29 answers

Repairing a Broken Relationship with My Step Daughter

My step daughter will be 18 in a week, and we have had a very rough relationship since she was about 13. The last three years or so we have hardly spoken to one another. (She lives in another state, and we typically see her every other month) She does talk to her dad every other day on his cell phone, but she only talks to her sisters and myself when we see her. I have been in her life since she was 4, and we were extremely close from 4 until 11ish, and from 11 to 13 things were bad more often than not, and now they are pretty much nonexistent. She just came to our house for the past weekend, and pretty much had no interaction with me at all and very little with her sisters. She mostly sat around all weekend and read a book. If I ask her a question she answers it, but I too have given up on even trying to talk to her after so much disappointment. We have done counseling, we have battled it out with words and nothing has helped. I feel like she was guilted in to not liking me by her mom years ago, and now we have just accepted that we are not involved with one another. I was trying to mail her cards every few weeks and a couple of bucks here and there but she never called me to acknowledge receipt of them. She would tell her dad that she got it and thank him but never acknowledge me, and half the time he did not know they were even sent. Anyway, any ideas on how to mend this broken relationship as she starts her journey in to adulthood, I don't want to continue to miss out on the things that I missed during her youth. This is long over due for a change.

By the way, we were making it a point to do outings with her every time that she visited, but she came to expect to do these things more so than appreciate them, so I decided to put a stop to trying to entertain her like she was a guest. We would either do things as a family or she and my husband would go out and do things. She would call my husband and let him know what plays were playing, or what was going on in Chicago that she wanted to do. She would never be willing to go to the grocery store or anything like that with me, she is only interested in doing things that are of interest to her. This past weekend was the first time that we did not make a weekend out of entertaining her.

What can I do next?

More Answers

I can so relate- but this happened with my daughter. flesh and blood. Welcome to teenagers. my sister whos children were older giving her problems once said "Just wait" I thought- not my daughter she is the most beautiful person inside and out. well, little by little I started to get attitude and by her senior year our relationship was pretty much non existent unless it was me telling her expectations etc.. she has 2 little brothers 7 and 5 and she is 19. I feel the best we can do is just make her feel like part of the family- we dont have to entertain or spend money just hiking on a nice day etc. have your husband set the rules with her and simply say today as a family we are doing ... and we are all going. little by little she will come around. what a difference one year makes. this time last your for me was pure hell and today- it means nothing.

1 mom found this helpful

I agree that she should not be treated as a guest, but do make her part of the plans when deciding on family outings that come up when she is in town...where to go to dinner, movies to see, what's for dinner...
I really believe it is time for dad, if he hasn't done so already, to encourage her to give you a chance, and to say "...because it means a lot to HIM!" And have him repeat this often to her, because it means a lot to YOU!
Just remember that although she is almost adult, she really will most likely act like a child for a few more years. Be patient, always act like the mature one, keep trying, and know that you are doing the right thing. I truly believe she will come around, but it may take some time. Don't give up!
I do like that phrase, "Let go and let God".
Just be the best YOU that you can be, she won't be able to do anything but realize how great it is to have you around. :)
Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

Hi, C..

I have a stepmom too. I do love her, but my dad has had a few girlfriends in the past after my mom passed away that I was never very fond of. I'm 24, but I understand a little bit about where you guys might be coming from. I thought maybe it would help if you got a perspective from someone somewhat in her shoes.

First off, I think that the things you do for her are so wonderful. My stepmom does those things for us too and she has always treated us like her own. So, she should be thankful and your husband should let her know that she needs to thank you for sending those cards. We all know that guys aren't very good at buying cards, let alone dropping them in the mailbox!

Do you ever call her? She might feel that the phone works both ways. Pick up the phone and give her a "just because" call every now and then.

When she comes home, maybe try to let her know what the family plans are. Let her choose what to make for dinner and maybe even ask if she wants to help or even make one of the sides to go with it. Go to the grocery store together to get the things you need. (Maybe even stop and get some dairy queen on the way home) She may feel like she should be treated like a guest because she lives in another state and isn't there everyday. But, instead of catering to her, let her be a part of it.

She's at the age now, where she might not want that third parent, but a friend. But whatever you do, DO NOT PUSH THAT! You'll only push her away! (Hear the experience talking there?) Just build that relationship and don't try too hard! Just ask her things, almost like you'd ask your friends. Is so and so still dating that guy? Have you seen that movie? (aka: if she hasn't you could rent it and all watch it together!) Maybe even let her know that you're always there for her when she needs that "mom" perspective but she doesn't want her parents to know.

I think that a friendship with your step-parent, when you're an adult child, is one of the most important things in that type of relationship. But, she needs to build on that. If she feels forced, it'll all go south. Just leave the door open for her to do the work.

I'm not sure how old her sisters are, but maybe let them send her some mail. Or if they're old enough to email, maybe they could even email her. Keep everyone in touch and it won't be so hard when she gets home.

I hope this helps!


1 mom found this helpful

I feel your pain; was in a similar situation. It may not look like it to you, but the relationship is already healing. It's possible it was never really broken, but just her way of dealing with the "step" situation. Teenage years are difficult at best, but now she is at the age when kids begin to realize the value of their parents and what they put them through in growing up. Just keep on doing what you are doing and you will see a change very soon. The sitting around reading a book is her trying to be normal around you and it is a good thing. She was aware of your presence every moment and was biting her tongue trying not to speak. Don't suck up to her; just keep being yourself and, as you said, plan family things or just do normal life things when she is there. Be as normal, casual and non-demanding as possible.

Take heart! I vividly remember my stepdaughter saying, at the age of 19, "Wow, now I know what I put you and Daddy through! I was a pain, wasn't I!" And of course the only possible response is, "Oh, no, it wasn't that bad, honey, and we've always loved you!!"

1 mom found this helpful

What about doing something with just the two of you? Is she at all interested in that? Get your nails done, take her shopping for clothes or go for coffee. It's a good sign she's talking to you. She must not hold a grudge anymore.

1 mom found this helpful

I have a 16 yr old daughter. Since the age of 13 she has additude. She is selfish, and only thinks of herself. That is teenagers. Your stepdaughter is only gonna want to do the things she wants to do, because thats the age. There is nothing you can do about it. I hope things work out for the better as she gets older. Good luck to you with everything.

1 mom found this helpful

Wow! I feel like I could write a similar post about my relationship with my MIL. Of course in that situation I feel like I am the adult but that is an entirely different story except that we live in different states and have a very broken relationship. I am going to disagree with many of the other responses that you should leave it alone. I think it is great that you & your husband are treating her more like family- and that will help in the long run. Do you play games while she is here? Like Apples to Apples, Phase 10, etc? It might be nice to get her engaged without making it forced.

How does your husband feel about this? Can he talk to her and suggest that you guys make amends? I would make sure you let her know how you feel about making amends if he doesn't want to get involved. You can't take it personally if she is not ready- but at least put it out there so she knows. Good luck! Hugs!

1 mom found this helpful

C., I am empathetic about your position. Stop trying so hard. In time your daughter will come arround. You have done nothing to cause this. Its a female thing. Let go and let God. Your daughter is not a guest, she is family and should be treated like your other children, no special treatment, unless a Birthday etc. Trust, in time she will mature and see you as you are. B.

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i am praying for you and your step daughter, it sounds like you love her and would like to make your relationship work. please keep trying and stay patient, it will all work out, maybe she is going through something and maybe she feels like she is on the out side looking in since your family life involves her dad with you and your children, she may feel like she missed having that kind of life with her dad. don't stop loving her and keep reaching out to her.

1 mom found this helpful

I think a little time with just the two of you would be a good way to start. Not to bring up the past, but to look ahead and tell her that you want to be in her life and you want to be her friend and that you love her.

Part of connecting with someone is doing something they're interested in. Enlist the help of your husband and next time she tells him the things she'd like to do, suggest you take his place - but let her know ahead of time so she isn't surprised. Or suggest something you think she'd like to do and the two of you spend some time together alone.

While I can appreciate not wanting to entertain her as a guest, in essence, it's what she is. She sees her dad once every other month and stays connected with him over the phone because he's her dad and up until this point, she's had to as she was a minor. But she didn't have to connect with you. As far as you and the other people in your family, it's her step family. Right or wrong, if she lives with her mom, she's going to listen to her mother and be influenced by what she says. Until she's an adult and can see things for herself, there isn't much you can do except continue to reach out to her.

I was your stepdaughter many years ago. I was told these horrible things about my dad and his wife by my mother who to this day believes them as truths. Once I grew up a little and started life on my own, I started looking at the other side of the coin. I didn't get close with my step mother until after college. It takes time, but hopefully she'll come around. Be there for her when she does.

1 mom found this helpful

Dear C.,

The more you press the issue, the more your step daughter will resist you. Obviously she has some issues about the relationship you and her dad have. You didn't mention if whether or not your husband and his ex have other children besides her. If so, there could be some negative influence there also.

Just keep loving her unconditionally. Hopefully, one day, she will be able to forgive whatever harsh words were passed between you. Continue to support the relationship she has with her dad. It is important for your husband to know that you love his daughter unconditionally.


Hi C. M.
You may need to consult with your husband on this because it seems that he has a good relationship with her. It may be time that he stepped in and tried to mend the fences. Hopefully it is not too late because 5 years is a long time to deal with this sort of thing. She is pretty much an adult and has her own mind at this point. Hope that helps.

Dear C.,

I know how your step daughter kinda feels, kinda I got a long in the begging of my dad and step mom marriage, but then after about 3 years we didn't talk. One thing that I can advise is that you do spend quality time alone with your own daughter, but do you do it with your step daughter? Since she is almost 18 maybe do a girls thing and just the two of you go and get your nails done or a hair cut. Maybe make a day of it and go to the movies or lunch. It will be a slow process but I can honestly say that don't give up and don't push to hard just show her how you feel. Another thing is write her a letter of how you feel about her and HOW YOU MISS HER. Don't lay blame of why you guys fell apart just tell her you would love to change it. i would not mail it, I would leave it for when she came to visit. I would put it in an envelope and put it on her bed then let her decided to open it when she is ready. She may not be ready to read it. Some teens are very good at holding grudges. Have you told her lately that you love her? Maybe she needs to hear it. I would also ask your husband what he thinks you could do to get closer to her. I wish you the best of luck.

Why not try to have an adult conversation with her. Let her know how much you love her and how you want a relationship with her. Don't argue with her....an arguement takes 2 people. Just keep your mouth shut if she attacks you verbally. She may just need to get a lot of baggage out of her system before she can talk. Stay calm and be the adult in the conversation. Don't forget to say you're sorry for the things you might have done that hurt her in the past. If you can't admit any wrong doing in the relationship she won't be able to either. Maybe you could give her a letter when she comes to your home explaining everything. Do something just the two of you. My husband and I had problems with his parents favoring his younger brother's family and we talked with his parents about it and things are great now. So many of our friends told us not to say a word, it might make things worse but we did talk with them and they are wonderful now. I am so glad I tried to make things better instead of accepting what was. I can't imagine she wouldn't want to be your friend. Good luck. Pray about it first and God will help you know the words to say to her.

Hi C.!
What a mess...on many levels. She is too young at 18 to stop being angry enough to see her part in all of this. You can't really expect anything especially since your husband is playing both sides. And you can't ask him to chose. You can certainly talk it over with your husband and see how he feels about all. For you to send her cards and cash without him knowing all the time was not the best choice. You and he need to be on the same page and lay down the rules when she visits. If it is important for her to be a part of your family -- then you need to lay that out. But visits sound stressful. Maybe she and her dad could do day visits and do stuff in Chicago and end the outing with dinner and a see you next time. You can all have a sit down and let her know you would love to have a relationship with her but she doesn't seem to care -- you are always there for her if she ever changes her mind. Leave the door open but don't expect anything.
Good luck!
S. in Lisle

Hello C., It is very kind that you want to have a stronger relationship with your step daughter. It seems like you have put forth a lot of effort. Please do not take this in a negative way- but - she already has a mother, your not her mother. be positive and put your husband and family first. Let her just be. Continue to be kind. This doesn't mean that you exclude her. Let her have her time with her father & give her space. For example - my stepmother never tried too hard. She let my brother and I spend time with our father and let the relationship build on its own. She never tried to be my mother. We respect her as my fathers wife. There is al ot more to this but for now smile, and give her space and really- don't send her cards with money:)

I'm so sorry that you're going through this. It sounds like you have tried everything to let her know that you care for her and would like to build a healthy relationship. Has your husband tried talking to her? If he just sits back and lets it happen then nothing good will come out of it. I truly believe that the next move needs to be hers. You've done everything you can. She needs to understand that you don't want to replace her mother but want to be a friend. Your husband needs to help her understand as well. Hopefully she will one day realize this and come to you. Good luck.

There is a lot of missing information here that may make my advice lacking. I am a mother of two daughters 26 and 18. Girls and their parents go through difficult times during their adolescent years and don't start to come around until age 18. This is an opportune time to get through to her. Maybe if your step-daughter, your husband and you go out and have an honest talk with her about your feelings it would help. It may make her feel attacked - in a way - but after it is over she can think about it. Or, write down those feelings in a heartfelt note and let her know how you feel. Start it out by writing about your past experiences and your best memories of your relationship with her, maybe include pictures or a scrapbook. No one knows how deeply you care until you put it out there. I don't know why you feel her mother has guilted her into not liking you but that should not be mentioned at all. She may feel resentful because her Mom had to work and you get to stay home with your daughters. Do not give up. There is a reason why you are involved in her life. I just remarried and my step-daughter is 12. She is a wonderful young lady and she and I get along well but her Mom has told her not to share any stories about her time with me. It is a little sad that she can't share at home but I still try to say positive things about her Mom and how hard she works to keep them in a comfortable home and provide for her and her brother. I will offer to take her shopping to find a gift for her Mom on Mother's Day. I feel we have to acknowledge the child's complete life and not just the life she shares with me and her father. Hope this helps and Good Luck!

My husband has a broken relationship with his family. He feels they do not understand him and do not listen to him to understand where he is coming from. He feels that when he trys to explain himself, all the dysfunctional ways of his family were there as a filter and they still could not hear what he was trying to say. So, he stopped talking with them directly, and started blogging about the issues that surrounded them. This allowed him to say things carefully, yet directly, and to not be cornered into a position where he became defensive. He showed incredible vulnerability, and let his family know he was writing this if they wanted to look at it. They did. They were surprised to hear much of what he had to say. Maybe if you did a similar thing, your stepdaughter could read it on her own time, without the sway of her mom, and understand where you are coming from. It can be much less threatening this way. Just be sure of what you are saying and how you are saying it before you put it out there for her, and anyone else she shares the address with to read.

I am so sorry you are going through this. I was engaged to a guy and his daughter was acting that way towards me. I found out her mother was telling her a lot of mess which is really teaching her to disrespect adults. Are you all a Christian Family? You are going to have to talk with your husband because it sounds as if he is accepting this behavior from her, towards you. When you and your husband got married, you became one. No mother, father, children, friends, or dogs should come between your marriage. It is totally disrespectful what she is doing. I have a daughter that is 18 years old. I do not under any circumstances allow her to disrespect her stepfather, I told her when she disrespect him that's like disrespecting me. With pray, your husband needs to have a one on one talk with her and then you three together. HE HAS TO LET HER KNOW IT IS UNACCEPTABLE, AND HE HAS TO STOP ACCEPTING THIS BEHAVIOR HIMSELF. I believe he is the one who can put a stop to it because I'm sure he spoils her rotten and if she knows (he have to tell her in your present)he is no longer going to accept it she will change if she wants a relationship with her father. Be Blessed and I am praying on this situation because the teenagers nowadays is nothing like when I was growing up but they don't control nothing and don't let them think they do.

As a step child myself, I have a different perspective.

Why do you believe her mother is the souce of her not having a relationship with you? She is a grown woman now. If she wanted a deep meaningful relationship with you, I think she would be able to take your cues and become more apart of your lives.

I would look back on the years that you both had those battles. Were there inappropriate things that you said to her that caused her harm? Do you bash her mother? Do you say things privately about her mother to others (including your husband or daughters) that they may have relayed back to your step-daughter?

Really think about what you have done in this relationship to put it where it is now. Once you know what you need to fix, I feel that you can go to your step-daughter and talk to her (or even send her a letter). With your true sincereity showing, she will see that and after a while she may begin to open up.

Good luck with everything.

C., I read some of the other responses. I agree and disagree with them. I was a child of divorced parents and I married a man who was divorced with 2 children. I decided to not get too involved with the kids, ages 15 and 16 when we met, we would all go out for breakfast every Sunday on his visitation day and talk and it was ok, but I never gave out advice or told them what to do etc. I felt that I wanted them to feel that I was in no way trying to be a "mom" to them. They have a mother, I wanted a civil friendly relationship with them. Well needless to say it didn't work out very well. We do not have much of a relationship to speak of. They are now both married with children of their own and I am not considered "grandma" and that hurts a little. We only really see each other on birthdays and holidays and it is sad really, I wish we were closer but I know it will not change. They are not especially close with their dad either so I do not push things. I feel that you do need to talk with your husband about everything and see how he feels. In her eyes you will just be her dads wife. Just as I am. If life wouldn't be so damn complicated. Good luck to you. Also remember its not you, remember that.

I total understand what you are going through. We went through the same thing with my sons older son. All was fine until my husband and I had a child. We feel that he did not like the idea that his father had another child. In our situation he ended up cutting off total communication with his father with in a year after our son was born. He made the choice not to come over to our home any more and my husband sad I am not going to force him to come over to our home and just sit and stare at the wall. Cards were send but never any response. He son is now 28 years old and still he chooses not to have any communication with us. We are not even sure at this point where he is living.

My husband and I have talked about this and I know it has upset him but he has said that there is nothing we can do to make him want to heal the hurt.

So I guess what I am saying is feel good about the fact that she wants a relationship with your husband. The fact is she is hurt and she has to decided she wants to heal the relationship. That may take time. Don't you give up because there may come a day that she will be glad that you didn't give up on your relationship with her.

Keep the Faith,,,,,

Sounds like your husband really needs to intervene. While you are all doing things together, he needs to help her understand that it would make him happy if all were happier. Maybe you also need to tell her you miss your relationship as it was before - even as adults you must still have things in common. Find those common areas - it makes it easier for conversation starters.

My heart goes out to you. We have been through alot with my two step daughters. I have been in their lives since they were 4 and 5. They started calling me mom before I was married to their father. I told them they could not until we got married. Then based on what the counsler advised we let them call me what they chose which was mom or more often mommy. The first 1-2 years went great until their mom started to get really jealous. She is bi-polar which doesn't help things. With advice of counslers we have stood firm on the children contiuing to call me what they originally chose and have offered step mom and other choices but they always go back to mom. There birth mother makes them call me by my first name in her house. She will not allow them to call me step mom. We go through cycles of brain washing usually when she has had extended time alone with one child or the other. We see the signs and start the deprogramming usually showing family videos or sharing past good times. This usually jolts them back. Lately we play a lot of board games and do bible studies. I know we will continue to have challenges but the children are starting to see her for what she has done and continues to try to do. So hang in there and find ways to bring everyone together in fun. Board games are great, bike riding at the park, old videos, pictures, and other activities. I have been told by many women that they were told so many lies by their birth mother but now they love and really respect their step mom for what she was willing to go through to stay in their life. God bless and keep hope.


Stop trying, things may never change. My husband of 12 years has a daughter that was tainted by her mom after several years of us having a great relationship. Let you prayer be for love and unity for your family as a whole but only expect/demand respect from the step daughter. Remember she has a mom she is really not in need for anything.

My goodness do I feel your pain! I have 5, yes FIVE stepchildren. Their mother is an angry woman and has been fighting custody for 6 years. There is a myth that mothers are the best caregivers of children, sometimes they are just toxic, posessive and unforgiving...and they try their best to alienate their children from their father and family.
With that said, my stepchildren are at different levels of acceptance of me and my relationship with their dad. My oldest son(26) calls me almost daily, asks me for advice, calls me Mum and tells me he loves me. He struggles to deal with his mother's anger toward me and his dad. My second stepson(21) hates my guts, hates his dad, has NEVER set foot in our home and believes everything his mother says. He is a classic of "parent alienation syndrome". We have a grandchild that we will never see. I have tried to involve him with our family and he flatly refuses to even acknowledge me. My stepdaughter(20) refused to see me at first, hated me but was unwilling to be away from her dad and over the years has learned to love me. We had a relationship much like the one you describe UNTIL she moved out of our home and moved away from her mom. We live at a distance from her now but I talk to her more, email and when she visits we spend alot of time together. My 13 yr old stepson lives with his mother, grudgingly talks to us, is sullen when he first comes to visit and then perks up. He is a typical 13 yr old. IF his older brother doesn't completely get to him (he is trying the "dad is evil thing) then I hope that we also will have a good long term relationhip with him. Finally my 9 yr old daughter is torn between a mom and a mum. She has been raised by me since she was 4 but misses her mom very much when she is here. Who wouldn't?? Mom's house is never-neverland. No bedtime, no chores, no responsiblities, eat what you want, get any toy you want...our house is chores, homework, bedtime, bathing, brushing teeth, responsibility! I work every day to help her be a responsible child as well as one that feels loved. It is NOT easy.
Two of my children have come back and told me "thank you" for being hard on them, for teaching them to be responsible and work hard. They didn't like it when they were younger but they appreciate it now! Give your stepdaughter time. Tell her she is loved and wanted. Make sure she has plenty of time with her DAD. If she is only there for the weekend let her do something fun with her dad one evening and just relax with the family the rest of the time. Ask her, GENTLY to pick up after herself and do one chore (dishes maybe) while she is there. You are right, she is not a guest...unless you treat her like one. She is still a teen, give her time. It does get better, honest. Just be kind, encourage the relationship with dad, give her space. Hopefully she will come back some day and say THANK YOU!

I have had my stepmom since I was 4. My mom fed me alot of lies because she didn't want me to like her. I didn't seem to "act out" toward her until I was 14. I was mean to her and I didn't care. No matter who talked to me-it didn't change a thing. Around 22, my grandma (who I was very close to) died. It hurt very badly. I got to thinking about my family. I thought about all she had done for me over the years. I relized she loved me and took care of me. Now I am 35 and she is my best friend and my step-mom.
So, unless she is willing to work on your relationship, nothing is going to change her. I just hope it doesn't take such a life changing event for her to relize how much she has been wrong all these years.

C., I just want to say good luck with your situation. Maybe (if you haven't already) have your husband sit down and have a heart felt conversation with her. Maybe the fatherly intervention and him letting her know how much you love her and this is bothering you she will come around. I too had a step mother that I called my step monster to my mom. I did not have a very good relationship with my father either I live in Indiana and they lived in Alabama and I went there for the summers. I wanted to spend time with the father I hardly knew or spent time with and it seemed like I was always "stuck" spending most of the time with her. It almost seemed like she was happy to have us (my sister and I) there because she had someone to clean her house. I definately am not saying the situations are the same by any means but I thought I'd give you the perspective of a step daughter. I hope things work out for you, and some times when we get older we grow up and have a chance to look back on things and see how certain people in out lives mean more than we thought they did. Maybe she just needs to know you love her and give her time to come back around to reality. Maybe watch old movies (if you have some) of the good times maybe it will jar her memory of how good things used to be and she'll be back to her old self. I'll pray for your family. Good luck and sorry for the rambling:)

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