Relationship Connection: I’ve been replaced by a 4-year-old


I have been married for three months and my husband has a little 4-year-old girl from his previous marriage. This is my first marriage and his second. He’s not the custodial parent, so she comes over to our house for visits every other weekend and a few times in-between. My concern is how much attention he gives his daughter not only when she’s visiting us, but also when she’s at her mother’s house. I feel like we’re supposed to be building our relationship, but he’s so focused on checking on her, calling his ex-wife, and organizing everything around her that I wonder why he even married me.

I’m not at the point of giving up on our relationship, but I’m worried that it’s only going to get worse as she gets older and we get more distant. I’m wondering if this is normal or if I should be concerned and do something.


I imagine you probably had hope that you guys would get to feel like newlyweds for a while before the grind of family life took over. Unfortunately, when you blend families, it’s a little different scenario that requires a tremendous amount of sacrifice, flexibility, and clear communication.

Recognize that this little girl has had her world blown apart by divorce and is now having to deal with two households, a new stepmother, and other adult drama. None of this is her fault, so I suggest that you focus more on her needs right now than your own. You got to choose your husband and you get to spend lots of alone time with him. She doesn’t get to choose anything right now and she’s going to crave any semblance of familiarity.

While you have valid concerns about your husband potentially overdoing it with his daughter and neglecting his marriage, it’s best to consider the timing of all of this and recognize that things aren’t going to settle down for a while, especially with him just getting married.

If anything, she probably needs more reassurance and attention from him now that you’ve entered the picture. She is likely worried that she’s going to lose him to you. She’s already lost her intact family, so she has a legitimate fear that needs to be validated and protected by the adults in her life.

Give this more time and continue to support him in his role as a father. Be careful not to discourage him as he figures out how to be a long-distance dad. It’s better that he’s erring on the side of too much contact than too little. It’s less time than he would have with her if they lived together, so he’s most likely struggling with not being available to her.

I can’t say how long this transition will take. It may take years for things to settle down. Your compassionate understanding of this little girl’s situation will allow you to balance your need for connection with him and her need for security.

While there is nothing wrong with you asking for him to find a good balance between being a dad and being a husband, recognize that when it’s her turn, it’s her turn. You and your husband should be a united team to give her the security and stability she needs. Your marriage will have plenty of time to grow and develop, as it’s not on emotional life-support. Her life, however, could use some emotional CPR.

He’s dealing with competing demands between two women who want his attention and affection. One of them is a child and one of them is an adult. Please remember that your needs can wait a little longer while you do everything you can to help her through the awful crisis of losing her dad.

Stay connected!


Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.


Have a relationship question for Geoff to answer? Submit to:

Twitter: @geoffsteurer

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2012, all rights reserved.

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  • Peg September 4, 2012 at 6:06 pm

    Good advice! From my own experience I would add, be glad you have a man who cares about a child he brought into this world.It is a sign of good character .My first husband walked away from us and never looked back at his two children. My second husband was a widower with two children. Mostly when we dated we took our children with us. Blended families are sometimes trying,but adults have to be adults and not let jealousy ,lack of time together or different child rearing techniques get in the way of being open and honest with each other.Always make the time for each other and lots of hugs , kisses and encouragement should flow between the two of you. A sense of humor is a great thing to have in your back pocket also.I have been married to my second,wonderful husband for 25 years and all of our children now have families of our their own to share with us.It was worth it on ohh so many levels.

    Open your heart to this child and your husband if you can,for me,at least,it paid off.

  • Earl Sarsuelo September 4, 2012 at 6:10 pm

    When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You know that your name is safe in their mouth.

  • Murat September 5, 2012 at 8:30 am

    Another selfish peasant woman. It’s all about her. I’ve got news for you: He more or less married you because you are a relatively acceptable … partner and not annoying enough to make a difference.

  • Jen September 5, 2012 at 1:33 pm

    First off, people who judge you for having the willingness to ask need to grow up.

    To this woman, it’s natural to ask questions. You don’t have children and this is all new to you. You didn’t say anything about the ex wife and there being issues there so be grateful you aren’t dealing with that! If she were calling asking him to come fix stuff or move stuff, you’d have to set boundaries.

    But you should not be setting boundaries with the child. My son never sees his dad and when they talk his dad isn’t very nice to him. It nearly ruined his self esteem and no matter what I did, he had a hard time feeling like he was valued. Since I remarried, my son’s self esteem has increased dramatically because my husband bonds with him and spends time with me. It has been such a blessing for us! Never underestimate the value of dads in a child’s life!

    On the flip side, my husband has a three year old son who is very timid and shy around me. He has a mom and doesn’t want to replace her. And I would never ask him to. So I try to be his friend and I never force him to bond with me until he is ready. It was different for him because he has both parents and I’m the new gal “ruining” his family (children aren’t old enough to understand that I came two years after the divorce so it’s nothing to do with me). Having come from an ex that has little to do with his son, I’m just so incredibly grateful at how much time he has his son and spends with him (we have him the majority of the time). I’m so grateful he’s not a deadbeat parent!

    If you force your husband to choose between you and his daughter, you will lose and I would hope so. Those without children have a hard time understanding that the relationship rules are different. The daughter came before you and if he picks a woman over her, he’s not a very good dad. But hang in there and when the daughter grows up and has a family of her own, you will be glad you were there and you’ll have more than enough time with him (probably more than you’ll want).

    Besides, be ever so glad you have a little girl to buy dresses for!

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