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Smart Stepfamilies

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CPL, from USA (submitted July '09)


Name: CPL

Location: USA

In March 2009, my boyfriend and I suddenly broke up after 2 years of friendship and 2.5 years of dating. I am not sure what happened. He refuses to talk to me.

My children are grown and have moved out. He has a 13 year old daughter. She was 9 yrs when we met. We both are 50 yrs of age. He is a widower (5 years) and I am divorced (11 years). We met right after his wife passed but waited 2 years before dating. We get along very well together. We are very compatible and have taken our dating slow because of his daughter and the fact that she had lost her mother suddenly. His daughter found her Mom on the kitchen floor dead from a seizure at age 8 yrs old. So I know it's a lot of trauma but they did not seek counseling and she even spoke at her mothers funeral. I also read your book on stepfamilies and I am empathetic to her pain and grief.

He lives in a small town less than 600 people. When we began to date the town people began to write really mean and nasty anonomous letters to him for dating me. The letters were so mean and all of these people were "christians." For over a year 6 letters went to his late wife's sister. We did not know she got the letters. Initially she was supportive of our dating but changed (due to the letters) and began to poison his daughter (her niece) against our dating. She told her things such as your dad is not a good dad because he is dating when his focus should only be on raising you. The daughter said this to her dad. The daughter began acting very rude and disrespectful towards me. She has made our dating relationship hell. But come to find out the aunt was behind her behavior.

The town people and sister in law have over the past 2 years put so... much guilt on my boyfiend that he says he wish he had never met me and fallen in love with me because his daughter is so unhappy and it's his fault. So I kind of backed off over the past year to give him and his daughter time to be together. Sometimes we would only see one another twice a month which left both of us very lonely but we were hoping in the end his daughter's bahavior would change. But instead it only got worse.

Over the past 2 years his daughter is now 13 years old in 2009. She runs the household. She has taken over his bedroom with all of her clothes, jewelry, shoes...otherwise she has become the wife. She even runs her father. He will not stand up to her to discipline her or guve her boundaries especially when it comes to how she treats him or me because he is overcome with guilt for dating. She is rude, disrespectful, yells at him, and all he does is laugh. If the 3 of us go anywhere she acts out so bad that we are all miserable. I usually try to stay out of the disciplinary phrase and let him bring boundaries into their relationship. But he can't. All of this has taken place over the past 2.5 years.

The last time I saw him was a Sunday night in March 2009 after I gave him a 50th birthday dinner with close family and friends. At the restaurant he said how happy he was and that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. When he dropped me off at home his daughter's behavior that night at the restaurant and in the car and in my home was so.. awful that it got to me and I sent him an email the next day saying His daughters behavior was really out of hand. When he dropped me off she passed gas in his face when he asked her if she wanted to come into my house while he walked me to the door, she jumped on his back and started hitting him with her fisk saying lets go now, I have homework to finish. But instead he ran out the door behind her saying, "I gottta go." He was in my home maybe 3 minutes as he was using the bathroom. I said to him in the email "When she yelled at you, you could have said," honey let me say good night and I will be out to the car in a few minutes and we can talk at that time. But instead she yelled and he came running. It seemed like she was the Father and you were the child."

That was the last I heard of him or seen him. I have emailed him twice to ask what's going on but no reply. As I write this story it's been 4.5 months. I have not tried to contact him face to face because we live a short distance apart. I feel if he wanted to talk he would call me or come by. In the meantime I have no respect for a man who lets a 10 -13 year old run his life.

My question is where do you draw the line with boundaries and respect for a child who has lost a mother. Does the grief give her a reason to be rude, disrespectful, to her father and his girlfriend.

What happpened to the man who was so in love and wanted to marry me after 4.5 years of friendship and dating. Once I address his daughters behavior he refuses to have anything to do with me whatsoever? I do not understand it. Can you enlighten me?



CPL-- It looks as if you have dodged a bullet. I commend you for pulling back when your boyfriend's inabiity to set boundaries with his daughter became apparent. Marrying this man would be a miserable experience. When a biological parent is paralyzed by grief, guilt, and/or a lack of parenting skills (all seem to be applicable to your boyfriend), stepparents have an extremely difficult stepfamily experience. Especially stepmothers as is discussed in the book The Smart Stepmom. Leave him to his "new wife" (daughter); it's time for you to move on.  RLD


Comments ( 3 )
Add your Comment
#3: by jenny on 08.01.2009 @ 02:35pm CDT

I couldn't agree more with any of the responses. Take time to cherish yourself for a while and take stock, to rebuild your reserves. You did the right thing emailing him to try to open a discussion before he ceased contact. His lack of communication is guilt, anger, fear and ignorance of how to do what he (probably deep down)knows he should be doing. I am sure you must be hurting, having tried so hard. Step parenting is hard enough anyway when a couple can work together, but unbelievably awful and destructive when they can't. Take care of you and asked those who truly love you to help you move on. I wish you much joy with someone who truly respects and loves you in the future.
#2: by Mike on 07.31.2009 @ 05:08pm CDT

CPL - Ron is right on. This little girl is in serious need of some boundaries, and it sounds like her dad is either unable or unwilling to draw them. Had you continued, you'd not be in a position to draw them yourself. I feel for you, and your lost hopes, but you really are better off.

God bless.
#1: by Cynthia Kelly on 07.31.2009 @ 01:39pm CDT

Hooray for you. Run sister run. Ron speaks the truth & I've lived your reality. My oldest step daughter was 7 years old when we met & is now 14 years old. The parents splite was a divorce not a death. We experienced bad mouthing from the ex wife & her side of the family even though she wanted the divorce to pursue her affair. The big difference is - my husband backs me up & stands up to his daughter. Initially he behaved similar to your boy friend - but over time - and after much discussion from me (thru the help of Ron's books) he saw the light. I'd say 95% of the time he backs me up. Although, my relationship with this step daughter is not great - it is managable & fairly peaceful. I was getting ready to break up with my then boyfriend because he would not back me up until he realized how serious I was. If a man will not back up his serious girlfriend/fiance/wife then it's best to let him go. I have been in their life 8 years now & married 6 years. Our marriage is very happy & peaceful with minimal conflicts. God has a better plan for everyone in this situation. Take care of yourself!

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