My wife and her daughter, who’s 18, have a very intense relationship – sometimes they’re as close as best friends, loving and laughing together.
At other times, there are tensions over house “rules,” cleaning up, staying out too late, etc., but these arguments seem normal… except for the fact that my wife seems to give in a lot.
But there are times when her daughter can behave like an attack-dog – she’ll be verbally and emotionally abusive, and say the meanest things possible to her mother until she makes the poor woman collapse in tears and flee her.
I always heard that mothers and daughters have complicated relationships. And I’m also aware that teenage girls have their own emotional issues regarding their bodies and boys.
But, as the “outsider” (I’ve been married to my wife for three years, dated her for two years prior), I feel both angry and helpless when these ugly fights take place.
I’ve tried walking out, intervening, and have even ended up yelling at both of them. But all those reactions feel wrong. And I’m still on the outside, unable to help either of them.
It also makes me distance from my stepdaughter.
If she ever turned on me the same way, I’m afraid I wouldn’t be able to hold back, and would say or do something I’d later regret.
What should be done, either by me or her mother, to deal with this situation?
I’m pretty sure our marriage can’t last until her daughter moves out on her own.
The common tensions in mother-daughter relationships usually revolve around the turbulent emotions of a teenager, colliding with the mother’s own hormonal and daily stresses.
Then there’s a daughter’s growing desire for independence, and a mother’s attempt to maintain control and protection.
But this situation includes your stepdaughter’s fierce anger and total lack of respect vs. you and your wife’s seeming helplessness against her attacks.
Family counselling is crucial, or your marriage will fail, and the mother-daughter dynamic will continue until they become estranged.
Tell your wife that working to save your relationship will also be a path to saving her child.
You’ll need to see the counselor separately, and then in pairs, so everyone gets a chance to vent, and then to find ways to live with each other.
FEEDBACK Regarding one woman's look at "grey divorce" (April 5):
Reader – “It's a shame that many women from the baby-boom generation gave up most, or all, of themselves to look after their husbands and children, and received little in return.
“My parents are almost 70 and are going through a bitter divorce for similar reasons.
“Here are the lessons I've learned that have helped me to stay happily married and fulfilled:
- Love, respect, and cherish yourself. Maintain a sense of self (hobbies, a career you’re passionate about, volunteer work, etc.), especially when you get married and have children.
- Play hard to get and easy to get along with. Men always love a challenge.
- Date and marry someone who loves you, respects you, and helps you maintain your sense of self.
- Ask your family (husband, children) for help and appreciate it. Don't try to do it all or it’ll burn you out.
- Take care of your mental, physical, and spiritual health... it’ll help you look and feel your best!
“The best revenge for women going through a "grey divorce" is to follow these steps going forward.”
I’m a male chess-player. Recently, I played against a woman.
As she was closing in on my king, I felt very embarrassed. Then she used her queen to execute a "mating" of my king.
When she pronounced, "Checkmate," I was in a totally helpless position.
Surprisingly, I was also somewhat turned on by the defeat.
But how could I be embarrassed, yet feel excitement at the same time? (I wasn’t attracted to my opponent in that way).
I’ve been fantasizing all day about women checkmating me in front of other women.
Chess is an intense mind game, involving strategy, power, winning, and defeat. There are emotional highs and lows, from feeling superior to being mortified.
Those feelings can create a turn-on, especially if you’ve had past experiences with dominance and humiliation that have a sexual connotation for you.
Most fantasies are harmless. But if these start to interfere with your chess-playing, talk to a therapist about it.
Tip of the day:
When repeated mother-daughter fights become cruel and abusive, family counselling is crucial for all the relationships involved.