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Arundhati
Arundhati, Counselor & Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 256
Experience:  Licensed psychotherapist, Published Wellness Author
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I am married to a man with a 17 year-old daughter and 14 year

Customer Question

I am married to a man with a 17 year-old daughter and 14 year old son. We've been married 2 years and together a total of 6. My relationship with his daughter has always been strained but has gotten even worse since we were married. She now ignores me completely and if I try to initiate a conversation or even say hello she is very hostile if she responds at all. She regularly tells her father that one of us has to go because she does not want me around and that he is to inform me that I am never to speak to her. This is causing enormous strain in my marriage and my husbands latest suggestion is that I should not speak to her because it upsets her. I'm at my wit's end. Any ideas?
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Arundhati replied 3 years ago.
Hello,

I will be happy to answer your question. Before I do, can you please share if she lives with you and your husband or with her mother?

Thank you.

Kind Regards,

Arundhati
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Both she and her brother live with their mother. The are with us every Wednesday and every other weekend. Although my husband, who loves his children deeply, looks for every opportunity to spend more time with them so his daughter is sometimes at our house an additional day a week. I should add that my husband's divorce from his wife was and continues to be very acrimonious. To this day his wife has refused to meet me. My relationship with my husband's son is not particularly close but it is functional and some weeks are better than others. The difficulty is with his daughter.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
As an example of the many difficult situations which arise - my stepdaughter's prom is coming up in two-weeks (a weekend when she will be with us) and I heard my husband ask her on the phone last night if she wanted to have friends over for a pre-party before the prom. As you can imagine i was very frustrated he did this but he does things like this all the time. So now my dilemma is that if I am at the house for the party it will be very uncomfortable for me because when she is at the house with her friends she continues the same behaviour and will not even introduce her friends to me but will walk right by me with them. If i go somewhere else that night to avoid the stress i'll feel i'm being chased out of my own home.
Expert:  Arundhati replied 3 years ago.

Hello,

Thank you for the additional information.

You are certainly in a hard place.

It sounds like you really have gone out of your way to build a relationship with your stepdaughter but she has never really reciprocated. Her dislike of you does not seem to be towards who you are, but more towards the situation (she likely didn't want her father getting married to anyone and it's possible that her biological mother paints a poor picture of you at home).

To address the situation you described about the pre-prom party I would recommend that you speak with your husband and ask him to drop in the fact that in order to organize the party she will need to coordinate with you. In fact by giving in to this situation of her not talking to you and disliking you openly your husband is doing his daughter a big disfavor. He is indirectly teaching her that it is ok to hate somebody for no apparent reason, be disrespectful towards them all while spending time at their house (the house is not just your husbands). This lesson will no doubt create problems for her later on. Instead she should be taught that should she have an issue or problem with somebody she needs to come forward and discuss it and agree to a set of solutions. Unfortunately, at this point she is only being encouraged in developing a sense of entitlement where it is ok to do as she pleases. For this reason it is very important that you speak to your husband and have him change his approach.

Something your husband can do going forward is defer decisions to you. This will indirectly and subtle tell her that she cannot possibly spend time at your home without communicating with you. So for example if they ask to go to the movies or lunch or a theme park etc. on their day with you guys, then your husband can defer the decision to you and say that they need to check with you and get your buy-in. In this way he needs to facilitate interaction and should she behave inappropriately he needs to intervene and lay out ground rules.

If he is unable to do this - you can think about laying out certain ground rules yourself. Such as if she is rude and does not answer you when you speak with her there will be no TV allowed on her day spent with you etc. Or she won't be allowed treats or privileges that her brother will be allowed. In other words teach her that there are consequences and her rude and irrational behavior will not be accepted by you in your house. I would recommend first speaking to your husband and having him facilitate interactions before adopting this more hard lined approach.

I hope this was helpful.

Please do let me know if you have additional questions/thoughts.

Kind Regards,

Arundhati

Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Thank you for this thoughtful response. When I read your suggestion it seemed to make so much sense but it is exactly the opposite of what has been happening. When my husband's children ask for anything in terms of having friends over or going anywhere (which always involves him driving them because where we live is fairly rural) his view is that he needs to be able to make a decision and respond to them on the spot rather than telling them he wants to speak with me about it first and will get back to them - let alone saying to them that they need to check with me. This has caused tension between us but his view is that as a parent he needs to be able to make these sorts of decisions without consulting me - in part, l feel, because he's worried his kids will be upset if he says he wants to check with me. I feel this further marginalizes me and reinforces their view that I am unimportant and hold no position in the household and that this is really their house with their father. Do you think he should be conveying that I have a role in these decisions?
Expert:  Arundhati replied 3 years ago.
Hello,

Thank you for your response.

I understand his need to be able to make decisions promptly in front of his kids. At the same time he is not a single parent. He is part of a household unit with consists of two people - you and him. He needs to not just understand this himself but also convey this to the kids. It is ok for him to have autonomy over some decisions but he needs to defer several to you. He can make it sound like a team decision by saying something like - "I'm ok with it why don't you speak with your step mom and check her response and then coordinate it with her?" - this way the kids will learn that it is not just his buy-in they need but also yours. I think you need to speak to your husband and convey that you should not be made to feel marginalized in your own home. He is not only doing his children a disfavor by teaching them the wrong values but he is also undermining your rightful place in the house. If he is unable to show the kids that decisions need to be made jointly by you and him then it is likely he is struggling with a need to get his children's approval and fears disappointing his kids. This is something he needs to work on as it is certainly not helpful to the kids, to you or him in the long run.

I hope this was helpful. Please consider clicking Accept if it was helpful as experts are not paid for their time or service otherwise. Feel free to continue the conversation even after clicking on Accept.

Kind Regards,

Arundhati
Arundhati, Counselor & Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 256
Experience: Licensed psychotherapist, Published Wellness Author
Arundhati and other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Thank you very much Arundhati. I really appreciate your responses. I will start a new chain because I you certainly deserve to be paid!
Expert:  Arundhati replied 3 years ago.
Thank you so much for Accepting and for your very kind bonus. I deeply appreciate it. You are welcome to request me at anytime by writing For Arundhati at the start of your question. Alternately you are welcome to continue the conversation here.

Kind Regards,

Arundhati
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Arundhati I just typed a long reply to you and when it popped up with the options of was it a new question or related to the existing question i clicked on related to the existing question but then it just seemed to bounce me out and i'm concerned that my long e-mail might have been eaten! would you let me know if you received it and if not i'll have to try again when i get a few minutes.
thanks
Expert:  Arundhati replied 3 years ago.
Hi there,

No - unfortunately I do not see any post from you:(

You should be able to click on reply and send me your response just like we were doing earlier.

Thanks!
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Hi Arundhati, I resent my additional question last night around 7:00pm by replying to this chain. Did you receive it?
Expert:  Arundhati replied 3 years ago.
Hi there,

No...I did not receive any additional post from you:(

Can you try starting a new question thread? In the subject line you can put For Arundhati - that way I will be able to pick it up.

So sorry for all the technical problems you're facing.

Kind Regards,

Arundhati

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