Teen stepdaughter is jealous

Teen stepdaughter is jealous


your avatar   Laura, 36-year-old woman

My husband and I have been married for 4 years and have a 9 month old. He has a daughter from a previous marriage. She was 3 when the marriage ended. I was the 1st woman she met as a girlfriend to her dad. We married when she was 10 and now she is 14. She lived with us for 1 year from 10-11.

We have dealt with jealousy from her from the beginning. Examples are: She would throw a fit if my husband and I sat next to each other. She would search our room and threw a fit when she found condoms in our dresser. She would demand he sleep with her, and he would until she was asleep. When she woke up, she would climb in bed in between us, and when I put my foot down on that, she would sleep on the floor by his side of the bed. We finally went to counseling.

She now lives back with her mom out of state, but visits monthly. Again, she is 14. Her jealousy has not seemed to stop - I thought she would grow out of it. When she is here, she makes plans for her and her dad to go to the beach, the mall, lunch, the movies, etc. - all away from me and the baby. When at the house, she sits in his lap, lays on top of him on the couch, drapes herself to his side when watching TV, and wrestles with him constantly, climbing all over him. She has him stay up late with her at night to watch TV instead of having him come to bed. She walks around the house in underwear and t-shirt and changes in her room with the door open.

We have a great marriage and yes, I have a wonderful relationship with my dad. I have had my sister and friends comment that the daughter acts more like a jealous girlfriend and not a daughter. When I was 14, a kiss and hug to my dad to say goodnight, goodbye, or greetings was fine. Climbing all over him and laying on him was not something I even thought of. I know there is no sexual abuse going on.

I brought it up with my husband that I thought the amount of time she spends on him when she is here is somewhat abnormal to me. He thinks it is her way of getting the love she lacks from her mom. Do you think these behaviors are curious?


    Bob Rich, Ph.D.

Dear Laura,

These behaviors are not just curious - they are definitely pathological, and you are right to be concerned. This is not merely a young person seeking love, but sexualized behavior that is entirely inappropriate. Left alone, it will only get worse, and even a tragedy is possible.

You are in no position to do anything about it. It's up to the girl's parents. For her wellbeing, the two of them need to cooperate, even if in other ways they are hostile to each other. They need to work out a common strategy, so that no matter which home she is in, the same rules apply. She should be taken to therapy with a competent psychologist.

It actually doesn't matter how the situation arose, although the mechanism is fairly clear to me. She was inadvertently rewarded for certain attitudes and behaviors, and so they became entrenched. This is not a matter of blame, but of understanding how to control and reverse the situation. When her father had given in to her demands - for example, staying with her in her room until she fell asleep - he rewarded the behavior and so it got stronger. If he had been loving but firm at that stage, keeping to invariable rules, he would have gone through a short stormy period, but things would have settled down long ago. Now, things have to be handled with even more firmness, but every time she gets away with it, her habits get stronger.

Her father, or preferably her father and mother together as a team (even if they are only a team regarding this issue), need to have a very loving but very firm talk with her. You should not even be present, because no doubt she sees you as "the enemy". Your husband MUST do this, or risk having his daughter suffer VERY SERIOUS consequences. In time, this could grow into the kind of obsession where she may attempt murder.

The message the girl needs to get is:

1) Father loves her as a daughter. He will always love her, but it will always be as a daughter. He will never love her as a man loves a woman. That is entirely inappropriate. When the time is right, she will find a man of her own to love, and be loved by. If she treats Father as if he was that man, she will spoil her future happiness.

2) She is now no longer a child, but a young lady. She needs to act her age. This means:

  • Closing her door when she is getting dressed or undressed.
  • Being properly clothed when out of her bedroom. She should look decent enough that if the family doctor or the school principal (or whomever she respects) walked in the door, that person would not be surprised and shocked.
  • Staying out of Father and Laura's bedroom at all times, except by specific invitation, in the same way she would not want Laura to intrude into her bedroom.
  • Physical contact between her and Father should never be any approximation of sexual. If she would not do something in public with a boy from school who is a friend but not her boyfriend, then she shouldn't do that with Father, even in private.
  • These rules are absolute, and not negotiable. Incest is against the law, and very damaging to all people involved, even if they desire it. It's simply not on, not now and not ever.
  • She is welcome in Father's home, because he loves her, but only as long as these rules are obeyed. Any breaking of these rules means instant separation from Father, for a specified time.

In exchange, you should give your blessing to activities between the two of them, happily staying out of their way while they go and have fun together.

When these rules are imposed, she could possibly become suicidal. Therefore, both her father and mother should keep reiterating their love for her, both in words and nonverbally. If the family can afford it, a suitable reward for compliance would be good: a car when she turns 16, or a special trip to somewhere she'd love to go to for her 15th birthday - something to look forward to. And everyone should quietly monitor her for signs of deep depression. As I said, she must be taken for counselling.

Good luck my dear,


This question was answered by Dr. Bob Rich. Dr. Rich has 30+ years of experience as a psychotherapist. Dr. Rich is also a writer and a "mudsmith". Bob is now retired from psychological practice, but still works with people as a counselor.For more information visit: http://anxietyanddepression-help.com

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