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Soooo confused - Obsessed with his daughter!

SC's picture

I've been rethinking my relationship with my fiance lately, but I'm just really confused. He is so kind and intelligent and I enjoy being around him. The problem is his obsession with his 6 year old daughter. This morning, we were making love as six (count 'em SIX) photos of his daughter stared straight back at me. He has eight photos of her in his bedroom alone.

Is it daddy guilt? Does he think of her as his buddy? I don't know... He's so caring about me, but almost equates his relationship with his daughter with the one he has with me. As we discussed our impending marriage, I said maybe we didn't need to be married. He was pretty upset and said he loved me and wanted to be married. He wanted a companion. When I said, "But I AM your companion!" He said, "Yes, and so is _______!" (his daughter). He expressed this so joyfully, it turned my stomach. I don't even think he realized how unhealthy that sounded.

Also, I have two children of my own. They like my fiance and he likes them. He gets along with them and makes an effort to talk to them. However, whenever we're all together, it feels very though we're two separate families. He's so obsessed with his daughter and her every move, I feel we're invisible sometimes. When we're out together, he takes pictures of his daughter and doesn't include my children in ANY of the pictures. What's up with that???

So I keep thinking it's time to say goodbye. But then we have the week where he doesn't have his daughter (he has 50/50 custody) and we have the most incredible time! We are so in tune with one another and I truly enjoy myself and am the happiest I've ever been. But then...the week with his daughter arrives again and I feel left out and worry about how my children would fare in this potential marriage.

I'm soooooooo confused!!! Would therapy help? I've spoken to him multiple times about these issues and nothing has changed.
Thanks for any insight...


ChaiLatte's picture

SC, I understand that you love him and the bond that the two of you share. When making your decision as to whether or not you want to marry this man, please keep in mind that that custody arrangements change. Trust me. The most possessive of mothers can wake up one day and out of nowhere no longer wish to raise their child. I believe a man who is obsessed with his child may likely try to maneuver his way into having his child more than the 50/50 arrangement that you enjoy now. Don't expect him to admit this to you. He may not even realize it himself that he wants this. I may sound paranoid, I just wish someone had warned me beforehand to keep in mind that custody arrangements can change overnight, and you will be in a very different situation than the one you signed up for. So I guess my point is, you'll know if you truly want to marry him if you can live with these issues not going away, and his child possibly living with you every day. I think you need to decide if he is worth it. Hopefully, he is.

"There comes a time when you have to surrender the idea of what your children could be to the reality of who they are."

SC's picture

Thanks for your thoughts, ChaiLatte. I actually have no problem with his daughter...she is very sweet and I really like her. I wouldn't have a problem with her living with us full time EXCEPT for the way my fiance acts. It's my fiance's behavior around her that I object to. And...because of the inequity I notice in the way my fiance responds to the children, I guess I worry that it could carry over even into their adulthood. Perhaps I'm thinking too far into the future, but I worry with the picture-taking thing...would he be thinking about MY children's college? Or just his daughter's? With his obsession with his daughter, would he suggest we move to be close to her if she moves (he wants her to go to an ivy league school, if possible)? Don't know if I'm letting my fear take over. I want to be happy and he's a good man...

belleboudeuse's picture

I agree. Saying that his daughter is "his companion" is very unhealthy. It's time for a counselor. If I were you, I would gently lay out your fears (the unhealthy place of his daughter as "companion," the "invisibility" of your family and you when she is around, etc.) and let him know that you love him and want to be with him, but you can see problems down the line and you would need him to go to counseling before taking the step of marriage. Make sure to stress that you think she's a wonderful little girl, and it is not her that is the issue, but rather your relationship and his ability to distinguish between a father-daughter relationship and a spousal relationship.

I suggest that you try to find a counselor for him that has experience in stepfamily issues if possible.


You are not second best, you are not second class. Do not ever let anyone make you feel that way. - 2BLoved

SC's picture

Thank you bbd. I've searched and searched for stepfamily support groups in our area but alas, there are none. I do hope that I can find a counselor experienced in matters of stepfamilies. I started going to a counselor on my own because of these issues and she's very good, but it's clear she doesn't understand the stepfamily dynamic.

SC's picture

You've hit the nail on the head, StepAside. He does think I just don't understand how much he loves her. Counseling does seem to be a viable option, although some days I just want to give up. I'm just about to call it quits and then we have the most incredible evening and sparkling conversation (something I didn't have with my ex). I'll give counseling the old college try and I appreciate the glimpse into the future as to how his daughter COULD be if they continue on this path.

steppinginsf's picture

I have dealt/am dealing with this very same issue with my FH and his 10 year old son. He is someone who describes his parenting as "child-focused" (from what I know of it, from friends with children, he has done the "attachment parenting" thing). His son co-slept with him until last spring. When I realized that his son was in his bed on the nights that I wasn't sleeping there (he has 50% custody) I told him this wasn't acceptable to me anymore and insisted that it was either me or his then 9 year old son who slept with him. FH has described his son as his "peer," and said that son doesn't need his guidance, advice, direction, etc. When I first met FH I though how he talked about his son was sweet-- but then after I started spending time with them more and more I started to feel like the way he spoke of his son was strange, actually. He talked about the son, his "wisdom," and told stories about his growing up almost with a worshiping tone. His son grew up going with his dad to grown up parties, adult dinner parties, being involved in every adult conversation and privy to adult information. SS would demand to be a part of every conversation we had and on a few occasions told me that he I should either involve him in the conversation I was having with his dad or end it. Yet I would describe him as very emotionally immature- he still needs FH to get in his bed every night and read to him. Until last June or so he also had no responsibilities- if he was thirsty he would yell to FH that he wanted a drink. He didn't know how to pour himself a bowl of cereal. FH would take him on amazing camping trips-- last year alone, to Death Valley, to Lassen and climbed to the top, and in the wilderness of Shasta. Yet his son never helps prepare for the trips, doesn't take anything to/from the car. Doesn't help putting up tents, preparing food, cleaning up the campsite. I know this only b/c I started asking questions after the camping gear sat in the living room for 6 weeks last summer. SS doesn't ever put his dishes or glasses in the dishwasher, he would never offer you help. Yet I am supposed to be amazed by his writing abilities (FH is a poet and writing professor, BM is a published author), amazing by everything about him.
Well, I have spent 6 months trying to point out to FH the things that I think SS needs to learn, why he needs responsibility and structure, and why he needs to be a kid (he has never had a friend over in the time I've been with FH; part of this is where we live, but his time with FH has always been just about 1:1 adult time). I have stressed to FH that I am not going to compete with SS to be his partner. There are many times I have erupted in anger, many times I have felt isolated, and many times that FH forgets about me. But finally, after 6 or so months and starting therapy together 2 months ago, FH is starting to understand. We have had some of the first healthy and productive conversations in this area recently. He used to get so angry and resentful- and would characterize it as just me requiring him to change the nature of his relationship with his son, that I was asking him to make changes that were damaging, etc. We are finally in a space where he sees that our relationship is improving, and he wants it to continue to.
I sometimes feel bad- that it is a big change for a kid (to have his relationship with his dad shift so much) and that SS didn't ask for his parents to split up when he was a baby. But truthfully, I believe it is much better for him to be a kid, for him to be allowed and encouraged to do things that kids do, NOT to be expected to act like an adult, but encouraged to become responsible, take care of himself and his things, etc. And the truth is, I need to have a fullfilling partnership. I left one marriage b/c it could not sustain me in the way that I needed. I most certainly am not going to enter into another that can't either.
So yes, I suggest therapy together. Someone recently rec'd the book _Step Coupling_ to me and it was helpful. Your FH needs to see himself and you and the primary dyad, which will for sure be a difficult transition for him to make.

SC's picture

Wow, Steppinginsf! Our stories are SO similar! It's helpful to read about your experience because there have been so many days I've despaired, thinking it is a daddy/daughter thing. Obviously, it's not. Although my SO doesn't sleep in the same bed as his daughter, almost everything you mentioned is the same in my experience.

When they pack to stay at my house or we go on trips together with all the kids (I have two of my own - ages 4 & 10), his daughter doesn't pack anything. He does all her packing for her. I don't understand. Even my four year old does some of her own packing. His daughter doesn't carry anything. He carries everything - EXCEPT for when we go on trips together because I hand his daughter bags to carry. If my four year old is carrying her suitcase, his nine year old daughter can certainly handle a bag or two!!!

His daughter also asks for drinks and he runs off to get them for her. She also doesn't pour her own cereal.

His daughter also has no friends, except at school. I believe this is because my SO is overprotective and will not allow her out of his sight. I find it incredibly sad. She gets so excited to come to my house because she has the opportunity to play with my children. Whenever she wants to play, he goes to the park with her. This is nice, but she needs time to play with other children. What if he and I broke up? I don't think she'd have any children to play with outside of school.

I also need to feel fulfilled in a relationship. I've spoken to my SO about these issues, but he just doesn't get it. I sure hope counseling helps because I love him very much, but I know I can't live like this. I feel lonely too often.