Adult Stepdaughter Still Resents Me After 20 Years

tlc1958September 20, 2006

I guess I just need to vent. I love my 36-year-old stepdaughter and always have but sometimes she makes it difficult. Her father and I have been married for almost 20 years. Her parents had been divorced about 14 years before I came into the picture. My stepdaughter became a mother just before I met her father (she was 16). I tease my husband and tell him I only married him because I wanted to be be the baby's grandmother.

I know my husband doesn't call his daughter as often as he should. He usually only calls her after I mention it several times and he starts to feel guilty. I sometimes call her but she never acts happy to hear from me and she has NEVER called me. Her resentment toward me and my 2 grown children is obvious. My stepdaughter lives out of state so we don't see her but about 4 or 5 times each year. Her own father doesn't like to talk to her or see her because of her negative attitude. I think she enjoys being miserable.

I always remember my stepdaughter, her husband, and all 3 children's birthdays with a card and a gift (now remember she is 36) but I have never recieved a single card or telephone call wishing me happy birthday. I don't think she even knows when my birthday is. She doesn't even know how to spell my name (a common name with 5 letters) When we are together she trys hard to ignore me and I pretend not to notice. I'll never stop loving her because she is my husband's daughter and I am so disappointed that we aren't close but I'm almost ready to stop trying so hard. Any advice?

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Hello tlc, I really have no advice other than I have endured the same things you have for 6 years. I have posted on this site and I received many good responses. One person suggested that my adult step children did not grow up celebrating my birthday so they would not remember it. At first I thought that was a good reason for not remembering my birthday, however, they can remember other things like we have a 6 year old blender and I recieved a new one for Christmas so can I have the old blender. They have great memories on anything that involves money. They have never called me or given me anything. I used to give them alot of things and do alot for them. I finally got tired of trying and do not go out of my way for them. I am still nice, respectful and pleasant to them, but do not go out of my way anymore. I was tired of being ignored and disrespected. I am myself around them and do not beat myself up anymore by trying so hard. It is their loss they have not gotten to know me better. I tried and that was all I could do. I keep myself busy and do things for my husband and I. Hope this helps. sunny

    Bookmark   September 20, 2006 at 8:40PM
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Greetings. I also have no specific advice for you, however I can tell that this is a huge ongoing disappointment for you. Very unfortunate for sure. I would like to offer several observations from my own experiences. It seems to me that this general attitude from your stepdaughter is not specifically related to your "Step" relationship with her, rather it is likely due to her poor attitudes and values/priorities towards life and family in general. This negative attitude could also be largely due to her own personality traits and the broad family dynamics that all families experience. I have seen this negative ignoring attitude situation with grown children directed towards their intact family biological parents, and certainly towards their siblings. Parenting is an inherently flawed process, and mature adult children will rise above the past, forgive their parents (step or not) and work to build good family relationships, if that is important to them. This ignoring behavior from the stepdaughter is probably not about you specifically, however you make a very convenient target.
One thing I had to teach myself is that when I give a card or gift to someone, I would simply enjoy my internal feeling of love by giving the gift, and to not expect any loving response in return. A loving act in return would just be some unexpected and wonderful "icing on the cake," if you know what I mean. If you don't truly enjoy the giving of the gifts and cards to your stepdaughter, then there is no point in continuing to give them. You might leave this card/gift duty up to her other parents and just go on giving to the ones that will actively participate in life with you in a positive way. Leave the door open for your stepdaughter to mature, however life is short and I say enjoy the loving relationships you have with your other family and friends, and let stepdaughter chart her own course without your concern. Good luck! I hope that my comments help in some small way.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2006 at 10:00PM
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Speaking as a stepdaughter, I suspect the lack of communication is very much the reason she resents you. Think about this situation from her side: She was 16 when her father married you. She obviously had regular contact with him then. After your marriage, she gets older, the contact dwindles. Ergo, it's your fault. It may not be true and it may not fair, but that's her inference. And it's a vicious circle. The more her father doesn't call and doesn't communicate, the more resentful and negative she becomes. The more resentful and negative she becomes, the more her father doesn't want to call or communicate.

As for the issue of gifts, I don't buy the "she doesn't remember the date" excuse. I tried repeatedly to give my new stepmother gifts. I gave her a small set of silver treasureboxes as a "welcome to the family" gift. I gave her a bunch of small items and sent her a mother's day card and gift and a birthday card and gift the first year they were together. None of it was ever acknowledged. I don't get birthday cards or gifts and only occasionally receive a Christmas card. When I call, the phone merely rings on and on or the answering machine picks it up and the message is never returned. Now, five years after their marriage, I've seen my father just three times and have talked to him only twice. He doesn't acknowledge any gifts or cards and virtually ignores his entire family, unless someone is at death's door. It's painful but you learn to cope.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2006 at 12:46PM
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lilysuzanne, I like your advise. Your more than likely right about the lack of communication when it has nothing to do with the stepmother. It has alot to do with the stepdaughter's attitude, Dad gets tired of the disrespect too. I wish I could have had someone like you as a stepdaugther just the thought of a welcome gift or a mother's day card makes me smile. It would have been so very nice to have such a sd who showed some warmth.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2006 at 7:58PM
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I think the thing that hurts me most is I raised my step daughter, we had our ups and downs but nothing out of the normal for mom's and daughters. I never called her my stepdaughter to friends or family... I claimed her with unconditional love. But I think she is dissappointed with herself and she is very resentful of my 17 year old daughter. My husbands ex hates me - I have never figured that out... I know she is influencing my step daughters feelings towards me but I still expected my step daughter to remember the good times we've had and refuse to take sides. But she has sorely dissappointed me...

    Bookmark   October 11, 2006 at 12:30PM
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Hamsteve, your comments were so well-put. To mention personality traits and family dynamics was very helpful. I guess divorces are not just an issue of the couple, but the influence and legacy left with the children, too. How can we expect children of parents who couldn't put it together to be highly functional in the aftermath? Still, when you watch everyone be so unhappy, it is really painful. Divorce is so new in our culture. There isn't a common resource people turn to, to resolve the family dynamic upsets. As I mentioned in another answer to a blog here, there's a good book on dealing with adult step children when we remarry called Step Wars. While it may not fix things, it may help you find some peace and let go (of hurt feelings, but not necessarily give up!). The person in a dreadful spot is the parent of angry adult step children. They are often, because of their maturity, beyond the parent's reach for help. The parent has to see sides of their kids that isn't pretty. The new partner/spouse may experience being disliked for a first time in life and not know what to do to help or how to deal with their own feelings. Being a target of hate is not fun.

For an interview by the author of Step Wars, go to:

Whether at the beginning of this relationship or after many years, perhaps it will help you find some peace of mind.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2006 at 12:45PM
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