My boyfriend’s daughter is sabotaging our relationship

My relationship with my partner is being ruined because he’s torn between me and his daughter. She doesn’t want us together. She blackmails him emotionally. Due to illness, I currently don’t work – although I have done most of my life – and I swear she holds this against me. He’s only been with one woman before, his ex-wife of 40 years, so I think he finds it hard to know how to deal with situation. She’s 40 with her own life and children. Why can’t she leave us alone so we can make our own life without worrying about upsetting her?

Ammanda says…

How painful this must be for you. You have a relationship that clearly means so much to you and yet you feel someone’s jeopardizing your chance of happiness. Counselling rooms all over the country are filled with blended and step families trying to make sense of new and different arrangements and the type of issue you describe is one of the most common.

It sounds like the long distance side of things is making things feel much more difficult too. You don’t tell me what ‘long distance’ actually means in your relationship (I’m wondering, for example, if you met via the internet and live some distance from each other or even if you may not have actually ‘met’ yet), but I get the impression you’re saying the sense of being powerless to influence either your partner or his daughter is even greater than it might have been.

At one level, your heartfelt plea for your partner’s daughter to leave you both alone may have a very simple answer: she can’t, because she’s his daughter. Hard as it is to believe, even when offspring are grown-ups themselves and maybe have their own lives and families, their acceptance of a parent’s subsequent relationship often doesn’t happen easily – and sometimes doesn’t happen at all. Relate counsellors see lots of families where new partnerships are under pressure because other family members are finding it difficult to accept that a parent wants and needs to move on with their lives once, for whatever reason, a previous relationship has ended. Likewise, from what you say, it sounds like your partner may feel caught between you and his daughter and may be very worried about taking any sort of assertive position because he feels that, out of the two of you, he’ll be forced to choose a ‘winner’.

I don’t know if you’ve had direct contact with his daughter. I can imagine that the thought of any interaction may seem a waste of time in the light of your current experience, or even potentially harmful. But it is worth considering that her actions might not directed at your personally, but performed out of genuine concern for her father. Feeling overprotective of a parent can be something that people find it hard to control, even when it’s causing difficulty for people around them. Although it’s easier said than done, I would suggest that you try to take a step back and think about what her actual motivation might be – because it’s surprising how often we get the wrong end of the stick.

That said, you and your partner have a right to be happy. If you haven’t already done so, I would also suggest you try and talk to him. This doesn’t mean putting him under pressure or making him feel like he’s being backed into a corner, but simply trying to discuss things openly. Tell him you recognize he needs to be able to have a relationship with both you and his daughter, because this maybe his greatest fear – and what’s keeping him like a rabbit in the head lights. But also make it clear you’re finding the present arrangement very difficult – as, aside from anything else, it may be he simply hasn’t clocked this point yet.

In the end, the only way out of this is to get some better conversations between the three of you. Although this seems daunting, being clear and direct but respectful of what’s gone before may help you all get you want what you want most.


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