Sean, I have to ask something. I value your blog and thought you’d have some insight on this:
I’ve been dating a woman (Peg) for just about two years and we’re now engaged. She has a 10 year old daughter, Sara, who is very cold to me (we were introduced at the 9 month time in the relationship) and has become very cold to Peg. Peg feels as if Sara is cold to us because she felt (until we started dating) that Peg and her father would somehow reunite, and that I’ve somehow damaged that chance. Peg has assured me that she did not ever make any statement saying she wanted to get back together with her ex and that Sara has developed unrealistic expectations.
I’ve been really patient and understanding until this last weekend when Sara boiled over and became very disrespectful with Peg and I. I shouted at Sara to watch her tone and sent her to her room for the night. The catch is, Peg feels I overstepped my boundaries by enforcing discipline so I actually have TWO people upset with me. One feels as though I’ve overstepped my boundaries because we’re not married, so I have no right to do any parenting, and the other just simply despises her mother and myself.
What do I do in this sticky situation?
This IS certainly a sticky situation. On one hand, you’ve attempted to correct bad behavior and disrespect and have managed to upset someone who thinks you’ve “overstepped” and on the other, you have someone who hasn’t had a strong disciplinary parent in her life who seems to dislike you because of the relationship you’ve built with her mom.
First, let me tell you that I think you did the right thing in stepping in to correct Sara’s actions. While Peg may feel you overstepped things because you’re not married, she needs to realize that if you are ever going to get married, a step-parent’s role must be built slowly, and over time..not just crammed in after the marriage. By disciplining Sara, you are showing some backbone, though I don’t know why Peg didn’t step up and back you up. Perhaps she feels she needs to handle Sara with delicate approaches?
Secondly, Peg is right to feel upset (I know I just said you did the right thing but hear me out). She has the right to be upset here because this is stressful for her having a daughter causing drama and yet still feeling strongly enough to love you and build a relationship with you. now, notice I didn’t say Peg had the right to be upset WITH YOU..I just said it’s okay to be upset. Chances are, she doesn’t know quite what to do and a pretty common response after fear is anger. Let her calm down and talk things out with her. Explain why you felt the need to discipline Sara and ask her to work as a team with how you both become a positive role in Sara’s life. It’ll take patience, emotional ballsiness, and understanding. Tell Peg you’ll give her 100% and ask for the same from her. You two need to be each other’s backup for everything.
If you’re engaged, it may even become more stressful as Sara watches her mother remarry someone that isn’t her father. The only thing you can do is love both of them, be patient, and be a positive role model for both of them. Stand your ground and ask for support from your fiancee. You’ll eventually get through this and everything should be okay.