Dear Dr. Darcy,
My parents have been divorced for many years and my father has been dating a woman who makes condescending remarks about our relationship that makes me think she’s jealous of us. She says things when we hug or if I sit near him and he is affectionate with me. If he asks my advice she’ll say something like, “You have a girlfriend to ask that to.”
I’m worried she’s going to change our relationship. Is this something I just have to get used to because it’s normal?
Nothing about this story is OK or normal.
Daughters and significant others occupy binary roles. Her’s is sexual. Yours is not. If she has questions about the propriety of your father’s relationship with you, she needs to express that to him directly, rather than passive-aggressively while you’re present.
If she doesn’t have the ovaries to communicate appropriately, it’s probably because she knows she doesn’t have a legitimate concern about your relationship with your father. Which means she’s straight up jealous.
I’m sorry to do this but I’m about to come after your father…
At the first sniff of his girlfriend’s horribly inappropriate remarks, he should have shown her to the door. Here’s why:
You are his child and his child needs to be prioritized over his girlfriend. He fathered you. You didn’t get a vote in being born. His primary responsibility is to protect you which he can only do if he protects his relationship with you. And he fails to do that when he allows his girlfriend to drop sarcastic remarks — in fact, he feeds into the delusion that she and you have duplicate roles.
Now that you know my opinion — which admittedly I phrased more as fact — let me tell you what do do about it:
Start with your father. I’m not optimistic this will work but it’s appropriate to start here. Pretending the girlfriend’s name is Karen, say, “You know how Karen sometimes makes comments that sound a little jealous? Would you be willing to ask her to stop? I can’t, because I have to be respectful to her. But I’m worried it’s going to change our relationship. What do you think?”
When that doesn’t work, do this. The next time she makes a nasty remark, smile and say, “Karen, people will think you have daddy issues if you keep talking like that!”
If that doesn’t work, say, “Karen, these remarks you make are really inappropriate. I am his daughter. You are his significant other. We do not occupy the same space in his life. Your remarks make me feel like you’re jealous of our relationship, which confuses me. It makes me uncomfortable to be around you and the only thing it’s going to change is that I’m going to ask my father to visit me when he’s alone.”
Bottom line: Since there’s nothing you’re doing that’s inappropriate or that’s provoking this dynamic, you are at the mercy of their willingness to change themselves. Short of Karen changing her ways, your only option is to limit access to her hateful remarks, which might involve seeing your father less. I’m sorry about that.
Sexual Orientation: Straight