws. We can change beliefs as soon as we are aware of them. Waking up to our beliefs is an important part of becoming wise.
When our beliefs, what’s happening and our feelings about things feel good to us….everything feels right. However, when our beliefs or other peoples beliefs and expectations of us result in us NOT feeling good, this is the birth of resentment.
Why? Because All resentment is a form of anger. Anger is telling us a personal boundary is being violated. Whether we are conscious of the specific reason or not, whatever doesn’t feel right creates a painful and potentially enraging and maybe scary conflict between what we are supposed to do, what we want to do & what is happening. (Please see the articles and case studies about resentment for much more about this important topic.)
What to do?
As you asked at the end of your note to me, you can work on your relationship with your stepdaughter. Every caring intention & effort you make to connect with her is a gift of love to her. (Pause for a moment to realize this because so often Stepmoms are treated like Nannies, day care providers and they get money in exchange for their efforts.)
It can feel good for you too. I believe that we SMOMS come into our stepkids lives to help them in ways their parents can’t. IF you feel you are freely choosing this path this can be a beautiful relationship unlike anything she’ll have with her parents…IF she is willing. However, if YOU feel emotionally forced, like an unspoken law, to care for her against your whole hearted will, this is not good for you or your stepdaughter because she will feel it and you will resent it. (Not our goal for either of you.) Below is a link to a couple of idea-filled articles written as thought starters for you.
2. You can speak to your husband and tell him that you two need to discuss the care of HIS daughter as the present situation is “NOT OK” with you. (NO need to give reasons, something not being OK needs to be respected…ideally.) If speaking up to your partner about your feelings brings up any fears….this is a whole other topic that is worthy of your reflection but too big for this question.
3. You can write out your beliefs about being the woman of the house and invite your husband to do the same thing. This can help you see the areas of conflicting beliefs and needs. Looking at these lists call show you where the two of you can do some important, life changing, creative problem solving.
I’m assuming you want to be in an equal partnership and yet sometimes, because we’re so in love, we can lose some, (or lots) of our power in the name of keeping our partner happy with us. This isn’t bad or wrong…it’s just human, painful, enraging and the good news is that we can do something about it. It requires some courage. Rocking the relationship boat usually does AND it can lead to such a more loving connection between you and your partner when SMOM/DH’s work together consciously choosing to honor BOTH of your needs and revising beliefs to honor BOTH of you. (BOTH is the key word here.)
Please see my article, “Nobody’s right/Nobody’s Wrong Approach to relationships” for some concrete ideas. FYI: as a Guest Member you can read many other articles about relationships.
4. You can sign up as a Member of the SMOMS.org bulletin board to get the support of several young sister SMOMS who can share their stories, their lessons learned and support you right now. There is a FREE 30-day membership before you have to decide to join or not and scholarship options if you don’t have the money at this time. The goal is to give you the compassion, support, tools and ideas that will help you lovingly & consciously stand up for your needs by honoring your feelings and making new choices. Something needs to change and it can be you!
There are so many complex dynamics going on with every stepfamily situation. It’s my belief that being a Stepmom is going to bring every unhealed emotional wound to the surface. While this can be a scary & overwhelming thought, when we can look at it as a chance to heal old painful patterns as we better understand ourselves & create new beliefs and boundaries…well then it can be a self-loving, rewarding, albeit challenging, exploration.
When the age difference between Stepmom and partner is a factor (8-10 years or more) it can make the challenge even more complex. There are many young like you sister Stepmoms on a mission who are part of our group and eager to share with you, as well as offering the compassion that can be so healing. Once you’ve read the articles and checked us out as a free Guest Member, you will know if SMOMS.org is the place for helping you in your situation as you continue to connect with your stepdaughter and stand up for your rights as an equal partner in your marriage.
I bet you didn’t expect all this when asking a question about connecting with your stepdaughter…my hope and goal is that this gives you some hope & energy knowing that there is a pathway to reclaiming more and more own personal power ,feeling better about your future with your husband AND connecting with this lucky little girl.
Wishing you all kinds of exciting insights.
Warm Regards to you, Cathryn