Tammy in Mishawaka writes:
I’ve been a widow for four years, and have been dating a man for ten months. We live seperately in our homes. He is very understanding and sympathetic toward me about the loss of my husband. We do love each other, and would like to get married sometime in the future. I also have a 13-year-old daughter.
She hasn’t accepted him, and wants nothing to do with him. He accepts her like a daughter, and goes out of his way to try to make her like him. He is very good to us.
Do you see a marriage happening in the distant future? Do you see my daughter changing her mind about him, and allowing him into our lives? She is my number-one priority, and her happiness means the world to me. We won’t move on until my daughter is comfortable with us being together. We want to be a total family.
I am so very sorry for your loss. My heart goes out to you and your daughter. Thankfully, for each of you, there is much happiness ahead.
It is going to take a great deal of time before your daughter is going to be accepting of your relationship, much less your boyfriend. This is an incredibly complex issue for her, doubly troubled by the teenage years. Part of her unwillingness to accept your boyfriend is attitude, but most of it circles around the anguish and resentment of the loss of her dad, compounded with you moving forward in your life.
As a parent and a woman, you have to continue to walk that fine line between devoted mother and human being. There are some tense moments that lie ahead. It isn’t that she doesn’t want you to be happy, or that she doesn’t like your boyfriend. She is just very afraid of growing attached to another man – as well as fearing that he will outrank her on your list of priorities. Even though she’ll tell you that she is fine, your daughter is struggling with some major abandonment issues. Also, her rebellion is the only way she knows how to show her loyalty to her dad.
As the adult, you don’t need her permission to allow your boyfriend to more fully integrate into your lives. As her mother, your responsibility is to try and help her adjust to these changes, and gently but firmly enforce that you and your boyfriend need to be treated respectfully, regardless of her opinions. Keep the integration process slow, and she will come to see that he is a good man who is good to you both, and enjoyable to be around. But there will be some resistance.
Your daughter would greatly benefit from some more counseling. She’s a good kid, but she also has a lot of confusion and frustration. I strongly suggest some joint sessions for the two of you, as well as individual sessions for her. She needs an outlet, and also a safe environment with a mediator to really unload her innermost feelings to you. Eventually, your boyfriend can join in, and the groundwork for family unity can be openly discussed, creating a stronger foundation.
By the time you and your man are ready for marriage (it’s about three years away), your daughter will not only be accepting – she’ll be happy.
Hang in there!