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Woman asks if she's wrong to 'abandon' teen stepdaughter on family trips. AITA? 'She can't stand me.' UPDATED

Woman asks if she's wrong to 'abandon' teen stepdaughter on family trips. AITA? 'She can't stand me.' UPDATED


"AITA for 'abandoning' my stepdaughter?"

Hello all. I (43F) have been married to my husband, George, (45M) for about a year now, and it's been wonderful! Except for one thing. His daughter, Rachel, (15F) can't stand me. Ever since we got married, George has been pushing "family trips" and "quality time" between me and Rachel. I have no problem with it on paper, but Rachel does. George and Rachel have gotten into many an argument over the fact that Rachel doesn't like me or want a relationship with me. Rachel says I'm not her mom, will never be, and that she won't pretend I am.

I've been conflicted on what to do. On one hand, George is Rachel's parent, not me, so I don't really get a say in what rules he puts on her. On the other hand, I hate seeing Rachel so miserable every time we go out on a girls trip or are sent for bonding time by George.

So I made a decision. I sat George down and explained I wasn't comfortable with these family trips anymore. I explained that Rachel would always have a place in our home (this is where her dad lives, after all, she belongs here as much as i do), and that of course I'd be there if she asked to spend time together, needed something, or if there was an emergency and I had to take care of her. But I wouldn't be going on these outings anymore because I was uncomfortable with how upset they were making Rachel.

George was pissed. He accused me of undermining his parenting decisions and abandoning Rachel by refusing to fight for our family. I replied that I wasn't part of Rachel's family! She doesn't like me! She's made it clear I'll never be her mother! So I didn't see the point in forcing her to have "mommy-daughter spa days" and whatever else with me against her will!

George told me I needed to reevaluate my priorities if I wanted to stay together and accused me of wanting to cut his daughter out of our family before storming out. I'm gutted. Of course I don't want to cut Rachel out of our lives or family! She's George's daughter, I know she'll always come first to him, and I'd never want to sabotage their relationship or hurt her! But that's why I don't want to keep forcing a bond between us! Because that's hurting her and putting a wedge between them!

I don't know. Did I overstep? Am I really hurting Rachel or our family by putting my foot down here? I love George, and I care about Rachel, so whatever the judgment is, I'll accept it. I just want to do what's best for everyone!


EDIT: Briefly editing to ask people to please please not be rude to Rachel. Most people here have been supportive of both her and me, which I appreciate, but a few people have called her a brat and similar such things. Rachel is generally well behaved and hasn't done anything drastic or overly disruptive, she's just a kid who's a bit standoffish and sarcastic sometimes because she's hurting over her parents divorce and not seeing George enough.

Here's what top commenters had to say about this one:

KaliTheBlaze said:

NTA. When it comes to how a new step parent figures in a kid’s life, you absolutely have to let the kid lead. What your husband is doing is guaranteeing that Rachel will never want you in her life. She needs space and she needs more control over how you two interact. If she feels like she has no control, the only thing left that she can choose is to reject you, so that’s what she’s going to do to regain a sense that she has any choice in the matter.

George needs to see a therapist who specializes in integrating families. He needs to understand that by trying to force this relationship, he’s making sure that no relationship can ever form. To be frank, he needed to understand this before you got married. At this point, he has probably poisoned this relationship so thoroughly that there is no realistic hope of her ever accepting you.

Any remaining hope is going to depend on you defending Rachel and her right to refusal, and doing it in front of Rachel so she knows that you’re taking that stance. “Rachel gets to choose what our relationship looks like” and “You can’t force Rachel to love me” and “I won’t make Rachel do things with me if she doesn’t want to” are words I think Rachel needs to hear you say. If Rachel hears you respect and defend her feelings and her needs and her right to choose (or not choose) you, and her dad listens to you and/or the therapist, you might have a chance at someday becoming a trusted adult friend to her.

As long as she’s being tolerant of you and not being aggressively awful to you, that needs to be an acceptable response from her. Tolerance can grow into more, given time and letting the relationship develop naturally, but it’s likely to die out if he keeps trying to bludgeon the relationship he wants into existence. It’s like trying to knit with scalpels, it just cuts the thing you’re trying to create into sad, useless shreds and destroys any possibility of making anything else.

Time-Tie-231 said:

You have a partner problem, not a step-daughter problem. He is controlling and manipulative. He is threatening you with breaking up if you don't do what he wants. He is also illogical and /or pretty dim for the reasons others have said. Complying with his ideas will ensure nothing but discord, hate and resentment with your step-daughter. NTA.

DeadGodJess said:

NTA Rachel is old enough to decide who she does and doesn't like or want a relationship with and if George refuses to respect that soon it's very likely she'll decide to not want him in her life, too.

It's also very possible that without the pressure he's putting on her to play happy families with you she'd come around to wanting a relationship on her own. Many adults, much less teens, don't appreciate being forced to have family time with a person they aren't sure about, yet. it's frankly dehumanizing.

Someone mentioned bringing Rachel into this convo and I think that could help George realize he's doing more harm than good, but it could also backfire if he doesn't accept that she's a whole person with her own feelings.

Also, I know a lot of people have a hard time accepting their children won't always do or think what they want them to, but I haven't personally known a single person who struggled with this concept who wasn't also at least somewhat controlling with their partners and other loved ones. Food for thought.

000-Hotaru_Tomoe said:

NTA. George is pushing his daughter away from you with his forced decisions, and in a way also from himself. It won't be many years before the daughter can decide where to live and if the situation doesn't change, she will choose her mother. You have done nothing but state the facts: you are not her mother (I assume that Rachel has a mother), you are a step-parent. The roles are different. She also is a teenager, she is no longer at the age where she constantly needs a maternal figure around her.

Ebechops said:

NTA- You're missing a trick. You know who agrees with you- Rachel. You go to her and you say "Look lass, I get it. You didn't pick me, there are other things any healthy sensible 15 year old wants to be doing with their time like being with their friends, and I hate being used to torture you. We both want the same thing, so how about we go to your dad together and tell him we're on the same page here? He wants us to bond, if he sees we're on the same side here he might let up! Then we can get on with live-and-let-living peacefully?"

GrouchySteam said:

NTA- your husband is a huge one. His stubbornness forcing the both of you isn’t healthy. He is not only failing you both, he is actively hurting you both.


Okay. A lot of you gave the advice that I should talk to Rachel so we can present a united front to George and show that neither of us wanted this. I sat Rachel down this morning and gently broached the subject with her.

I explained that I knew she wasn't looking for a mom, that she already had one, and that was okay. I told her that I didn't need her to see me as a mother, or even like me. She was a smart and well behaved kid and she deserved to have a say in who she wants a relationship with. I told her that I was with her 100% in what she wanted, and that we could talk to George together, because I was going to follow her lead no matter what.

Rachel got kinda quiet for a minute and then her face just...crumbled. She told me she didn't hate me at all, that I was nice to her and seemed interested in her life. The real problem was, in her words, that she wished her parents were too.

I'll be honest, that broke my heart. I had to try very hard not to tear up in front of her, because this was the first time she'd opened up to me or given any indication she even liked me at all, and I didn't want to ruin that by putting my emotions first. I did my best to comfort her, and promised Rachel that I was here for her in any way she needed.

I'm going to have a talk with George. First by myself (rachel is scared to talk to him), and then potentially with Rachel so she can speak for herself, if George is receptive. I'm also going to push George to get therapy (individual and also couples, potentially with Rachel too if she wants to).

More than anything, I'll keep trying to be there for Rachel. I know I'm not her mom, and I'm not expecting her to suddenly start acting like we're best friends. But I know now that my efforts are appreciated by her, and that only makes me more determined to advocate for and support her however she's comfortable with.

Everyone was on OP's side for this one. What's your advice for this family?

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