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Fiance's Daughter Opposes Marriage
Q: I am 24 and my fiance is 51. We have been together for six years and are getting married in 2000. We are very happy. His 12-year-old daughter is not. She has yet to accept our arrangment. We do not reside together for fear of her lashing out. She makes threats to her father that if he marries me, she will "never visit him ever." I believe that his ex-wife has a huge influence on her way of thinking. When she was younger, we got along. It has just continued to become worse with her age. His ex will not allow her in my company which puts a strain on our time together. His son's mother has no problem. We do spend time together with him and without the girl. I also don't feel she should be forced as long as we are not married. I feel bad for her and for the position it puts my fiance in. I guess my question is how to make the ajustment easier for her and for us? Is there anything we could say or do or will it always be like this until she is old enough to understand? Please help! I am willing to try anything!
A: Given the circumstances of your initial relationship with this girl (she was 6 and you were 18), it's understandable she could have looked upon you as a friendly "older sister." As time passed and she became more aware of who you were and are to her father, she could not make an easy transition from seeing you as an "older sister" who "knew" her father to the "woman" who her father was in love with and is going to marry. She is behaving quite understandably and her threats never to visit her father again are a desperate attempt to hold on to him (at your young age you can be perceived as having replaced her position with her dad) and to avoid the shame and embarrassment that this situation is causing her at this very sensitive age.
I strongly doubt there is much either of you can do to make this girl feel better about this situation. He can keep assuring her of his love and of his desire to be a part of her life. There is always the possibility that she will be able to accept this better as an adult if the two of you have maintained a healthy, long-lasting relationship. Your fiancee and you certainly would both benefit from professional family counseling. Receiving advice and support from a nonjudgmental professional would prove most helpful. Good luck.
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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.