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Does my boyfriend's daughter have too much power?

briarrose's picture

I'm not a stepparent but for five months I've been dating a man I adore and who I can see having a future with, more than anyone else I've been with. He has a 17 year old daughter who has a hard time accepting me. Background information: Daughter's mom (and BF's wife at the time) died by suicide when she was 5. A couple of years later BF got involved with, and eventually bought a house with his girlfriend. GF became increasingly emotionally abusive over the course of their seven year relationship and daughter was traumatized. My BF and his daughter moved out two and a half years ago and now live in a house he bought in my neighborhood. I realize daughter has been through a lot but she seems to be calling the shots. BF is trying to be a good dad and put his daughter first. He'll spend one night a week at my house but I'm currently not allowed to spend any nights at his house, due to his daughter not feeling comfortable with the idea. This weekend BF invited me to have dinner on Friday and then afterwards I'll go home because daughter doesn't want me there overnight. She's fine with BF staying at my house on Saturday since she wants to have a friend over and wants the place to herself. What I'm looking for is a reality check. I've never been seriously involved with someone with a kid. I realize this particular kid has dealt with and is still dealing with trauma. I've had a good conversation with her, at my invitation, regarding her concerns and she told me she's afraid of losing her dad, as she felt like she did with his last relationship. I thought it was wonderful that she was able to express herself and felt like I was being supportive of her concerns and reassuring that I wasn't looking to take her dad away from her.  I like her and we both (seem) to enjoy each other when we are together, although sometimes she hangs onto her dad when I'm around in ways that make me uncomfortable. (He tells me she doesn't do that when I'm not around so I figure it's a territorial thing). She has told her dad that she likes me when she sees me but when he mentions her in my absence she gets a sick feeling in her stomach. I would like to spend more time with her but she's shot down BF's idea of me coming over for dinner on the same night each week. When we all make plans, such as going for a hike or kayaking, she often backs out. I also realize Covid is making everyone more stressed as all our options are more limited. To put it bluntly, I guess I'm not comfortable with the idea of BF having to negotiate our sex life with his daughter. I know he feels like he screwed up with the last relationship and is trying to make it up to her. Maybe I'm asking too much for only having been with him for five months and I'm trying to be an adult here but I'm not sure how, other than to support my BF's decisions but to also let him know that I'd like to move forward to some degree. If you have any advice at all I would truly appreciate it. I really don't want to screw this up. Thanks. 

Rumplestiltskin's picture

If the daughter really has been through all you say (the suicide is awful but also assuming the ex gf is as bad as they paint her to be), and your BF really is  trying to protect her due to a legitimately fragile emotional state, he is not ready for a serious relationship. If that's what you want, it's not fair to put your life on hold due to the actions of the previous women he was with. Maybe when SD moves out he will be able to be the partner you need. Beware, though, she may not launch, or they may remain enmeshed forever. I would be very wary about hanging around in this situation. He is not fully available.

But to answer simply, their situation is not normal and not conducive to you and your BF having a healthy relationship.

And i hope the SD is in therapy. 

notarelative's picture

When he spends the night with you, BF is leaving a 17 year old in the house with a friend all night. This is a sure fire way to becoming a grandparent.

JRI's picture

This sounds like a mini-wife situation (daughter too close to dad and him allowing it) + traumatic treatment from ex GF + residual sorrow from BM's suicide.  I would keep my own place and date him, if you feel this is all worth it.  I wouldnt be pushing for more time at his house.  How dare she determine who and when he can invite guests to his home.

Hate to be cynical here, but you have only their version of GF's abusive treatment.  Her version might include the description of a needy, manipulative daughter who sabotaged her relationship.  I don't like the way the daughter is calling the shots for an adult man.  I'm sure he feels tremendous guilt.

If you decide to move forward, at the very least I would insist on an ironclad launch plan for this 17yo.  I might even insist that it be in writing and discussed with her in my presence.  I would also insist on a different house.

Please proceed with caution.  The ex GF is probably  a Steptalk member dealing with PTSD.


Rumplestiltskin's picture

Yeah, i was wondering the same thing. A 17-year-old who hangs on her dad in ways that makes the gf uncomfortable, she says she feels "sick" when he talks about OP, she won't "let" him have OP over. The suicide is a very tragic thing, but i wonder if the SD and the boyfriend ever got therapy and moved past it, or if he has parented out of guilt and used the daughter to meet his emotional needs in a way that has messed her up for life. I have never experienced the suicide of a parent, so i don't know how it feels. But, if the girl still has major issues after 12 years, i'm afraid she always will. Plus i would take the demonizing of the ex gf with a grain of salt. He did keep her around for what, 7 years? What kind of parent lets their SO abuse their child for that long? It's been 2.5 years since that one ended. I wonder if he got the daughter therapy for that one, too?

briarrose's picture

Thank you all for your input. I do feel like a lot of what BF is doing is out of guilt, and that he's trying to protect his daughter by including her in the "negotiations." I also believe him when he says he loves me and wants to be with me a lot more often but wants to be a good dad. I'm guessing his daughter is more resilient than he thinks. I don't think she'd die if I spent the night and she happened to see me having coffee with her dad in the morning. I think she'd get used to it after a few times. It's not like I want to  even spend more than one night a week there (starting with once a month and working up to it)--I'm just trying to give this relationship some momentum. As a kid my parents certainly never asked my permission to do anything (and I turned out fine), so it's weird to be in this situation. I can feel my resentment/frustration growing and know that this current dynamic won't work in the long term for me so I'd like to help redirect it if possible. And yes, I do wish they wouldn't speak about the "evil stepmom" as they call the last GF, in front of me. It rubs me the wrong way, given that my BF chose to spend 7 years with her. I'm not the right audience for such tales. 

Picardy III's picture

I bet the ex-GF has a very familiar tale to tell. I wouldn't necessarily believe she was the one doing the traumatizing.

tog redux's picture

Yeah, so if daughter is so traumatized and anxious about losing her dad, is she in therapy? That would be my expectation, that if he feels she's too fragile to have you in the house, she should be seeing a therapist reguarly to resolve the problem.

Yes, he's giving her too much power.

briarrose's picture

Yes, she's in therapy and has been since age five, when her mom died by suicide. I'm not sure how often she sees her therapist now, but it seems to be at least once a month. 

Winterglow's picture

So either it's time to seek out a more competent therapist (especially if she's been with the same one since she was 5) or there's nothing wrong with her and your bf is wasting his money sending her to a therapist. 

What does the therapist think about her not being able to accept that her father has a life of his own?

briarrose's picture

I'm not sure what the therapist thinks since I'm not privy to those conversations. I would think a competent therapist would help her recognize that her dad has needs too. 

Harry's picture

That EX GF could be writting this same letter as you are writing,   That  your SO was putting DD first over GF. GF had no control what's going in in her home, GF was telling your BF that DD is crazy.  So everything became GF fault.  PS  if this girl did that crazy she needs more then once a month seeing the therapist.  But I guest BF is done olaying his DD in  Therary 

Merry's picture

Five months is not a long time, but you have spotted some serious red flags.

I'd ask for specifics -- when WILL it be ok for you to spend the night? Six months? A year? A "let's wait and see" answer means maybe never. I'd also ask your BF to stop with the "evil stepmother" comments. That's just perpetuating a nasty myth and gives them a little shared bonding moment that excludes you and makes you uncomfortable.

If you are talking about moving in or marriage at some point, start the conversation about buying an "ours" house. Do not move into HIS (or rather his daughter's) house. If he balks "but it's her childhood home," then that grown child will continue to have more power over her father's life than is comfortable or reasonable.

And then continue to ask for specific things to see what kind of reaction you get. It will become evident whether or not you are a priority in this man's life. Continued excuses of "SD's not ready" or "SD doesn't want to" or "let's just wait and see" will be very telling.

Don't be afraid to walk awy from this relationship if there are no changes. You'll spare yourself a lot of misery.

And, I agree with the others, if she's still so fragile after all this time, she needs a new therapist who will help her separate from her father as she launches into adulthood. And, is HE in therapy to learn how to help his daughter and how to encourage her independence?

briarrose's picture

He has been in therapy but not regarding the issue of helping to foster his daughter's independence, more around his wife's suicide. I think he definitely wants her to leave the house for college next year (she has a very specific major in mind, really wants to go and is looking at schools thousands of miles away) but my BF wonders if the pandemic willl cause her to take a gap year. He does talk about staying in that particular house (they've been there 2.5 years) so she'll have a place to come home to for a few years. I should also add that there is concern about his daughter's mental health as her BM was bi-polar and there is a hereditary element--it typically onsets in late teens/early twenties. So it's possible he's treading lightly for now because of that particular fear. I don't think it warrants giving her so much control over our relationship, however. 



GrudgingSM's picture

Gosh, this is A LOT. I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt (which is how I ended up with a DH who's a Disneyland Dad and skids I don't enjoy being around), so I'm on the side of believing this young woman has had a hard go of it, and that she has some fears about losing her role in her dad's life. Also without other sibs (and is other family around?), her dad might be her one stabilizing sense of family. That DOESN'T mean she gets to call the shots, but also, for me, 5 months isn't a very long relationship, and she will likely need more time to adjust to another adult taking a big role in her life. So to her credit, she might be very isolated and scared about losing her dad. In my situation, DH and I agreed from the get go that we listen to the kids' concern and respect their feelings, but they don't get to make our relationship decisions for us. For instance, when we did the first meet up, he told them about me and we had a defined activity with defined beginning and end times, and the kids were invited to meet me but had the option of staying at their BM's. They all came. So that way we didn't force a meeting on them, they had a choice, but the choice wasn't "she can't come over, we don't want you to date!" Because no.

I definitely agree iwth Merry above that you are totally within your rights to get a sense of timeline. Like, cool, maybe she's feeling vulnerable and isn't ready, but could you try a sleepover in 2 weeks? 2 months? when would be time to try. Also, others might disagree with this here, but our first blended sleepover was soooooo not a sexy affair. We did a movie night and all did sleepings bags in the living room. For awhile the kids kept asking me to sleepover in their rooms, but not because they were trying too stop any sexy business (they were too young to understand that stuff). But they saw me sleeping over as a fun activity for them. Maybe THE FIRST sleepover is also kind of a girls' night for y'all with facials and whatever to get used to the idea of you being there and seeing you share a cup of coffee in the morning with her dad. She doesn't need a night of pampering for every overnight! But she IS at an age where she understands what a sleepover means and maybe feels weird about it. I don't remember having ANY SAY WHATSOEVER about my dad's sleepovers when I was a kid, but I'm trying to find a middleground here.

I aso agree with the advice above about finding an "ours" home when you get to that stage. Because also it's not about you fitting into his life or him fitting into yours, but the life and home you make together. 

BUT ALSO I'm so on team one day at a time! This stuff doesn't have to be solved right away and these are big adjustments for everyone. I was definitely the one who wasn't fully healed when DH and I started dating, but he was super patient with me and waited for me to be ready for some of these steps. So PAY FULL ATTENTION TO THE RED FLAGS, but also pace yourself and don't worry about having to have it all solved right away. Time might solve a lot of it, especially if she launces next year. 

briarrose's picture

I like the idea of a sleepover with all three of us but I'm guessing she'd think it's weird, given that she's 17. We tried to get her to go camping with us (I have a huge tent) but she always declines the invitations. I'm going to tread lightly here, and still make my needs known. Unfortunately, there's no BM for her to spend time with. She's all his, all the time. 

GrudgingSM's picture

I'm also thinking you and the BF get to decide when sleepovers start happening, and she can have a "choice", but that means "hey kid, would Friday night or Saturday night be better for briarrose's sleepover this week?" Like she can't say you can't come over, but there's still this illusion of choice for her. This is basically all I did for potty training my kid too. "my bathroom or yours?" but like no peeing on the floor.

briarrose's picture

I love that idea. I think choice, no matter how small, is good in the case. 


Rags's picture

A 17yo should not had the authority to purge her father's mate from her father's home.  

Time to take the intimate activities in  your relationship to daddy's house and get passionately loud in daddy's bed when the 17yo is in the house. She needs to be introduced to reality that adult relationships include intimacy and kids will not be tolerated to interfere in adult relationships.

shamds's picture

That refers to basic needs and not wants. A good dad or parent also makes sure their kids are taught adequate coping mechanisms... 12 yrs of therapy because her mum died when she was 5 is extreme to be honest and shows she hasn’t learned to adapt to changes or gained any coping strategies. 

A good parent also shows his kids how relationships function well and he isn’t doing that by treating you as a side piece... if he were serious about you because he loves you and has strong feelings for you and you make him happy, the fact sd is uncomfortable daddy is having a romantic life is irrelevant and not her place because she doesn’t and should not get to dictate daddy’s love life.

my husband has been very firm on this that his kids aged 24.5, 22 and 14.5 have no say in his romantic/married life or intimate sex life. That is solely between hubby and me... skids lack any life skills to be able to dictate the direction of our married life or romantic life...

too many parents eff this up and are all about putting kids first like that makes them better parents when they have clearly failed at parenting their kids well to a degree...

DHsfamilyfromhell's picture

They both seem manipulative - I am thinking the truth is somewhere more in the middle, and that actually he could have been abusive as well, his partners sure end in very bad situations (and one downright tragic) .... do not let this happen to you. There are so many red flags here. 

His daughter isn’t going to see him as the bad guy she has daughter rose tinted specs on

hereiam's picture

He's not relationship material, at least, right now. Maybe never. If she acts like this at 17, she will most likely always feel like she should be his number one priority and that she should always have a say in his personal life. If he still feels so much guilt, and feels the need to make it up to her (no such thing), when will that end? Do you really think that it will?

Peruse the adult step children forum and determine if that's what you want your future to look like.

There are a lot of contradictions between her actions and what she claims are her fears. I agree that they are BOTH manipulative.

The good thing is, you have been given the red flags early on, before too much time has been invested. A lot of men pull the bait and switch, keeping the red flags hidden until the partner is hooked.

You've been given a blessing.