Dear Dr. Bill,
I am a former single mom who remarried last summer. My daughter, whom I raised alone, is now 10-years old. I was involved in music ministry with my new husband for about 3 years and my daughter was very fond of him while we were dating. But since the wedding, her attitude has changed dramatically.
Now she and my husband seem to fight constantly. My daughter fears that I love my husband more than her, and says I give him more attention.
Although my husband is trying very hard to be the “Dad,” he gets frustrated when my daughter shows more interest in her biological father or says something like “You’re not my real dad.”
I feel like I’m caught in the middle here—what should I do?
The issues you’re describing are common to many blended families. Unfortunately, divided loyalties, jealousy, and role confusion are par for the course when a parent remarries.
You’re going to need to work hard at establishing some firm ground rules with your daughter, helping her to understand that while your love for her hasn’t changed, the dynamics of your relationship have.
From your description, up until now you’ve been treating your daughter more like your peer than your child.
You’re going to need to re-establish healthy boundaries with her, interacting with her as her parent, not her buddy. She won’t like this one bit, but it’s the only way to make your new family arrangement work.
At the same time, your husband needs to work at establishing a more positive relationship with your daughter. He’s the grownup here, and he needs to put his pride and hurt feelings aside, patiently and firmly building a working alliance with your daughter.
Thanks for writing Sara. If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, click the “Questions” link on the Culture Connection page.