Relationship Connection: My daughter is disrespectful to her stepdad

Stock image, St. George News

Question

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?

Answer

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.

Stay connected!

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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.

Have a relationship question for Geoff to answer? Submit to:

Email: geoff@lovingmarriage.com

Twitter: @geoffsteurer

Facebook: facebook.com/GeoffSteurerMFT

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.

 

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14 Comments

  • Terry September 2, 2015 at 9:20 am

    sorry stepdad, i raised my wife’s two daughters, there is nothing you can do but be a friend not a Dad, she has one,

  • 42214 September 2, 2015 at 9:50 pm

    Have her stand in front of the Temple with a sign, “unmarried 16 yr old” Some guy will swoop her up and she’ll be out of your hair.

  • ladybugavenger September 3, 2015 at 12:07 am

    Your daughter would be disrespectful to her real dad too, if he was around. Don’t let her fool you. She’s a teenager, teenagers are rude. I don’t think she needs a step dad friend. she needs boundaries and rules just like every other teenager.

    • anybody home September 3, 2015 at 11:28 am

      Not all teenagers are rude. Sounds like you’ve tangled with some bad ones, though.

      • ladybugavenger September 3, 2015 at 1:21 pm

        It’s hard being dexters mom, as you can imagine…one bad apple spoiled the bunch \_(-_-)_/

        • Real Life September 3, 2015 at 9:59 pm

          Just like everyone else here, dexter’s mom is disappointed in him too.

          • Dexter September 3, 2015 at 11:48 pm

            Yawwwwwwwwwwn

        • Dexter September 4, 2015 at 1:22 am

          Having a strung out alcoholic for a mother doesn’t help anybody

          • ladybugavenger September 4, 2015 at 9:04 am

            (@_@)

        • Dexter September 4, 2015 at 9:33 am

          What goes around comes around.!

  • Terry September 3, 2015 at 7:37 am

    @42214. That’s your solution?? Musta happened to you??

    • 42214 September 3, 2015 at 9:16 am

      Yes, it was very painful.

  • anybody home September 3, 2015 at 11:18 am

    I agree with Dr. Geoff on this one. The daughter does not have the same anger or angst toward her dad that mom has toward an ex. Since the step-dad, who seems to be a reasonable guy, is not bothered by the behavior, this is more about the mom and her feelings toward the ex than about the daughter. Doesn’t matter what mom says about the ex’s behavior – the daughter has her own feelings about her dad. If mom is bad-mouthing dad to the daughter, it will only make things worse. And yes, I have been there. My girls’ dad, my ex, was not a good father to them, but they loved him anyway. Their connection with his parents was strong, too – grandparents count. Let it go, mom, and let your girl make her way with this. My daughters buried their dad last month. He was their dad.

  • Dexter September 4, 2015 at 8:27 am

    I see the village idiot stopped by to post another one of his stupid comments he’s so predictable its pathetic

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