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Should I abandon my stepdaughter?

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iflyboats
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I'm 30, my stepdaughter from my ex-marriage is 12, and I've been in her life for 11 years. She doesn't know her real father and considers me her dad. I divorced her mother a year ago, but I've stayed close to my stepdaughter, Skyping with her most days and seeing her usually at least a couple times a week. The divorce devastated her and I feel like sh*t about it, so I stayed on as her dad for HER sake to help get her through it. But for my own sake, I think I would benefit from breaking ties with my former family at this point. I don't want to deal with my ex at all, both her and I will date other people, and my stepdaughter will soon hit adolescence and put me through everything that that implies. It was fun when she was little, but I'm uncomfortable about the idea of being a parent to a teenage girl. Would it be evil of me to abandon her when I'm the only father figure she's ever known?

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It was fun when she was little, but I'm uncomfortable about the idea of being a parent to a teenage girl. Would it be evil of me to abandon her when I'm the only father figure she's ever known?

Nope.

 

I would urge you to consider it less on the basis of being her father, and more on the basis of whether or not you personally enjoy her company.  She is an individual who must be regarded as such; not merely on the basis of who she's related to.

But if you don't particularly like her then, in the situation you described, there wouldn't be anything evil at all about simply choosing to otherwise spend your time.

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Yeah, it would be pretty bad. Look at things from her perspective: do you think that it's fair that someone has been treating her as a daughter for the last 11 years, and then turns on her on a dime, not because of anything she did, but because he's pissed off at her mother?

 

I'm not talking about sacrificing for her. I'm talking about whether you want to be the kind of person who abandons what, to me at least, seems like a pretty clear cut commitment to a long term, father-daughter relationship that you developed over the course of the past 11 years. 

and my stepdaughter will soon hit adolescence and put me through everything that that implies

What does it imply? I don't think all adolescents act the way the stereotypical adolescent acts in popular culture. You should at least give her a chance, and then decide based on her own actions and behavior, rather than on what you predict she will end up becoming.

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At first glance I agree with Nicky on this one, but it's really a decision you need to be certain about; it will affect the rest of your life. First you need to figure out why the idea of being a parent to a teenage girl makes you feel uncomfortable. (Are you concerned about your ability to be her father? Do you think her mother doesn't want your relationship with 'her' daughter to continue? Do you just want to get as far away from your ex-girlfriend as possible? Are you worried about being a single dad? ..not up to the continued responsibility? What are the reasons?) Based on your honest response, you can go from there.

 

One option that came to mind while reading your post was custody under common law marriage. If you live in a state which allows CLM and (of course) meet those requirements, you may be able to file for some sort of legal custody. If you decide you do want to continue being her father (but are worried about her mother forbidding it or something), it's worth a shot since you've been a father figure in her life for the past 11 years.

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What does it imply? I don't think all adolescents act the way the stereotypical adolescent acts in popular culture. You should at least give her a chance, and then decide based on her own actions and behavior, rather than on what you predict she will end up becoming.

I agree with your first part, but I don't think "giving her a chance" comes into play here. The girl is still a child, and given the type of relationship that has existed iffyboats has had with her, I think it implies being in her life until she's an adult. I'd bet Iffyboats probably thought this already, and is probably posting to get some outside thoughts. Mdegges' questions are a good way to think about this.

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I agree with your first part, but I don't think "giving her a chance" comes into play here. The girl is still a child, and given the type of relationship that has existed iffyboats has had with her, I think it implies being in her life until she's an adult. I'd bet Iffyboats probably thought this already, and is probably posting to get some outside thoughts. Mdegges' questions are a good way to think about this.

She's very close to becoming a teenager. Teenagers aren't children. The difference is that a teenager's will is stronger and their choices are more and more important, as they progress in age.

The day when someone turns 18 is not the cutoff point between when someone is a child and when they become an adult, it's just a legal device. A device that doesn't even apply in this case, since he has very few parental rights/obligations, if any, legally speaking.

While normally parents can treat their teenagers as children for quite a while past when it is appropriate, because of the control they have over them, iffyboats doesn't really have that option. He has no choice but to have an increasingly grown up type of relationship. Which is the kind of relationship teenagers like to have with their parents anyway.

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Nicky is right on and I will only add the realitionship will continue into adulthood.  That is the commitment you made when you became the parent, since you had full knowedge of what task you were taking, and the step-daughter has done nothing to warrant breaking that commitment. 

 

It is reasonable to not want to deal with the Ex but the OP is in the perfect possition really since the kid is hitting teen years so she can communicate without mom around.  Actually visitation might be an issue depending on how well the divorce went but the teen can reach out without help and once she hits 18 she will not need mom at all to visit. 

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I'm 30, my stepdaughter from my ex-marriage is 12, and I've been in her life for 11 years. She doesn't know her real father and considers me her dad. I divorced her mother a year ago, but I've stayed close to my stepdaughter, Skyping with her most days and seeing her usually at least a couple times a week. The divorce devastated her and I feel like sh*t about it, so I stayed on as her dad for HER sake to help get her through it. But for my own sake, I think I would benefit from breaking ties with my former family at this point. I don't want to deal with my ex at all, both her and I will date other people, and my stepdaughter will soon hit adolescence and put me through everything that that implies. It was fun when she was little, but I'm uncomfortable about the idea of being a parent to a teenage girl. Would it be evil of me to abandon her when I'm the only father figure she's ever known?

 

I think you should seriously think about what this relationship brings in to your life, because I'm willing to bet that it brings a lot more value than simply avoiding the guilt of abandoning her.  I don't have children, and I understand that having a kid is incredibly demanding, but I also understand that it is incredibly rewarding.  At least, that's what I anticipate for myself when I do have them.  I'm willing to bet that if you choose to abandon her to avoid occasional contact with your ex and some adolescent temper tantrums, you will come to deeply regret that decision.

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I think you should seriously think about what this relationship brings in to your life, because I'm willing to bet that it brings a lot more value than simply avoiding the guilt of abandoning her.

Ditto.

 

I agree with your first part, but I don't think "giving her a chance" comes into play here. The girl is still a child, and given the type of relationship that has existed iffyboats has had with her, I think it implies being in her life until she's an adult. I'd bet Iffyboats probably thought this already, and is probably posting to get some outside thoughts. Mdegges' questions are a good way to think about this.

Well, let's assume that it does imply that and, further, that Iflyboats takes on that commitment; what then?

Once she's an adult, does he have the obligation to maintain contact with her (regardless of his own desires) for the rest of his entire life?  Or, at that point, should he reevaluate the situation based on whether or not he enjoys her company?

If he should reevaluate such at that point, why not do so now?  He legally has no parental obligations now and she is a separate individual with her own personality.  While she isn't a full adult yet, it's likely that who she is now is who she will essentially remain for life.

 

I do agree that Mdegges asked all of the right questions.

 

Yeah, it would be pretty bad. Look at things from her perspective: do you think that it's fair that someone has been treating her as a daughter for the last 11 years, and then turns on her on a dime, not because of anything she did, but because he's pissed off at her mother?

Yeah, it would be hurtful, but it would be worse if he stayed around out of guilt.

He has no obligation to personally be her father; only to ensure that she is cared for by someone.  I think it directly relates to the principles involved in adoption.

 

But more than that, let's imagine it from her perspective.  It would be devastating either way, but would it be worse for your father to suddenly vanish one day without explanation- or for your father to maintain a long and agonizing façade, feeling all of the pain and anger for your mother whenever he sees you, never fully able to hide it but never willing to admit it aloud?

Involuntary love can be more painful than no love at all, I think.

 

Nicky is right on and I will only add the realitionship will continue into adulthood.  That is the commitment you made when you became the parent, since you had full knowedge of what task you were taking, and the step-daughter has done nothing to warrant breaking that commitment. 

No adult has any such obligation towards any other adult, period.

 

The commitment one makes when one becomes a parent, has been legally revoked.  We aren't discussing whether or not he should abandon her on some stranger's doorstep; this is about whether or not he should still be her friend.

And again, as far as that goes, it isn't something one should EVER attempt to fake.

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Iflyboats:

I think that IF you want to leave, THEN you should.  Don't pretend to love someone whom you don't; that's wrong across so many different levels.

So the question to ask yourself is whether or not you love her.

 

It would be a travesty- for YOU- if you threw away some profound source of joy over a woman who isn't even worth your time.

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold
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OK, I have to come clean. This scenario is fictitious. Although I do have a reason for wanting insightful responses, I shouldn't have pretended that this is a real situation.

FWIW, I saw this and thought of replying, but felt I couldn't without being rude/presumptuous. "You're kidding yourself" was going to be the main thrust of my comment. Dante pretty well covered my thoughts, with better diplomacy.
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OK, I have to come clean. This scenario is fictitious. Although I do have a reason for wanting insightful responses, I shouldn't have pretended that this is a real situation.

You've got Leonard Peikoff genuinely concerned about your supposed situation:

http://www.peikoff.com/2013/08/12/i-have-been-in-my-stepdaughters-life-for-eight-years-she-is-now-12-she-doesnt-know-her-real-father-and-considers-me-her-dad-i-divorced-her-mother-a-year-ago-but-have-remained-c/

Someone ought to tell you: this stunt of yours wasn't very cool.

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You've got Leonard Peikoff genuinely concerned about your supposed situation:

http://www.peikoff.com/2013/08/12/i-have-been-in-my-stepdaughters-life-for-eight-years-she-is-now-12-she-doesnt-know-her-real-father-and-considers-me-her-dad-i-divorced-her-mother-a-year-ago-but-have-remained-c/

Someone ought to tell you: this stunt of yours wasn't very cool.

 

That is pretty interesting to see the posts and then how Peikoff would answer it, as he is arguably the most qualified to answer a question from the Objectivist perspective.

 

It seems like Nicky was spot on, if you agree Peikoff properly applied the principles, which I think he did.

Edited by thenelli01
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No adult has any such obligation towards any other adult, period.

 

The commitment one makes when one becomes a parent, has been legally revoked.  We aren't discussing whether or not he should abandon her on some stranger's doorstep; this is about whether or not he should still be her friend.

And again, as far as that goes, it isn't something one should EVER attempt to fake.

 

Being a parent is a legal status.  It is somthing you do because you want to.  While yes, there is no "duty" to the child you did accept responsibility when you said "yes, I'll be her father".  It is no different if a couple have a child. 

 

This is all in context of course, and if the child does something to not deserve the care then that is that.  You do not have to suffer any family member that does not deserve your time.  Like you said, this is about being the "kid's friend" and not dropping him and running.  It does not take much work to communicate and be a long distance "friend".  Although I reject the term because he should be a parent, not just a "friend". 

 

Anyway, this is just a thought exercise at this point since the OP was not honest about the set up but it is still an interesting discussion in ethics. 

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Anyway, this is just a thought exercise at this point since the OP was not honest about the set up but it is still an interesting discussion in ethics. 

Love it; a moral question presented as a misrepresentation...

 

Prior to the OP's disclosure, I hesitated responding because I read elements of altruism in the scenerio, and wanted more time to consider...

 

"The divorce devastated her and I feel like sh*t about it, so I stayed on as her dad for HER sake to help get her through it. But for my own sake, I think I would benefit from breaking ties with my former family at this point."

 

This statement presents a weak and primarily altruistic realtionship between a teen, who'd likely pick up on this and play it for what it's worth, and her wannabe dad, who has committment issues; both would benefit from an honest discussion with each other about the future of their relationship.  Unless stepdad can discover something other than guilt to hang his hat on, they're both better off having him step aside, allowing room for a more committed adult to mentor the daughter.

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Love it; a moral question presented as a misrepresentation...

 

Prior to the OP's disclosure, I hesitated responding because I read elements of altruism in the scenerio, and wanted more time to consider...

 

"The divorce devastated her and I feel like sh*t about it, so I stayed on as her dad for HER sake to help get her through it. But for my own sake, I think I would benefit from breaking ties with my former family at this point."

 

This statement presents a weak and primarily altruistic realtionship between a teen, who'd likely pick up on this and play it for what it's worth, and her wannabe dad, who has committment issues; both would benefit from an honest discussion with each other about the future of their relationship.  Unless stepdad can discover something other than guilt to hang his hat on, they're both better off having him step aside, allowing room for a more committed adult to mentor the daughter.

 

That is an excellent point. The issue isn't if he should drop his commitment to her, but why he did it in the first place if the value was never there.  Now he is suffering "buyers remorse" since he did it for all the wrong reasons. 

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  • 3 weeks later...

If one assumes a long term commitment through innocent error, and later realizes the mistake, does the obligation remain?

I don't know. Financially i would think so.

But i really don't think peikoff was right on this one; two wrongs don't make a right.

And while i think it's unfortunate that people don't always return the love they're given, to pretend such is truly despicable.

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So the situation is only hypothetical?

My response to the original post is as follows: What would you do if you were the biological father instead of the step-father?

 

People who get married can get fully divorced only if they never have children.

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