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Stepfather Conundrums


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I feel lost and completely strange to myself. I have a physical attraction to my 15 year old stepdaughter and I feel spiritually and physically ill about it. I am very satisfied with my sex life and have no attractions to females this age besides her. Her two sisters are 14 and I feel nothing towards them at all. My stepdaughter is very mature though, physically and emotionally in many ways; and looks much like her mother. I have only just started noticing her in anything but a paternal way this last year as she matured physically very quickly and started to become more aware of herself and her burgeoning sexuality. Otherwise I never had any feelings other than paternal and non-sexual about her. I have been her stepfather since she was 10 and this is very distressing!! What the hell is going on with me?! I have started to have vague fantasies about her and once spied on her in the bathroom as she got out of the shower....I don't know what I was thinking. I am actually nauseated as I type these words....I have never physically engaged with her (or attempted to) in even the slightest way sexually; nor do I want to. However; I can't help but not notice that she has grown into a very attractive young woman and I hate it. I want only to be a father to her and nothing more. I have never, nor do I now, have feelings, fantasies, or thoughts of sex with children or other pubescent young women. Is this situation common? Are there others out there who have experienced this? I was molested extensively as a young boy and I cannot bear to think that I myself am a monster. Please, anyone, help me to understand what is going on here. Any perspective that someone can put on this is greatly appreciated. Thank you.

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Hello and welcome! :)

I'm sorry you're in such distress :(. I think I'm not "the right person" you'd prefer to hear from, as I'm a 32 y.o. woman with no experience with anything of this kind (from either side), but I'd like to write some comments. I wish they could be helpful to you...

First of all, it seems to me that the biggest threat here comes from these exaggerating thoughts of yours:

I cannot bear to think that I myself am a monster.

You're not "a monster" and blaming or beating yourself up for your attraction on and on could only harm you and your relationship with your family. You could call "a monster" somebody who actually offended - but you haven't and don't want to, nor are you in an ill mental state that would make your actions so "unforeseeable" that you could fear you'll become an offender. You have a negative rational and even physical (-the nausea) reaction to the attraction that unwontedly arose and that's OK; it shows you (and us) that you don't want to "act upon" those sexual feelings. So, I'm not saying that you should think "it's all fine", because that would possibly push some boundaries in you and you'd be possibly tempted to do more "unsuitable" (silly, risky, ?...) things (as that "spying" already was), but I also think that you're now looking at it from a too severe perspective, making it much worse than it is. I don't think it isn't difficult, but I also don't think it's dangerous for your step-daughter, as long as you keep your reasonable control.

I'd suggest to look at it from this perspective, too: Imagine you'd have, at work, a young and very attractive secretary (or nurse, being a physician, ...). And you'd become attracted to her in the same way. But you would be sure you wouldn't try to seduce her as your marriage is satisfying, you don't want to be a cheater, you don't want to put that woman in a position of a mistress of a married man etc. It would be difficult for you, too. But would you, in that case, call yourself a monster? Would you fear as much as you're fearing now? Would you feel that nausea while thinking about it? ... Why not? I know; 15 is still "a minor", but as you say, she's already very physically mature and your body cannot "see" that difference in age when "the external signs" are seducing him. Unfortunately, we cannot control who we're attracted to. We can only control our actions and behaviour - but that's what really matters!

(Perhaps you're even questioning yourself if you're a pedophile or not. In that case, I'm reminding you that a pedophile is attracted to children who are not "looking mature". The age limits (age of consent) were set by society to protect teens because of their's psychological immaturity (due to which they would be in most cases deeply harmed by even "voluntary" sex (mainly with an adult)), not physical immaturity.)

In the case of a colleague from work, you'd have perhaps the possibility to change your job and thus escape the situation. Now you can't escape, so all you can due is cope with the situation. I imagine that a reconciliation with yourself will be an important part of the adaptation to it. By reconciliation, I mean mainly accepting that there are (1) the unwanted attraction (but not considering it "monstrous" or perverse), (2) the pain-inducing awareness of the "total prohibition of any actions which would satisfy your lust", and (3) the need to hide your secret from all your loved-ones (which also can be hard sometimes). Considering how concerned you are about your family and how much you don't want to cause any pain to them, it seems you'll bear this all and see it as something you're doing for their (as well as yours) sake. To be a good father and husband, you need to take care also of yourself, including not torturing yourself for something you're not responsible for (-as I mentioned; we cannot control who we're attracted to) and what is not dangerous for others (and they don't even know about it so they don't worry unnecessarily). Living with the need to resist all temptations and "silly fantasies" your "lust" (-I hope you don't mind calling it that way) will "create" is hard enough (but bearable), you don't have to make it even harder by beating yourself up for the lust...

At least that's how I see it.

What do you think?

Take care!

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You're probably right: you can't help but notice that she's growing into an attractive woman. It's not as if you are supposed to blind yourself to her existence just because she's growing up.

It isn't clear what you may have done in the past to work through your own abuse, but personally, that's where I would focus your attention. It's very common for abuse survivors to worry that they've been "infected", or to have difficulty as parents because their boundaries were so thoroughly violated as children. But those are things that can be worked on in therapy, so I hope you'll try that.

I guess the important question is, how dangerous do you feel this attraction to be, for you and for her? As LaLa said, feeling the attraction isn't monstrous; acting on it, knowing as you do the consequences, would be. My advice would be that if that is a danger, you would need to put up some barriers to help you avoid situations you might not be able to handle.

Does her mother know about your abuse history? How well do the two of you communicate?

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I can only agree with M.! I'm sorry I didn't pay attention to your own past abuse in my post... :o

I came here now to add two things:

- I also think it's important to focus on all the "non-sexual" aspects of your step-daughter and your relationship with her. I imagine that if you cultivate your healthy relationship, then it might he helpful also for attenuating all the "negative / undesirable" aspects. If you focus your mind on your fears and disgust, then you risk to avoid this girl and that wouldn't be good for her development (you may "google" some info about the importance of fathers for adolescent girls - for instance, they still need hugs and caressing, but many fathers (-I've read so) avoid it because they fear that it would be inappropriate, as the daughters are already becoming women, so it would be "weird" to "touch" them, but in fact, they do need it (in a healthy, innocent, parental way) a lot for their psychological development).

- Every attraction fades in time. You don't have to fear "to suffer by this infinitely".

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