QUESTION: I am the stepfather of a
four year old girl. I've known her and her mother for over three years,
and I just married her mom recently. I have a problem with a few things
concerning the mother-child relationship.
Number one, my daughter is still in the family
bed. I think this is totally unacceptable. My wife is now pregnant
and I do not sleep in our bed. I have expressed my displeasure at
this arrangement but my wife, for reasons I can't figure out, will
not take an active role to end this practice. My situation is I that
came into the picture when all they had were each other. And they've
been through alot together. I have set a date, my daughters' five
year birthday, to get things started. I feel my wife is being very
possessive and lazy. It seems as if my daughter has more power than
Am I being a little paranoid about this or do
I have a real problem on my hands?
ANSWER: Your feelings of discomfort
with your position in the family are real, not imagined. The success
of your stepfamily rests on a strong couples' bond and a healthy stepparent-child
relationship. Your role as a husband requires that you take your place
by your wife's side in bed. Likewise, your voice as a partner in parenting
is a crucial part of successful stepfamily development . Realignment
of relationships must occur to ensure that your family has a viable
You are a stepparent, a husband and becoming a new
father to your own biological child. Ask your wife to make a place
for you by her side as a co-parent and as a lover. Her tight bond
with her daughter is understandable, given their closeness in the
past several years. But maintaining a primary sleeping arrangement
that excludes you is a set up for role confusion.
It is likely that your wife comes from a family background
in which generational boundaries were blurred. Perhaps children rose
to the status of responsibility for parents who were not functioning
at an adult capacity. Or it may have been the case that children were
elected to replace adult companionship.
Whatever the reason, children suffer from being put
in roles that serve the best interests of the parent but not the child
over time. Clearly, children grow towards independence, ultimately
leaving their parents' intimate daily lives. Though this is a gradual
process, the foundation for this eventual autonomy begins in the early
structure of the family. Eventually, your couples' relationship endures
as a primary and daily bond, while your child needs to experience
enough freedom from responsibility for her parent's needs in order
to leave the nest.
It is likely that your wife has established a pattern
of relating with her daughter that was based on fulfilling her own
loneliness as a single parent. This pattern continues to block intimacy
between the two of you. It is a pattern that needs to change for the
health of all concerned!
Ask your wife to consider the responsibilities of
marriage. Does she want to be married? If so, it takes effort to create
negotiations which work. You are clear that this situation is not
acceptable and that you are suffering with the current arrangement.
Ask her to join with you in discussing what kind of family you want
to create together. Reflect on the families you came from and the
generational structure and roles each of you experienced growing up.
It is your job as parents and spouses to keep what
was healthy and life-giving from the ways your family raised you,
and to throw out the patterns of family life that were hurtful. By
doing so, you pass on the best to the next generation. Without reflection,
it is overwhelmingly likely that you will repeat painful patterns
unnecessarily, either by design or reaction to that which you did
You are in the process of Family-Making! This is an
engaging and worthwhile endeavor. Ask your wife to be your partner
in creating your family vision. Realign your relationship to reflect
your partnership not only in bed, but in life!