How to let go of the single life I thought I was going to live versus the full time step mom and wife role I am living now?
I am 22 years old and have lived the beginning of my adult life like most other women; carefree and selfish. I met my current boyfriend at work and we were both going through a very hard time in our lives. I just came out of an emotionally abusive relationship, and he was coming out of a divorce, where the mother of his child had cheated on him and then up and left their family to go be with another man. My BF is 41 and his daughter, my SD is 10.
I never thought I would ever be with a pre-married man with a child who is substantially older than me, but for some reason we just became absolute best friends right off the bat. He is my soul mate and we compliment each other so well and work so well together it’s incredible. But there is one problem that we are finding, and that’s his daughter’s jealousy. When it’s just me and him, we are so perfect together and never fight or argue and always have a great time, but when Mackenzie is with us, which is almost 100% of the time unless she is being watched for a few hours by her grandmother, we fight and there is constant tension.
She and I get along extremely well together when it is just us, she tells me she loves me and wishes I was her mom and I’m her best friend, but whenever Paul is around and us three are hanging out, she gets very jealous if Paul gives me any attention and gets very bratty and mean.
I am starting to get to my boiling point with it. My BF and I are fighting all of the time now, always about my SD, and I am now thinking about leaving sometimes.
How can I try to let go of the past life I had and try to focus on what my current situation is and what I want my future to be with my BF?
I understand what she’s going through, because ironically my mother did to me what my SD’s mother did to her, so I get how she feels. But on the other hand, my father did not allow me to act the way my BF allows her to act sometimes.
And although it’s not perfect, my BF has changed their relationship from best friends, back to father and daughter, so I know he is trying as well.
I love them both so much and I want to be with both of them forever, but I am getting to the end of my rope and I need some help before I do or say something I will one day regret! What to you think? Feeling like a Mad Lynn
Dear Lynn, Good to hear from you. You are going through a lot and there is way too much to address in this free public response. I say this because I don’t want you to feel like your situation is 1. simple, 2, easy to resolve or 3. Possibly completely explained, although you are very clear and it will make it easier to offer you some ideas.
I’ve copied your letter below and will offer you some ideas.
I will also encourage you to join our group for at least the Free 30-day Guest Period so you can read several posts from other young women in your role who are facing similar experiences. One note, the jealousy your SD (Stepdaughter) is acting out is common and doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the age of the new women in their dad’s life. Your young age means may not have had a chance to acquire some wisdom and emotional strength (yet) that older women may have and so this makes it even harder for you. Not your fault, not bad or wrong, just the way it is for many of you.
If you decide to join the site, as a free guest, please email me and I will give you the links to a few posts that will directly address many of your issues. I can also put you in touch with a couple of Stepmoms (marriage is irrelevant to these feelings or my use of the word Stepmom) who may be able to offer you some personal stories of value.
OK, Here we go, it’s your same letter but with my interjections along the way.
Lynn writes: I am 22 years old and have lived the beginning of my adult life like most other women; carefree and selfish.
Cathryn Replies: I’m just going to start off with asking you why you would judge yourself so harshly for being a delightful, young woman, free to take care of herself and be responsible for her well-being? Calling yourself “Selfish” feels to me like a judgment you have taken on from someone else. You’re 22! This is the time for you to expand yourself, your world and begin to learn how to take care of yourself…please take a look at why you would call yourself something with such a negative connotation. Judgments hurt and learning to stop judging ourselves is a valuable life skill we are all learning.
Lynn writes: I met my current boyfriend at work and we were both going through a very hard time in our lives. I just came out of an emotionally abusive relationship, and he was coming out of a divorce, where the mother of his child had cheated on him and then up and left their family to go be with another man. My BF is 41 and his daughter, my SD is 10.
Cathryn Replies: Most of the our relationships start very intensely. I’m guessing you realize that the power of the attraction to each other includes you each having the ability to support, share, soothe and love each other very deeply…when you are both awake (consciously aware) and feeling safe with each other. The key thing for a lasting strong happy relationship is being able to maintain that connection when life intrudes.
The difference in your age, opens you up to all kinds of emotional issues that are really worthy of your time and attention. Too big a door to open now. Hopefully you can work with a competent therapist. I am also happy to help you. One that you can get a lot of input from as a member of the bulletin board community forums and articles.
Lynn writes: I never thought I would ever be with a pre-married man with a child who is substantially older than me, but for some reason we just became absolute best friends right off the bat. He is my soul mate and we compliment each other so well and work so well together it’s incredible.
Cathryn Replies: I hear your enthusiasm and I believe you. The key thing I’d like you to realize is that your statement appears to only be true under certain circumstances….circumstances that most of us all know and understand AND at some point realize that we need to be able to keep that connection in the presence of the stepkids involved…because they are not going anywhere. In your situation, your SD is going to be around a lot more than is typical. So…the key challenge is how to keep your deeply loving and supportive connection in the presence of your SD, right? This is the path of a Stepmom on a mission. I’m going to call you a SMOM, because that’s what we call each other in the group. We actually coined the phrase in 2000, even though it now is accepted to mean Stepmom-fyi.
Lynn writes: But there is one problem that we are finding, and that’s his daughter’s jealousy. When it’s just me and him, we are so perfect together and never fight or argue and always have a great time, but when my SD is with us, which is almost 100% of the time unless she is being watched for a few hours by her grandmother, we fight and there’s constant tension.
Cathryn Replies: This is a BIG topic. Here are a couple of ideas. Please read the public article posted “The nobody’s wrong/nobody’s right approach to relationships” as a way to gage how things are going between you and your BF as well as many key ideas for how things can be different. The goal… for you to feel safe, loved and on equal footing with your BF at all times! Yes, even when you disagree about something.
With any bio-dad, SMOM relationship, it’s typical for the bio-dad to “Pull rank” as the bio-parent. When both parties bring bio-kids into the relationship the dynamic is different, even though still tough.
Add the age difference and your BF is likely to pull the “I know better than you do because I’m older and know the world more than you do” card, even if he never says those words. It’s one of the unconscious attractions that older men have to younger women. At some level they know they can always resort to that fact and “win.”
It’s a power over, domination, aggressive hurtful stance that many of our partners take when they don’t know what else to do. It can shred and destroy the love between a couple, like a knife through butter so…it’s very very helpful to be aware of it, call him on it, refuse to buy into it because when you were falling in love, he was charmed by your age and you two said it didn’t make any difference. Remind him of that…anytime you feel like you’re being treated like a child, having your feelings disregarded or over-ride by the facts. You may be younger in age, but my guess is you are wise beyond your years AND what in the world does age have to do with mutual love and respect?!
It’s one of what we call, an unchangeable fact about your relationship and if you two are going to make this work, you two are going to have to find a way to treat each other as equals….as loving equal partners in all decisions that you make together. (You see why this is a BIG relationship issue. There’s a bunch more on the member site if you want to read it.) The articles about resentment, defensiveness, feeling hatred and wanting to leave will all give you more about this intimacy crushing, excruciating relationship dynamic.
IF you can get your BF to work with you this would be tremendous. Working with a well-experienced counselor would be great as this is an excellent time in your relationship to do this. There is so much to be healed and learned…think of the joy that possible if you’re both willing to wake up to what’s happening between you so you can create more closeness and LESS pain and isolation?!!!
Lynn writes: She and I get along extremely well together when it is just us, she tells me she loves me and wishes I was her mom and I’m her best friend, but whenever her dad is around and the three of us are hanging out, she gets very jealous if my BF gives me any attention and then she gets very bratty and mean.
Cathryn Replies: Wow, I know this dynamic personally as many SMOMS do. It’s like the stepkids have two different channels. It’s also often true that our partners also show us two different sides of themselves when they are alone with us vs when their kids are around. My DH even looked different to me when the tension with his son would begin. You ever notice that? If so, it’s an important clue for choosing your timing for talking about anything.
We love the book by Anthony Wolfe about teens and I understand he has a book for younger kids. You may want to look into it. It can be helpful for Dad’s to understand how they are manipulated by their kids as well as their own fears and guilts about the situation. THIS is NOT your fault. Nor is it your job to endure things because he won’t heal and deal with them. Many times, maybe without realizing it, our partners expect (demand?) us to keep treating them adoringly (like ideal mothers) and expect us to make sacrifices to our well-being all in the name of love (making martyrs out of us if we’re not awake about our own needs) even though our partners are disregarding our needs and refusing to respect our “voice” in the relationship. This is a painful downward spiral until one of you wake’s up. It’s often the woman in the relationship and for Stepmoms, we bring an outsiders perspective that can be very wise and also very annoying (enraging) to our partners. It is also the key to tremendous personal growth for both of you when we can get past the old patterns of defense.
Here’s hoping your BF will see that you are not wrong, that he is not bad or wrong, just under many layers of pressure (See public article about “testing and proving love” and “Understanding Emotional Callousing” for more info. )
Lynn writes: I am starting to get to my boiling point with it. My BF and I are fighting all of the time now, always about my SD, and I am now thinking about leaving sometimes.
Cathryn Replies: As hard as it is to argue, please keep standing up for your rights to have a voice in your own life. You’d want your BFF to stand up for herself. You’d want your sister and future daughter to stand up for her rights to have a happy life and be treated well, right? Right! YOU are just as deserving. Please Keep standing up for your right to have your needs met and refuse as best you can to be relegated to the role of emotional spackle, Do you best to see the difference between being compassionate and being expected to fill to emotional holes (wounds) of both our partners and are stepkids without getting anything in exchange for it. When we step in, we deny them the opportunity to face, deal and learn more about themselves.
You are worthy of being adored and treated as the woman of his dreams AND to find new ways to manage the tense situations and bad behavior with his daughter. Too often our partners keep asking and demanding from us until we can feel drained of all our joy, energy & sometimes finances as well. Keep fighting young SMOM for IF this relationship is to work, it is NOT about compromising your well-being to accommodate either of their wounds. If you were with me, I would be singing the Rocky music and encouraging you to dig in your heels for your true sense of your rights.
You deserve to be treated lovingly.
You deserve to love and be loved, no matter what is going on around you two.
You mentioned you just came out of an abusive relationship….this means there are many limiting beliefs and emotional wounds that YOU have the responsibility to heal. Unless we do the work to become aware, we unconsciously repeat painful patterns, over and over again….this is your chance to change the course of your life. (your BF and SD’s as well.) However, because you’re a couple, your BF needs to be willing to do the work or else you will slowly have your joy and life forced sucked out of you, costing you precious years of your life and causing you deep deep pain.
With that ominous option, please hear that the goal is for BOTH of you to expand your knowing of yourselves and each other by using the power of the love you created together to help you. Reality….it takes two to have a successful relationship. This is another unchangeable fact.
I have written a few things about feeling the need to leave. Most of us think about it. Some of us do leave. Some of us return. Everyone is unique. Try as we might, we can’t really control others, even if we try. (See my articles about control for more about this).
Good news? When both partners are willing to take responsibility for their own emotional issues, their actions, their words, their feelings AND honor each other’s…magic happens. I know this myself in my relationship (19 years in Oct.) and I know this from working with other SMOM/bio-dad couples.
It’s about what you and your BF decide to to. It’s about the boundaries and choices you choose consciously. It’s about what you want from your life. It’s about honoring that you are a free human being (not a tree) and that you can move and change as much as you want to, even when it feels like you have no choices and are stuck (trapped) by fears, promises, dreams.
Lynn writes: How can I try to let go of the past life I had and try to focus on what my current situation is and what I want my future to be with my BF?
Cathryn Writes: While there are certainly lots of adjustments to be made from being single to having a partner and child in your home, I’m unsure why you have to let go of your past life> Who’s telling you that? While there may be different forms your life takes, if you look a bit deeper, I bet it’s the feelings you are seeking, not the life. I’m imagining you want to feel happy, safe enough to be yourself, silly, spontaneous, valued, supported, respected and excited about your present and your future.
Can you make a list of how you want to feel, what you are feeling now and the reasons? No one wants to be ignored, treated meanly or disregarded by adults or children…this is a reasonable goal and yet sometimes, in the heat of trying, we forget we have these rights.
I believe you are doing an excellent job feeling what is and is NOT working for you. The key thing is whether your not your partner is willing to believe that there are more options, ideas & skills that will help you all find a new way of relating. Is he will to reclaim his power from his daughter and stop taking away yours?
Lynn writes: I understand what she’s going through, because ironically my mother did to me what my SD’s mother did to her, so I get how she feels. But on the other hand, my father did not allow me to act the way my BF allows her to act sometimes.
Cathryn Replies: Over the years I have noticed that many of us fall into these intense relationships when the stepkids happen to be the age when we experienced emotional trauma. This would be an good time for you to work with an excellent therapist to heal your wounds. Then you can share what you have learned (in addition to the compassion you already feel) with the very lucky young lady who is in the role of your SD right now. (Again a huge topic, too bog for this.)
Lynn writes: And although it’s not perfect, my BF has changed their relationship from best friends, back to father and daughter, so I know he is trying as well.
Cathryn Writes: Yahoo! This is great news and it is a wonderful sign for your relationship. There is much much more work to do. I can also tell you from personal experience that it is well worth all the effort. Just imagine a future where the actions of your SD didn’t disconnect you and your BF? Ahhhh. Yes this is possible and a worthy goal.
Lynn concludes: I love them both so much and I want to be with both of them forever, but I am getting to the end of my rope and I need some help before I do or say something I will one day regret! What to you think?
Cathryn Concludes: Dear sister SMOM, getting to the end of your rope (see article by this title) is some wise part of you trying to help you realize that things aren’t right and need to change. I totally understand and have been there and felt that dozens of times. It’s so important that you honor all those feelings and stand up for yourself and your rights in a way that you always wished someone else would. You can do this!
Yes, this is the time for you to wake up, to become as conscious as you can and realize that you are an adult woman with many insights and skills, even at your age. You have a right to be in a relationship that feels equal in power, respect, loving connection and decisions. You are 22 and everything that doesn’t feel right is a clue to what you need to better understand, heal, learn more about and honor.
If any of this resonates with you, please join us as a free guest member. No credit card or commitments. It’s free membership so you can decide if my approach and those of other like-minded woman who are Stepmoms on a mission is the right place for you as you navigate this complex set of challenges.
Wishing you all kinds of “Ah ha’s”.
With kind regards and a big cyber hug to a clearly hard working, kind and loving woman, Cathryn