Dr. Schwartz: I have been married to a wonderful woman for almost a year now. She has a 14 child who lives with us. The child is from her previous marriage. The 14 year old girl acts very well and balanced in front of me, but secretly and constantly asks her mom questions like: "who do you love more, him or me?" or, "I dont think you love me mom" and things of that nature. Her mom always reassures her and tries to help her understand the different kinds of love but the girl continues on. It is causing a lot of depression in my wife,to the point that she says she will not be able to continue this way, and is even starting to lose hope in the relationship, feeling that she is being put in a "my daughter or my husband" situation and feels hopelessness and becomes depressed and unresponsive,"doom and gloom." The child refuses to see a counselor. Any advice? –RA.
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The dilemma your are experiencing is very common in re-marriage situations where there are children involved. The common factor is the difficulty some children have accepting the "step parent," and in this case, you are the step father.
However, it is always important for children of all ages to know and understand that there are firm boundaries between themselves and their parents. What this means in your case is that the 14 year old must not be allowed the power to disrupt the marriage. Children experience an increase in anxiety when they sense that they have power over their parents. They want to know and feel confident that their parents are strong and can take care of them.
What I want to strongly recommend is not individual therapy for your daughter but family therapy for all of you. The problem is not so much the way your daughter is behaving as the fact that the adults in her life are not being firm in setting and keeping boundary lines.
Best of Luck