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Dr. Michael
Dr. Michael, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 2177
Experience:  Licensed Ph.D. Clinical Health Psychology with 30 years of experience in private practive and as a clinical psychology university professor.
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I have an urgent problem. I recently moved my fiancee and her

Resolved Question:

I have an urgent problem. I recently moved my fiancee and her 16yo daughter from out of state to my home state.

My step daughter is depressed and wants to move back to her home state and live with the sister of her former stepdad who died a few years ago due to drinking complications.

This sister, while good intentioned has proven herself unreliable in the past by not wanting to go out of her way to help my fiancee in a few fairly urgent situations.

This sister also has a daughter the same age as my step daughter and the two of them go back and forth between being the best of friends and enemies.

There is alot of jealousy from the other teen because my step daughter usually had better things because she was an only child and because she is beautiful and gets more attention from boys.

There are other issues as well and in most of them my step daughter is equally to blame. At the moment they are best of friends because they are separated by 3000 miles, but I fear the friendship will not last long while living together.

Her mother has allowed her to run from every problem that she has ever created. Last year she got into a verbal fight with one of her friends back home and posted some terrible things on facebook. This led all her friends to side with the other girl and she was misserable
and wanted to leave the school. I was totally against this because the new school was a long ways away and her mom was on a low income and could not afford the fuel or the time away from her job.

This eventually led to her mother loosing her job and gave her daughter only a short time away from the drama because new drama soon unfolded in her new school.

We have the issue where my fiancee will go to ANY length to ensure that her daughter is happy, even if it means bills dont get paid, her safty is compromised, laws get broken or enyone else involved is miserable.

This has created issues here as I myself grew up in a structured environment with rules and both my fiancee and her daughter had none and do not acknowlege any rules that impact fun.

They both say that the reason she wants leave is that I make rules for the purpose of having something to punishe her for. The truth is that I have not made any rules. I simply tried to hold her to the agreement we made when she got her drivers licence.

These were not rules so much as laws. Lately she has been following them because I told them I would remove her from my driving insurance the next time she broke the law intentionally.

The house is much better now, but the truth is that her daugter never wanted to be here in the first place and they both use those intial confruntations to justify her leaving.

Her daughter is now using off handed comments about suicide because the fact that we cannot afford to send her aunt money avery month may mean she cannot leave.

I know this may make her sound like a terrible kid, but she really is not. She is a great kid about 95% of the time. She simply has never had any rules or been forced to deal with anything so the grass ALWAYS seem greener somewhere else.

Whenever her mom puts friendship with her daughter, over parenting her, bad things seem to happen and I fear for both of them.

Her 16yo daughter is simply not prepared to live on her own. I would be against it even if her aunt were reliable, but she is not and I seem to be the only one here who remembers the problems of the last year and a half.

I honestly feel that if we let her go it will be a disaster that will impact the rest of her life as she will have no supervision whatsoever.

What should I do?
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Dr. Michael replied 2 years ago.
Hello. I believe I can be of help to you with this issue.

Hello. I believe I can be of help to you with this issue.

I'm probably going to say something you are not going to like but there really are two issues here. The first issue is the structure and limit-setting your fiance's daughter needs, which you want to help provide. But the second and probably, more important issue is the fact that you and your fiance are not 100% on the 'same page' about child rearing rules and practices. It appears that you are having to coax, persuade and alter your fiance's child-rearing behavior, deficits in her ability to resist manipulation by her daughter, her reluctance to set limits, etc. So, unfortunately, it is this second issue that really must be remedied ASAP, or your marriage could be in serious jeopardy. (I see this situation all the time, believe me!!)

You obviously recognize some serious flaws in judgment in your fiancee with regard to raising her daughter and her fear that she will lose her daughter's love if she isn't constantly "running interference" for her. And, you are probably correct in predicting that if the girl moves out, there will be disastrous outcome. However, while you certainly want what is best for your step-daughter-to-be, you need to think twice about pressing your opinion too hard. That is, raising and disciplining the girl is about 90% her mom's responsibility and if you can't abide by the way she is handling the girl, you may want to think twice about marrying this woman. Here is where being on the same page about child-rearing in the first place, comes in as really critical. It is usually a set up for disaster to marry a woman and then think that you can be a firm, stabilizing and consistent 'father' for a girl who is obviously, somewhat spoiled and not used to being told 'no' as often as a child really needs to be. Am I correct in suggesting that fundamentally, the real problem here is the fact that you and your fiance don't share the same beliefs, values, etc.---or am I 'all wet' here?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
You are absolutley right. My step daughter is not really the problem but it is she who will be hurt in the long run. I will admit that I am not blameless here either as I had a little different idea of family than what we ended up with, but nothing is ever perfect and I love them both. My fiancee has never had what I consider a normal family. She never knew her father and her mother died while she was a young teen. She lived with her sister and her sisters lazy boyfriend and at the age of 14 she was financially supporting the family. I think a major part of the problem is that she is ovecompensating for this with her daughter which is why her daugter does absolutly nothing around the house. Discipline is so foriegn to her that we cant even train out dog! I try to be understanding because the only discipline my fiancee has ever had was from her mothers boyfriend who did not love her.
Based on this limited information and being held completely harmless for your opinion, which option sounds like the most responsible?
#1 Back off and let her mother send her 3000 miles away to live basiclly on her own.
#2 Completely remove the option of moving away from her mother, and get family counseling.
#3 Send them both back together.
#4 im open to any suggestion that may have escaped me...

Thank you for you time.
Expert:  Dr. Michael replied 2 years ago.
Let me contemplate the options you have outlined and I'll get back to you later today. Thanks for your patience.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
busy day? :)
Expert:  Dr. Michael replied 2 years ago.
Well, I'm inexcusably late getting back to you. To be honest, I overlooked your post in the midst of other work. I will once again, review your post and create a response yet this evening. I do apologize.

Your best choice, IMO is your second option. It isn't clear to me whether your fiance has any insight or inkling that she is extremely unskilled and unknowledgeable about proper parenting, settting limits, etc. She likely has no insight into the fact that she is overcompensating (as you rightly noted) through the way she is parenting, or that she holds irrational beliefs that her daughter will stop loving her or abandon her if she engages in a bit of 'tough love'. I would recommend talking to your fiance about not allowing her daughter to move at this time and asking her to join you in couples counseling that focuses on specific parenting skills; or counseling, plus parenting class together. Now, I think you will be bored to tears by the parenting class because you already know some of this stuff, but I can think of no other way of moving you and your fiance onto the 'same page' about parenting issues, than through joint classes together---finding common principles, rules, etc., you can agree on. I would hope the therapy would focus on the values and beliefs your fiance holds about parenting, her need to overcompensate and rescue unconditionally, her unwillingness to take the emotional risks associated with setting limits with her own daughter etc. If your counselor doesn't pick up on these issues quite immediately, you unfortunately, have the wrong counselor.

If your fiance balks at these ideas or becomes oppositional, I'd then select another option----(personally) quietly make plans to have them BOTH move back. Frankly, if you and your fiance can't get on the same page about parenting and handling her daughter appropriately, I'll lay heavy odds that you'll be fighting frustration and 'battles' for the next 10-20 years; this will center on problems her daughter is having, mom's 'rescuing' behavior, etc., because your this girl is uncommonly spoiled, mannipulative, emotionally immature, and has experienced inadequate parenting for 16 years. What do you think?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Thank you for your candor. It appears we are both on the same page. Im not quite ready to give up, but I do have alot of thinking to do.
btw, I cant figure out how to pay you.
Expert:  Dr. Michael replied 2 years ago.
I do wish you the best of luck with this situation. Please click on the green Accept button at the bottom of the screen. Let me know if I can be of help in the future.
Dr. Michael, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 2177
Experience: Licensed Ph.D. Clinical Health Psychology with 30 years of experience in private practive and as a clinical psychology university professor.
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