DEAR ABBY: Once again, you are receiving a letter from someone who never dreamed she would be writing to you for advice. Actually, I don't know if I want advice, or just need to get my feelings out. (I'm too ashamed to talk to any friends or family.)
I have been married for seven years to a wonderful man and I love him dearly. He has an 8-year-old daughter from a previous marriage. The problem is, I can't bring myself to "love" this child. I can't stand to be around her. I've always felt this way, but it has become worse since I had my own daughter 2 1/2 years ago.
My stepdaughter (I'll call her Mary) is with us every other weekend and on holidays. When Mary comes to stay, I get depressed because I feel I have to pretend to like her -- I don't hate her, and I would never hurt her. In fact, when she needs discipline, I bite my lip to keep from saying anything.
Mary has a sassy mouth and can be very rude to adults. My husband is aware of my feelings for her, but he doesn't know how deep they are. I truly love my own daughter, and when my husband walks in on Fridays with Mary, I cringe; when he leaves with her on Sunday, I let out a sigh of relief.
I hope one day things will get better, but right now, I can't seem to get over my feelings. -- ASHAMED
DEAR ASHAMED: Congratulations -- you have already identified your problem, are properly contrite and want to resolve it. We all have people in our lives we cannot "love" or even like, so don't be ashamed.
You need to find out why you have such hostile feelings toward this 8-year-old child. Perhaps it has something to do with her being the daughter of your husband's former wife.
You could also be reacting to Mary's negative feelings toward you. After all, you are the woman who replaced her mother. And it's also possible that Mary's mother may have influenced her.
Please consider a family therapist. Your problem may be solved once you understand why you and your stepdaughter feel the way you do.