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How Do I Get Over Resenting My Boyfriend’s Daughter?

by Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

From the U.S.: I have been with my boyfriend for 2 years. I love him so much. He has 3 children, who I get along with very well but recently I find myself resenting his daughter (6 y/o) and it’s causing us to fight. She lies constantly and tells her mother all these bad (and untrue) things about our house which her mom records. It makes me not want to speak with her. She also used to want to hang out with me and do stuff but has admitted that her mother tells her not so when she is with her dad, she acts weird.

When I try to address it with my boyfriend we usually fight about it. Now he and I were talking about marriage and planning to have our own children and I feel as though this is putting a wedge in our relationship. I don’t want to lose him but I don’t know how to get a hold on my feelings. I feel betrayed and hurt but I do try to make things ok. She’ll just say mean things or act weird to me when he’s not around and then try to be sweet when he is in the room — very manipulative. I know it’s partially her mothers doing but I do love these kids and I am so in love with my boyfriend and I want things to get better.

I’m sure this is painful. I’m sure it is frustrating and disappointing to be fighting with the man you love. But you two are talking about a 6-year-old. Children of divorce are too often caught in their parents’ conflict. This child wants her mother to love her. Sadly, her mother has given her the idea that being loved by her means that she can’t love you. It’s a mistake to see the little girl as bad or manipulative. She is a kid who is desperate for her mother’s love and approval.
It isn’t at all helpful for you and your boyfriend to fight about this. It isn’t wise for you to marry until the two of you deal with this child’s confusion and pain. Ideally, the mother and you and your boyfriend should see a family therapist together to help you all make sure that conflict among the adults doesn’t get visited on the children. If she won’t cooperate, you and your boyfriend can still learn strategies to help this little girl understand that she has permission to love all of the adults who are parenting her. Please see a family therapist for the guidance and support you need to get your relationship with her on track.
I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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