Why Won’t His Ex Let Me Bond With Step-Daughter?

Posted on: 21 January 2008 by

Leanne’s husband has access, but his ex encourages their daughter to stay at home.

Leanne Writes:

My husband has a five-year-old daughter from a previous marriage. His ex-wife does not seem to like the thought that their daughter and I have a good bond. We usually take this little girl on Sundays for six hours, but now she doesn’t want to come. Instead of talking her daughter into coming with us, her mother tells her that daddy can come and sit with them in their house if he wants to see her so much, and I’m sure that’s why she doesn’t want to come to us.

This is putting my husband in a very awkward position. He doesn’t want to sit with his ex-wife. He wants to be with his daughter and create bonds between the three of us. We both feel that his ex is doing this because she has a problem with me. She’s trying to make my husband feel guilty. I think she thinks that if they are together, they can be one ‘big happy family’ again and that I am the reason that this cannot be so.

Please, can you advise us? We really want to spend time together alone with my husband’s daughter.

Andy Advises: Leanne, you really have to take this step by step – if you have any expectations of ever being an active stepmother to this child.

You are almost certainly right. Having lost her husband to you, this woman also sees you as a threat to her relationship with her daughter. In her eyes, you are the competition where her daughter is concerned, too. The person I feel sorry for is the little girl in the middle of it all. At five, her Mummy is the most important person in her world. She surely loves her Daddy too, but he’s not the one at home with her all the time, responsible for her everyday care. If her Mummy tells her something, she will believe her. In this case, her Mummy is telling her that Daddy doesn’t love her enough to come and sit in her house because her Mummy is there – and poor little mite believes it. Her mother has done a horrible thing, telling her daughter that: “Daddy doesn’t love you enough to put up with me”, but if she’s done that, then it needs undoing and disproving pronto! The only person able to disprove it is your husband.

I think that if ever you are to build a real relationship with this child and your husband as a second family unit – and you have to come to terms with the fact that that is all you will ever be, then her father will need to swallow his pride and visit the child at home on a regular basis for the time being. It may hurt your pride, but if you are planning a lifetime with this man, what are a few hours a week? Obviously, he can’t play ‘happy families’ as his ex hopes he will, but he could insist that if he visits, his ex leaves him alone with the child to read a book with this child, play a game or do a jigsaw together or just cuddle up to watch TV together alone.

However, at this stage, it is vitally important thing that he keeps in regular touch and contact with his daughter, no matter how hard his ex makes life for him, and doesn’t let his visits with her lapse because of you. Later both he and his daughter will hugely respect you for any sacrifices you are making now. Gradually, perhaps as the weather gets better, he may suggest to his ex that he wants to take his daughter out for a couple of hours on his own, and suggest treats that he can do with her alone – and without you! Only when she comes to trust her Daddy again should you be reintroduced into the equation, no matter how close you feel your ‘bonds’ are with this little girl. There is no such thing as an ‘instant’ family, no matter how much you long for one. Hard as it may be bear with it. It will pay in the long run.

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