Step Daughter 35 and the Electra Complex

by Candace
(Charlotte, NC)

I am 50 years old and have 2 biological children of my own - girl,25 and boy,19. I have been engaged for 3 years to a man and we love each other deeply. We work together and I have been a caregiver for his invalid mother for the past 1.5 years. He has 3 children, girl, 42, boy, died at 23, and girl, 35.

We have been very happy together until about 6 months ago when his 35 year old daughter didn't agree with me on some business issues. She started to refuse to talk to me and then wouldn't come around at all.

When my man and I talked about the situation, he would say just do what she wants and everything will be ok. I said I don't think she has your best interest at heart and I don't agree. He maintains that throughout her life, when she "throws a fit" he would just give into her demands and everything would be ok. I said I raised my children to respect my word as the final word and to understand in life they can't always get what they want. The parent has the final word, not the child.

5 days ago his mother passed away. Immediately she came to the home and started saying what needs to happen at the funeral, etc. I said its best for your dad to speak to his brother and sister to make decisions. These are not our decisions to make without their input. She kept on. Stayed at house everyday.

One morning, my man asked us to hug and get over everything. I hugged her and said I love you and I pray for you everyday. She said she cannot love me until I do what she wants me to. I said no, I will not give in to your pressure. You are a child and I am not.

Longer story, shortened, before my man's mother was in the ground, the daughter cries to her dad that she needs to protect herself and therefore wants him to sign his power of attorney over to her immediately and she had made an appointment for the next day.

When he mentioned that he and I would be buried beside each other, she freaked out and left the room crying.

We buried his mother on Sunday. She came in the church first and physically pulled her dad next to her and away from me...walking down the aisle. When we sat down it was her first, then him, then me. During the entire service, she put her arm around him, and pulled him close to her and away from me. I was saddened that I could not even comfort him during the ceremony. But I said nothing.

Today was the reason I am writing this. I absolutely do not know what to do.
Today, she came in and announced to her dad that he can keep the one lot he has and not buy one for me. She called the cemetery today and found out that they can bury people 2 deep in the ground. I listened. She said "It's perfect, Daddy, When you die, they can bury you 12 ft and when I die they can bury me on top of you."

NOW I'm really concerned.

My man has been very very distant from me in the last few weeks. He said he is mad because of the way I treat his daughter. When I gave him examples of her cutting me off in mid sentence and being disrespectful to me, he said it would all be resolved if I just gave in to her and basically let her lead our lives together. I do not accept this.

My children are successful and independent. I have raised them, as my father raised me, to go out and find themselves and be who they are and not live my life but to find their own.

His daughter says that she never wants to be far from her father or mother and she could never move away. She also says that no matter which man she ever dates (she has never been married) her daddy will always be first.

I was raised to leave my family and cleave to my partner. I have done that with my man. I support him in all decisions, even over the suggestions of my children.

At this point, I don't know how to handle this 35 year old woman who is intentionally getting in between me and my man's life.

I feel sad for her and him because neither of them can see that this is an unhealthy situation for both of them.

My question is 2 part:
1. Am I seeing this all wrong?
2. If I'm being clear and this is a bad situation, how do I help them see that this is no good for any of us?

Thank you for your help.

Ben's Reply:

First of all, going by what you've narrated, I would completely agree that this is a very unhealthy relationship (between him and his daughter), and that her behavior is controlling, obsessive and inappropriate. Clearly he enables this behavior and is part of the problem too. I want to be clear about another point: this is not a child - this is a 35 year old woman. So her obsession with being daddy's little girl is regressive and her clinging to him - wanting to be buried with him - is bizarre. But by that same token, you and she, and her dad are all adults. You can't insist that the parent is always right, and the child must always yield to parent's authority - because she is not a child.

That being said, she really seems rather disturbed, and at the very least, totally spoiled and immature. The bad news is that even if she was 15 and not 35, there would not be a great chance of turning around the parenting mistakes that led to this horrible personality. At the age of 35, your chances of changing her are even more remote.

I don't know how old your partner is, but I assume at least in his 60's. Her insistence that he grant her power of attorney is absolutely wrong if not illegal. If she bullies him into doing this by coercion, threats or manipulation of any kind, this could be considered fiduciary abuse.

These situations are not easy. All I can say is, stand your ground, but avoid head-on conflict or aggression towards her. Your issue should be with him - he's your fiance. Couples counseling would be a good idea. He's either blind to this 35 year old pattern he's gotten so used to... or he's afraid of her (or both).

Wishing you the best,

Comments for Step Daughter 35 and the Electra Complex

Average Rating starstarstarstarstar

Click here to add your own comments

Dec 11, 2015
Couples Couseling
by: Candace

I also suggested we attend couples counseling in order to find each other again. He said there was nothing wrong. He refused to talk about counseling any further and said it was a waste of time and money.


Ben's reply:

Candace, it sounds like you've made a sincere effort, but he is not even meeting you half-way.

The things your asking for - a little Romance, re-connection, quality time, intimacy, sex. These are not unreasonable needs. He clearly seems to take more than he gives.

It takes work to keep a relationship strong, but if only one person is making the effort and the other doesn't show any care for your needs, desires or feelings, then this is a real problem.

Be kind to yourself. You deserve more.

Take Care

Dec 11, 2015
Thank you!
by: Candace

Dear Ben,
Thank you for your insight into the situation at hand for me and my family.

I do understand now that it is an issue between my man and I that must be resolved.

I also understand now that since this has been her behavior pattern since she was a child, there is really nothing I can personally do.

According to your suggestion, I am being very careful not to attack his daughter or to say anything that would cause an attack to ensue.

My man and I spoke about the situation and he doesn't see anything wrong with her actions - even the being buried on top of him.

I told him I am not angry but concerned. Also, I expressed that I am no longer sure of my place in his life. He says he wants things to stay the same between us, and I told him that I'm having a hard time dealing with it all.

He said that his daughter told him she promised his mother that she would take care of him when she passed and he believes that is what she is doing.

I offered no counter argument and only said, "Well then you must do what you believe is right."

Since his mother just passed away, I have chosen to not leave the home and take a few more months of observation before I make a life changing decision to leave him.

Our sex life is non existent and has been for sometime. He always wants me to "take care" of his needs, but it has been many months since we have made love or I have been "taken care" of.

This week I asked him to start "courting" me again so that maybe we can find the place where we started. As simple as taking me on a surprise visit to a local museum or free concert event.

He said he couldn't afford to take me anywhere - even though it is free. He could, however, take his daughter out for dinner when I was at work a couple of days ago.

So, dear Ben, I think my days are numbered in this relationship and it breaks my heart.

Are there any other things I can try to see if we can find our way back to the place of sure love that we shared for years?

As always, thank you for your patience and advice. It has helped me gain perspective.


Click here to add your own comments

Return to Ask a Therapist.

Share this page:
Enjoy this page? Please pay it forward. Here's how...

Would you prefer to share this page with others by linking to it?

  1. Click on the HTML link code below.
  2. Copy and paste it, adding a note of your own, into your blog, a Web page, forums, a blog comment, your Facebook account, or anywhere that someone would find this page valuable.