Create Healthy Boundaries in Your Home

by childless stepparent

My husband’s daughter recently told us that she didn’t want her downstairs bedroom. For the past two months, she chose to make a bed of blankets on the floor of the room next to our bedroom rather than sleep in her own bed. In time, we hoped she would eventually face her fears of sleeping on a different floor and grow to appreciate the independence her room would offer. But she’s not ready. She’s almost 10 years old, but she’s not ready. So as much as we enjoyed having the upstairs as our sanctuary, we agreed to move her room next to our bedroom.

We would lose some privacy, which was mostly an issue for me, given that I’m used to having my own space. But the real issue was that my husband’s daughter requires that her door be open when she sleeps. She needs just the right amount of light (no darkness, no bright lights) and can’t handle even the slightest noise.

This meant that my husband and I were forced to tiptoe around after her bedtime of 8:00. We couldn’t listen to music or talk downstairs or even turn on the light to walk upstairs to go to bed (we used our iPhones as flashlights, believe it or not). In the morning, we had to be very quiet so as not to wake her while we got ready for the day.

It wasn’t long before we agreed this just wasn’t going to work. So my husband told his daughter that after he tucked her in, he was going to shut her door. It was part of the deal, he explained, for having her room upstairs – complete with a new loft bed and canopy. She seemed okay with it, and at first, it was great. My husband and I could enjoy our evenings and mornings, and she slept soundly. But after a few days, I noticed that her door was once again slightly open at night and in the morning.

I asked my husband about it. Turns out that his daughter had asked him to go back to keeping her door open, and he’d agreed. This seems a small thing, but I realized I was quite upset. It wasn’t about the door.

The closed door was the only compromise I’d asked for after agreeing to move her room next to ours. My husband’s willingness to let that slide made me feel as if my needs in our home are not important, not taken seriously.

So I talked with my husband, and he listened. He really did. He said he understood. He agreed that the rule about the closed door was a good one, for everyone. And he talked about it with his daughter the next morning.

While I don’t take on a parenting role, I do have the right to ask that healthy boundaries be respected in our home. It’s my husband’s job to enforce those boundaries with his child.

Question: When do you feel comfortable inserting yourself? Can you share an example of something about your situation that you changed – whether on your own or with your spouse? 

Manifesto #1 | I am a childless stepparent. My stepchild has two involved parents. I don’t need to take on a parenting role.