Entries tagged with “teenage stepdaughter”.

I recently received this letter from a stepmom asking me for advice on a topic that has been giving her grief lately: the relationship between her husband and her fourteen year old stepdaughter. 

She also asked if I would share it will all of you so here goes:

Dear Heather, stepmom, teenage stepdaughter

I recently read your article Jealousy: The Green Eyed Elephant in the Room in the September issue of StepMom Magazine and it hit a nerve. I’m really starting to develop negative feelings towards both my fourteen year old stepdaughter AND my husband because of the physical closeness they share. I  don’t think what I am feeling is jealous. I think what I’m feeling is the creeps and I wanted to get your opinion and that of your stepmom community.  I’ve been in my stepdaughter’s life for five years. She and her dad have always been close and that’s something I love about him but as she has gotten older the physical closeness has gotten more intense and that just creeps me out.  For instance, my stepdaughter is always going up to him and hugging him and giving him a small peck on the lips. In my family growing up, kisses on the lips were okay when you were under five but after that mouth kisses were between mom and dad.

Secondly, I’ve always “stepped back” as they call it since I came into her life so when we watch a movie, I let her sit with her dad and if we go to amusement parks, etc…. I never make her jockey for position. But lately I’ve noticed when they watch movies, she lays on his lap and takes his arms and wraps them around her and then intertwines her fingers into his so he basically holds her through the whole movie on the couch holding hands. The problem I have is that he holds me the same exact way when we watch movies. And now when he wants to hold me or sit next to me, I find myself making excuses up because I physically am having a hard time being next to him and having him hold and touch me like he does his own daughter. I don’t think its jealousy. I think it’s creepy (did I say that?). I know its nothing sexual but for us it does turn sexual and that’s what makes it hard for me. I also think it’s inappropriate for a girl that age to even want to lay across her dad’s lap and have her head near his crotch.

I often think about how I have seen her mature into a young woman with boobs and hips and a like for boys and he may still see her as his little girl and nothing wrong with how they sit with each other. In a few years, she’ll want to sit and watch a movie with her boyfriend, will it creep her out to know that she and her dad watched it the same way? I believe fathers model how their daughter should be treated. Does he want her laying on her boyfriend and being that close in a few years?

The thing is my husband is wonderful. He loves and respects me and he makes me feel that our marriage is his first priority. I know he isn’t doing this to purposely disrespect me and that’s why it’s an awkward topic to bring up with him but I know I have to do it because it’s impacting our marriage. I find that I don’t want him holding me in our bed anymore because its too similar to the way he holds his daughter on the couch.  I do need to point out that he doesn’t seek her out and hold her that way but rather she seeks him out and puts his arms where she wants them and he leaves them there. I don’t think he thinks twice about it.

Please help! Am I jealous our justified in my feelings and how can I find peace with this? Any tips on how to bring this up with my husband without offending him?

Thank you,

(name withheld)


Dear Friend,

Thanks for sharing your story. And I’m honored you loved the article and reached out to me. I’m betting that you are not alone in what you are going through. It is clear from your letter that it bothers you that he spends some physical time with his daughter the same way he spends with you and that is understandably hard. I’m sure others can truly relate.

To answer your question are you jealous or justified, please know that everyone is entitled to their feelings. We all have feelings and react to different situations in our own unique way. There is no right or wrong way to feel. It’s what we do with our feelings that make a difference. These feelings are impacting your marriage and therefore they have to be addressed.

As stepmoms, we all understand that there can be many dynamics at play here for your husband and his daughter. Does he come from a very touchy feely type of family? Have he and his daughter always been close? Often times the type of affection we grew up with is what becomes the norm for us as parents and it can be hard to understand a different way if our partner is from a different type of family.

In my family, after you learned the safety rules and could cross the street yourself, hand holding was just for mom and dad. Personally, I am very close to my father but once I understood the “birds and the bees” I found myself not wanting to be as huggie with my dad or sit on his lap. That’s just me. As a custodial stepmom, I notice that both of my stepdaughters (age 13 and 10) are very clingy to their dad. The more affection we show each other as a couple typically results in the more affection they seek from their dad. They don’t receive any physical affection from their mom and it appears at times they seek a double dose of hugs/kisses/close time from dad.

The dynamics of divorce and co-parenting changes the dynamics of our children’s lives and our lives as well and this can have an impact. Kids don’t typically spend the same amount of time with their parents as they would if their parents were still together. If your stepdaughter doesn’t see her dad  much she may just be craving that extra attention. Perhaps you could suggest a day out when she has time at your home and/or plan game nights at home if movies are a tough time for you.

Often stepdaughters are jealous of the closeness their father has with their stepmom. They view their dad showing lots of outward affection to his wife and that can be hard for some stepdaughters. Your stepdaughter may be trying to get the closeness with her dad that she views that you share with him.

Simply put there are a lot of dynamics at play and if this physical closeness is impacting your emotional and/or physical closeness with YOUR husband you need to talk to him about it. There is no right or wrong way to feel about a situation. You feel what you feel when you see your husband and stepdaughter that close and you have to address those feelings. Never let something come between you and your marriage. If you don’t address it, you risk the bitterness and resentment that is slowly setting in your heart now to really take a stronghold and harden your heart towards your husband and his daughter and that isn’t a risk worth taking.

As awkward as this conversation may be, stepmoms in this situation have to learn how to not let the closeness between their husband and stepdaughter impact their relationship and find a way to discuss the topic in a loving and calm manner. I would suggest using this post as a springboard for conversation with your husband. Perhaps seeing it through your eyes and on paper will give him a different perspective. And it sounds like he is a very reasonable, loving and committed husband who wants what is best for your marriage.

It’s also important to note that any time we have to have a tough discussion with our husband it makes sense to first ask him “is this a good time to talk?” Then start by saying some positive things about your husband as both a partner and as a father. And focus the conversation on how you feel rather than on what he and/or his daughter is doing. When we focus on us and how we are interpreting events it often lessens the defensive mechanism that can pop up in a parent’s heart when the stepparent starts talking about their child. Simply put, just share your heart about how things are making you feel and ask him to understand and help come up with a collaborative way to help you and your feelings.

Wishing you all the best and please let us know how things are going. Stay strong. Press on. Friend!


Now it’s your time to share? Dads, I want to hear from you on this topic? StepMoms, I want to hear if you deal with this? Please share any and all constructive advice please. Thanks!

We’ve all heard the reference to Mamma Bear. It perfectly describes a mother’s instinctual, deep, and emotional need to protect her children. It’s the emotional surge that can overtake rational thinking when a mother finds out her child has been hurt. Society applauds the Mamma Bear and warns those that cross her path to watch out.  stepmom, stepmamma bear, mamma bear

I’ve had a few Mamma Bear experiences and recently I saw my StepMamma Bear rear her head. I was both shocked and thankful for my reaction.

Yesterday, my 10 year old stepdaughter came home from school and she wasn’t in the house five minutes and I could tell that she had a tough day. Her and I have a love – blame relationship. I love her and she loves me however she also loves to blame me for anything and everything that goes wrong in her life. I get that I wear the bullseye shirt that is only visible to her. I know it has nothing to do with me personally but rather the role I hold in our home. Knowing this, I’ve learned to step back and not try and solve all her problems.

Between dinner dishes, kid pick up by my ex and a mad scurry to find my binder for the PTA meeting I was late to, I mentioned to my husband that I thought our girl had a tough day and to just watch out for her (I do care)!

When I got home two hours later, my husband looked like he’d been run over. I know the look when he’s had a tough discussion with one of his girls and he had the look. I shared with him that I could tell he had a long night and I let him know I was available if he wanted to talk or if he wanted space that I’d leave him alone. No questions.

About an hour later he dropped it on me. As we were sitting on the couch he asked “do you know anything bout “sally no smiles?” I answered that I knew that she and our daughter “Abbey” didn’t get along well. “Well, funny you should say that,” he replied. “You were right when you picked up on  Abbey being ‘off’ today. Before bed she shared with me that this girl slapped her twice on the face; once before school and once at lunch!”

The StepMamma Bear was out! I know my stepdaughter has issues with pushing people’s buttons. I wrote a post last year about her bullying another child but in that moment, my heart overtook my head and I didn’t care what role she may have played in the day’s events, I wanted to march a few streets over and have a little “chat” with Sally’s mom.

And in my StepMamma Bear moment, my emotions overtook logic and I started rapid firing a ton of questions unfairly at my husband…. “when did this happen? was this the first time? were there any witnesses? did she tell anyone? why didn’t she mention it to us when she got home? did she and this girl have words previously? did you coach her on how to stay away from this girl tomorrow?  and the list went on and on…. I felt the need to arm myself with all the facts so I could do battle on behalf of my stepdaughter.

In that moment, I lost sight that my husband just spent the last two hours talking through this and finding out his daughter had been slapped. In that moment, it was all about me and my need to know because I felt the need to protect. In that moment, I was a Mamma Bear – step style.

The whole story has not yet unfolded. We did contact the school to let them know about the day’s events. And even if my stepdaughter was teasing the other girl, she would be wrong in doing so and that should be addressed but it doesn’t give that girl a right to slap my stepdaughter.

I stopped my questions. No need to make my husband the target of my frustration and Mamma Bear-Like fury. I  contained my “righteous anger”  as I sipped my tea and gave myself time to gather my thoughts. Minus the onslaught of questions towards my husband without even taking a breath, I was quite pleased with my instant StepMamma Bear response:

This girl who tests me daily, this girl who has told me she hates me and that she loves me within the same hour, this girl who tries to push everyone away as a result of the rejection she’s faced early in her life is also the same girl that I would go to battle for in an instant!

My stepdaughter’s mother isn’t active in her life and that is a decision she made and while I don’t understand it, I will never judge her for that. My stepdaughter doesn’t have the Mamma Bear in her life that so many children are blessed to have. I hope that the StepMamma Bear will be a suitable replacement. Doesn’t every child benefit from a mother and/or mother type figure who has that “deep in the gut emotional need” to protect them?

I wish my stepdaughter’s mother and all the moms out there whose children have stepmothers could embrace that as stepmoms we do have a heart for our stepchildren. Our goal is never to replace the mother. That is impossible anyway! Our goal is to be a positive role model in the lives of our stepchildren and to be a great support system especially when they are in our care.

When the StepMamma Bear rears her protective head, it’s a sign she cares for her stepchildren as her own. And that is a blessing to the children not a threat to the mother.

Now I’ll admit, I’m more of a mamma grizzly with my four children and a bit more refined as a stepmamma bear but regardless, I have an instantaneously emotional response when one of my six kids is hurt! My heart is to protect all my kids regardless of whether or not I gave birth to them.


Has your StepMamma Bear ever come out? Would love for you to share your story. Also, what do you think about a stepmom feeling the same emotional need to protect her stepchildren as a mom feels to protect her own? Love your comments!

“What should I wear on the first day of school?” I’m sure this is a question nearly every kid thinks about as the new school year draws near. For children whose parents don’t live together but who see both sets of parents and stepparents this question can have an additional layer of stress. I recently witnessed first hand the potential anxiety that this question can pose when both sets of parents purchase new clothes for their child for the new school year. 

Every August, I take the oldest two girls (my eighth grade stepdaughter and my seventh grade daughter) shopping for school clothes. I typically buy the younger four their clothes as they don’t care what style, brand, etc…. I purchase for them and they prefer not to be “dragged” to a store. This year, we had some unforseen time crunches as we neared the school year so my husband took his daugther shopping and I took my daughter shopping for their new school wardrobe.

I treasured the alone time that my daughter and I shared and the wonderful conversations that we had. It was truly a positive experience for both so when she seemed tense as she was trying to decide what to wear the first day, I was initially baffled.

I never thought much about the question “what should I wear on the first day of school? until I really stopped to examine it through my child’s eyes and through the lense of divorce and co-parenting.

My daughter spent one week with my parents and with her dad’s parents (they live five minutes from each other and we all get along) earlier in August. They both took her school shopping. This year, she also went shopping with her dad and he bought her a few shirts. She and I went shopping last and we had so much fun checking out new stores and trying on outfits.

I am a bargain shopper and have taught my “skills” to my kids. It was so much fun to watch her pick out clothes and make good decisions. She had a budget from which to shop and she did a great job staying in her budget while purchasing some great quality clothes. She has an incredible eye and we came home with some great deals on some great looking clothes. I felt like it was our most successful back to school shopping spree to date both from a clothing perspective and also from a bonding perspective.

Then this afternoon she says to me “mom I don’t know what to wear on the first day of school. I know you took me shopping for most of my stuff but are you okay if I wear something that someone else bought? I don’t want to hurt your feelings but I also don’t want to hurt anyone else’s feelings if they ask what I wore on the first day of school.”

“My feelings,” I thought to myself. “How could you ever hurt my feelings based on what you wear to school?,” popped in my head and then I remembered how for the first year, she had new clothes from a variety of important people in her life. I looked into the sweet face of my wonderful daughter and said “whatever you choose will look great on you! I’m so thankful that so many that love you gave you some new clothes for school. You wear what you want and you can never hurt my feelings.”

“I didn’t think you’d care but I really appreciate you getting me all my stuff and I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings,” she answered. She seemed to look relieved with what I shared with her.

These types of conversations are continual reminders of the loyalty “wars” that are always alive in the heads and hearts of our kids even when we never “force them to choose.” While I can honestly say I’ve never made my kids pick between their father and I, I know they think about our feelings.

After this conversation, I spent some time processing the event and recalled many times when the kids and I had done something that we all really enjoyed and when we would get home and they called their dad, I would hear them say things like “it was okay,” or “yeah, we did that but we’re home now.” While I never said anything, I would think “did I miss something? I think we just had a great time.” Then one time my son said to me that he never wanted to hurt his dad’s feelings so he doesn’t like to talk about his fun times with me and his stepdad and I can personally attest to the fact that I know they have a great time when they are with their dad however, they never boast and brag about the fun things he does with them. The kids want to protect both parents feelings.

So I sit in wonder of my kids tonight.

And I sit in wonder of all the kids who live between two homes.

How they balance so many emotions and feelings. Sometimes they balance it inside. Sometimes they try and balance it on the outside and often that can go so smooth that we don’t even notice or it can be incredibly painful and frustrating for them and present itself in anger, detachment, and sometimes dishonesty.

My kids have never come right and asked for “permission” to enjoy their dad and what he does with them. And I would venture to say that no kid asks for it outright. However, I would venture to say that all kids who live between two homes want and need to know that they can enjoy both parents without hurting the other parents’ feelings.

Every time my kids go to their dads or to his parents house, I tell them to have a great time. I tell them to enjoy their time with their dad and/or their grandparents. They don’t need my permission but I believe it takes an emotional load off of their backs to know that I’m not going to give them the third degree when they get home and that I’m behind a positive relationship with their father.

If I can take away one ounce of worry, guilt, frustration or challenge by giving them “my blessing” then I will do it.

School starts tomorrow. As of 8pm tonight, my daughter had tried on five outfits for me. Two I bought her and one from each of the other people who love her. I told her they all looked great. She asked me what was my favorite and I said I loved the smile she wore as she modeled each one. I suggested she wear what she was most comfortable in. As of tuck in time tongiht, she had still not decided.

No matter what outfit she chooses, I hope she goes to school wearing the confidence that she is loved by all her parents and grandparents and in the knowledge that she will never be asked to choose between parents because we are all her family – we just don’t live in the same house.

So I’m curious. What ways do you see “loyalty wars” played out in your kids/stepkids? Do you ever feel like your kids and/or stepkids are made to choose sides? What impact do you see it having on your kids and/or stepkids?

Together we can learn and grow from one another’s life experiences and insights. Thanks for sharing.

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