Stepdaughter Driving Him Crazy

Q: My girlfriend's 16-year-old daughter is making me and us miserable. She wants to be the only one in Mommy's world. Also, the daughter enjoys a relationship with my girlfriend's ex and the ex's new boyfriend's kids and knows this upsets me. How do I deal with this and still feel like an important part of the equation? -- Carl, 42

Dr. Susan: You knew stepfamilies were complicated things, right? And you're not even married to this teen's mother. That makes it easier for the girl to feel you're just a temporary intruder getting in the way of her relationship with her mom. If you want her to accept you, you have to understand her. I don't see that you have any right to be upset with her for maintaining a relationship with "the ex's new boyfriend's kids." Everyone gets to choose who they want to be friendly with, including you with her mom, and she with an ex's extended family. The only way you're going to feel like an important part of the equation, as you put it, is for enough time to pass that this girl starts seeing you as an important part of her mom's life, but also someone who doesn't threaten her relationship with her mom. Try being extra gentle with her. Remember that teens are touchy creatures, and don't even consider criticizing her. Discipline of any kind needs to come directly from her mom, and only when it's really necessary. You're the new guy on the block and you have to try harder. And your girlfriend should make a point of spending some separate time with her daughter in order to reassure her that she loves her, even as she loves you now, too.

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