I have been married for three months and my husband has a little 4-year-old girl from his previous marriage. This is my first marriage and his second. He’s not the custodial parent, so she comes over to our house for visits every other weekend and a few times in-between. My concern is how much attention he gives his daughter not only when she’s visiting us, but also when she’s at her mother’s house. I feel like we’re supposed to be building our relationship, but he’s so focused on checking on her, calling his ex-wife, and organizing everything around her that I wonder why he even married me.
I’m not at the point of giving up on our relationship, but I’m worried that it’s only going to get worse as she gets older and we get more distant. I’m wondering if this is normal or if I should be concerned and do something.
I imagine you probably had hope that you guys would get to feel like newlyweds for a while before the grind of family life took over. Unfortunately, when you blend families, it’s a little different scenario that requires a tremendous amount of sacrifice, flexibility, and clear communication.
Recognize that this little girl has had her world blown apart by divorce and is now having to deal with two households, a new stepmother, and other adult drama. None of this is her fault, so I suggest that you focus more on her needs right now than your own. You got to choose your husband and you get to spend lots of alone time with him. She doesn’t get to choose anything right now and she’s going to crave any semblance of familiarity.
While you have valid concerns about your husband potentially overdoing it with his daughter and neglecting his marriage, it’s best to consider the timing of all of this and recognize that things aren’t going to settle down for a while, especially with him just getting married.
If anything, she probably needs more reassurance and attention from him now that you’ve entered the picture. She is likely worried that she’s going to lose him to you. She’s already lost her intact family, so she has a legitimate fear that needs to be validated and protected by the adults in her life.
Give this more time and continue to support him in his role as a father. Be careful not to discourage him as he figures out how to be a long-distance dad. It’s better that he’s erring on the side of too much contact than too little. It’s less time than he would have with her if they lived together, so he’s most likely struggling with not being available to her.
I can’t say how long this transition will take. It may take years for things to settle down. Your compassionate understanding of this little girl’s situation will allow you to balance your need for connection with him and her need for security.
While there is nothing wrong with you asking for him to find a good balance between being a dad and being a husband, recognize that when it’s her turn, it’s her turn. You and your husband should be a united team to give her the security and stability she needs. Your marriage will have plenty of time to grow and develop, as it’s not on emotional life-support. Her life, however, could use some emotional CPR.
He’s dealing with competing demands between two women who want his attention and affection. One of them is a child and one of them is an adult. Please remember that your needs can wait a little longer while you do everything you can to help her through the awful crisis of losing her dad.
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:
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2012, all rights reserved.