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Ask Dr. SchwartzAsk Dr. Schwartz:
Psychotherapy and Mental Health questions

Is it Inappropriate to Call my Daughter...

Wed, Jul 18th 2012

I am recently married with 3 children from a previous marriage. My situation revolves around my wife's view of how I should interact with my daughter. Now, first let me say that for a long time I did not see my daughter as a young woman. I was and am a weekend dad and always saw her as the little girl. So I never treated her as a young woman. And being very small for her age probably didn’t help. I didn’t see her with her friends to see that she is getting older. I just saw her when it was me and the kids at my place. She is now 13 yrs old.

My current wife brought this to my attention while we were dating and I realized right away she was right. My relationship with my daughter has become mature, but I have refused to stop calling my daughter "sweetie." I have called her this since she was a baby. This drives my wife insane. I do not see the harm in it, but my wife insist it is inappropriate. Her friends tell her that she is right. My friends tell me that it is nothing wrong with it. I am looking for neutral party’s perspective that will just be honest.

I will admit that I have a fear of my daughter, going into her formative years, not seeing me as a strong, present, masculine father figure in her life. I know that girls who do not have the secure, accepting and loving relationship with their father can sometimes fill that void with men…boys in her case. And these are the critical years she is moving into.

My wife does have, what I know to be, a legitimate complaint  that I acknowledge fully. I am known to call my wife sweetie also. It is a term of endearment I use frequently with female loved ones in my life. Occasionally I use the term with nieces, my sister and mother-in-law  My wife never has a problem with me calling them sweetie, just my daughter. My wife says this is “icky” and I agree with her.

I usually call my wife “Baby”. My wife was never married, was without children until me. She was 40 yrs old. She has always been with guys that had no children or ex-wives. So this is new to her. She is not used to sharing and there is an obvious focus on sharing me with my daughter versus the two boys. We also want a child of our own. But I am afraid that could help or hurt the current relationship between my wife and children. Both extremes are possible. But that’s another question for another day.

So, please be brutally honest with me. Am I wrong for using the term "sweetie" with my daughter? Am I stunting her growth by using this term? I only want the best for my daughter, and more importantly this is weighing heavily on my marriage  to the point of the possible collapse of my marriage. I love my wife very much and if I am indeed wrong, I just need someone to set me straight.

Please help me be a better husband and good father.

Thank You.

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