On the evil stepmother.

Dear Coquette,

My dad left my mother for a difficult woman when I was 21. At first, I tried to make nice with the lady, which proved complicated, seeing as she repeatedly put down my father in front of me and the rest of his family. He allowed it and I decided that however painful it was to watch him shrink like that, it was his business, not mine.

One night, she got a bit drunk and began to attack my then-boyfriend at dinner, mocking him in a language he did not speak. I stood up for him. She then turned on me. I stood up for myself. She proceeded to shout that I was a spoiled brat (I was 25), that my father didn’t need me in his life, and that she wanted me out of it. When I turned to my dad in disbelief, he cowered and sided with her. That was in 2005.

My dad and I resumed a relationship a year later, but he was not there for my wedding in 2010, arguing that his new wife had not been invited and that she was expecting an apology from me. He said he wanted me to have a relationship with her, and I said I gladly would, but that he shouldn’t expect me to roll over if she becomes aggressive with me. He said he didn’t want any conflict, and so he’d rather we left it at that. I love my dad, so it still hurts. It’s taken me the better part of the decade to accept that my father has no courage.

Here’s my issue: I want my future children to have a granddad. While he’s made huge efforts to mend the relationship, things with his wife are the same. My husband and I sometimes fantasize about showing up at their doorstep and acting like nothing happened, actively ignoring their bullshit and enjoying my father full-time again. Is that a bad idea? If so, what else can I do? 

It takes a certain kind of soul-stained bitch to seek out married men as potential husbands, especially married men with children. People like that don’t change, and even though it’s been a decade, your stepmother still sees you as a potential threat to her marriage.

You will always be the strong-willed stepdaughter that she can’t control, and therefore, you will always be an enemy, just as she considered your mother to be an enemy 10 years ago when she was pulling her textbook homewrecking maneuver on your family.

It’s an ugly way to go through life, one that I doubt she would even admit to herself, but one that nonetheless is affecting your family dynamic to this very day. You need to start acknowledging this. I’m not suggesting you take her on as your enemy. That’s a waste of negative emotion. Instead, you should simply recognize that she considers you to be her enemy, and wherever possible, use it to your advantage.

You will always be your father’s daughter. Nothing will ever change that. On the other hand, your stepmother might lose her edge one day or your dad might grow some balls, and suddenly she could be out of the picture for good. That is the source of your power. Never forget it.

Of course, your instincts are correct. You’re the one with the power, but the best use of your power is in not having to wield it at all. Simply ignore her. Show up at their door and act like nothing ever happened. Let your stepmother be of no consequence to you whatsoever.

Remember, if you don’t let her under your skin, she can’t interfere with your relationship with your father.


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