Daughter Loves Stepbrother
Q: Recently, my very intelligent, focused daughter began a relationship with my stepson! They did not grow up together, so it's not about the weirdness of the stepbrother-stepsister relationship. It's that he is divorced, has three children that he refuses to parent, claims to have had a traumatic brain injury in Iraq although he refuses to provide proof or seek ongoing help. He is basically homeless and was living in our home when this began, and he has a history of ongoing mental health issues. By all accounts, he is manipulative and has a very casual relationship with the truth as well as an uncontrolled sexual appetite. When asked about the relationship by his dad, he replied that this is a good thing for him and he will not stop. No mention of love for her. She refuses to listen to reason and even avoids speaking to anyone that she believes disapproves. She is about to graduate from college with a degree that will provide her (and him) with a substantial living. What do I do? This is killing me and my other daughter. -- Carol, 54
Dr. Susan: Try to step back a little from your entanglement with your daughter. By pushing her too hard, you may encourage her to rebel and pursue this possibly inappropriate relationship. Has your daughter talked about marrying him? She may wise up and discover his unreliability before she makes a lasting mistake. I would urge you not to focus on the earnings disparity, as such concerns aren't primary for many young couples who think themselves in love. Let feelings in the family cool down a bit and then maybe offer to pay for some counseling sessions. There she or both of them can talk about their future in front of a disinterested professional. Perhaps such a person would then be able to convince him to get the help he needs and might also keep your daughter from making any hasty decisions. Love is blind, but let's hope it uses birth control.
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Susan K. Perry, Ph.D.
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., is a social psychologist, relationship expert, and bestselling and award-winning author. Her books include Loving in Flow: How the Happiest Couples Get and Stay That Way, and Kylie's Heel, a novel for adults.
Pamela G. Chollet, Ph.D.
Dr. Pamela Chollet has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and Master degrees in educational psychology and fine arts. Her passion has been helping people face and get through those times when they feel trapped and unable to move forward.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, stress management expert, and author. If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or struggling to make changes in your life, Anna can help.