“My step-kids loathe me and my fiancé always takes their side”

Dear Coleen

I’m distraught and at my wits’ end. I have been with my fiancé for seven years and he has three kids who are now 31, 19 and 17. Their mother passed away about 10 years ago after developing cancer.

His two sons both hate me, while his daughter, the youngest child, was OK with me until this year. She’s a daddy’s girl and has him wrapped around her finger. And, in my fiancé’s eyes, his kids can do no wrong.

We live with his daughter, who’s acting much older than she is – she stays out late, she does nothing around the house and she’s disrespectful to me because I try to have some house rules.

She realises her dad’s a pushover and takes huge advantage of that.

She tells me to get lost and get off her back, and I have constant rows with my fiancé about setting rules and chores. He says he’ll talk to her, but he never does.

When they misbehave and I talk to him about it, he tells me I freak out too much. He doesn’t ever want to be the bad guy when it comes to his kids.

I understand the loss of their mother was terrible, but my fiancé isn’t doing them any favours by allowing them to behave badly.

He’s a wonderful man, always puts his family first, provides for us, cooks, cleans and even does the laundry. But I resent him for not having discipline with his kids. At times, I’m probably too strict, but he’s not helping.

Any ideas?

Coleen says

I think you’re “freaking out” and being “too strict” because you’re ­frustrated. Absolutely no one is meeting you halfway, so you either blow up or try to control the situation by being strict – and neither approach is working.

Step-family situations are incredibly difficult to work through and probably more so in your case because the kids have suffered the trauma of losing their mum – and how can you possibly compete with her?

I think you need to take the heat out of the situation, which is hard when you’re angry, but it’s crucial.

Take a step back, don’t get drawn into arguments and try instead to really talk to your fiancé.

It’s so important that you agree on how you deal with his kids and that he backs you up.

If there’s an issue with one of the kids, talk to him first, agree on how you’re going to deal with it and tackle it together. If you’re going to stay in this relationship – and get married at some point – you absolutely have to start working as a team.

Family or relationship therapy would be a good idea if you could get them to agree to it.

As for his daughter, she’s 17 and she’s going to be a challenge – the teenage years are tough, even without everything else you have to deal with.

Remind them that you’re not trying to replace their mum, but you’d like to be a friend and, as their father’s partner, you deserve respect.

This is what your fiancé should be telling them, too. Good luck.

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