I have been married for a few years to a really great guy and we have five children between us (second marriage for both). My children live with us full-time and his children come and go with visits. My boys get along well with him and like doing outdoor stuff with him.
My teenage daughter gets along well with him most of the time, but there are times when she talks to me privately and cries and tells me that she misses her real dad and that my husband will never be her dad. When she’s in these moods, she avoids him and doesn’t even acknowledge him like she normally would.
Her real dad completely dropped out of her life when she was 10. Now, she’s 16 and hasn’t had any real contact with him. My husband has been more of a father to her in the past three years than her dad ever was.
When she talks like this, I get defensive inside because she has no idea how much my husband sacrifices for her and the rest of us compared to her real dad who has done nothing for her. My husband isn’t offended by it and says that he doesn’t take it personally. How should I handle this when she brings this up?
I think it’s great your daughter feels safe enough to share her dilemma. The fact that she’s able to open up about this says a lot about her relationship with you and the kind of environment you’re creating for her. Make sure to let her know how grateful you are that she’s talking with you.
Please recognize that her reaction to losing her biological father isn’t a logical response. There is an innate longing for her father that doesn’t just go away by explaining how rotten he’s been. Your husband is smart to not take this personally. It’s not personal. I’m sure he’s a great guy who provides her with a supportive relationship. I’m glad he’s making room for her to miss her dad.
The best thing you can do for your daughter is to let her share her sadness about losing her real dad. Let her talk about her feelings, even if it’s painful for you to hear. Remember that her relationship with him is not your relationship with him. She doesn’t have the perspective you have and she has a different connection to him. You got to choose him and then un-choose him after he left your family.
My guess is that she’ll go back and forth like this for some time as she settles into acceptance of her new reality. As she matures and gains more perspective, she’ll be able to respond more maturely to your husband. Give her the space and time to grow into healthier responses.
She’s hurting and permission from you and your husband to have these feelings will go a long way toward her healing.
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Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.
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