Being a stepparent is not the easiest job in the world, especially when handling a manipulative stepchild.
As a stepparent dealing with a difficult stepdaughter, you are in the unfortunate position of being perceived as the disruptor of the family unit (even if your partner and the other parent have been separated long before you came into the picture).
A step daughter sabotaging marriage can be a real problem, and research suggests it is trickier when dealing with an adolescent stepchild. This can strain the couple’s relationship as well as that of the entire family unit if left unchecked.
If it feels like your stepchild is sabotaging your marriage, I’ve outlined some suggestions to help you reduce stepparent-stepchild conflicts.
Make no mistake, it takes a lot of patience to handle the emotional roller coaster of raising stepchildren, but it is a worthwhile effort. Who knows, you might eventually build a stronger bond with your stepchild.
Step Daughter Sabotaging Marriage: Understanding the Common Reasons
If your stepdaughter is making it difficult for you to enjoy a blissful home, your first instinct might be to “put her in her position.” However, that approach usually creates more conflicts and pushes the stepchild further away from you.
A more helpful approach is to first understand why your stepdaughter is sabotaging your marriage. Armed with this insight, it will be a tad easier to adopt the right approach to resolving conflicts and winning her over.
Here are some common reasons stepchildren may act up and strain your otherwise happy marriage:
1. Fear of the Unknown
Everyone, including little children, loves to feel secure. And nothing threatens the child like a stranger coming into the family unit to replace a natural parent.
Your stepdaughter is not sure if you will love, protect, and care for her like her mother or father. For this reason, it is natural for her to be very wary of you, at least until she is sure.
2. Feeling Ignored and Betrayed
While it is normal for you and your partner to be enthralled by your love for each other, your stepchild may feel excluded and betrayed, which is a form of parental alienation.
Your presence in the family means her mom or dad has to share the love and attention that was exclusively for family members with a total stranger, and that can be difficult for her to accept.
3. Blaming the Stepparent for the Breakup
Your stepdaughter might be spiteful and resentful toward you because she thinks you are responsible for tearing her happy family unit apart.
This is especially true if you were in the picture before or right after the separation. And the easiest way to show her displeasure is to sabotage your marriage with her mom or dad.
How to Manage a Difficult Stepdaughter
As mentioned, raising stepchildren can be tricky, especially if you are dealing with manipulative kids. However, with patience, communication, and firmness, you can manage your difficult stepchild and avoid negative behavior.
Consider the following suggestions to help you handle the situation wisely.
Accept Your Stepdaughter, Flaws and All
First, give up the idea that you are in your stepchildren’s lives to make them into who you want them to be. Instead of trying to change your stepdaughter, learn to accept her as a unique individual, regardless of her flaws and bad behavior.
When you learn to embrace and love your stepchild unconditionally, you stand a better chance of improving your relationship with her and, in turn, strengthening your marriage with her dad or mom.
Help Your Young Stepdaughter Discover Herself
Adolescent and teen stepdaughters may act like they don’t care, but they inwardly hope someone will show them the ropes about life. You may not replace their other parent, but you can be supportive and help them figure out their place in the world.
If you can do this, it will increase your chances of gaining her trust and reduce her hostility toward you.
Never Badmouth Your Spouse’s Ex
Stepchildren can get on your nerves in so many ways. One way they do this is by unfairly comparing you to their natural parent. Also, they may behave poorly, making you question the type of upbringing they received from your spouse’s ex.
You may be tempted to react harshly by saying something negative about your spouse’s ex. But you must never allow yourself to fall into this trap.
Avoid blaming the other parent when you are angry about something your stepdaughter did or said. Always talk with your spouse about any recurring negative behavior or issues, and together, you’ll figure out the best way to address the issues.
Agree on Appropriate Discipline
Discipline is one aspect that many stepparents tend to avoid because they want to be liked by their stepkids at all costs, even if it means allowing unacceptable behavior.
Remember that you must treat your stepchildren as your biological or legal kids if you want them to trust and respect you. Never hesitate to give them the upbringing you would give your biological children. Love isn’t just about showing affection; it is deep care, attention, and discipline!
You and your spouse will need to agree on how to discipline your children. If the other parent is still in the picture, all the adults (step and natural parents) must work out co-parenting boundaries. This way, everyone is clear on house rules and appropriate discipline.
This way, your stepchildren will not see you as being unnecessarily difficult when you enforce strict rules while your spouse or the other co-parent permits unacceptable behavior.
Don’t Try to Control Your Stepdaughter
While disciplining stepchildren is okay, you must put a leash on any controlling behavior. Respect your stepdaughter’s decisions and choices, provided they are within reason and don’t violate any house rules.
You may be eager to provide parental guidance but give her some breathing space and allow her to make mistakes. Overprotecting a spiteful stepdaughter is never a good idea. Point her in the right direction but allow her to make her decision and show each other mutual respect.
Always keep in mind that mistakes are learning opportunities in a blended family, and she will respect your advice better if you don’t force it on her. Consider letting her off the hook occasionally, especially on minor issues. Turning a blind eye once in a while (“let it be our little secret”) can help strengthen your bond and relationship.
Move at Your Stepdaughter’s Pace
There is nothing wrong with your desire to quickly develop a strong bond with your stepdaughter. But these things take time, so your best bet would be to move at your stepchild’s pace.
Follow her lead and let things unfold naturally.
You want to allow bonding to happen when your stepchild is ready, not when you want it. Truth is, trying to force your stepdaughter to open up to you will push her further away from you.
Stepchildren are often overly cautious, particularly when they don’t like the new stepparent. Remember that the child was caught in the crossfire of her parents’ separation, which altered her perception of love and trust.
For this reason, it is crucial to be patient and allow the stepchild to naturally develop trust in you.
Tips for Protecting Your Marriage
Conflicts can take a toll on your marriage, especially when one or more of your step kids see you as a representation of what didn’t work out between their natural parents. This perception puts you in an uncomfortable position where you must continuously demonstrate patience, confidence, and maturity to overcome the resentment, exclusion, and hurt channeled toward you.
Clearly, this is a psychologically draining situation and will eventually put a lot of strain on your marriage. If you have stepchildren, use the following tips to protect your marriage from possible collapse:
- Each partner must act as a sounding board to the other ― listening without judgment, especially during stressful situations involving stepchildren.
- Pay attention when your spouse complains about your parenting. You don’t necessarily have to practice the same parenting styles, but understanding each other’s parenting philosophies is important. Doing this allows you to present a united front and complement each other’s child-upbringing styles.
- Always create time for intimacy, affection, and bonding as a couple, no matter how busy things get. And remember to always update each other about what’s happening in your individual lives, including struggles, fears, and hopes.
- See each other as a team looking to achieve the same goal, even if you have different approaches to it. This way, you will be more united when handling unruly behaviors from the children.
Now you know how to handle the situation more calmly if your step daughter is sabotaging your marriage.
Indeed, there’s a whole lot to digest in this post, and it might feel a bit overwhelming if you are a new stepparent. But don’t be fazed by them; some of the suggestions and tips may not apply to your situation.
Usually, it is best to step back and understand why your stepdaughter might be acting up. In many cases, the stepchild feels you are trying to replace their other parent. Find a way to ease this fear, and you’ll have done most of the hard work.