:Dear Abby: Although I love my 7-year-old daughter, “Emma,” I do not “like” her. It’s because I dislike my ex-husband, “Scott,” so much. He was verbally and emotionally abusive and left me while I was pregnant. The experience left me hurt and humiliated, and I continue to harbor resentment toward him.
I’m happily remarried now, but Emma is a constant reminder of my bad marriage. I feel she’s selfish, rude, lazy and disrespectful — characteristics Scott possesses. I have little tolerance for her behavior, and I’m hard on her. Sometimes I feel like I’m talking to him instead of to a little girl.
I have seen several therapists, but nobody has been able to help. I have been told, “Your child isn’t your ex, so you need to get over it!”
Compounding the problem is the daughter I have with my second husband, a little girl I adore beyond words. She’s sweet, kind, friendly and essentially the opposite of Emma. I love this child more than I love Emma, and I’m disgusted with myself for feeling this way. It was Scott who hurt me, but I can’t get past the hurt. Abby, what can I do?
Distressed in Massachusetts
Dear Distressed: Try harder to rebuild the bond you didn’t form with Emma when she was born because of your anger at her father. It can still be done, but it will take work on your part. Emma’s behavior may be the result of how you have treated her, and if YOU can change, so may she. I’ll share with you a letter I printed several years ago from another mother who shared your problem:
“Dear Abby: The best advice I ever received for coping with my contrary daughter was from a neighbor who had a surly girl of her own. She made a conscientious effort to be more demonstrative to her daughter, hug her more and hold on a little tighter to show her how valued she was.