Jealousy of my daughter?
Hi, I have been in a relationship with my girlfriend for about 2 years. We both have 2 kids - same ages and have had a very good close relationship.
This year I noticed that my GF seemed to have issues with my 7 year old daughter saying she ruined holidays, made everything stressful and was spoilt. I admit my daughter IS spoiled and in particular with my attention - she looks for it all the time. My son is more laid back about it all and less demanding. I know both my kids - in particular my daughter - took their mum leaving hard so perhaps I have overcompensated for that.
However of late my GF has now said that she gets stressed when my daughter is around, that her behaviour is awful, that she is the cause of 75% of the arguments we have. Naturally I defend my daughter, while acknowledging she IS challenging at times. There seems a real issue around this and I'm starting to see my GF as controlling for various reasons - in addition, more than once she has said 'its a choice between me and your (precious) daughter and that I need to make her (my GF) my priority. I accept my daughter can be challenging and can cause fireworks, but she is also very sweet and giving. Thoughts please?
You should never ever be asked to make a choice between you daughter and your girlfriend. The fact that she used the word "precious" in a snide manner makes it even worse.
Your girlfriend needs to try to create a bond between her and your daughter. You said your daughter took her mom leaving very hard. Perhaps she wants so much attention to make sure you don't leave too. At only 7 years old, a childs mind is very simple like that.
If your girlfriend refuses to try and make a connection with your little girl, or tries and fails, then it's time for the hard part. Because if she can't accept your daughter, then in a way, she's not accepting part of you, your family.
People say all sorts of things in despair and/or anger during the heat of an argument or exasperation point. I don't its fair to quote them as if their words were said in situation normal.
Maybe when she said 'precious' she was referring more to how you too readily leap to the defensive which comes across as anywhere between not taking your gf's grievances seriously and unfair attack?
I don't think it's fair to say your gf is controlling right after you've outright admitted you've been pandering to your daughter (which, I'm betting, includes a reluctance to discipline her as firmly as any given event requires). I'd say, at her wits' end and feeling like she has no power tool other than an ultimatum at her disposal for getting you to take this situation more seriously and face facts. She also may not mean LITERALLY choose. She might be talking about choosing whose side to take at any given negative moment.
This over-compensating/lowering of discipline is a very common occurrence after a divorce, whether it's the dad feeling sorry for their kid or the mother and thinking they're doing the kid some service by being uncharacteristically soft. But news for you: kids need MORE discipline in the aftermath of a family break-down, not less. They need extra firm boundaries in order to feel safe.
Try this analogy: You wake up to find yourself in total darkness, zero vision. You've no idea where you are, despite sensing you're indoors in some room. Tentatively and slowly you'll begin exploring with hands outstretched to find a wall, with the intention of subsequently finding all four. Imagine how disorientated you'd feel if after walking what seemed like an age, you never met a wall? Pretty insecure, right? Being forced to remain in this insecure state, how do you think you'd eventually end up? Shock and denial would turn into anger (beyond which would come despair/depression). And if you were accompanied this whole time by a figure of authority whom, oddly for them, wasn't showing or telling you where you were and why and where the walls were situated, the sense of betrayal would turn that anger into rage. HOWEVER, still feeling wholly dependant upon that figure, you wouldn't dare express it directly and unbridledly (for fear of getting rejected - in daughter's case, AGAIN).
Your daughter was already upset and angry that her homelife got wrecked and her whole world turned upside-down. Now, without those comforting, cossetting, sense-of-safety-making boundaries, she'll be increasingly so.... hence this getting acted-out.
The more upset you are, the tighter you need to be 'held' and the more 'loudly' you'll 'cry' for it.
(Your son is possibly just trying to be manly-stoic, bottling it all up (for later in life, possibly in a totally different format like flunking at school/college). Uh-oh...)
Then comes her feeling her prior promoted position as 'replacement wife'/alpha female being under threat.
Also, a keen sense of disloyalty towards mummy over being nice, obedient, cooperative and respectful towards the new woman, particularly if you, the kid, harbour reunification fantasies. The new woman poses as a threat and barrier to mummy and daddy's chance of ever getting back together. If the kid can sense that her acting up is succeeding in creating a rift between you and the new woman, that'll pose (subconsciously, of course) as behavioural reinforcement. Furthermore, her feeling she can manipulate you is obviously not something to allow to continue because it'll eventually mar yours and her relationship (particularly once she reaches the terrible teen years).
Tackling your daughter's understandable issues poses as hard emotional work which a lay person not historically au fair with emotional issues and parlay would find too complex and daunting. Far easier in your mind to conclude your gf is just unreasonable and controlling because then you don't have to do anything about it. Even losing your relationship seems preferable. At present, I should add. If you actually lost this woman/relationship - when you really don't have to - not only would your daughter see it that she has the power to control the outcome of all future relationships (those that occur before daughter's come to terms with everything that's happened), and not only would you -even against your best will and judgement- possibly harbour suppressed resentment at her as could surface at whatever later date, but later on in life your daughter could look back and suffer huge remorse, guilt and shame (which is going to detriment her self-esteem and even see her reacting in oppositional extreme with her own kid, to make up for the past mistake, should she one day find herself in a similar situation to yours).
Clearly your gf is NOT unreasonable and normally controlling. Otherwise, if it has nothing to do with behaviour, why isn't she likewise finding whatever fault she can with son? That's not to say, however, that gf is handling this as maturely and sensibly as she could be. But, then, people tend not to once they've reached their limit and feel utterly helpless to improve what should be an altogether improvable situation. And it's HARD when the kid isn't yours, you don't feel you have the right to tackle them head-on, and the person who does is refusing to take any definite remedying action.
There are books (available to order over the web) giving explanations and simple, pragmatic, wholly practicable advice on how best to deal with your kids after a divorce - including this, as I say, highly common issue. I strongly suggest you and your gf read one together every night in bed so as to form a strategy. ..assuming you see it that you and she are intrinsically a TEAM, I mean?
Here's one review of, "Helping Children Cope with Divorce" (by Edward Teyber): 'This book really puts the kids first, and discusses how children of varying ages will react differently to divorce. It gives the absolute best advice for keeping your children healthy both during and after of a divorce. I send this book to all my friends who are contemplating or experiencing a divorce.'
Alternatively: Do HER kids act up like that or to that degree? If not, the woman must surely knows what she's talking about? So maybe you should cease taking it so personally as if she dislikes your daughter rather than merely daughter's bad behaviour, and try to take on board her advice?
Trust me, getting rid of your gf/letting gf get so despairing that she walks is NOT going to fix anything. It'll just become a case of 'Same sh*t/greater sh*t, different gf'.
The quicker you start, the quicker your daughter will feel happy and settled again (and demonstrating it). Your way is the long, painful route.
Hope that helps.
ES - if you EVER want to have a relationship with ANY woman, you are going to have to get this relationship with your daughter right.
Read Soulmate's response carefully.
I encourage counseling. Your daughter may see you as her duty to take care of now, and another woman coming in on the scene is very threatening to you. Or there may be fantasies about the family getting together again. Who knows?
Couseling can sort this out and allow you to function as a single father with his own life, and her as a well adjusted girl.
Father-Daughter relationship is special and any outsider is treated as an intruder by both at first. It takes time and effort to bring trust and adjustment by the newcomer.
In your case after her mother left, she is insecure and you are her security. How can she bear it when another woman turns up to take away your attention from her? To her it means she is trying to take away her only security. So how will a 7 year old behave? She will act up, throw tantrums, keep testing all your patience (and by each action trying to re-assert that you are still with her).
Now what happens if you admonish her for her actions? She will take it in the extreme. She will take it that this other woman has managed to steal her only security.
So what can be done? Tough situation. Your girl friend needs to win her trust first. She has to get her to love your girl friend like something next to her mother. Only then things will work out for you all. (If this has to be accomplished, you have to take a back seat and allow them to bond.)
Simply put...your kids always come first above everyone else despite their flaws. You should choose your daughter and find someone more compassionate towards your daughters needs.