My husband has a daughter, 16, from a fling he had in college. She lives in another city so we only get her on long weekends, holidays, and part of her summer vacation.
Before me, he was in a five-year relationship with another woman, beginning when his daughter was age seven. They formed a bond.
When she visits us, she often spends time with his ex, who only ever did fun activities with her and never disciplined.
I met his daughter a year ago with high hopes that we’d form a bond over time.
She quickly communicated that she didn't care for me and probably never would. It’s become full-on resentment toward me.
I accepted that she felt we’d never be close, though I was disappointed.
Now I really dislike her.
Though she has some great qualities, she also has an intolerable attitude. She constantly goes on about all the privileges she gets at home.
She's incredibly self-centred, completely helpless (no one expects her to clean up after herself), sloppy, absent-minded, has very poor personal hygiene, and is a ridiculously picky eater.
I now resent my husband for bringing her into my life, and her relationship with his ex.
Nevertheless, I’ve put personal funds into helping my husband see her (he was unemployed until recently), and paid for her meals and activities while she visited.
When he can't be with her I’ve taken unpaid work leave to take her out to do things that she enjoys.
I watch TV shows she likes so that we have topics of conversation.
I give her positive feedback to the short stories she writes, and I encourage her interests in science.
I ask her about her life and never say anything negative about her mother, my husband's ex, etc.
My husband and I had a fight recently in which he said, “I’d done nothing but criticize him,” when in fact I’d been doing everything in preparation for her latest arrival.
Throughout that visit, she wanted nothing to do with me.
I'm fed up with her and my husband who doesn't acknowledge my efforts or sacrifices.
My husband and I are supposed to spend the rest of our lives together, but I can't see this happening.
But I need to ensure that I'm not reacting too harshly and missing another way to resolve this.
You deserve “A” for your efforts. But unfortunately, a new stepmother relationship rarely reaps easy and early rewards.
Especially not in a complex background involving a girl whose birth is still described as “from a fling,” who lost an indulgent “friend” in her father’s next partner, and has a new stepmother added in her mid-teens.
Frankly, some of her behaviour sounds much as I’d expect from a 16-year-old with that history.
You’ve both been set-up by circumstances, for a stepmother vs. teenager battle.
No wonder you’re angry, frustrated, resentful. But still wise enough to question whether you’re overreacting.
Not really. But try something else to see if there’s hope ahead.
Much of what you’re doing is exemplary, kind, and a major role model for the girl.
Your husband should be recognizing this, encouraging and supporting you. Since he’s not, he’s contributing to the girl’s problem with you.
You two need couples’ counselling about how to be partners in life, and regarding your stepdaughter.
Once he’s on side, things may well improve between her and you.
Next visit, you and he both must work at creating some “fun” for all of you together. It’ll help her soften her self-protective armour.
FEEDBACK Regarding giving charitable-donation gifts to children and grandchildren rather than buying them gifts that aren’t always affordable by you, or appreciated by them (March 27):
Reader – “The suggestion was to give a donation as a gift from a charity you favour. This is one idea I’ve encountered and questioned before.
“If this is intended as a gift, and a gift is obviously meant to please a person, why would you not choose a charity based on the recipients interests rather than your own?
“To me it doesn’t pass as a gift if you haven’t considered the recipient at all.”
Ellie – True, but if you’re giving to people who’ve not appreciated your efforts in choosing previous material gifts, it’s a way to show that others who have greater needs – e.g. a children’s hospital, cancer research, a wildlife preservation group – will now benefit.
However, if they DO have a favourite charity you respect, that’s fine too.
Tip of the day:
Stepparent “bonds” take time, empathy, and having some fun together.