A 3-part Series exploring jealousy between Stepdaughters And Stepmoms

Rock stars sing about it. The Bible warns against it. Crimes are committed because of it. Many stepmoms and stepdaughters are frustrated because of it. I’m talking about jealousy.

While it may be a large elephant in the stepfamily living room, jealousy between stepmoms and stepdaughters regarding dad is REAL and is having a REAL affect on both the stepmom and the stepdaughter and the man they all love.  stepmom, stepmom magazine, stepfamily

Many stepmoms and stepdaughters struggle with feelings of jealousy towards each other. Some stepmoms are jealous of the close knit relationship that their stepdaughter(s) has with their father and many stepdaughters are jealous of the new woman in their home and the impact she has on their dad’s time.

Often the jealousy turns to bitterness and resentment towards each other. This root of bitterness is planted deep in the stepfamily and can cause emotional distress for everyone.

Jealousy is a toxic cocktail and one that is difficult to digest regardless of why, how and by whom it is concocted. 

In this three part series, we will first look at jealousy through the stepmoms’ eyes. The second part will focus on the stepdaughters’ point of view and the third will speak to the impact jealousy has on the stepmom’s relationship with her partner and offer viable solutions to making peace so the stepmom doesn’t fall to pieces.

In surveying some stepmom and stepdaughter duos across the country, I delved deeper into this stress filled mystery. Part 1 reveals what fuels a stepmother’s jealousy towards her stepdaughter(s).

Feeling Like an Outsider

An overriding theme that presented itself was how many stepmoms feel jealous of how close their partner is with his daughter(s). These stepmoms feel like an outsider in comparison to their stepdaughter(s) and they don’t like it. Here’s what a few stepmoms had to say:

“I often find myself jealous of the relationship between my husband and his daughter. I feel like we (my husband and I) are so close when she is at her mom’s but when she texts, calls, or walks in the door – I become second fiddle. I hate feeling this way. It seems wrong to be jealous of a 15 year old but I can’t seem to help it. I don’t like feeling second best” – Meghan, stepmom to a 15 yr old stepdaughter

My husband and his two daughters are so close. He was a single dad for three years before we met. I feel like the girls view me as an outsider and they do everything in their power to make me feel that way. He seems to always make time to listen to their sorrows but when my heart is heavy, he brushes me away. It’s hard to see him one way with his girls and another way with me. I wish I had what they have with their father” – Tonya, custodial stepmom to 17 yr old and 13 yr old stepdaughters

Stepmoms love their partner and they desire to be one with them. Issues of stepfamily living can place stress on a stepmom and her partner’s relationship. It can be very hard on a stepmom when she seeks validation and compassion for what she is going through and gets little from her partner yet witnesses a very strong, loving bond between her partner and his daughter(s).

The stepmoms I talked to said that they know their partner is capable of being attentive, loving and compassionate. They see these characteristics exhibited towards their stepdaughter yet they often don’t feel it present in their own relationship with their partner.

I’ve spent most of my life walking under that hovering cloud, jealousy, whose acid raindrops blurred my vision and burned holes in my heart.  ~ Astrid Alauda

One stepmom told me “I never spoke this out loud until you asked but yes, I am jealous of the relationship my husband has with his three daughters. I often don’t feel as important to him as they are and that’s very hard on me. I can feel like an outsider when they are at our house. I hate it. I feel guilty saying this but I want to run and hide when they are at our home.” – Liza, stepmom to 8 yr old  twins and 14 yr old stepdaughters

The Blind Eye

Another area of jealousy for many stepmoms is the area of their partner’s “blind eye.” Stepmoms struggle when they witness their partner bend over backwards for their daughter(s) and yet be taken advantage of by them. It is extremely painful for these stepmothers to see their partner’s love and generosity taken for granted by their own daughter(s). This is especially true for the stepmom who wishes to receive the same type of love and generosity from their partner.

“I don’t know if jealous is the word I would use to describe how I feel concerning my husband’s relationship with his two daughters. It’s more of frustration in how they walk all over him and how he allows it to happen. It’s so obvious to me that they use their father, especially his wallet, but he never seems to see it. That hurts because I love him and it makes me not like his girls. It’s a real problem for me. I don’t care that he spoils them, I just would like to see them be appreciative.” Sylvia, stepmom to 8 yr old and 14 yr old stepdaughters

“He never seems to see what she is really doing or like. She is perfect in his eyes and it drives me crazy. He gives her whatever she wants and when she’s upset he validates her. I wish I would get validation for my concerns but I don’t. Somedays, I can’t stand to be in the same room as her when I know she is using her dad.” Susan, stepmom to an 11 yr old stepdaughter

Another stepmom shared her struggle with the lack of boundaries her partner has with his daughters:

“I put much effort into my family and it’s hard for me to watch his daughter walk in the door from soccer practice, ask what I’m making for dinner and then announce she doesn’t feel like eating what I’m making. Only to watch her dad jump up and start preparing her a different (special) dinner that she’ll eat. I feel like she plays her dad and it literally makes me ill to watch it unfold. He sees nothing wrong with what he is doing. I feel like he needs to set boundaries.” Stacey, stepmom to 21 yr old and 16 yr old stepdaughters

Stepmoms whose jealousy stems from the “ungrateful attitude” of their stepdaughter(s) and/or the “blindness” of their partner reported more feelings of bitterness. A challenge for these stepmoms is not allowing jealousy to evolve into resentment towards their stepdaughter and more importantly towards their partner.

Non-Jealous Stepmoms

There were a few stepmoms who noted that they did not feel jealous of their stepdaughter(s). These stepmoms also noted a stronger bond to their partner’s daughter(s).

“I don’t feel jealous of my stepdaughters. Both my husband and I made a promise that our marriage would come first. While he and his girls are very close, he also makes me feel top priority. I can’t be jealous of their relationship when he makes me feel so good” – Bonnie, stepmom of 10 yr old and 6 yr old stepdaughters

“My husband and his daughter are extremely close. That’s one thing I loved about him when we were dating. My father and I have a very close relationship so I completely get it. I don’t feel threatened or jealous at all.” – Mae, stepmom to 11 yr old stepdaughter

This stepmom brings up an interesting point. Can our relationship with our own father have an impact on how we view the relationship between our partner and his girl(s)? If we didn’t receive attention, love, validation from our dad is it harder to see our stepdaughters receive what we were never given?

Is it even harder to witness our partner give so much to his daughter(s) when we don’t see gratitude returned, especially if they are receiving the time and attention we would have treasured receiving from our own dad? Are we more secure with a strong father/daughter relationship if we have one ourselves? These are great questions to ask if you are jealous of the relationship between your partner and his daughter(s).

Common Threads

It’s important for stepmoms to recognize that it’s not their stepdaughter personally but rather the relationship she has with her father and/or the blind eye he seems to have when it comes to her that fuels most jealousy.

You are not a bad person if you have feelings of jealousy towards your stepdaughter(s). Thinking something and doing something about it are two completely different things. You may have some hard feelings about how close they are but it doesn’t mean you are going to mistreat your partner and/or his daughter because of it.

Time as a stepmom and the age of the stepdaughter when the stepmom came into her life seems to contribute to the level of jealousy a stepmother feels. The longer a woman is a stepmom, the less jealousy she seems to have for her stepdaughter. In addition, those women who partnered with a man when his daughter was in her tween/teen years reported feeling the most jealousy.

What can a stepmom do when she feels jealous?

Own the feeling. Allow yourself to recognize the jealous feelings. Know that feeling some jealousy regarding the relationship is typical and normal. The truth is that it is hard to see your partner laugh, connect and share with their daughter(s), especially when you don’t feel like you get that type of connection.

He that is not jealous is not in love.  ~ St. Augustine

Identify the situations that make you feel jealous. Is it when he jumps at any request his daughter makes? Is it that he never seems to see anything wrong that she does? Is it that he buys his daughter whatever she wants without checking with you (even if it’s a big ticket item)? Etc….

Spend time figuring out what situations trigger the jealousy and then address them. Talking with a counselor is a great way to work through this challenge. Breaking down what triggers these feelings will help you develop a game plan to talk with your partner and work through them.

Communicate with your partner – The focus of the conversation needs to be on how the events in the home make you feel not on what he and/or his daughter(s) are doing. Focusing on you and your feelings will allow your partner to make those conclusions himself. It’s when we go into attack mode and tell our partner everything he and his girls are doing wrong that he will very likely shut down. Once your partner shuts down emotionally and physically, they won’t hear anything you have to say. This only leads to more frustration.

Time is on your side - The converse relationship between length of time a woman is a stepmom and the depth of jealousy they feel towards their stepdaughter indicates that slow and steady wins the race. Things will likely get better as time goes on. At some point, stepdaughters grow up and move on with their life. Right? With maturity developing in the stepdaughter and understanding in the stepmom, time seems to dissipate feelings of jealousy.

Next month, we will examine jealousy through the stepdaughter’s eyes. Yes, many stepdaughters are jealous of their stepmoms and these girls really opened up and their truths will hopefully lend insight into why they do what they do with their father and reveal their motivations for purposely making stepmoms feel like an outsider. Yes, these girls admitted to it! Stay Tuned!

My article originally appeared in the September, 2011 issue of StepMom Magazine.

What are your thoughts on Stepmom and Stepdaughter jealousy? Can you relate? Let’s start a real conversation on this topic. Thank YOU!

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