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Recent Letter to the ElderWisdomCircle™

DATING/RELATIONSHIP: Not a fan of my boyfriend's daughter
Letter #: 407236
Category: Dating/Relationship

Original Letter

Hello! So I am a 26 year old female and I am currently dating a guy who is 33. He has a 15 year old daughter (high school baby) and is divorced from another woman. I am currently having trouble trying to cope with his past.

We have been together for a year and a half and we live together. His daughter is staying with us for two weeks and I have felt so awkward and uncomfortable and it is only day two. I will be distant to try to give them alone time together but then he gets annoyed or frustrated with me for not being with them. It's very confusing. I just don't really know where I fit in. I am so confused and I am not really sure what to do or how to handle everything. I also know that he has made it clear that he doesn't want anymore kids so I sometimes feel awkward being a part of his "family" when he doesn't want to have one with me. Maybe I am being stupid and blowing things out of proportion. I don't know.

Any advice at all would be appreciated.

Elder Response

It’s only natural for the man in your life to want to spend time together at home with the two most important women in his life. Your boyfriend loves his daughter and hopes that once you get to know her that you will too. The problem with this, of course, is that your boyfriend fell in love with his daughter when she was a sweet little baby and the person you are meeting now is a complicated teen. Teenagers can be difficult even for parents to love, and you are not her parent. Or even her stepparent. In fact, the lack of definition of your role is part of what makes this whole situation so awkward, not just for you, but for his daughter too. She may not know how to regard you: Are you just the woman her dad is living with now? Or something more?

You do not say exactly why you find spending time with the girl “awkward.” Is there something about the way she acts that bothers you? Does she seem resentful of you? Does she think her dad should be with her mom instead of with you? Does she compete with you for her dad’s attention? Or do you just find it hard to know what role to assume toward her, i.e. if you should behave like her parent, her older sister, or her friend?

The whole surrogate mother situation is further complicated for you by your unresolved issues with your man’s past and your confusion about his wanting you to be part of his family while at the same time not wanting you to have a child of your own with him.

Having his daughter in your home for two weeks has brought a lot of conflicting feelings to the surface for you, and you would like a little help in sorting them out. These are my thoughts:

1. You are not the girl’s mother. You do not have to love her. But she is your boyfriend’s daughter. She is also a human being with feelings as well as a guest in your home. As such, she is entitled to understanding, kindness, warmth, and respect.  You owe it to your relationship with her dad to behave like a caring adult toward his daughter. When you made the choice to live with her father, like it or not, you indirectly accepted a degree of responsibility for this girl.

2. Because you are a young woman yourself, you are in a position to be an advisor and confidante to this teenage girl. It’s her father’s responsibility to handle whatever discipline is necessary, so let him be the heavy and “give the orders.” You can afford to be the sympathetic ear. She is at a vulnerable stage in her life, and she probably feels more awkward than you do.  She is a child and you are a grown woman. It is up to you to take the lead in making her feel comfortable in your home.

3. Disliking or being awkward around the girl won’t benefit your relationship with her father, but improving your relationship with her very well might. Why don’t you take her and one of her friends out to lunch and have girl talk, go get pedicures, or prepare a meal for her father with her? Take a genuine interest in her thoughts and interests and get to know this young woman, and you’ll get more comfortable and less awkward with her.

4. It’s her father’s duty to talk with his daughter and explain things to her about your relationship. He has to set the boundaries, and create the environment for everyone to know their role and position. He needs to explain to his daughter how things will not work out with her mother, and that you are not trying to replace her mother.

5. It's possible that your discomfit with this girl has nothing to do with the girl herself. There’s quite a build-up of tension and frustration in your letter. The girl may be the target of your frustration, but maybe the actual cause of it lies somewhere else: with the trouble you have with her dad’s past or the trouble you have with his not wanting to have anymore children.

I totally appreciate and understand your discomfit Rachel,  but it is to everyone’s advantage, especially your own, that you take whatever steps you can to bridge the gap between yourself and your boyfriend’s daughter.

I hope this helps.  Good luck, and if you want to talk more about this, I’m here.

Best Regards,

Folk


    

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