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Feeling isolated and like a third wheel to fiancé and 13 yr old stepdaughter

notsureIevenlikekids's picture

I am recentlly engaged to my partner. I am 33 and he is 38. I have been living with him and his 13 year old daughter in Chicago for about 6 months now. We're coming up on our 2 year mark of being together but I should mention that we were long distance for the first year and a half as I was living in DC and finishing my bachelors degree when we met while he was on vacation with his parents, daughter and sister in DC. I have been friends with his sister for many years as I used to live in Chicago some years ago. When I moved back to Chicago, the plan was for me to live on my own initially but unfortunately due to some unforseen circumstances, I couldn't afford to do so. So now I have been living with my partner and his now 13 year old daughter for 6 months. For the most part, we've gotten along pretty well. They have a very close relationship which I appreciate but it's a little unconventional since he was so young when she was born; they're more like brother and sister than father and daughter. I had started to get very frustrated with both of them at first because he has never set any real limits, rules or responsibilities for her. She had unfettered access to her cell phone with no parental controls, she had no chores and he did literally everything for her; making her bed in the morning, making her breakfast and lunch, cleaning up after her meals, doing her laundry, folding and putting it away, and basically allowing her to do whatever she wanted with no consequence and never having to clean up after herself or consider anyone else around her at all. Obviously, this got very frustrating for me. I'm no one's maid and I'm certainly not going to clean up after a 5"8 teenager who is perfectly capable of doing so herself. I had many conversations with him about it for months until finally my therapist suggested he come in and the 3 of us talk. She basically told him all the same things I'd been saying for months; that giving a child no limits or responsibilities wasnt doing them any favors and would only result in a self-indulgent, spoiled and incapable adult. He woke up after that and now she has parental controls on her phone, he takes it away before dinner and charges it in our room until the next day when she's only supposed to get it after we're in the car taking her to school. He now tells her to clean up after herself and she makes her own bed, her own lunch and helps set the table for dinner. This is all good stuff and it's definitely relieved some tension at home. But at the end of the day, I am the newbie, I am the one who entered their lives. Nothing in their lives has changed really except that I'm around all the time now. Everything in my life has changed; I'm 700 miles away from my best friends (I have friends here but it's not the same), I'm suddenly thrust into the role of being a parent/guardian to a kid I barely know who I already feel is starting to resent my presence and I wasn't even sure if I wanted kids or not but I definitely didnt dream about being a step mom to someone else's kid. So I already feel kind lonely and isolated, on top of feeling like the odd woman out because it had been just the 2 of them for so long and now...last night they had dinner together while I was home studying for grad school, apparently they had a long heart to heart where SD13 told him she didn't feel she was getting enough attention from him since she had gotten so used to being the center of his world and now with me around she felt neglected and wants more alone time with him. The thing is, we already established that wednesday nights, they would be alone together. They already have dinner and are alone together on tuesday nights as well. We have her all weekend since her bio mom isn't in the picture so that leaves almost no alone time for my partner and me. It seems like the only way she and her friends "hang out" is on the computer or their phones so it's not like we even get alone time when she's with friends because she's never with friends. She sleeps at her grandparents on Monday and Wedneday nights because I can't take her to school tuesday and thursday mornings because I have early class myself. But Monday nights my partner doesnt get home until 1030pm and then goes straight to bed. At this point, the only night we could have alone together is wednesday nights but right now that's their father/daughter night. I'm frustrated and lonely and I feel pathetic because I feel like I'm jealous of a 13 year old girl and the time she gets to spend with her father who is my partner. I don't even want to say anything to him because I feel like my feelings arent valid compared to a 13 year old kid who's mother abandoned her and needs her father. I just feel so alone and like there's nothing I can do about it. LIke all I can do is wait 5 years until hopefully she moves out. 

ESMOD's picture

To be honest, it is ok to take a step back and reassess your situation.  Your long distant relationship allowed both of you to more carefully craft the version of you that the other person was presented with.  Now, the shades are off your eyes.. you are seeing him.. and he is seeing you.  You are seeing that while he had plenty of time for a long distance GF.. he has little room for a full time live in one. 

And.. it's no wonder his daughter resents the one who came in and forced changes that made her life less fun.

I'm not saying that she shouldn't have had boundaries and rules.. but obviously your BF didn't think they were that important. 


So.. where do you go now?  Honestly, i personally feel your best step would be to move out... figure out a roomate situation if you have to.  But living there right now is "too soon".  I might even rethink the entire relationship and move from DC.. but at a minimum you need to slow down and move more slowly.  maybe the relationship doesn't progress to living together until she ages out? who knows.. but you know what is going on now is not working


Dads_Wife's picture

If she is 13 and he is 38, he was 25 when she was born, and thats honestly not that young. My parents had us all before the age of 28 (my mom was 26) and there is three of us. None of us have a sibling like relationship with them so I wouldn't use the age thing as an excuse. There are many other parents that had their children younger and manage appropriate parental relationships with their children. He clearly has treated her too much like a wife than a daughter since she basically wants you gone. This battle is just starting for you trust us. She will keep upping her game, continually assuring you feel like an outsider unless your SO stands his ground. If you and SO can come to an agreement with no additional alone time as it has already been outlined, just both of you stand your ground. SD can ask for whatever she wants, doesn't mean she's going to get it.

Siemprematahari's picture

The worse thing you can do is not address your partner on how neglected & lonely you are feeling. He has to know or else how can he try to remedy the situation that works well for you all? The longer you hold this in the longer it will fester and you will grow resentful. Also, if you think that waiting 5 years until she moves out that this will are absolutely mistaken. She may not "move out" at 18 and this age is not a magic # that will fix your problems over night.

They’re more like brother and sister than father and daughter.

Like a poster commented above your partner was 25 when he had his daughter. He was a decent age to know not to blurr lines and act like this is a brother/sister relationship. That is very unhealthy and this behavior will have an impact on you.

Living in Chicago is expensive can you look at getting a roomate and possibly moving out. Try to get some space and continue building on your relationship and see if perhaps you see a future with him?


advice.only2's picture

So did you move there to be with him? Or to go to grad school?
I think that online dating doesn't give anybody a true idea of what a person is really like. Since financially you can't afford to live there on your own, maybe look into rooming with other grad students and then you and SO can date and see if this relationship can even exist in the real world.

Curious Georgetta's picture


could  not afford to live on her own. I am  not saying this to be critical or  judgemental , but to point out that people come to appropriate stages of independence at different times.

Your own recent bout of dependency should help you to be more sympathetic to this child who through no fault of her own has no mother.

Perhaps, now that you have had 6 months to gain your footing in Chicago, you guys might try living apart and gradually working towards  living together again.

Space and distance  mIght give all of you time to refine your expectations,  perspectives, and outlooks 






mro's picture

You couldn't afford to live on your own so you moved in with him.  Bad idea.   I know because i did the same thing myself with now XH.  Looking back, renting a room, finding some roommates, or even forgoing the move would have been better. Now you're on the slippery slope of getting engaged to a man you're frustrated and resentful with (for good reason).  Please keep in mind, uou can't fix him, and this will not go away after she turns 18.  Please get some help before you marry him.  You are not powerless and you have more choices than staying in this situation and waiting it out.

Rags's picture

Regardless of how insular the two of them have been for her whole life, if he does not make you and the relationship that the two of you have his priority... he is not your equity life partner.

Your feelings of being a third wheel and isolated are telling you that this is not a tennable situation for the long term unless your SO makes major permanent changes to how he partners with  you and parents his kid.

You are a young, educated and highly capable woman with every opportunity in the world before you.   If SO does not get his shit straight in a hurry, do not tie  your life to he and his daughter.

That he took your input and the therapists input and made changes is a positive sign.   Hopefully he will continue the improvements that he has initiated.

Good luck and congratulations on Grad school.  You are in an exciting phase of life.  Enjoy it.

notsureIevenlikekids's picture

To clarify a few things: I only couldnt afford to live on my own bc I broke my ankle a few months before I moved and therefore could not work (I worked as a waitress and bartender) and ended up having to use my savings to pay rent, bills, etc. I also thought I'd have student loans to work with when I got here but bc I am taking prerequisite courses toward grad school, I am not considered a "degree seeking student" and therefore am not qualified to receive federal student loans. As I am going into a health field, grad schools in my program are looking for observation hours and work within the field. So I have a job that allows me to work in the field and obtain observation hours but it pays very minimally because it is essentially an internship and unfortunately the american intern system is pretty screwed up in terms of underpaying people for work they need to progress in their chosen field. My SO has been very supportive of my circumstances and I wouldn't be able to do what I need to do in the period of time I want to do it in without his support. That being said, I did get another bartending job recently so I am making enough money to support myself now. I suppose I could move out, but that is a big decision I will have to put a lot of thought into in addition to discussing with my SO. Also, we did not meet online, he is the brother of a good friend of mine from when I lived in Chicago previously and I met him when they were visiting family they have in DC. I was already planning on moving back to Chicago for grad school when I met him and then falling in love with him sealed the deal. Additionally, I stayed in DC for a year and half, not immediatly moving to be with him bc ultimately my future, with or without him, is a priority for me. I do think moving in may not have been the wisest idea and that our otherwise very open style of communication got a bit lost in the day to day. 

Update: I had a long coversation with my SO last night. I expressed my feelings regarding the situation of feelings isolated and the difficulty of my reality of being thrust into a parent/guardian role in such a short period of time. I also expressed that my feelings are different from his largely due to the fact that the changes I've incurred in my life are significantly larger and more abrupt than the changes he and his daughter are experiencing. I also made it clear that my expression of these feelings of being overwhelmed and it being difficult for me are not a declaration of giving up but rather its important to me to be able to communicate these things and be able to vent and be understood if not at least be heard. I also told him the schedule needs to change and I need to feel like a priority to him. He heard me loud and clear. He immediately had a conversation with his daughter letting her know that he now has a partner and therefore there has less time for her. He changed their father/daughter night and now we have at least one evening entirely alone together. Additionally, he apologized for not being more aware of my feelings and taking my venting personally and says he will make a bigger effort to prioritize our relationship. 

I appreciate everyone's input and thank you all for taking the time to read everything and giving me advice from kind places in your hearts. That being said, I realized with all of this and the conversation I had with my SO last night that above all I need to maintain a healthy communicative relationship with my partner and stop bottling things up just to vent to strangers online. Thanks again everyone.

SonOfABrisketMaker's picture

you and he had a heart to heart about your needs in the relationship and he immediately ran to talk with her about it? “I don’t have time for you anymore because I have a gf.” That’s a good way to set you up as a bad guy. 

If he needed to say anything to her it should have been “I thought about what you said and want you to know that I’m always here for you and love you. But you’re 13 and maybe you should start hanging out with friends and developing relationships with them. You’re smart and funny and are a good friend.”

HermosaVogue's picture

Agree with you on this. And he also appears to be engaging his daughter in heart to hearts and then going to OP and disclosing everything said. Not bad in itself, couples should talk, but is it always helpful and relevant information and respectful of his daughters confidence. OP your SO needs to step up and stop triangulating with the both of you. 

Siemprematahari's picture

Communication is key! I'm glad he listened and quickly made an effort to address your wants & needs. Wishing you well!