Marrying into a pre-established family unit can be one of the most challenging transitions you ever undergo. What is supposed to be the happiest time in your life can quickly morph into a nightmare if your stepdaughter is sabotaging your marriage.
The anxiety can put an ugly spin on your new relationship, leaving you feeling like maybe this wasn’t the right time or the best decision. Whether you have children of your own or this is your first time parenting, it’s important to remember that it’s perfectly normal for the child or children involved not to share your excitement for this new start.
They did not ask for this, and it is out of their control. When approaching this situation, make sure that you are coming in with the proper mindset and logic, not emotion, when trying to understand why she is attempting to sabotage your marriage.
Take a Step Back And Breathe
If you’re noticing certain behaviors that are making you wary, such as feelings of hate and constant sabotage from your stepdaughter, it’s time to sit down, take a deep breath, and learn a bit about the emotional and mental aspects of blended families. Understand that there are certain things that yo can and can’t do to help the situation.
Remember, it’s essential that you not take things personally. This hatred they’re exhibiting honestly has nothing to do with you; it’s merely a last-ditch effort to return to normalcy.
Let’s take a moment to break down some of the issues that can arise, such as feelings of displacement and insecurity, then move on to strategies that can make a difference.
Why is My Stepdaughter Sabotaging my Marriage?
First, let me tell you about my situation, as I’ve been on both sides of this equation, and empathy is an imperative aspect of parenting. After my parents divorced, they both remarried four years later, within six months of each other.
While I was thankful that my parents were no longer constantly fighting at home and that they found people that made them happy, I didn’t know either stepparent very well, and to me, it all seemed to happen rather quickly. It had been four years since my parents broke up, and I had established a post-divorce normal in both households.
My parents spent time with me on weeknights and alternating weekends while going on the occasional date with prospective partners when I was not home.
For me, their dating life was out of sight and out of mind. Suddenly, the home I’d spent my entire life in was half-owned by a stranger that had no interest in parenting me and seemed resentful of the close relationship I had with my father. The house my mother owned had rules that never before existed as her new husband tried to be a father for the first time.
Your Stepdaughter’s Perspective
Looking back, especially after becoming a stepparent myself, I realize that both my parents and their partners were merely trying to navigate their new relationships and find their new normals with me.
Everyone just wanted me to be as happy as they were about these changes because they were in love, and my parents wanted their partners to see how amazing their child was. Regardless of their thought process, I had lost the Sunday night pizza party in front of the TV with my dad, and the music I was used to playing at my mom’s was abruptly considered too loud and inappropriate.
I was missing both the quality time and the structure or lack thereof that I’d grown used to, and this caused issues for me. I lashed out, as a result, putting strain on both relationships. I felt that surely I was the only person in the world going through these unexpected changes.
It felt unfair.
In hindsight, I know these feelings of being pushed to the side and being nervous about new expectations occur in every blended-family unit. My father still loved me just as much as he always had, but now he had someone else to fawn over as well.
As an adult, I can recognize how important and fulfilling this was for him, but as a child, it was much like the transition when a new sibling arrives on the scene: feelings of jealousy were unavoidable.
Once I became a stepparent myself, it was easy to identify what was causing the behaviors from my own stepdaughter: her world was turned upside down, their dad was acting like a goofball with some random woman, and they had no idea what to expect anymore.
1. Understanding Behind the Scenes is Essential
Now that you know how it can feel from the child’s perspective, let’s discuss what you can do to make this transition easier.
Hopefully, by this point, you’re well versed in the circumstances surrounding the child’s other parent, and you’ve gotten to know the child a bit in a neutral environment. There are many different reasons marriages and relationships end, and they all put a different strain on the situation you’re walking into.
Maybe one partner left or passed away, or perhaps the relationship was rife with tension and was unsustainable. It’s crucial to understand where the child’s life and grieving process was before you moved in and how your presence changed their day-to-day lives.
Even though your stepchild loves both their parents dearly, they’ve gone through at least one significant life change before you entered the scene, worked through it, and now they’re going through another one.
2. Change Your Expectations
Taking a step back and readjusting your expectations of the perfect happy family can make a huge difference. Life is messy, and it very rarely belongs on a postcard, especially when children are involved.
Give them time to get to know you, not just as their parent’s partner, but as a person, and offer them the same opportunity to share their lives with you in return. Remain open and receptive, and don’t push too hard. Again, they didn’t ask for this transition, so you’ll need to remain at a pace they are comfortable with.
This is the key to building any bond, and it applies here, too.
3. Bonding With Your Stepdaughter Takes Time.
It can be easy to try to establish dominance early on, even for well-seasoned parents.
We forget that the bond with our children took years to grow into what it is today, and we need to allow stepchildren a grace and growth period. Depending on the background information, the child might have spent years in an unhappy household and could fear all relationships end up like that.
Similarly, if the other parent left, they might be wary of getting too close to a new parental figure, as it might hurt if you decide to walk away as well.
When your stepdaughter is saying hateful things or constantly butting into your private time with your partner, assess the situation through an empathetic lens. Eventually, they’ll stop using those tactics when they realize you’re there to stay and they aren’t running you off.
4. Check in With Your Partner Because Your Relationship Matters Too
If you haven’t already, speak with your partner about your worries. When your stepdaughter is sabotaging your marriage, it is not something that is taken lightly. A talk with your significant other needs to happen.
Do not tear the child down to make your point. This is a human they have invested years in and are very proud of, even if recent issues might be straining things.
Trust me; your partner has noticed the behaviors and probably already taken their child to the side to have a heart-to-heart. Let your partner know that you understand, how new this is, and that you’re willing to work through any issues but that you can’t tolerate the disrespect that might be happening.
Allow your partner to handle any comments made by the child until things have calmed down.
Make sure they’re your partner and his child are getting adequate alone time together, as well. Being in a new relationship often results in getting caught up in everything that is going on, but when your partner comes into the picture with children, it changes everything.
They still need quality time with their parents so they don’t feel left out.
I’ve Tried Everything and It’s Not Working
If you’ve been patient and understanding for months and the situation is only getting worse, gently suggest family and personal counseling to your partner. Months of this behavior indicate the child may have unresolved issues from before your time there that a professional can help them work through.
By suggesting both types of counseling and seeing a counselor yourself, you’ll show your partner and the child that you want this to work. All anyone really wants is a good loving family and being able to experience that is an amazing feeling.
Someone who is educated in this field that has the right mindset and ideas can really change the dynamic of the family.
Final Thoughts – Why Is Your Stepdaughter Sabotaging Your Marriage
The truth is, your stepdaughter may never genuinely view you as a parental figure, and that’s okay. Sometimes, the most you can ask for is indifferent respect. Living harmoniously doesn’t require being best friends.
It can be a heartbreaking realization, but what matters most is for the situation within the house is healthy for all involved and the needs of everyone within are being met.
Don’t discount them entirely, though, as once they’ve grown up and seen things from your perspective, they might confide in you and turn to you for advice because of the respect they have for you.
Dealing with a stepdaughter who is sabotaging your marriage can be a major headache. You as a parent need to stay patient and composed till you see change.