"I'm Jealous of My Stepdaughter"
His Turn"She Should Be Able to Handle It"
"I can't understand why Ellie is so angry and feels so neglected. Amanda is my daughter; she has to come first. Maybe it doesn't seem fair, but Amanda is 8 and Ellie is 30 years older. She should be able to handle it.
"I think Ellie's attitude is unfair. She takes offense at the kinds of things no one else pays attention to. I think we're having a nice dinner, only to discover I've committed a major offense, such as sitting down next to my daughter in the restaurant booth. Having been a single parent, I was used to being the only person responsible for Amanda's safety in a crowd or in traffic. I'm not purposely excluding my wife; it's just my instinct to comfort my child, like when she was crying at the children's museum. I didn't think about anyone else at that moment.
"Sometimes, I feel that I'm being pulled in ten directions. I've tried hard to maintain a good relationship with my ex-wife for Amanda's sake. I don't spend enough time with Amanda, and I feel guilty about it. I don't see it as a hardship to take her two weekends in a row, even at the last minute.
"Ellie depends on me for everything -- it's a burden. If I ever tell her that I want to do something extra for me -- maybe go play pool with a friend -- she makes me feel like I'm abandoning her. As far as my parents are concerned, look, they're difficult people. Dad worked two, sometimes three jobs in various factories. Mom stayed home. They never got along and finally divorced when I was in junior high school. Dad lives in North Carolina now, so we don't see him all that much. But he's an ornery guy. I've explained to Ellie that she shouldn't take his lousy moods personally. My mother has always been demanding and pushy, expecting me to drop everything and do what she says. She's got a big mouth, and no tact. Ellie has to learn to let her comments roll off her back. I did."She's Nothing Like She Was When We Met"
"I met my first wife when I was in my company's management trainee program. When we found out she was pregnant, we got married. But other than Amanda, we really didn't have very much in common. It's different with Ellie. I thought she was adorable when I first saw her picture in the personal ad. We share many of the same values and we hit it off immediately. Although we dated only a few months before marrying, we were old enough to know that we'd found a good thing.
"But Ellie today is nothing like the Ellie I first met. Now she's sullen and critical. Anytime anything goes wrong, it's my fault. It's hard to explain, but she has this pessimistic attitude, almost as if she's expecting me to ignore her or expecting something to go wrong. For instance, she's taken a new job, and I know she's lonely -- I keep encouraging her to be more outgoing, ask someone to go out for lunch -- but she's hesitant. I give perfectly good advice, but she doesn't take it and then she gets mad at me for trying. I can't win.
"I'm doing my best. I love Ellie very much. How can I make her believe that so we can calm down and stop fighting?"