Fear of a(n Evil) Stepfather

by Carolyn Edgar

My teenage daughter often stops by my office for brief visits. During one of her recent visits, I found myself telling her about one of the couples I follow on Twitter, who are planning their wedding. 

“Ugh, I guess, whatever,” she said, or words to that effect. “I mean, I just don’t see the point in getting married.” 

This isn’t the first time she’s expressed those feelings. I understand why. During the time her father and I were together, we didn’t exactly model marital bliss. What she said next, though, shocked me. 

“I hope you and ____________ [my current boyfriend] never get married.” 

My kids get along great with my boyfriend. He likes them, and they like him. He does “guy stuff” with my son, like wrestling and playing basketball, that I can’t do or have no interest in doing. My boyfriend talks to my son about all those “guy” things my son no longer wants to share with Mom (although my son uses me as a sounding board for the advice he has gotten from my boyfriend). My daughter says he’s “cool,” and he gets extra cool points for treating me well. 

But I have only been seeing my current boyfriend for less than a year. We’ve talked about marriage – as a concept, as an institution – plenty of times, but we’ve never discussed the idea of getting married to each other. So the fact that my daughter brought up the subject of us getting married seems a little odd to me. I guess it’s the influence of movies – in the movies, two people who get along and care for each other in a romantic relationship, are by definition head over heels in love and destined for the altar. 

My daughter’s comments were even more pointed than, “I hope you don’t get married.” When I asked why she hoped ___________ and I never get married, she said,

“I don’t want a stepfather.” 

The kids are 100% in agreement on this “no stepfather” thing. A few months earlier, my son told my boyfriend that his Mom didn’t need another husband. “It didn’t work out so well the first time,” my son said. 

My boyfriend and I concluded “don’t marry my Mom” was my son’s way of warning, “Don’t hurt my Mom.”  Later, I asked, and my son confirmed “don’t hurt my Mom” was what he meant. Judging from my daughter’s remarks on the subject, it sounds like she and her brother have talked and agreed that one father – even if they don’t see him very much – is enough.

In the abstract, it’s easy to understand why a stepfather would be undesirable. In literature and movies, and especially on TV news, stepfathers are violent, cruel, and abusive. The evil stepfather is almost as common a trope as the wicked stepmother.

But it is still hard for me to comprehend why the thought of my marrying this particular man – someone who is not violent, not cruel, not abusive – is so scary to them. 

“It would change things,” my daughter said. “My attitude towards him would change.”

I could see from her facial expression that the very idea of it was upsetting her. There was no point in continuing the conversation, especially since it’s not even a possibility at this point.

“No need to worry about that, since it’s not something we’re considering,” I told her. “If we ever need to, we’ll talk about it again.”

 “Ugh,” was all she said in response, making sure she got the last word – or noise – in.

Original to CocoaMamas

4 thoughts on “Fear of a(n Evil) Stepfather

  1. ““It would change things,” my daughter said. “My attitude towards him would change.”

    I wonder if for your daughter, its the the thought of having another parent that is undesirable. Like, it sounds like they have more a friendly relationship now, and if he became your husband, that would mean that he could exert some control over her, or just the dynamic would change from friend to parent.

    When my mom recounts my grandma getting remarried when my mom was 14, she and her brothers wanted it to be crystal clear that he would not at all exert any parental influence at all. He wasn’t to discipline them, or tell them what to do. He was solely “our mother’s husband” and not a stepfather. Perhaps your daughter would want the same.

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  2. I am amazed at the patience of moms. Being a man, if my child could not give me valid reasons that a marriage is not agreeable they would have to silence that non sense. They won’t be with you til you pass on…they will have their own lives and they wouldn’t want no one telling them who they should or shouldn’t be with.

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    1. If I had plans to marry, I would have had a more serious discussion with my kids about the stepfather issue. But since it isn’t a real issue yet, no need to treat it as anything other than a gauge of their feelings right now.

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      1. I totally agree with you, Carolyn. Why make a big deal out of something until you need to? Seems it would cause unnecessary strife. And kids have the right to have feelings, and their reasons are valid to them. Carolyn didn’t tell her daughter she was never going to get married just to pacifier her; instead she said we’ll talk about it again if we need to. I would have done the same.

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