Dear Dr. Jann: I’m divorced and have a 6-year-old daughter. My daughter’s father isn’t in her life. My boyfriend of two years has a very difficult time embracing my daughter. He’s told me that it’s not my daughter; it’s the fact that I have had a child with someone else. He admits that it’s his ego preventing him from getting close to her. The problem does not end there–his parents are extremely conservative. They do not accept divorce and that I have had a child. My boyfriend won’t stand up to his parents. He’s 32! Where do we go from here? My heart speaks loud-and-clear of love, but that little voice inside my head says – get out quick! Do you have any suggestions?
Dr. Jann says: Yes, turn up the volume! The voice you hear is the voice of reason…
Basically, what you are asking is “How do I get…” you fill in the blank. How do I get my fiancé’s parents to like me? How do I get my fiancé to accept my child? Whenever we hear that, it sends up a huge red flag because you can’t change anyone. You can only control your own life, your own four walls. Knowing this, you must always make your decisions based on what is right for you personally–and what’s right for your child. Not, “how do I get someone to accept me?” More, “Is this someone I want in my life? Is this the best role model for my daughter?”
If you are in a relationship with a man who has a problem with your child purely because you “have had a child with someone else,” then you are setting yourself up for failure–and you are really putting your child in a terrible position. Nothing she can ever do will make this guy totally accept her. She could grow up beating her head against the wall trying to get a stepfather to acknowledge her worth and the only reason he doesn’t is because she is someone else’s child. Prepare for some hefty therapy bills.
Stepparenting is an extremely unselfish lifestyle—and your guy doesn’t get it. As stepparents we become role models and care for children who are not ours and never will be. But, this relationship can be one of the most rewarding relationships of your life. Your boyfriend’s attitude and the attitude of his parents will never let any of them experience relationships like that–and that is very sad. It’s people like you describe that often openly favor biological offspring and grandchildren. That’s difficult to explain to a child of any age and makes bonding as a bonusfamily very difficult..
And, in regards to his standing up to his parents…he may not want to because he agrees with them. I know my final advice will be difficult to take because I have also had to make a similar decision before, but your daughter and you are a packaged deal. Don’t be afraid to move on and find a better match.