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Relationship with Stepdaughter Is Affecting My Marriage

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I have known my husband since I was 19yrs old. He had a child while we were in a relationship. We started living together when I was 30yrs old and we got married when I was 31. 2yrs later My stepdaughter started living with us at age 12. Before that, she visited weekends as she lived with her mom. We didn’t have much of a relationship, I tried but felt she was distant. I realized that she had no structure prior to living with us so, I felt I had to take baby steps. My husband before we got married talked about what marriage to him would mean. He spoke to his daughter in private. Her mother and she acted out days before the wedding. I felt my stepdaughter and I were doing great, but each time I thought we bonded she later acted out against me. It’s been 3yrs since she has been living with us and she is still hot and cold. She has gotten feisty with me and even physical. I’m in a position where I work 39.5 hrs per week and I’m still the one there at home with her mostly. She doesn’t want to do chores, school, work or church only to be locked in her room on her phone. My husband speaks to her but has allowed her to continue bad habits. He and I have spoken about our parenting and I have asked him to speak to her mother. My husband and my stepdaughter and I have sat down we have spoken several times about what we expect and just to find out what is going on. Each time she cries and refuses to tell us what is going on with her. Whenever she does speak her sadness and attitude seem to be focused towards me but she is not direct. I let her know that I love her and I want the best from her and only expect her to grow into a decent human being. I even apologized for being opposite to what she is used to but let her know discipline is essential. She cannot tell us why she becomes sad and angry towards me. She says she’s not, but her actions are contradictory. I am afraid to even speak to her or be around her because I don’t know how she will internalize it. When we go out she’s all over me, but if someone assumes I’m her mother she makes sure to correct them. I tell my husband she needs to spend time with her mother and also to get counseling. My husband doesn’t understand my feelings. He see that there is an issue, but he thinks it will resolve itself. Now, I have the opportunity to migrate and I am afraid to take her with me. My husband feels I’m asking him to choose and said to me that if I’m having such a difficult time that now I have the opportunity to leave them behind. My stepdaughter wants to come, but she does not want me, she just wants the opportunity. I am in a place in my relationship where I’m working and feeding my family and doing housework and trying to maintain my health and everyone just do want they want to do. If I bring this with me I don’t think I will be able to function. Had someone else be doing what stepdaughter was doing to me my husband would not have it. I feel I need to be away from her and she needs time to grow up. Either way, she will resent me. it is clear that she just sees me as the woman her father married. Yes she is a child but I do everything for this family I don’t do anything to be shove because she’s angry and doesn’t want to eat when I cook or make disrespectful remarks. I knew she felt this way going into my marriage, but I thought love would win. How do I deal with this?(From Jamaica)

Relationship with Stepdaughter Is Affecting My Marriage

Answered by on -


I admire your courage and persistence in dealing with this, and it does sound like it is time for a change. If I am reading your email correctly your husband fathered your stepdaughter while he was in a relationship with you, yes? This is important because she has been in the middle of your relationship right since the beginning. Whatever conflict was in your relationship back then she is connected to.

Yet you have done a terrific job of reaching out, extending yourself, and making the best of the situation. But this situation, and in particularly your stepdaughter, needs some outside help. Her anger, your husband’s reluctance, and your frustration are building. While it would be impossible for me to know for certain there is a good chance your stepdaughter is angry toward you because you are the woman her father married, instead of her mom.

Your insight about her needing counseling is very accurate. My guess is that she doesn’t fully understand her own feelings, which would not be unusual for a 12-year-old and it may not be safe for her to talk with you or her father about them if she did.

Your husband doesn’t understand your feelings and your stepdaughter mistreats you. You tiptoe around her, and there is no arrangement for her to be with her mother. You seem to be the only one in the family trying to work toward a resolution.

It is time for you to stop trying to fix your stepdaughter, your husband, and the situation and refocus on your needs. Right now you have a very difficult decision to make and the people closest to you are not helping. I would encourage you to seek some brief short-term counseling to help you sort through your options. Right now your husband and stepdaughter are not giving you any signs that they want or are willing to put any effort into change. This is a time you need to be thinking about your opportunities and your own future.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

Relationship with Stepdaughter Is Affecting My Marriage

Therapists live, online right now, from BetterHelp:

Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

Dan Tomasulo Ph.D., TEP, MFA, MAPP teaches Positive Psychology in the graduate program of Counseling and Clinical Psychology at Columbia University, Teachers College and works with Martin Seligman, the Father of Positive Psychology in the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program at the University of Pennsylvania. He is Director of the New York Certification in Positive Psychology for the Open Center in New York City and on faculty at New Jersey City University. Sharecare has honored him as one of the top 10 online influencers on the topic of depression. For more information go to: He also writes for Psych Central's Ask the Therapist column and the Proof Positive blog.

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2020). Relationship with Stepdaughter Is Affecting My Marriage. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 22, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 24 Jan 2020 (Originally: 25 Jan 2020)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 24 Jan 2020
Published on Psych All rights reserved.