Bio-parent openly defends stepchild no matter how wrong.
I have a great marriage and we rarely argue except when it comes my 18yr old stepdaughter. She has been spoiled by her mother who does all for her and expects nothing. If she disrespects or otherwise offends me, my wife openly supports her no matter how wrong she is. I am a good/supportive stepfather. I love my daughter and want what’s best for her. She truly can be sweet and I am very proud of her. I supported her in school/interests 100%. In 6 months she’s off to college and living independently. I’m gravely concerned because she has not been prepared. She is totally irresponsible. She doesn’t understand the basics of living. She wants others do all for her. she learned that all her feelings, no matter how misguided or inappropriate, are ok with 100% sympathy from her mom. My wife understands this but does nothing. My attempts to teach/guide often offend my daughter and no matter what I say, my wife defends her with excuses and sympathy for her emotions. Recently, when she freaked after I told her something she needs to do regarding a health concern, my wife quickly/angrily jumped to her defense again. My wife later said that I was just making problems, and that I just don’t want to help our daughter anymore. Wow! After all I’ve done and the genuine love and concern I have for my stepdaughter. This time I had had enough. Everything is fine so long as I help our daughter when she thinks she needs help, expect nothing from her, and be sympathetic to her emotions. I feel as if I cannot continue to care for and guide her if my support is rewarded with contempt and disrespect however this too is not an option without damaging my marriage. If nothing is done then surely my daughter will live in crisis, learning through failure, and it will be me to shoulder the burden of bailing her out and fixing her messes. I’ve tried a 1000 times to reason with my wife on this however when it comes to her daughter, she becomes emotional herself and defends her at all cost. I really think that my wife, despite an otherwise loving/solid marriage, would rather lose me then ever seriously demand change in her daughter.
Please believe me this is not a tact issue or an issue with my approach.
What can I do? Thanks!
Well, I have a stepfather. There is a big difference between a biological parent and a stepparent in terms of what they can expect and expecially demand, from a child. My stepdad did not raise me (he and my mother married when I was in my 30s), so that makes it easier on us all -- he gets to play a rather avuncular role (the natural stepdad place to be) without having to get his panties in a twist about his authority, because he didn't pay to bring me up or have to carry my youthful mistakes. In fact, his power base is not authoritarian in our relationship, it is a kind of power called "reverent power," which means he earns my respect by being kind, and I try to please him. But if he came at me in a heavy-handed or critical way, I would not have him in my life. He simply doesn't have the right, he is not my father. (Who probably wouldn't get a lot of pluses from me for being heavy-handed or critical, either.)
I am wondering if the issues with the girl are just fronts for issues with your wife, and that you are conditional about the daughter because you don't want to be conditional with your wife and possibly lose her.
If you genuinely think she is going to mess up her life in every way and you will be left holding the bill, and you will be angry and resentful about having to bail her out, then leave. You cannot shape her up in some kind of parental boot-camp way, before it is time for her to go. Your wife rightly feels responsible for her child first before her duty to you as a wife. At least until she is of legal age a parent SHOULD feel that way about her child, who is her dependent and has a moral right to expect that. Kids don't get brought into the world with the agreement that if their parent wants to go find a romantic partner, the kid now does not have to be taken care of.
I am sorry your wife has not caused her daughter to learn to take some responsibility. It does sound like you're pretty sure a train wreck is coming.
See a counselor with your wife, and lay out your reasons for being worried. If your wife will not meet you half way on a plan for helping the daughter to mature, then you might want to break the tie if you value your future peace of mind and/or bank account.
ps -- You say the problem is not a lack of tact on your part. If saying things like "She is totally irresponsible. She doesn’t understand the basics of living. She wants others do all for her. she learned that all her feelings, no matter how misguided or inappropriate, are ok with 100% sympathy from her mom. My wife understands this but does nothing" is an example of you being tactful, or even a full explanation of the situation, I can see why it is not working all that well. Using absolutist language (with implicit "she always" or "she never") is a great way to insult someone, and it does not sound like a particularly nuanced view of the situation.
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