Daughter in love with Stepbrother!
My daughter, age 15, and her stepbrother, age 19, are in love with each other! They are both good people and treat each other with great respect. They do not drink or do drugs. She is a top notch student. He has not been a great student, but she inspires him to try harder. This is her first love and he says he's never felt so strongly about anyone. Nevertheless, I have some problems with this. First of all, it started while they were both living in the same house and they kept it a secret for 5 months. I saw lots of signs of their affection, but they kept denying it. Finally I read her diary so I could prove it. They claim they have not had sex (my daughter has some pretty strong values about that) and I want to believe them, but my trust is shaken. He is now living 300 miles away with his mom, but I am anticipating tremendous pressure from them for him to come back to our area to go to college in the fall. He would then have an apartment and she will be driving...I worry about their age difference. Sex between them before she is 18 would be a felony in our state and I'm afraid being involved with someone so much older will do some long term harm to her. But to try to stop them completely could just drive them underground, undermine my relationship with her, and cause their relationship to last longer than it might otherwise. Lastly, this is awkward for the family. There are younger siblings, it is causing conflict between my husband and I, I worry about how other family members will perceive this and what happens when (I hope) they break up? An interesting twist - because my first husband did not have a will when he died, my daughter will receive about $50,000 when she turns 18 and could just turn her back on us! I would greatly appreciate advice, especially from Dr. Bradley (just finished your book; it is helping me a lot!), other stepfamilies, etc.
This is an update. Although the two of them are separated by distance, they talk on the phone every chance they get. She carries her cell phone around with her. They saw each other on Easter and were all over each other. My daughter and I are discussing the necessary boundaries for their behavior when the family gets together over Memorial Day for my father-in-law's 80th birthday. I am trying to walk a fine line - not firbidding their relationship, but setting clear limits with my daughter's participation in the limit setting. I am trying to trust her, but it's scary.
I guess what I'd really like to know is how common this problem is; it seems like it could happen pretty often, but I can't really find any literature or statistics. And, secondly, should I regard their age difference and the fact that they are part of the same family, even though not by blood, as a taboo situation, and not allow her to date him at all, under any circumstances. From reading your book and other people's postings, it sounds like that would be pretty futile and maybe drive her away from me. We're actually getting along pretty well right now, but as long as he is living miles away, it is easier of course, and I'm afraid that will change.
Where in the small print of our parenting contracts does it say that we'll have to deal with situations like these?
This relationship is trouble on three counts. First is the age difference. 19 to 15 sex is illegal for very good reasons. These kids are on vastly different developmental levels, which puts your daughter at risk. Second is the family issue. Your daughter's feelings for her step-brother are likely a confused mix of normal attraction plus the upward admiration and "hero worship" of a girl for an older brother/protector. Finally, these kinds of strange relationships often emerge from the bonds of commonly shared pain, stress, rebellion, and fear, such as that resulting from parental divorce and remarriage. In short, this is a potentially dangerous fantasy fixation.
What to do? First, separate them as much as you can for as long as you can to allow other, more real relationships to develop for both kids. Second, someone has to have a heart-to-heart with this young man. The girl's fixation I can understand (girls often become infatuated with older boys/men). But something is up with him that is not good. Someone needs to check that out with him. Confront him with the fact that, if he truly cares for her, he will back off gracefully since she is not competent enough to commit to a serious relationship, and he could do terrible harm here.
If all else fails, my fall back position with my daughter would be to negotiate getting counseling in return for having contact with Mr. Wonderful. Perhaps a shrink can help her sort out the issues involved on her end of this scary situation.
Good luck and please keep us posted.
ATTN PARENTS: Anyone else ever dealt with this?
Dr. Mike Bradley
This happenned to me. I fell in love with my father's girlfriend's son who was 2 years older then me. We kept our love secret from them. We both lost a parent when we were very young.
I dated him when I was 16 and he was 18. 29 years later, I am still in love with him.
I must say that being both the eldest of our families and losing a parent at a young age made us both mature quicker.