Dear Dr. Romance:
I am a divorced father of three. I am remarried. My eleven-year-old daughter is very upset about her mother’s new boyfriend, who is also still married. He was first introduced as a friend, but she doesn’t understand why he is always at the house and stays till late at night. My daughter has asked her mother if this is her boyfriend, and the mother tells her no.
My daughter calls me crying because her mom continues to lie, she doesn’t want to be around him, he is always at the house, and that she has tried to talk to her mom, and her mother tells her she needs to deal with it.
My daughter then decided to write her mother a letter explaining that she was upset and didn’t want to be around her boyfriend, that she was upset for her lying to her, and the letter also stated that she was going to run away from home and call the cops for sexual harassment. She told me that she can’t take it anymore and wanted to kill herself if things didn’t change.
I have tried to talk to her mother about this, but she doesn’t think there is a problem, only that our daughter is jealous and spoiled.
I’m a little skeptical. I can understand your daughter not wanting to have her mother’s “friend” around all the time, but I don’t understand why she’s so very upset about it, unless the boyfriend is giving her some sort of problem (why is she going to call the cops for sexual harassment—has he done something?), or unless she’s upset because you’re upset. Wanting to kill herself is way over-the-top for an eleven-year-old. This makes me think that you’re the one who is upset, and talking about it to your daughter in a way that exacerbates her feelings. Perhaps she’s not getting enough of your attention, and this is a way to do it. If she’s so unhappy at her mom’s, why not just let her stay with you?
I don’t condone her mom’s having a boyfriend around the house all the time, especially if her daughter doesn’t like him. But I’m not sure what you think she’s lying about. Do you want her to tell your daughter the truth, including details of her sexual relationship? It sounds to me like everyone needs to grow up here, and your daughter needs more balanced support. Stop supporting her hysteria, and support her well-being instead.
You and your ex should go to counseling, work through your anger with each other, and figure out what’s best for your daughter. As things are now, your daughter is going to spend a lifetime in therapy because her parents were so dysfunctional. For a better perspective, read “What is a Dysfunctional Family?” and It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction.