My Boyfriend’s Grown Daughter is Manipulative (How to Cope)

How your boyfriend’s family takes to you can be hit or miss – especially if they’ve already got kids from prior relationships. Most of the time, these children would view you as competition for their parent’s attention and resist your presence in the family (regardless of their own age!).

While that’s a normal birthing pain for blended families, there are limits to how they can act out. Your boyfriend’s grown daughter could be manipulative, creating conflicts and pitting you against the family in their efforts to get you out of their way.

The situation is complicated, but you’ll need to address it gracefully if you want to continue your relationship. Navigating their difficult daughter can be a sensitive situation…so what would be the best way for you to go about coping with their manipulative tendencies?

Understand what your boyfriend’s daughter hopes to achieve in manipulating the family. Communicate your boundaries with them as clearly as possible. Help them out when you can, but never encourage or enable any problematic behavior you see.

Instead, point them out to your partner so they can start recognizing the signs of their adult daughter’s manipulations – be ready for some initial resistance to the idea. Do your best not to take what they say to heart, but if they manage to rattle you consider professional support.

Be proactive about understanding why your boyfriend’s daughter acts the way they do, then see if you can incorporate what you learn into a solution.  Don’t take what they say about you to heart.

Grasp the Underlying Reasons

mother and daughter ignoring each other on the couch

From their perspective, you joined their family to compete for their father’s attention – or even push them out of the family entirely!

It doesn’t matter how old your boyfriend’s daughter might be – they’re still their little girl, and you’d be hard-pressed to dissuade them from that line of thinking given your relationship.

Right now, you’re a source of insecurity. Alternatively, they might see you as a threat to their father’s safety – believing that you could be stringing them along or taking advantage of them.

They don’t have much reason to like you, but they can’t openly act to get you out of the way. Manipulation is all they have, but what perceived problem are they trying to solve with it?

The method is definitely problematic, but the intentions behind this aren’t always petty. It becomes a lot harder to hate them when you find out that they just want to protect their father – even from you! Recognizing this won’t solve the problem, but it might make it more palatable to deal with.

You’re not looking for a way to pressure or scare them out of bad behavior. You’re trying to make your boyfriend’s daughter feel that such manipulative behavior is no longer necessary with you.

Set Firm Boundaries

mother explaining something to her daughter

All good relationships need to be mindful of boundaries. They put everyone on the same page, which helps regulate tensions between one another. You don’t have to be friends with your boyfriend’s daughter, but civility is in everyone’s interest right now.

Boundaries go both ways, but they’re useless if no one knows where the other stands. The two of you need to set aside time to figure out what you should expect of one another – the sooner the better. Putting this off means that there’s a greater risk of someone unwittingly overstepping boundaries, which can sour an already-tense relationship further.

Try to set aside time to discuss this with your boyfriend’s daughter. We’d recommend doing this proactively, rather than in response to a recent conflict. You want this meeting to be as neutral and open as possible, and everyone needs to walk into the conversation with a clear head.

It might help to let them decide on the date and time of the talk. Doing this demonstrates that you’re willing to compromise even while in a position of authority. Extend that olive branch for the sake of civility, and if you’re fortunate the two of you could sort this out in one fell swoop.

No Knee-jerk Responses

It can take time to muster the confidence to speak with someone you know to be manipulative. It’s scary, and you may feel that they know more than they let on.

Those feelings are completely understandable.

More importantly, those feelings need to be articulated. Putting things out in the open through conversation makes things “real” so to speak, with responsibilities and consequences to match.

For example, let’s say your stepdaughter brought up your past history, or something equally sensitive. You could get the feeling that they’re doing this specifically to agitate you, but since you never cleared that boundary earlier it’s more difficult to hold them accountable for it.

Getting angry at them for doing so is understandable, but not acceptable. You’d come across as emotionally volatile and unreasonable by lashing out, but even if you keep your hurt feelings quiet you’d still be upset by what they spoke about.

People can broach your boundaries through active malice or just accidental insensitivity. The best way to protect yourself is by clarifying that boundary beforehand.  It’s definitely scary to admit a vulnerability or even a trigger to someone manipulative, but it’s for the best.

Just remember that you aren’t giving them something to hurt you with. You are trusting them with a boundary. They can respect or disregard this, but the one thing they can’t do is ignore it.

Let Them Know What You Find Manipulative About Their Behavior

The first step to dealing with any problem is recognizing its existence. Manipulative behavior is unlikely to subside on its own – if it starts to feel that way, you might just be tolerating it more.

What do you find manipulative about their behavior at times?

Are they focusing on slinging blame when the problem involves you? Are they criticizing or undermining your authority? Are they bringing up topics they know you find uncomfortable?

Bringing this up could lead to recognition on their end, but realistically you can probably expect them to deny that they behaved that way. They might also downplay the intention of the action, chalk it up to more mundane emotions, or claim not to remember their actions altogether.

Sharing your insights with them is a victory in itself. Be firm about what you noticed, but don’t try to “correct” their perspective by insisting on yours. Even if you’re right about their manipulative tells, the goal of these conversations is civility, not winning an imaginary argument.

What will they remember more: You noticing their manipulations or you gloating about it?

Even if you don’t want to embrace a stepparent role, you still need to conduct yourself with a modicum of grace – even if it’s just to set an example for your boyfriend’s grown daughter.

Either the behavior you complained about begins to dwindle, which shows that they respect your boundaries, or they do it more often, which shows them disregarding your boundaries. Both outcomes give you clarity on how to proceed – letting them get away with it wouldn’t.

Don’t Enable Them (But Mind the Thin Line)

stressed out woman

Sometimes, your boyfriend’s daughter needs help getting out of sticky situations. Navigating them can be difficult since there is a lot that you need to consider before acting.

How to Decide

On one hand, you’re not their stepparent – or at least, not their stepparent yet. They aren’t your responsibility, and they’re already grown adults expected to deal with the consequences of their own actions.

On the other, your boyfriend has a bigger stake here. They can’t just leave their daughter to deal with a bad situation in good conscience – even if they have to enable bad behavior at times.

Leaving the daughter to manage their actions could lead to bigger issues down the line, which would definitely rope your boyfriend (and you) into situations that’d rapidly get out of hand.

Here’s an exaggerated example:

Maybe your boyfriend’s grown daughter drops in to borrow a tidy sum of money to pay off their property mortgage. You might feel that they’re taking advantage of their position to have you and your boyfriend bail them out, but what happens if you leave them to deal with it on their own?

Their mortgage might get delayed, which could lead to more financial penalties or even forfeiture of their property entirely. They might have to take other loans to offset the issue, which could have things spiraling out of control. They might even have to move in with the two of you!

It’s a bad outcome for everyone – who do you think they’ll go to in this scenario? Do you genuinely believe your boyfriend could ignore their daughter in their time of need?

While this example is a bit fantastical, your life is indeed intertwined with your boyfriend’s daughter. You can’t just write off their situation on a general basis. Think carefully when they come to you with a problem, and gauge if the situation is dire enough to warrant you bailing them out of the consequences of their actions – even if you feel like they might be playing you.

Don’t Let Them Rattle You Too Much Emotionally

A manipulative (sort-of) stepdaughter is prone to say hurtful things to make you feel less than you’re worth, rather than something to push you towards improving. For this reason, don’t take everything your boyfriend’s daughter says to heart.

That doesn’t mean you should write them off entirely. Sometimes, they could offer genuinely good insight into your weaknesses. But other times, they’re just trying to make you doubt yourself. Consider each situation thoroughly before settling on how you want to proceed.

Different Boundaries

Just because their expectations don’t align with yours doesn’t necessarily mean they’re mistaken. They’re allowed to disagree with you without being inherently wrong.

Compromise doesn’t always mean getting less than what you wanted. At times the results may leave a bitter taste in your mouth, but incremental progress adds up to make a big difference.

If you aren’t sure if they’re overstepping boundaries, look for a second opinion to clarify things. Ask around with family, among friends, or even on forums with others in similar predicaments.

Be wary of gaslighting

Gaslighting is a covert means of manipulation aiming to have people doubt, question, or even invalidate their own perspective. It’s sadly become a more common practice, and worst of all is that a lot of people actually do this without even meaning to.  

Always remember that everything you do is perfectly valid. The choices you make were always done with the best intentions and all the knowledge you had available at that point in time.

If you have some knowledge gaps that hampered your decision, think if there was something you could have done to sort them out. If you did everything you could, with what you had at the time, you didn’t make a mistake even if the outcome wasn’t ideal.

Consider Enlisting Professional Counseling

You might feel threatened or even embarrassed that your boyfriend’s daughter is getting to you. There’s nothing to be ashamed of, and certainly no shame in seeking out psychological aid.

Psychologists are trained to help people unpack upsetting situations with minimal emotional agitation. It’s literally their job, and they can do it better than your friends or family ever could!

If you’re affected by your boyfriend’s daughter, there’s no changing that. Depriving yourself of crucial aid would just leave you liable to take your frustrations out on someone who doesn’t deserve it. These negative emotions need to be processed in a healthy, constructive manner.

Point Out Problematic Behavior to Your Partner

couple looking at each other deeply

If you see your boyfriend’s daughter act out in manipulative ways, you need to bring it to your partner’s attention whenever possible. Manipulative people aren’t manipulative to everyone they encounter – it can be difficult to discern if you aren’t someone they’re targeting, especially with your boyfriend already biased to favor their daughter.

If you note any manipulative actions or words from them, point them out! The first step towards troubleshooting is legitimizing the problem. A known problem is an actionable one, but getting your boyfriend to accept their daughter’s manipulative tendencies can be a challenge.

Dealing with Potential Resistance

Be prepared for some resistance throughout the entire process. Your boyfriend may not be receptive to what you’re pointing out and could attempt to downplay, excuse, or even justify their daughter’s behavior.

Experiencing this while simultaneously dealing with their daughter’s manipulation can be disheartening, but just keep at it until things change.

Your partner will eventually recognize the manipulation for what it is, chastising their daughter and validating your feelings. They could, alternatively, continue trying to justify their child’s upsetting behavior – in which case, you should entertain the possibility of ending the relationship.

A breakup isn’t the end of the world. You don’t want to date a man who disregards your feelings. It might seem more comfortable to knuckle down and cope with the situation, but prolonged exposure to emotional manipulation will only hurt you in the long run.

Living this way is bad for the soul, and any change – even a breakup – would be preferable. The peace within you is worth far more than the fake peace around you.

Don’t let anyone in this situation treat you any less than what you deserve – even if that person might be you at times!

Final Thoughts

Your boyfriend’s daughter might try to get to you through vague manipulation, and the best way to deal with it comes through intelligence and understanding – not endurance and tolerance. Set firm boundaries and don’t let yourself be played for a fool!

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