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Dear Anna…I’m competing for affection!

Dear Anna...I'm competing for affection!

By Anna de Acosta
Dear Anna,

Lately, I’ve been feeling second-in-line when it comes to my teenage stepdaughter. It feels like we’re in constant competition, and I’m the one losing the battle. My partner gives her everything she wants and lets her get away with bad behavior.

When I tell my husband how I feel, he gets so upset and says it’s just not worth the stress to be in a relationship with me– and I get scared that he will leave me so I learn to keep my mouth shut about it… but I’m not happy about it. I love this man, he’s good to me in so many ways, but if I’m going to be competing for his affection with a fourteen-year-old, I don’t know how much more of this I can take. What should I do?

- Stepmama competing-for-your-affection

Dear Competing-for-your-affection,

Could it be that your partner is overcompensating with his daughter based on guilt? Often, dads in blended families feel guilty for breaking up the nuclear family (even if he wasn’t the one who left the relationship). They may act selflessly, giving the kids everything they want, as a way to overcompensate for their loss.

In the long-term, this behavior isn’t good for anyone involved. It can create entitled and spoiled children, leave you feeling disrespected, left-out and undermined, and leave your partner feeling resentful because no matter how much he sacrifices and gives, it’s never enough.

In order for a family to function, your needs, desires, and boundaries need to matter. Your partner’s needs, desires, and boundaries also need to matter, and so should the children’s. It’s about respecting each others space and boundaries and working towards a common vision of how you want to live as a family. Do you want to live in peace, or do you want to live in chaos? It’s a choice. If you feel that your partner over-sacrifices, and doesn’t take your needs into account – the bad news is that you can’t force him to change his ways. However, if they are willing to work on this with you, you can try to introduce him to the concept of a family vision. What is important to him, you, and the kids? How do you want your family dynamic to look? What matters to you? How can you each show up in ways that respect the others space and boundaries? There is no one-size-fits-all solution, and it depends on what you each need. It’s important to state what you want clearly, and understand what others want and need as well.