Where the Science of Psychology Meets the Art of Being Human

Being a Stepparent: What You Need to Know to Make It Work

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Being a Stepparent: What you Need to Know To Make Them Work

I’ve done a lot of hard things. I’ve run a marathon (well, technically a ‘fun run’ but it did require running shorts, running and sweat so I stand firm on ‘marathon’); I’ve given up sugar (not gonna lie – worst 2 hours of my life) and I’ve travelled (‘Middle East, solo, broke with a backpack’ travelled, not ‘may I take your bags madam? The lift to the 34th floor is just past the atrium’ travelled).

Being a step-parent is up there with the hardest. My stepchildren are adults now and even though the fog has cleared, I still claim that it’s one of the most difficult things I’ve done.

From the outset, there are things about a stepfamily that would likely hint at trouble if they happened in a biological family:

  • Another person (the other biological parent) has a hand in some of the big decisions that affect your family – the way the kids are raised (which will always have an impact on your home), weekends, holidays, family rituals, rules. Though you will have a say, there’s a third person with an investment who will potentially want to interfere be heard.
  • The alliance between the parent and child in a biological family is potentially stronger (understandably) than the couple. In a biological family, both parents have an equal say and big decisions are made by the couple. In a stepfamily, matters to do with the child will often be between the biological parents, or the biological parent and child. Potentially, the step-parent will have less influence in decisions that impact the family and the individuals in it.
  • The step-parent is an outsider. There are years of shared history, memories, connection and experiences between members of the biological family that the step-parent will never be a part of. Of course in time the stepfamily will grow into something new and wonderful, but first there will be a bit of compromise.

Being the second wife/husband/important person does have benefits, the main one of which is that your partner already has a realistic idea of the work that’s required to make a marriage work. There are no illusions the second time around in relation to the marriage, though there may be a few in relation to the family. 

The good news is that there are things that can be done to smooth the bumps along the way, even if you can’t completely disappear them:

  1. Let go of the fantasy.

    It sounds simple enough (it’s not!) but it could be the difference between your relationship working or not. That’s not overstating it. It really is that important.

    An abundance of research has confirmed that unhappiness is caused by the distance between expectations and reality. It’s not so much the situation that causes distress but that the situation is different to what’s expected. 

    In a stepfamily, everyone comes with their own fantasy. It’s completely normal and inevitable – but if you hang on to the fantasy too tightly, it could very well fall you. Most couples come into a stepfamily thinking that the family will immediately gel, the relationships will be tight, everyone will feel the love and the family will be a happy one. But it really doesn’t work like that.

    In a biological family, there would be problems if there was no expectation that you will love your children, they’ll love you back and all will be close. In a stepfamily though, these fantasies set up the potential for profound disappointment. Why? Because all family members come with their own fantasy, some of which are completely incompatible.

    Patricia Papernow is a leader in the field of stepfamilies. Her book, Being a Stepfamily, is the best I’ve read. (Juuuust in cast you were wondering, this is not an affiliate link – I just love the book. It was a game-changer for me in my own experience as a step-parent.) She identified the following fantasies which are typical in a stepfamily:

    •  Step-parent: ‘We’ll be one big happy family. The kids will love me. I’ll love them back. My relationship will be solid. I can’t wait for us all to be a family.’

    •  Biological Parent: ‘My partner will love the kids as much as I do and the kids will love him/her back. The kids will be so grateful for everything he/she gives this family. I just can’t wait to show everyone how happy we can be as a family.’

    •  The kids: ‘It’s only a matter of time before mum and dad get back together. They actually love each other a lot and as soon as they realise that we can be a family again.’

    Letting go of the fantasy allows for greater acceptance of the reality, more respect for what ‘is’ and more of the flexibility that’s needed to get to wherever you’re going as a family. A stepfamily can be as happy and successful as any other, but it will be different. It’s important to let go of the fantasy gently though, because your imaginings of what things would be like would have been a big part of the reason you decided to do this. And don’t worry, let go of the fantasy and reality will see to it that eventually something at least as good will take its place.

  2. See the rough patches for what they are – a progression not a fall.

    There are going to be rough patches and that’s okay. Accept them as a sign of progression towards a new kind of family – one with you in it. Your experience of the stepfamily might be different to what you expected but it doesn’t mean a happy ending isn’t coming.

    It’s likely that at some point you will feel like an outsider, as well as jealous, lonely, resentful, confused and inadequate. You’ll probably experience hostility, indifference or rejection from your stepkids and more than likely you’ll fight with your partner more than you expected. This is normal. Accept it, let it unfold and most importantly don’t take it personally, though I know that’s easier said than done.

    It feels like a shake up, and it is, but it’s all part of the adjustment the family has to go through to get to something better.  The family is recalibrating and changing shape to make way for you. That sort of adjustment was never going to be easy. Sometimes things have to fall apart a little so they can come back together in a different way. See the rough patches for what they are – a remaking, a realignment, a progression towards something new, rather than a threat.

  3. Understand and respond to the loyalty bind.

    It’s normal for children to worry that their acceptance of a step-parent might betray their biological parent. They might worry that if they like you, accept you or love you, their biological parent will be hurt or angry. This may increase their need to show loyalty to the biological parent by rejecting you or being hostile to you to ‘prove’ their love and loyalty to their parent. 

    If you suspect a loyalty bind might be at play, see it for what it is and don’t take it personally. Let your stepchild know that you aren’t trying to replace his or her biological parent and that you know nobody could ever do that. Let them know it’s okay to feel as they do and that you will work through it together.

    Next, gently put the idea out there that they can care about you and love their other parent at the same time. Acknowledge that you know that their relationship with their biological parent will always be special and different to anything else. Let them know you would like to try to have a relationship that is good for both you and the child, and that you’ll follow their lead as to what that looks like.

  4. When your stepchild is ready, work on creating the new relationship.

    Don’t try to replicate the relationship your child has with their biological parent. This runs the risk of inflaming the loyalty bind but it also takes away the opportunity for you to create something new. You have qualities, wisdom and experience that will be different to those of the other adults in the child’s life. It may take a while for your stepchild to appreciate that, but be patient. Find new things to share that are different to what the child has with his or her biological parent. 

  5. Decide on what’s important. And let the rest go.

    There will be plenty to argue about. The fact that a stepfamily is in the making means that nobody’s story has ended the way they thought it would. Nobody goes into marriage anticipating divorce and children don’t look forward to the day their parents live in separate houses. There’s a lot going on – broken hearts, endings and angry people. People won’t always be on their best behaviour.

    Decide on the things that are important to you and let the rest go. Push gently for the change that needs to happen but at the same time, respect the rest of the family’s need for stability.

    The balance will get precarious at times but it’s an important part of getting to where you need to be. You won’t be able to function as a new family until differences are worked through and people have enough of what they need to not feel compromised. Without a doubt, your new family can be phenomenal but it will take time.

  6. Appreciate the small stuff.

    Understand that it may be difficult for your stepchild to accept you or show affection for so many reasons, none of which will have anything to do with how they feel about you. The upheaval, their own grief and loyalty binds all make for shaky ground. Appreciate the small moments of contact. It’s easy to overlook them but when they happen, know that it’s big.

  7. Respect that it will take time.

    In her extensive work, Papernow has found that stepfamilies take about 7-12 years to adjust and to exist as a healthy, well-functioning system. Quicker families might do it in four but some families never really get there. I wonder how much of the time frame has to do with the stepchildren reaching independence and establishing a relationship with their step-parents as adults, rather than children.

  8. Be open to letting go.

    Be open to the possibility that you may never be close to all or any of your stepchildren. One may have less need for another adult in their lives or may feel the conflict of a loyalty bind more than the others. You might also just be too different from each other to make it work. The most important thing is that when they are younger, you are committed to making it work, but that doesn’t mean it will work out as planned. There is enormous grace and courage in being able to let go, which is different to giving up.

All stepfamilies are different but they share common vulnerabilities. They can be as rich, warm, loving and wonderful as any other family. No family is smooth sailing all the time but the dynamics of a stepfamily present challenges at the start that are unique. Within that is the potential to rise to the challenge and come out with something extraordinary.

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90 Comments

Hollie

I liked the article a lot but wished it had been told from the death perspective a bit more. Most articles like this are written for divorced families. Death is similar but not the same. I especially wish the letting go of the fantasy had addressed the kids that are dealing with grief. Obviously, the hope of biological parents getting back together is not part of their fantasy. Only one job more difficult than parenting and that is step-parenting.

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heysigmund

There are so many more stepfamily articles to come. Because of my own experience as a stepmom – which hasn’t all been smooth sailing! – it was a bit ‘where do I start’. I will be dealing with it all in more detail over the coming while. The suggestion of writing one from a death perspective is a great one that I hadn’t thought of and I’d love to write something for that. Leave it with me. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment.

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Lawrence

My situation is rather unique. I was 14 years younger than my wife and only 7 years older than my eldest step daughter. My wife died 2 years ago and i met someone new shortly after her death. We were together almost 25 years. The eldest stepdaughter never met her biological father…my younger stepdaughter’s father divorced from her mother when she was 2 years old. The youngest accepts my new wife..my eldest step daughter feels betrayed and wants nothing to do with me. I think of them both as my daughters.

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Amy

I agree with the post about more on the death of a parent not necessarily divorced parents. There’s really not much info or advice on how to handle this very sensitive situation. I would love to hear from that point of view of others dealing with this scenario. PLEASE. I NEED HELP!!

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Dame Sonnier

I loved this article. I’m almost 10yrs in, now, and like many of us, learned most of these the HARD way.

1, 2, and 5 were key for me. 8 kind of dropped in my lap as our kids aged.

When I got to my #1/5 break over point is when I first realized that our family was “newborn” and only up for small, quick outings when the stars were all aligned, or visits (again, brief) with those who we really trusted and loved. Even though we were all the 11+ years and up crowd, we just couldn’t function as ANYONE expected for a weekend away or full-fledged holiday.

Our best events were when we threw all tradition and expectation out the window and did what was right for us.

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heysigmund

Do you know, I think that letting go of expectation and doing what works is the best thing you can do. I also learned the hard way – gosh I’m wondering if another way to learn even exists, particularly in relation to step-parenting! It’s so hard to let go of the fantasy and go with what comes, but it was the thing that made the difference for me. Once I was able to do that, then I could let go of expectation and, like you, do what was right for our family. The path we took looked nothing like I ever could have imagined but we got there in the end. It’s so important that we talk about it though. When my step kids were little, I didn’t know anybody else in a stepfamily so compared myself to these ridiculous ideals I had in my head, or to non-stepfamilies (sheesh!). Over time, talking to other step-parents has been one of the most helpful things – makes me realise that we’re all just doing our best, and that the ‘right’ way looks different for everyone. It’s so good that you’re alive to the issues – you’ll make a huge difference to the stepfamily experience. Thank you for taking the time to share your story. I’m very grateful.

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screwed

As a step parent, letting go of the fantasy is easy. Dealing with the bio parent NOT letting go of the fantasy and still holding you accountable of being a bio-parent as well when they still make you feel like an outsider is the hard part. You feel like you give and give and get beat down over and over and your spouse makes no effort to adjust the bio relationship to include you other than “you can do it our way”. When it comes time to do something I want to do, I usually end up doing it myself and end up getting reamed for not including them even though they would never do it in the first place. No win situation.

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Dame Sonnier

I also wanted to touch on the grief aspect. My kids were essentially abandoned by their birth mom. In our neighborhood I could only find death of parent support, though our kids were grieving too…

I think it goes back to the fact that each person and family are different and thank goodness the “family mold” is cracking/evolving and freeing us all up to do what’s right instead of what’s “normal” or expected.

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heysigmund

So well said! The family mold is certainly changing shape and it’s fast getting to a point where there is no ‘typical’ – which is a good thing.

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Andrea

Loved the article, I am recently married however my husband and I have been together for 4 1/2 years, particularly because when we began dating his son was 2 and we wanted to be sure everything was right before jumping into something. He was never married to his son’s mother, but that was not how she saw the future pan out and we have faced a lot of challenges with her. As his son was so young when I came into his life we actually have no functioning issues in our family, he sees me as a mother figure and couldn’t be happier that I am his step mom (he still throws himself into my arms hollering Stepmom as loud as he can!). My husband from day one has always supported anything I have said from pick up your clothes to more important things. We have him 50% of the time, and his son clearly sees me as a mother figure. I am currently struggling to adjust to the anger being thrown at us from his ex that was never a major issue until about a week before our wedding, and seems to get worse every day. As my stepson was curled up asleep between my husband and I last night I made the decision that I have no control over how she feels, only how I react to it. That she clearly has unresolved anger and insecurity issues but that me being involved is not going to help that. To separate myself from her and have all communication go through my husband, and to continue to love his son like my own and disregard her fabricated claims until my husband tells me otherwise. Dwelling (and responding to!) her ficticious accusations will only make us both more angry, which will eventually upset the balance in our family.

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Hey Sigmund

Hi Andrea. You sound as though you have such a wonderful, loving relationship with your stepson. You’re both so lucky to have each other. You’ve made a really great decision here with his mum. You can’t control what she does and there would be all sorts of reasons for her anger – there is potential for plenty when there are kids and a mother figure involved. If she’s making up stories, she’s at desperation stage and the best thing you can do is to step away. You’ve made this decision made in strength and for the love of your stepson. It’s so important that you want to love him more than you want to argue with his mother. Let go of her is such a wise thing to do and such a protective thing to do for your family. Sounds like you’re a pretty awesome team.

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Laura

I love this article, i read it and saved it a while ago, and this morning an incident came up that really made me need the help and solidarity of reading about other step-families.
I snapped at my 6 year old step son after a night of no sleep (up with my biological daughter of 20 months in the night) and rushing to get out the door to work. His dad (who is the most amazing parent), felt I was being unfair on him. He used the incident to address my parenting style as he is concerned I am not loving enough to my step-son in particular in relation to our baby daughter. Although this is painful it has opened up a dialogue between us for me to try and explain some of the feelings I have for my step-son and around our family life. We are currently embroiled in a second round of year long battling with his mother who is alcoholic, with is putting us under enormous financial and emotional strain due to the vast legal costs and the constant unending grief we get from the birth mother. We love each other dearly but the situation is incredibly challenging and upsetting and this all comes on top of having 2 young kids and us both working and commuting from 7-7 each day in high stress jobs. Right now likfe is a lot about existing and trying to make the best of things rather than really living, but we know we are stronger together.
But gosh if I had known what I know now when I was younger would if I would have made the same choices… I think I would, but I also would have warned myself to be very brave!

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Hey Sigmund

Stepfamilies are really hard work – worth it – but hard. All parents get cranky and snap now and then, but one of the things that makes step-parenting so difficult is that if you snap at your own biological child, it can be put down to a bad day or a bad moment and nobody looks up, but when you snap at someone else’s child, it can come across as abrasive and unloving. It’s important for everyone to remember that though you can love and feel deeply committed to your stepchildren, this can take more time and can be more fragile than the relationship with a biological child – that’s just the truth of it. Biological parents can find it difficult to understand why you might not have the same bond with their child as they do, but the connection will likely be different, especially if you haven’t been bonding with them since they were a baby – and that’s okay. The love and connection with your own child is instinctive – it’s hardwired in us, otherwise we would be feeling that maternal bond with, and wanting to take responsibility for every child in our lives. The love and connection with someone else’s child can still be very strong and can grow to feel the same as a biological child, but it will take time – sometimes years for this to develop. The fantasy that this will happen quickly is the biggest thing that gets in the way of stepfamilies.

What you’re doing is enormous – young children, the normal issues that come with being in a stepfamily, working in high stress jobs. Be kind to yourself and patient – this takes time and there are challenges with a blended family that other families will never have to deal with.

Patricia Papernow wrote a brilliant book called ‘The Stepfamily Cycle’ and it really helped me when I was going through what you’re going through. I used her model in my work with stepfamilies because I know from my own experience that it made so much sense. She takes about the stages that stepfamilies go through and says that it can take up to 12 years for a family to finish the cycle (though in some instances I think that’s because the kids become adults). I know that you probably have absolutely no time to read, but if you do, it’s really worth it. It will help to make sense of what you’re going through and will let you know how normal your experience is.

The most important thing is to remember why you came together in the first place. It sounds as though you have a really solid foundation and a strong, close relationship. The rest will take care of itself.

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Tilly

This article was great, and really hit home for me. The fantasy issue is so true & I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one! I am a step-mom (unofficially, as my partner & I are not married) of 3 kids, and don’t have kids of my own. One of the biggest issues for me was that reality was so very far from what I’d imagined life to be. In fact I think I grieved for the life that I’d hoped I’d get & never did.

Everyone kept telling me how great it must be to finally have kids in my life, and people generally expected this to be a substitute for wanting (& not being able to have) my own kids. This is so very far from the reality, as your article says… you don’t really get to raise them as you’d imagined all these years, you do as much for them as their biological mum, but don’t get the unconditional love, sometimes you get the resentment etc…

All the little things you’ve stored up in your mind over the years like traditions you wanted to start etc.. can be met with pure bafflement from the kids (as its not their way of doing things) & you finally realise that you need to put some of your expectations to rest.

However, you can find a way to move forward & you can become a part of a new unit. My step-son referred to me as his step-mom the other day (we are two years into our blended family), my step-daughter informed me that when I’m having a little moan she now sees it as she would her parents & I thought to myself… I think I’m finally there!!

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Hey Sigmund

I’m so pleased the article helped you. Letting go of the fantasy was a big one for me too. It sounds as though you’re commitment has paid off though – it’s great to be able to recognise this. Step-parenting is really hard, and you deserve to celebrate what you’ve achieved so far.

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Lotta

Thanks for this article. I am a step mum of 4 years and it’s been – and remains – tough. The guilt at feeling so much love for my biological child and so much ambivalence towards my (teenage) step child. I’ve battled with myself over this and while some days are fine, others feel unbearable. I look forward to further articles (and I too recommend Patricia Papernow’s research).

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Hey Sigmund

Step-parenting is tough. You don’t have to love all children as you love your own, though the expectation is often that step-parents will. It’s just not realistic. The teenage years can be hard enough when you’re dealing with your own child, let alone when you’re dealing with someone else’s. As long as you can act with love and kindness towards your stepchild, your feelings are your feelings and their completely valid. Be kind to yourself – it will make the road a little easier for you.

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manu

Hey Sigmund.. (nice reference to the pyschologist) i came across this article in google, as i have recently started seeing a guy with 2 kids (5 and 3) and have been wondering on the complications on taking it forward. I have exactly the same fantasy you mentioned, and reading at the other posts and comments, seems like its not a cake walk. Nevertheless, he’s a great guy and looking to get through things well, hope to gain more insight into some of things to do before I step into the relationship so I can avoid some of the pitfalls (if ever this was possible)

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Hey Sigmund

As a stepmother myself, I can tell you that letting go of the fantasy is critical and will make so much difference. Understand that they are their own little unit and though you will be an important part of it, they have a history that came before you. They will love you all the more for anything you do that will preserve that and to not take it personally if you feel a little bit separate from them sometimes. Let the parenting decisions be his and avoid wherever possible being the one to hand out discipline or redirect behaviour. This is important because they don’t have the history and relationship with you that they do with him. In time this will change, but for a while it’s best if you let him make the decisions around his kids. He will love you for supporting him and for not making it difficult, and they will love you for not trying to replace the absent parent. Above all else, if you can understand that this is such an enormous adjustment for them, and that anything they do which feels personally, most likely isn’t but a reaction to a situation that they would probably prefer was different. You sound open and warm and ready to connect with these little people and create something new and wonderful with them.

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Selene

I have read so many step-family scenarios on so many websites. I can’t find one like mine. My kids are 19 and 21. My husband’s kids are 16 and 20. My kids also split time with their dad, who is remarried, so they have step-siblings at his house as well. My husband’s kids mother died 7 years ago and was alcoholic. She committed suicide which the older one now knows and the younger one doesn’t. Trying to be nice, we bought a home in their old neighborhood. So it’s their territory. I moved and left my friends behind. His kids don’t like me or my kids. They like my kids better than they like me, but have very little time and make little effort (the oldest girl tries more–she is now away at college most of the time but home every holiday.) My kids are here half holidays. I am always the outsider. When my kids are here, they are often talking about how great things are at their dad’s where their step-siblings like them and they all spend time together as a family. My step-son barely speaks to us, its a rarity if he graces us with his presence, often just skips meals at the last minute, doesn’t help prepare meals, uses all my things to his advantage (the hot tub I brought to the house, food he wants, etc.) but won’t help out or respect my rules. I am miserable 95% of the time and I’m supposed to be grateful for the “small things” and let go of expectations? My kids treat my husband very well. (They also treat their step-mom at their dad’s very well because that’s how they were raised.) My health has suffered, physically and emotionally. We’ve tried counseling (my husband and I) but it always comes back to the same thing –“I can’t make my kids like you. You have to adjust your expectations.” So is everyone on this board in agreement that I should not expect to be respected and that I should just keep being nice and expect little to nothing in return? I mean if we were talking about a 2 year old or 7 year old I would feel differently. But my stepson is nearly 17. Every holiday (which I already have to split) has been ruined by his (and partly his sister’s) rude, arrogant behavior and basically acting like he’d rather be anywhere else but with us. (He actually told his friends he’d rather jump off a cliff than go on vacation with us.) I have been uninvited to everything from all of his birthday parties to parents night (which by the way no one else was available for and he chose to have his coach walk him out on the floor instead of me.) There isn’t enough space to explain how painful and awful this has been. I know I sound bitter (and I clearly am) but I can’t imagine anyone feeling positive in this situation. I live here full time, but feel like a visitor. All I’ve asked is to be respected. To be treated like an adult. I am at my wits end. Looking at homes right now to move back to town. My husband and I were looking to move together, but my step-son doesn’t want to move. Said he would if he had to, but then he would just make my life even more miserable. My daughter is moving to France in a few months and my son will be back at college 6 hours away. I just want to enjoy the time I have with them, and this situation is just so hurtful. My husband’s relationship with his kids gets closer and closer as he spends a lot of time with them one on one or just the three of them. My relationship with my kids has suffered greatly as I am continually depressed and anxious and, when I do get to see them, my husband’s kids ruin it for me be being so rude, arrogant and acting like we are not worth their time. It’s a mess. Does anyone else out there have step-kids full time and their biological kids only half time? Anyone?

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Melanie

We have FULL custody of my husband’s three kids. Plus we’re dealing with a very bitter ex (and I met him when he was already divorced). My husband and I were together before his son was born and I raised him mostly so it’s kind of like he’s my own, his older sisters kind of treat him like a stepbrother sometimes. The older girls both teenagers are very uncomfortable around me although we’ve all been living together for over 9 years now (except my son wasn’t born yet). One thing I started doing when the first teenager began to become hostile (around 14-15) and I knew her since she was 10, was just dream about her turning 18 and leaving. We’ve all been to therapy, I’ve done so much and the ONLY thing that has helped me is to STOP caring, research stepfamilies, and getting my masters in psychology. It is currently Father’s Day, I opted to back away from family to see how kids will react with being ALONE with Daddy and they’re all currently still hanging out together(10:30 pm almost) (yes even the teenagers who are usually locked up in bedrooms), they’re laughing, happy and really enjoying each other, ESPECIALLY THAT I AM NOT AROUND. Yes I had some tears, anger, resentment, sadness… that is how I came on this sight. We’ve had to adjust… or rather I’ve had to adjust and yes I get pissed off about no respect but, … don’t allow them the pleasure of material items if they’re hostile with you! Make their lives uncomfortable if it will make YOUR life more comfortable. He said he doesn’t want to move but will if he has to. Damn right he has to! Move! Make yourself happy because before you know it, the end of life will be here and you’ll have been depressed MOST of your adult years! I wish you the best of luck.

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Felicia

Thank you for this insightful article. It is also great reading about other step parents out there. This is my first time being a step mother!!! Whew, it’s been very, very challenging. My husband have been married for 1.5 years. We are in our mid 50’s and he has two sons 9 and 8! Yes, I wrote that correctly – ages 9 and 8! (LOL). I have 5 adult children – youngest is 23. Part of my problem is that it has been a long time since I’ve had to “raise” children. Next is during the first year the boys have gone back to tell their mother fibs. I was shocked! I understand there are adjustment times for children to get acclimated to the new adult and the possible hopes of their parents getting back together. I understand–I really do. My husband is a wonderful man and a wonderful father–he explained to the boys that I’m his wife, that he loves me and has told them to respect me. I appreciate him for that! I think my husband believes we should automatically and immediately become a loving family unit and expects me to love his children. However, the truth is I care for them but I don’t love them yet. Also, I am struggling with what’s mine, what’s theirs and what’s ours. I recently bought a puppy. The kids at one point thought and probably think the puppy is theirs. I told my husband that I don’t want to hurt their feelings, but to please let them know that the puppy is not theirs…but they can play with her (there have been times they have been a little rough and we’ve straightened that out). As for general care for the puppy, my husband and myself take responsibility for her. Any, any advice would help.

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Hey Sigmund

It is completely understandable that you don’t feel a maternal love for your husband’s children. The truth is that although you may be very fond of them, there is you have no more reason to feel maternal love for them than for any other child. You might feel it one day or you might not. It is very normal for your husband to believe that you should love them – it’s all part of the fantasy. The sooner he is able to let go of this, the healthier your family will be. The pressure of ‘shoulds’ that are contained in the fantasies are what puts so much pressure on stepfamilies.

As for the puppy, it is for you to decide the boundaries but I expect the kids are thinking that the puppy is part of the family, (as they are, as you are), so she is an ‘ours’ puppy. The risk with keeping the puppy separate in terms of ownership is that you will also be seen as separate, rather than as part of their family. It’s so complicated isn’t it!

The best piece of advice I can give you is not to let go of the fantasy, and not to take anything personally. Keep an open mind and a sense of humour, and be ready to receive with love anything they give to you. It sounds as though you and your husband are a great team.

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Samantha

Yes, stepfamily life is hard. We have been married for coming up to 7 years, together nearly 10. My kids have just moved out together but we still have his kids with us. (they are a bit younger) For the first few years we had mine full time and his 50%, after that it was all of them, all the time. His ex lost the plot and mine never had it!

We’ve had issues all the way through and yes, it does take it’s toll. I think open communication, good support systems including people ‘living’ a similar situation, and being open to counselling is a must.

If you think step-parenting with small kids is hard, wait till they’re teens! You will need all the support you can get.

And as you say, let go of the fantasy, remember ‘who’ you both are, (morals/values) and be kind to yourselves.

x

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Hey Sigmund

Beautifully said Samantha. Thank you for sharing your story. It’s so powerful to hear from others who are going through a similar experience. You never know who you will be giving comfort and strength to.

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Samantha

Thank you. I’m just glad more and more people are talking about it, and in realistic terms.

The point is, I think, going in with open eyes and learning from your past relationships.

Actually, you know what else? Having boundaries.

Having boundaries doesn’t mean you are being mean to the ‘other parent’. It means you are protecting your relationship and your family. If the situation calls for boundaries, don’t feel bad about enforcing them.

If there’s no stable parental team, the whole thing falls apart. And no-one wants that for a second time for the kids. (or themselves) x

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Melissa

I just found your site through FB and it has been enlightening. I am widowed without children, remarried for 3 years with 2 step daughters (20 and 12). In trying to create a relationship with his daughters, I decided to call them my bonus daughters. (I find the step term to be distancing.) I married their dad and I got the bonus of 2 beautiful girls. I was pleased on our first mother’s day to get a bonus mom card.
This is a fantastic resource. Thank you.

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Melissa

I just found your site through FB. It is a great resource I will continue to use. So much information I need to read and come back. I am widowed with no children, remaried with 2 bonus children (I find the step term distancing). Thank you for this site.

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Kate

Found your article interesting as these sorts of conversations aren’t held as I don’t know anyone else who is a step mum. I struggle with my feelings and opinions when it comes to my stepdaughter and how her biological parents are with her. I am currently struggling to make a decision on having kids with my husband due to my stepdaughter and how this may affect our marriage (more than having his daughter in our lives as we do now). I wouldn’t want arrangements to change in terms of having his daughter stay with us but he would like us to have her more if we have kids so don’t know how to broach this as I know guilt influences a lot of his decisions with his daughter. Also, we love our weekends when we don’t have her and sometimes think I don’t want anything to take that away from us as we don’t get much quality time with his job taking him away and his custody arrangements with his daughter. I envy the love they have for each other which is my main reason for wanting a child of my own but don’t know if this is reason enough to have kids?! Please advise as very confused.

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Hey Sigmund

Kate I completely understand your confusion. One of the tough things about step-parenting is being on the outer of so many important decisions. This is really normal. Step-parenting is one of the only situations in which important decisions that affect the couple, are actually made with another adult outside the relationship. Having your own child might help you to understand the things that you struggle with now in terms of your stepdaughter and the way her biological parents are with her. I would love to help you with this, but you are the only one who can decide whether or not to have a child. What I can do is tell you from my own point of view as a mother. When I had children, my life changed dramatically, in ways that I could never have expected, but not once have I wished for it to change back. Of course I have wished for more sleep, more time to myself, more time with my husband, more flexibility, but never enough to wish things could go back to the way they were before they came along. That’s how I feel, though the decision as to whether or not to have children is a personal one and one that only you can make. It’s a difficult decision, and I wish you all the best.

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Eluot

I have a dire need for help and advice…truth is I’ve tackled being a step father wisely…with time, not wanting to bark orders and change whats has been in place for years before ive arrived. Im convinced i want to marry this woman and be with her forever. Ive applied the true facts mentioned in this article prior to reading them here- making my interaction with kindness being sincere having patience KNOWING it will take time. My partner seem to think i should cater to her teens regardless of their actions. Ive been even keeled with a positive attitude and tone but still get perceived by my partner as being cold and separate. Ive done my best with what little experience i have.The problem is the expectations my partner has for me to baby her teens and make excuses for things that just arent right in my eyes. Respect is so important to me and she blatantly makes excuses for why they dont show the proper respect to me only.She has expectations for me aka her fanasty without communication just lashing out at me when they arent met. At this point im beginning to question a lot. I know her love for kids is tigher than anything i could understand but confused why she is willing to stand so firm about her kids not doing wrong and willing to lose what she only wants when they arent around.

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Karen - Hey Sigmund

This is difficult on two levels. First there are issues that come with any stepfamily but adding to this are the difficulties that come as a normal part of adolescence that all parents struggle with. It can be difficult to know how to respond to teens. The truth is we don’t have control so we have to go for influence. Raising a teen is about gentle guidance. I absolutely agree with you that respect is everything – it’s how to go about making this happen in a way that preserves your influence and acknowledges their right to disagree with you. Here are a couple of articles that will help you to manage this …

> Parenting an Adolescent – 11 Insights That Will Make a Difference http://www.heysigmund.com/parenting-adolescent-11-insights-will-make-difference/
> What Your Teens Need You to Know http://www.heysigmund.com/what-your-teens-need-you-to-know/
> The What and the Why of the Changes that Come With Adolescence http://www.heysigmund.com/what-you-need-to-know-about-the-adolescent-brai/
> Understanding and Avoiding Teenage Flare-Ups http://www.heysigmund.com/understanding-and-avoiding-teenage-flare-ups/
> How to increase your influence with your teen http://www.heysigmund.com/increase-your-influence-with-your-teen/

Hope that helps.

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stacy

I married my wife with her now 15 yr old, 21 yr old and 25 yr old. I have a 13 yr old son. My step kids are very lazy and have this entitlement attitude. The oldest son is a cop with wife an 3 year old, but still leaches off of his mom living in her property for free after promising to pay rent. The 21 yr old now goes to school, but comes home and does nothing! The 15 yr old girl sits on her phone all day and night and is the laziest, rudest one of them all. My son is finding his place, but its still difficult. The 15 yr old makes sure he knows hes her “step brother” in a very negative vindictive tone. Their father died 9 years ago. They all have very unhealthy issue because they never grieved. My wife condones everything they do and takes their side over mine always. Im 1/2 way out the door….IM BEYOND EXHAUSTED of being 2nd to all of hr kids and grandson.\

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Selene

Its interesting that your post and my recent post both sound frustrated, exhausted and ready to give up. I believe we are the only two who have step-children who have very complicated unresolved grief issues. My step-kids also make an issue of not accepting my kids as their ‘family” in any way. My stepson is 16 and lets us know he’d rather do anything with anyone other than us. Everyone tells me not to take it personally, that his kids would treat anyone this way. But it’s me their treating this way. I understand your frustration with your wife’s permissive parenting. Is your son with you all the time, or just part time? My children are now hardly home, as they are 19 and 21 so I am stuck here as an outsider without my family. It’s been beyond difficult. I wish you well.

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Moshni

Thank you very much for the article. I believe I’m stuck right in the beginning and I have been for some time now… I’ve been dating my partner for more than 3 years now, we have a 22 year difference in age. When we met he didn’t live with his family anymore but hasn’t officialy separated from his wife yet (I guess they both were too afraid to make the final step). They have four daughters together and always it has been a huge thing for me, an inmense source of resentment and jealousy that I couldn’t control. He was going to see them every other weekend and every weekend of those I was climbing the walls, feeling lonely, abandoned, betrayed and desperate. I kept it for myself for some time and then bit by bit it started to show.. I thought it would end once he speaks to the wife and they start the official proccedure but when that happened I felt no relief. I guess him being stressed with a huge sense of guilt didn’t help this either. I went to see a shrink for some time but just got nowhere. And more time I ignored this problem, deeper and deeper I was getting stuck. Every friday that he was going there, even before that, when he’d just give me the date or I find out about tickets, I felt a rush of anger and hate inside, I couldn’t help crying. I coudn’t speak to him for some time, couldn’t touch him. When he was there.. I’d imagine him in That Apartment, sleeping i don’t even want to think where (although I know she always leaved when he is there), taking children for a walk and not replying to my calls… I felt lonely, excluded, betrayed… Everytime when he saw me in this state of anger, he’d attack me even more so we’d end up fighting… I can’t listen to his calls to them, it makes me feel horrible when I see their “family” chat whether they send hearts and photographs to each other and then I just keep thinking how Big that relationship was if they had four children, not one or two… Now we spend more and more time together, he doesn’t go there often but when he tells me he will I get this wave insde again that I can’t cope with. I tried to be indifferent, I tried to distract myself, do other things but then I just think of him there and it all goes to waste. Of course in my ideal world it would be just me and him and I know how wrong it is to wish his life away and how unfair it all is to him but I just have no idea what to do. Like if I’m stuck in a corner and I just see no way out. Often I think that I maybe should drop it…And I guess it is about facing the reality but how?

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Karen - Hey Sigmund

This is an important issue for your relationship. Your partner sounds like a very devoted, loving father. Anything that gets in the way of this will come between the two of you. It will be difficult for your relationship to move forward until there is closure with his marriage. You both have something the other wants and this is where the compromise has to happen. He wants you to accept his relationship with his daughters and be supportive and loving in relation to that. You want him to finalise his marriage. Until these happen, your relationship will struggle. Talk to him about what you need and what you are able to give him in return. It is understandable that until he brings closure to his marriage, you might feel insecure and jealous. Similarly, it is understandable that if you get angry or upset when he is with his daughters, he may feel suffocated by that.

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sydney

To Eluot:

Being a “bonus mom” or a “stepmom” for 35 years allows me this reflection and to offer my honest opinion,

I never had the need to be their mother but I had expectations of respect and that was a clear boundary from the beginning. My spouse respects me and just by example they respected me too. That said I would never marry someone who didn’t respect me in front of their children.

However on another topic about toxic relationships my angst, stress and disconnect didn’t come about with my “stepchildren” who are now in their 40s until they were much older and clearly became their own people. There have been problems with the biological mother but more in recent years due to weddings, grandchildren etc. whereby she feels territorial and not because I’ve interfered. She truly loves to be the center of attention and all we ask for is respect.

My problems came as I said later when I have seen his children act self-centered to the point where I cannot be around them and I’ve decided to disengage. My husband had a really rough time with my decision and I felt that I had to defend my feelings at every turn. I will no longer ever do that again. He’s not deaf, he does get it and it’s not going to change. I will in future call out behavior in others in the moment and not internalize it so it festers so as to make the person who hurt me be accountable for their insensitivity. People cannot read our minds and it is our responsibility to tell the offending person what we think too.

Lastly, I have said to our biological daughter who has witnessed the self-centered, insensitive behavior of her half brothers and supports my feelings of disconnect but does not involve herself in anyway to defend me to them. I don’t want her to be the messenger. My husband their father seems to FINALLY get it took a lot of mental masturbation to get here.

I’d suggest you and your partner get counselling and not even contemplate marriage until you are united. When her parenting skills are a cause for derision and it’s in your face everyday then why sign up for a life of misery?

My point is this, if it’s bad now the hurdles coming down the pipe are going to make you’re head spin.

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Julie

This article was extremely helpful, although we are not married my significant other moved in with me and my two boys a year and a half ago. They were 10 and 13 at the time. It hasn’t been all roses and sunshine, and having an ex husband who remains controlling and bitter, possibly envious of my new life has made it even more difficult. My boys like my boyfriend, but I’m not sure there is ‘love’ and there may never be. He cares for my boys, and makes efforts I believe they’re failing to see. My boyfriend has no kids of his own and has never been married. This is all new to him, and I appreciate the struggle it must be to step in from the outside. He allows me to parent my children, but he helps ensure they are safe and taken care of. The odd time something has happened that one of the boys hasn’t been completely fond of, they’ve gone running back to their dad with likely embellished stories and I’ve had to endure lectures and accusations about my boyfriend not respecting my children or keeping their safety in mind. I’ve been accused of putting my boyfriend ahead of my children. Where is that line, and can I get rid of it? The one that divides us and them, me supposedly taking my boyfriend’s side and having to defend us against my ex. It seems like if something happens, it’s not necessarily the action that becomes the issue, it’s that my boyfriend was involved. Let’s jump all over him because he’s the outsider. And when I defend him (because I genuinely feel something has been blown entirely out of proportion) then I look like I’m standing against my kids. It seems like a no win! I originally landed on your site for an article about anxiety, this causes me the greatest anxiety almost on a daily basis. It’s a walking on eggshells sort of life when you’re constantly worried about ‘what gets back to dad’. I will be doing more reading on your site, these articles are wonderful, thank you!

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Karen - Hey Sigmund

Julie I’m so pleased these articles are helpful for you. As a stepmother myself, I can so relate to what you are describing. There are so many dynamics at play. It’s very normal for children to push against a step-parent in this way. It’s a way for them to show their love and loyalty to their biological parent. They’re not trying to be ‘naughty’, or to cause trouble – it’s just a way they can work through some of the confusing issues that come up with stepfamilies, not the least of which is making sure the other biological parent (in your case their father) knows that they still love him. For your ex, it’s an opportunity for him to show the children that he is still there for them 100%. All he has to go by is what the children say. For you, it can be so confusing and painful – I completely understand! Try not to take it personally, although I know that’s easier said than done.

Even in families where the biological parents are still together, it’s not unusual for children to play them off against each other sometimes – not deliberately, but when they feel misunderstood or poorly treat by one parent. It’s harder in stepfamilies because there is often a feeling that you need to explain yourself, or as though you’re doing the wrong thing when you keep a united front with your partner, (their stepfather). If you were biological parents, nobody would think twice about you defending him. In fact, it would be expected. In a stepfamily though, it’s not that easy. Stand with what you believe. As with a family where the biological parents are together, there will be decisions that the children that the children are unhappy with, and which require you to keep a united front with your partner.

It can sometimes be helpful to acknowledge the children’s concerns ‘I can see that you are angry about this. I understand that.’ This can help them to feel heard, even if you don’t agree.

Stay strong and know that as they get older, it will get easier. The bumps are normal, and it sounds as though with you, your boys are in loving and wonderful hands.

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Julie

Thanks Karen, it’s clear you completely understand! On Thursday evening something happened that upset my youngest. The ENTIRE day Friday I stressed about it wondering how it was being spun to ‘dad’. When it happened, I asked my partner to go talk to my son, perhaps to apologize for what had happened even though it wasn’t totally intentional. He went in and spoke with my son, explained that he didn’t mean to scare him and that he was sorry. After stressing about it on Friday, I went to pick up the boys and had my rebuttals all ready. Nothing was mentioned! Which proves the point that because we spoke to my son, understood he was upset and my partner apologized, it carried less stress and helped mend whatever may have been strained. Now if I could only learn my own lesson about ruminating! Thanks again Karen!

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Louise

Hello,
I loved reading your article.

I am 1 and a 1/2 years into a relationship with my partner who has a 2 year old son. I am 23 years old and have found adjusting to the expectations and reality of the relationships very difficult. I didn’t expect to be a ‘step mam’ and I am struggling a lot with stress and self worth (due to work and finances). I find myself struggling to be patient, with my step-son, partner and his ex. This may be partly due to him now staying with us 50% of the time. We are struggling to set boundaries and rules in our house as his mother is very lenient, ‘its easier to give him chocolate if he isn’t eating his tea, as it means he’s at least eating something’. Its very difficult trying to find my place and where I fit in to all this.

BUT I would not change any of it, I love my partner and we regularly talk about our future (marriage/ children), I also care very much about my step-son, I care for him as much as I am able to. I just feel like I am struggling too much with my own mind at the moment to be able to be a strong figure in the relationship.

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Madyson

I like this article a lot, but my situation is definitely different. When my husband and I got together, my stepson was all but abandoned by his mother and she was pregnant with their second child (they were never married and broke up a week before she found out she was expecting) after my step daughter was born she still had nothing to do with my stepson, so I was pretty much the only mother he had. Well after a few bumps in the road and a year long break to figure some things out we all the sudden got served with papers and she waltzed into my stepsons life. The good thing was we finally got visitation with our daughter and she didn’t get full custody of our son, but ever since the whole dynamic of our family has slowly changed. I went from being the only mom to the step-mom, and even though because I’m a teacher I am the one spending most of my time with him, there is now no respect for me from my husband or my stepson. My stepson and I fight constantly and if I don’t give him exactly what he wants he will do everything in his power to start a fight with my husband and I. Like telling my husband I pushed him while I was in a different room. We used to have this wonderful relationship and while I have never said anything negative about his mother (I even made the rule that he can’t call me mom if he doesn’t call her mom when he was three, because he called her by her first name) he treats me completely different and it only gets worse with time. I’m at a loss of what to do, I’ve assured him since I came into his life at 3 that I would never try to take his moms place and everything.

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Karen - Hey Sigmund

It’s difficult to say what might be going on for your son, but there could be a few different things. I imagine it’s so confusing for him having his mum come into his life now. He may be in a loyalty bind. This is really common in blended families and it’s where the child feels the need to push against the step-parent to prove love and loyalty to the biological parent. If he is approaching adolescence, it may also be that this is a normal part of his development. One of the most important goals of adolescence is to establish independence from parents. For parents, this can feel like a massive push away from the kids, and sometimes the closer the relationship, the bigger the push. It may also be that your son is confused about where he stands and how secure he is. He may also be starting to think about his relationship with his mother and having feelings bubble to the surface about being abandoned by her. If this is the case, he may be acting out those feelings towards you, particularly if it’s difficult for him to do this with his mother. If you are worried, it might be worth speaking with a therapist or counsellor to see if you can get more clarity about what is happening for your son, and whether it is just a normal part of his development as a teen, or whether there is something more going on for him that he needs support to deal with.

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Gypsy

Great article. I never post comments but am internally prompted to ask your opinion on what is acceptable teenage behavior.

My daughter’s father is about to marry and his fiance feels that my 14 yr old daughter (The Teen) is disrespectful and creates too much tension in the home so the fiance is suggesting that The Teen no longer be allowed in the father’s and soon to be her home until The Teen’s behavior improves.

Per the father speaking on behalf of himself and the fiance states that The Teens:

• IS NOT sassy or short with the fiance
• DOES NOT yell or say bad things
• IS NOT mean to the fiance
• DOES answers questions when asked
• Does what the fiance asks
• DOES NOT speak poorly about the fiance

The reasons for the suggest removal from home and explanation of the disrespect and causes for tension are:

• The Teen doesn’t always say hello or good-bye to the fiance
• The Teen doesn’t speak to the fiance unless prompted and prefers not to speak to her
• The Teen sometimes rolls her eyes
• The teen prefers to sit on the couch in the same room or her room and read than participate in the finace and father’s activities.

It would be great to hear an opinion on this. Is The teen’s behavior cause for removal from the home? Is she truly being disrespectful (to the point of removal) or just a normal teen.

I have spoken with the teen about improving the hellos/goodbyes and thank yous. But to me, her preference to not speak or interact should be respected. And I feel that if she chooses to read a book in the same room as them then in her own way she is interacting. Am I right in this?

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Karen - Hey Sigmund

What you have described sounds like very normal teen behaviour to me. One of the important developmental goals of adolescence is for the teen to start separating from the family and establishing their own independence. It’s normal, healthy behaviour. Her father’s fiance also needs to recognise that she is the outsider who has come into the teen’s family, and it will take time for the family to adjust to this. The teen is entitled to have a relationship with her father independently of her father’s fiance, provided of course she is being respectful to the fiance, which is sounds as though she is. She is also entitled to do her own thing, even if she is in the same room as them. That separation between parent and child is all an important part of adolescence. Here are a couple of articles that can help to put her very normal behaviour in context.

>> They’ll do What? The What and the Why of the Changes that Come With Adolescence: http://www.heysigmund.com/what-you-need-to-know-about-the-adolescent-brai/
>> What Your Teens Need You to Know: http://www.heysigmund.com/what-your-teens-need-you-to-know/
>> The Adolescent Brain – What All Teens Need to Know http://www.heysigmund.com/the-adolescent-brain-what-they-need-to-know/

Hope this helps.

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Xavier

Great Article. Was of immense help to me. I am in my second marriage. I remarried after many years of being a divorcee. In my second marraige I inherited an adult step-daughter. For many years she lived with her relatives and my wife and I lived overseas. Only a year ago, she moved in with us and I suddenly discovered that I enjoy being a father. But I’m not sure whether she was ready for me to play this role. I have never wanted to take the place of her biological father, who by the way has little or no contact with her. Her bond is with her maternal relatives with whom she stayed for over 20 years. She has a strong bond with them and they could be considered her biological family.

I was feeling very confused as to what my role should be in my step-daughter’s life. At times I may have gone too far in showing care and affection. I feel a strong bond with her even though I have known her for a short time. We seem to get along very well, but I have to be measured in the way I connect with her because of her age. I am a very emotional person. I also like to show affection through touch and hugs. How to do this while respecting boundaries and not making her feel uncomfortable. Slowly, some feelings of jealousy towards her existing relationships. I felt very bad about myself. How could I even think I could compete within a short time with 20 year relationships she has developed.

You article has been a godsend. It corrects me but also gives me hope that I can develop something brand new and unique with my step-daughter over time. I should not hold back on my affection and caring, but not have the expectation that I will get something in return in the form of loyalty or respect. I particularly appreciated your advice on enjoying the small things. Those special moments and memories we are making together.

I lost custody of my sons from my first marriage when they were 5 and 7. I never got to be a father (all my fault). Now that I have a second chance, I don’t want to blow it. There is a lot of pent up paternal love inside of me wanting to come out, but I want it to be released slowly, in the right proportions and in a healthy, wholesome way that respects boundaries.

Many of things you have written, fortunately I am already doing. That tells me I have good instincts, but some areas I really needed the correction which I plan to apply.

Thank you so much for the article.

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Karen - Hey Sigmund

You’re so welcome. I’m pleased the article was helpful. It sounds as though you are a solid and loving presence in your stepdaughter’s life. Let her take the lead, and know that it’s completely normal and okay if the connection takes time. It will be worth the wait.

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Tiffany

Hi my name is Tiffany, my husband and I have been married for almost 7 months after being together for almost 2 years. I came into the picture when my stepson was 2 years old, a little before his 3rd birthday. I am very fortunate to have been able to start off being a part of his life at such a young age. Unfortunately I feel that his mother has been making a negative impact on his life. Before we got married he seamed so excited. He was telling just about everyone we knew that soon I will be his mom after me and daddy get married. We have 50/50 custody (week on, week off). The fist week wet got him back after our wedding something seemed off to me. As the weeks went on he began to get worse and worse. As my own opinion I do feel that his birth mom is jealous of my husband and I. She too is in a relationship, but we seem happier and have already gotten engaged and married while they are still only boyfriend and girlfriend when they have been together longer than us. Personally we decided to get married because not only do we love each other but we have grown such a bond and trust that words can not describe. I feel it could be a jealousy thing of her not waning another woman/mother figure in his life but also her not liking that her ex (my husband) is happy and has moved on with his life. Or maybe after reading this article and some of what people think and are going through maybe it’s just my stepson with the whole not wanting to disappoint his birth mother by showing a living effect for me. It just hurts because I don’t have any of my ow kids yet and everyone who knows me knows how much I want to be a mom. Weather it be good or bad to some people, going through the 9 months of bonding that only you and your baby can have with no one ever being able to take that away from you. I love my stepson with all my heart and I wish nothing but to love him as much as I will any of our future kid(s). When I introduce him to people I don’t say “stepson” I say my son! I just wish there was a way for he and I to go back to the way things use to be when I would not only give him my love but i would feel his love, because lately all I feel is his love for his birth mother when all he ever says he does when he’s with her and her boyfriend is watch tv and play video games. With his dad and I we do art projects, we go to the park, have play dates, he and I even have a lunch date while daddy is at work. I just don’t know what more I can do to get my sweet loving little boy back that I fist met and have always loved, lately he masked me cry more then smile and when I cry I have to go and hide because I don’t want him to see me be weak….

Please can someone help me ???

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jules

Great article. I find myself unable to implement some of these things (particularly ‘letting go’), even after 14 years of marriage. My stepson was turning 2 when I got together with my husband. His ex was violent (to my husband, not their son), smashed windows, harassed him and made life miserable every day as he struggled to see his son. My husband and I ended up moving to a different country, which caused him a great deal of guilt and depression, but he overcame that and we’ve built a wonderful life. For the first few years his ex made it very difficult (sometimes impossible) to arrange visits. I found myself becoming more anxious and depressed every year, with months of build-up to summer holidays. Over time my anxiety has become worse to the point I can’t stand the thought of seeing my stepson. He’s loving towards me, and I’m loving towards him, but in truth it’s an act because although I wish him every happiness in life, I hate my life when he’s around; particularly watching my husband and him together. The visits have been too infrequent for me to build a relationship, so it is all downside. To top it off, I’m infertile so have been desperate to have my own children for 5 years, doing IVF without success so far for 1 year. Perhaps this is at the root of the resentment, but it started long before. The last thing I want is to make it difficult for my husband, but it’s very difficult to hide my feelings and upset whenever his son is mentioned. I’m aware of how awful that is so I try desperately to overcome my dread of every interact, but so many years of hell with his ex – plus the fact his son is being raised with completely different values – makes it very difficult to be positive. Maybe it will get better when we have our own child, as the pain of knowing such an abusive woman had a child with my husband and I haven’t, will ease. I fear that if we don’t have a child, I won’t be able to cope with visits at all and will have to leave. I love my husband dearly and would do anything to overcome these negative feelings and anxiety every time his son crops up. I feel incredibly guilty, but if I could control the feeling I would – it’s a physical reaction, like a phobia; and I panic at the thought of my stepson’s birthday coming up, Christmas, summer holidays etc. I pay towards child support and do what I can for my husband, but I can’t do the one thing he needs: be okay with him having this child. Is there any hope?

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Ted

This is the best article so far I’ve read about step parenting. I’m from a different cultural background married to a woman from a different cultural background with 3 daughters who all have 3 different fathers.. I just can’t describe how I feel with how things goes on in my household. I’m broken down psychologically.. this is the hardest experience in my life and I never anticipated this . But I will try my possible best to implement what I’ve learned here even though it’s not that easy and see how it works..

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Kelly

My daughter and partner have always had a great bond…but all of a sudden my daughter is rather challenging towards her..(we’ve been together 3 yrs..we met when my daughter was 5) my partner just can’t seem to do anything right at the minute and is being answered back and disrespected…and we don’t know why as they’ve always been close till now? Any advice would be appreciated

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Emma

Firstly, thank you for writing this article as it has some key points that have been a bit of a light bulb moment for me. As I write this today, I have had a very difficult morning and have some challenging thoughts surrounding being a step parent (or blended family as I like to think of it!). I am in a same sex relationship with no children of my own. My partner is Mum of a 6 year old girl. We all live together half of the time and half of the time her daughter lives with her Dad. In my situation I am not emulating being a ‘Step Mum’ as there is already a Mum and Dad in the equation. I like to think that I don’t ‘parent’ as such, but I am a responsible adult who can sometimes lay down house boundaries but not really anything else. I find it so hard. I am not naturally authoritarian and I struggle with how my partner parents her daughter, as we have different views sometimes. However, we talk regularly and come up with ways to help each other which is so important. It certainly is a learning curve that I expect will be there forever! Today I feel downbeat and flattened by the challenges, but I know tomorrow I will feel differently. Thanks for your article!x

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Karen Young

You’re very welcome Emma. I hear you. Step-parenting can be difficult for the even most loving, open hearted people. It sounds as though you and your partner are working through the challenges of stepparenting well. Know that it will get better. It might take a while, but the challenges won’t always be so tough. Hang in there and keep doing what you’re doing x

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Charlie

I can relate to a lot of what you wrote here. I’m looking for other LGBTQ step parents to form a sort of online support group. Any interest?

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Alice

Thank you for your article, it’s a refreshing read and takes the pressure off a little.

I think I’ve clung on to a fantasy for long enough, my husband has a 7yr old son a although he was 3 when we first got together and I met him when he was 4. Trouble is he lives about 3hrs away so whilst my husband sees him every other weekend due to financial reasons I don’t see him as often only when he comes to stay a couple of weeks a year or we have him for the weekend. I think because of the infrequency of spending time with him there’s now friction when we do see each other. He understandably just wants to see his dad and I think sees me as getting in the way of that. So there have been times where he’s told me I don’t need to be there on days out etc.
I’ve become very much an outsider for which I blame myself for not making a more active role for myself. In addition to this I feel like a nag because my husband’s parenting is very much live and let live whereas I’m a bit stricter. I think it’s a sense that he obviously loves him regardless and so doesn’t mind if he wrecks the house whereas I’m learning to love him and so do care if he wrecks it because the knock on effect is me liking him less. I have tried to set boundaries but I think there’s a case of I’m not a parent so he won’t listen to me.

Now I’m pregnant (40weeks today as I write this) and I worry that this is going to drive a further wedge between us. Plus he gets away with alot more than I expected to let our new addition to.

Just feeling very lost and confused. It really is one of the hardest things I’ve done.

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Doreen

I find it difficult that my husband (who has custody) thinks that he is the only one that can ask anything of his child, or provide guidance. Does this now teach him that he only has to be told by his father? Doesn’t that then lead to the slippery slope of not having to listen to anyone but his farther?

Some days are better than others and at times I want to throw my hands in the air and just accept that this is the way it’s going to be so I’m turn don’t ask me to be responsible. Then I remember that this is my home and I am an adult and I make rules that guide the betterment of all of us.

That said I just want to wish all the step moms a happy Mother’s Day.

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Lori

Love the points brought up in this article, so here’s a scenario, married for #3, my son is from #1, he was primarily raised by me and my 2nd spouse, who met him at 4yo and we were married 10 years. We fought a lot about parenting, I always felt bullied so I would undermine her quite a bit and call the Mom card frequently. Now in marriage 3, my son was 14 at its inception, he is almost 17, my wife and I had twins, she wants to have a say or decision with items such as his car privileges as well as household chores, I don’t mind the weight in on house stuff, but things like taking the car to a sleepover just isn’t something I feel she need to “help” me decide on…? She feels disconnected, I feel loss of control and my son is indifferent and wants nothing to do with ANOTEHR stepparent.. HELP!!!

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A

Wow. That was a real eye opener for me. My husband and I married and he had a three-year-old stepdaughter. I raised her until she was 18. We have done many many things to help her throughout the years. With no show of gratitude or even a thank you. She was not raised to be like this. It is just who she is as an adult, and I’ve always had the expectation that we could possibly have a relationship because we have a grandchild. But I believe that we are just too different. Our values and beliefs system are so very different that even though I love her I don’t necessarily like her. I’ve actually always thought that we were so very different people. Just reading it in print from someone else’s opinion has given me a sense of relief that it is OK. Thank you for your article it actually gave me some hope. I think my expectations were too high from the beginning, and I didn’t stop to consider how she might’ve felt and listening to what her biological mom was telling her throughout the years. So sad. But I think I can move on and have a different type a relationship with her and my grandchild.

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Laura

I can relate to what you’re saying although I’m only a part time stepmother as my stepdaughter doesn’t actually live with us. She’s only 10 but has been in my life 5 years and I have always tried to build a sort of motherly relationship with her but her lack of gratitude and selfish attitude in general upsets me. I have had to step back and detach myself from the maternal position I felt I was in to avoid upsetting myself in future. It’s very difficult being a stepmother and would advise anyone looking to enter a relationship with someone who has a child to think long and hard as I’m only 5 years in and struggling!

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Dana

I have recently fallen completely in love with a guy who has a 3 year old son from his previous relationship. He and the mother also share custody, we only have him every other weekend and two days during the week. At first I guess I had that fantasy expectations as well, but it gets harder at times. Currently this is still new to me regarding what my position and authority is towards the little boy, causing some hick ups. But, I agree with just facing the reality and taking it as it comes. I love his dad above all the hard times. And as soon as he is old enough, he will have to accept that I am a part of their lives, whilst I will give him all the love and attention that is needed.

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Richard

Great article. Im a stepdad of an 18 yr. We are having a graduation party for him soon. I married his mom when he was 4. And after 14 yrs i still feel uncomfortable being at a gathering with the biological father. I hate the fact that im going to take pictures with him and even worse i have to take pics of him and my wife. I know im being petty but i cant help my feelings. I do recognize that my struggle with low self esteem are at play here. The biological parent and i have always gotten along, and ive stayed in the background and never interfered. The problem is me and i wish i were different.

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Karen Young

Richard everything you are describing makes so much sense and is completely understandable! It is NOT petty – not at all! It sounds as though you and the biological parent have done a great job of making things work as best as they can, and that you have put the needs of your stepson above your own. This isn’t easy, which is why step-parenting can be such a tough gig. Be kind to yourself and give yourself permission to feel a bit ‘off’ about it all. There is absolutely nothing wrong with wishing it could be different. It doesn’t make you any less of a husband, co-parent or step-parent. It makes you wonderfully, imperfectly, human.

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James

My wife to be and I have been together three years. I have two children that she is the stepmother to. She does great with one and a strong bond is there. However, my younger son and her do not get along. To the point I fear for our family lasting. They resent each other. She isn’t responding to any of the reading I’ve done about this and has given up. I just want a happy family, but I fear of being forced to make a choice between the woman I love and my son. And it will always be my son.

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Kathy B.

Hi! I’ve known my stepdaughter since she was 8 and she is now 23. We are much alike and have gotten along pretty well. Her teenage years were especially tough since she lived with us every other week and her mom and dad do and did not get along at all. My husband and I have been married for 11 years now and due to issues with his divorce and extreme animosity between him and his ex, we lost our house for financial reasons, my husband declared bankruptcy, and he was involved in divorce proceeding for almost 10 years during our marriage. I always struggled with feeling like my husband’s past made it difficult for us to focus on us. The final straw happened when his difficult ex dropped a cat she didn’t want anymore at our house when we were not at home. She thought it was time for my husband to deal with it! I was flabbergasted that this occurred, but my husband and his two kids 2 older sons and his daughter) acted like it was just something that their mom would do. I felt like I was in the twilight zone and felt like st this point I distanced myself from my husband and his kids and some of the craziness. This past year, we were finally were able to move and buy a new house after many years of struggle. I thought we were finally getting a fresh start and was looking forward to our own place full of peace, joy and fun! After a month, my stepdaughter mentioned she needed a place to live. We worked to remodel a room for her. Then she informed us that she had signed a lengthier lease with her mom’s help and didn’t need to move in with us after all. I was very hurt. I was also mad that we had spent so much effort on her room when she knew she really didn’t need one yet. We told her that if she needed a place to live in the future, we needed to talk with her before moving in with us. One weekend in May, we came home from a trip and all her belongings were dumped in our basement. She did not leave a note or text or call to let us know what she was doing. She told us she didn’t know what else to do. I was angry and felt taken advantage of. She had now been living with us for three months. She runs with friends and works almost all the time. She is never at home and there are days go by and we don’t see her. Her room is a mess, laundry is never done, etc. etc. I am having a really hard time with this situation. I feel like my house is not the way I want it to be and because we never know when she is coming or going, my life feels unsettled and as though we are a storage facility. This is creating stress between my husband and me. He thinks I am too hard on my stepdaughter. I don’t know what to do. If I try to communicate how I feel to her, she gets very defensive or my husband asks what I’m writing. I feel stifled. Any ideas of how I can handle this all better? I sure would applreciate it! I love my stepdaughter, but have distanced myself from her because I don’t feel close to her or like we are really part of her life at all. Thank you!!!

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Karen Young

I completely understand why you’re so frustrated with this situation. One of the biggest difficulties with stepfamilies is the conflict between the different needs of the adults in the family. The way to deal with this is the same way in any family. Decide what is important to you, listen to what’s important to everyone else and work together to come up with something that everyone can live with. I wish there was an easier, more definite way to deal with this. When you have the conversation, begin by letting everyone know that you are interested in working out a way for everyone to walk away happier. Ask what they need from you, or from the family, and focus on the specific behaviours you would like to see changed. I wish you all the best and hope you are able to find a compromise that works for you.

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Maria

Wow! Your story is just amazing and unbelievable. That’s a partner in life for good and bad. I know guys have a different view of the whole picture in general and as a wife I can tell that seeing how they stay passive it brings a lot of stress. I think they should keep an eye on “our feelings” as our partner. I mean nothing happens if your stepdaugther goes in and out, no laundry, no communication…but would it be the same if you start going out, meeting your friends without much notice?? I don’t think so. The floors would’ve shaked if it were us. So many times I find myself creating my own speech to be heard and be seen! We got married accepting our husbands and their kids but they also hace to understand that we are there and we run the house too. You are an example of a great wife and after all the struggles I think he should see his wife and check on you. He is very lucky and you deserve the life you’ve been waiting for so long. All the best

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Stephanie

Karen, the advice you have provided is fabulous, so I am hoping you can assist me. I am in a new relationship with a man whose children are quite young – 6 and 8, compared to mine who are all young adults. We have decided that it is time for me to meet the kids. Having step-parents myself I VERY much want to ensure this is done in a way that is best for the children. We have already discussed making sure we meet in neutral territory and taking it slow (the majority of time I spend with their father will be when the children are at their mum’s)…I would really appreciate any additional advice you can provide. Cheers, Stephanie

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Karen Young

It sounds as though you are on the right track to be a wonderful presence in their lives. The main thing to remember is to take it slow, and that this will be an adjustment for them. Go gently and let them take the lead when you can. Make sure they still have the opportunity to have special time with their father, and to let them know this isn’t about choosing between you and their mum. If it takes a little while to adjust, or if there are bumps along the way, don’t take it personally. There are a lot of feelings they will be sorting through. It sounds as though you have a great plan in place, and are beautifully sensitive to what they need.

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Lindsay

Hi there, thank you very much for this article. It has really helped me feel less like a crazy person and more hopeful that there may be a light at the end of the tunnel after all. There is my situation..

I am 34 years old and in a same sex relationship. my fiancé is 17 years my senior with an ex wife of 10 years (18 years together) and two boys, who just turned 8 and 11. I have been with my partner since they were 4 and 7 and it has been wonderful, adventurous, incredibly rewarding at times and lately extremely stressful.

When we first got together the kids and I bonded beautifully…I was respectful of their one on one “mom time” and extremely patient, as I too am from a divorced family and LOVE my step father. Once I moved in I made sure to hang pictures of the ex all over their rooms and we always spoke amicably at games in front of the boys, even when times were rough…My partner and I often discussed marriage and babies of our own and she seemed incredibly happy, appreciative and exited for our future. I waited,…and waited….

We got together before they were officially divorced and I essentially was in the middle of a very nasty financial battle. And while they fought, I did bath time, story time, threw the ball,..made their bedrooms comfy. And none of this seems to matter. Of course Im biased, but the ex wanted everything and pretty much got it. Now she doesn’t work, and we have the kids half the time and my ex is resentful, angry and exhausted due to the absurd child support payment…

Now I am 35 and we’ve had some serious blow outs over the ex calling every day, multiple times a day, all hours of the night over a pencil at times and there are NO boundaries between them. I am trying to get pregnant now with seemingly very little enthusiasm from my partner and I feel helpless, resentful, angry and alone. My partner pretends to be excited but deep down I think she is terrified and tired.

The biggest issue Im having is that my resentfulness has now affected my relationship with my step sons, whom I truly love. Every month that Im not pregnant and my partner seems indifferent I find myself less excited when we pick up HER kids. When she discusses when they were small and the way she and her ex did this or that with them I find myself wanting to break glass. (I dont do this, of course, but excuse myself and cry in private.)

I dont want to be jealous of her boys…they are innocent. But we are living in her house she shared with her ex and she made it clear we are in no financial position to move (which we are) and Im so angry at everyone including myself. I feel I have nothing of my own.

The reality is, we are in counseling and my partner has apologized for everything and promises to be more supportive of our family but I can’t seem to forgive her or embrace the kids like I used to. How do I let my resentment go and move forward? I don’t want to lose them….

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Karen Young

Linsay what you are feeling is completely understandable! Resentment often comes from fear or an important need that is going unmet. The problem with resentment is that even if it is very valid, it tends to a wasted, painful emotion that makes it more difficult to do what you need to do to get your need met, or to find calm. What is it that you need or what that you aren’t getting? What’s getting in the way? When you get a greater sense of this, it will hopefully be easier to move forward. It sounds as though you have a loving husband and wonderful boys. Your role in the lives of the boys is such an important one. It sounds as though you are a great source of love, support and stability for them. Don’t understimate how powerful this is.

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Anonmumofthree

Hi there, thank you so much for this very helpful and insightful article. I’m hoping you can advise on my situation please. I have a SS who is 3 and I have been with his father since he was nearly 2. I have a 3 yo daughter who my partner has adopted (not legally) as his own since she has no contact with her bio father. My SS lives almost 100 miles away and we see him every week. Shortly after I met my SS I fell pregnant, and during these 9 months as my partner worked so many hours I offered to pick up my SS each week whilst my partner worked in order to see my partner more outside of work and so that he was not driving after a 10 hr shift. The problem was I suffered a lot more with my second pregnancy and found the driving very stressful and tiring…I didn’t want to tell my partner as I knew how much seeing him so often meant to him. He was always grateful. His ex on the other hand helped in no way at all, no driving. Would ask my to pick him up at certain times to suit, and ask us to have him longer than agreed some weeks meaning I had him whilst my partner worked. I also because I am self enployed was expected to move my jobs to suit my partner and his ex. Anyway to cut a long story short, I struggled with all of the driving and SS behaviour became very challenging to say the least. I wasn’t physically able to pick him off the floor of every supermarket when he refused to get up, nor put his very easy velcro shoes on so heavily pregnant. It was clear at the point he had had very little discipline up to yet, from either bio parent. This was affecting how my daughter behaved. The attention, good or bad was mainly on my SS. I felt bitter, I still do. We drive 10 hours a week, spend a lot of money (which of course is not SS fault at all nor should he feel that) yet he constantly refuses to do things asked of him, throws tantrums and gets angry. He can be spiteful and unkind to my daughter who generally waits all week to have his company. Don’t get me wrong, she has her moments too and I am firm with her but her reactions are not extreme like with my SS. I’ve parented her differently. I love him, and just want to have a loving bond towards him but everything he does at the moment seems to grate on me and make me not want him here. I never want to upset my partner as he’s taken my little girl on and now their bond is flourishing. I just wish mine and my SS’s could too. P.S. he is also upsetting my partner too with his lack of wanting to enjoy anything, lashing out and general disrespect but the love is obviously built in for them) Help : ( I feel like an awful human being.

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Karen Young

It sounds as though you are working so hard to be a wonderful presence in your stepson’s life. His behaviour doesn’t sound too unusual for a 3 year old. He’s at an age where he trying to experiment with his independence and this will mean tantrums and limit-testing. Add to this the big changes that your stepson has experienced in the last little while, and his behaviour becomes really understandable. Even if he adores you and your daughter, the changes to his family and his routine are massive. At such a young age, it might take a little while for him to make sense of this, and as frustrating and as difficult as this can be to deal with, it’s something that will take patience and time. Keep doing what you’re doing – it sounds as though you are a strong, steady presence in his life, which is exactly what he needs. Here is an article that might help in th meantime http://www.heysigmund.com/empathetic-listening/

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Alicia Loomis

Great article! I’m in a situation where I’ve been with my boyfriend for almost a year he has a 12 and 16 year both boys and I have a 5 and 6 year old both boys too. We were going to all live in together and a few months ago his boys were excited but last minute his 12 year old told his dad he wasn’t ready so we aren’t moving in but I feel that his dad should have talk with him more as now I feel we don’t do any activities together since the news about 3 weeks ago. I feel like my BF is pulling back because of his sons feelings. He’s been divorced from his mom for about 7 years I just don’t know what else I can do then be patient but I feel my BF is noting telling me all his son feels and may end our relationship because of his sons as he has pretty much sole custody so they are always with dad and busy with sports, ect.

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Ximena

I have been living with my boyfriend now for almost 10 months, we have “known” each other for 5 years because we used to be neighbors. He then bought a home in November of last year. He has 3 daughters (19, 16, 12) and I have a son (13). His oldest is in college now so she comes home during her school breaks. The other two go back and forth between our home and their moms. They share custody, so every other week they are here with us. My son is here with us full time. The oldest is respectful, and the youngest daughter and I get along great. My son gets along also with my boyfriend.

The major problem has been the 16 year old daughter., who’s very much like her father. She seems very defensive, and hasn’t let me in at all. I have tried to be pleasant, to be cordial, I have even taken her to swim practice, I buy food for her that she likes, I bought her a birthday card, etc. I have tried to start conversations but she puts up a wall of defense. She can be very rude at times, and at times she pretty much ignores me even when I say hi to her.

She was also very disrespectful to one of my cousins who stayed with us for a few days this summer.

Her father has talked to her but nothing seems to work.

She doesn’t have a great relationship with her biological mother. Her mom has never gone to any of her swim meets. So she’s extremely close to her father.

My boyfriend and I love each other and want to be together. We have already spoken about getting married. I recently met my boyfriend’s mom, who adores me and thinks I am the best thing that has happened to her son.

Please help! I don’t know what else to to…

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KayKay

Dear Karen,
I enjoyed your article very much. There are so many relevant points which provide excellent food for thought and wisdom to those who are faced with these difficult blended-family situations and challenges.
I met my husband 23 years ago. We were both business professionals which was key in creating our strong bond. He had two daughters, 11 and 9 years old. I really didn’t mind. I was young and naive, and early on, so willing, even excited and enthusiastic, about becoming a stepmother of such beautiful, clever girls. I wanted my two step-daughters to love me. However, throughout their adolescence and early adulthood, I realized that this was a total fantasy. They were mean. They were brats. Year after year, I was continually snubbed, ignored, and made to feel invisible, even subjected to ridicule and mocking. However, I never said a word to them or their Dad. I dutifully prepared meals, cleaned up messes, and made sure their basic needs were met. Their Dad, which I feel has been at the core of the problem all along, enabled them completely.
Over these many years, I have wasted so much time and energy fretting about my relationship with them. No matter what I did, they had a strange power over me which was mentally and physically debilitating. With a lot of personal work and self-searching, it has taken me over 20 years to make a physiological breakthrough.
Today, his daughters are all grown up, married and have children of their own. In total, we have 6 grandchildren. I send birthday cards to everyone and encourage Granddad to be part of their lives.
It is only recently that my step-daughters have lost their power over me. Part of it is my own aging and maturation. In addition, I have adopted a motto of being “KWAP”… i.e., “Kind, WArm and Polite.” Otherwise, nothing else is expected of me.
They are busy with their own lives and families now, so I play only a supportive role, frankly, which I should have realized from the start was my role all along.

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KayKay

Dear Karen,
I enjoyed your article very much. There are so many relevant points which provide excellent food for thought and wisdom to those who are faced with these difficult blended-family situations and challenges.
I met my husband 23 years ago. We were both business professionals which was key in creating our strong bond. He had two daughters, 11 and 9 years old. I really didn’t mind. I was young and naive, and early on, so willing, even excited and enthusiastic, about becoming a stepmother of such beautiful, clever girls. I wanted my two step-daughters to love me. However, throughout their adolescence and early adulthood, I realized that this was a total fantasy. They were mean. They were brats. Year after year, I was continually snubbed, ignored, and made to feel invisible, even subjected to ridicule and mocking. However, I never said a word to them or their Dad. I dutifully prepared meals, cleaned up messes, and made sure their basic needs were met. Their Dad, who I feel has been at the core of the problem all along, enabled them completely.
Over these many years, I have wasted so much time and energy fretting about my relationship with them. No matter what I did, they had a strange power over me which was mentally and physically debilitating. With a lot of personal work and self-searching, it has taken me over 20 years to make a breakthrough.
Today, his daughters are all grown up, married and have children of their own. In total, we have 6 grandchildren. I send birthday cards to everyone and encourage Granddad to be part of their lives.
It is only recently that my step-daughters have lost their power over me. Part of it is my own aging and maturation. In addition, I have adopted a motto of being “KWAP”… i.e., “Kind, WArm and Polite.” Otherwise, nothing else is expected of me.
They are busy with their own lives and families now, so I play only a supportive role, frankly, which I should have realized from the start was my role all along.

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Charlie

Thanks for this article. It’s always helpful to read of others’ experiences. I’m in a queer/LGBTQ relationship with my awesome partner and her two sons, who we have every other week. They are 15 and 13 and I’ve known them since they were 11 and 9. We all live together and actually all get along well. I’m not having the typical step parent issues, but I’m still not particularly enjoying my role as a parent. It is truly a thankless job, involves lots of conflict, rule-setting, rule-breaking, constantly having to negotiate and lay down consequences, then follow through with those. I just don’t feel like I get the inherent satisfaction that my partner does with the kids. It is so much work and I often just feel dread when they are about to come over. Ugh.

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Mary

This article is a good read. I’m a stepmom and have been in it 8 years. It has been so hard having a blended family. My stepdaughter barely talks to me and only wants to spend time with her dad. I have gone out of my way to take her to her sports, give money for clothes, her own room and help out whenever her dad needs me to. I even pick her up from school a lot as we have shared custody. However her mother calls multiple times a day and if SD does not answer she gets angry and starts screaming at her. We could be having dinner, at a movie, at the opera, it doesn’t matter. If she does not answer her moms multiple calls she will be grounded, lose her phone and have to deal with her psycho mom at home. Her mom even calls SD and if weather is snowing or anything tells her it is not safe to be out and that I need to take her home. That is why I think that we have not bonded very well. Her mom obviously does not want us to. Not to mention she barely hugs me, kind of a half shoulder hug and will sit in complete silence. I try to talk to her and she gives me one word answers. I feel uncomfortable in my home. I know why she acts this way as she feels that she is betraying her mom and wants her parents to get back together. I just wish she could be happy, so that our family could be happy.

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jody

I am a stepmother of two.when I met my husband we were together for a year was not married after are first year together he was frightin for his two kids 11 and 7 their mother had died of cancer and wanted her mother to have them we went through a hard year I did working trying to get two rooms ready for kids I have one daught and three grandkids and trying to keep him cam we fright for a year he got is kids we won the cause and a year after that we got married I was with my husband four years befour we got married the kids came and lived with use and did really good but it was everyone else bring up the mother that died all the time my husband said to me the kids have took to you so good they would tell me good night every night tell me they love me.they went to the other family on every other weekend and the grand ma would take them to see their moms grave I did not think it was a good I’d ale but who was I to have any say so when I would do things around housee is son would always say my mommy used to to do that they are really good kids but kids will be kids but my husband wants to teach them his way and me two stay out of it it is hard because somethings you do is right and something you should not do and say I no they miss their mom and they are the ones that are doing with out her and living with their dad when they were used to living with her we have been through a lot and now living apart it is hard cause I got used to living with them and we did have a bound

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Stepfathernownewfather

This article is interesting to me. I have been with my partner for 2 1/2 years. She had two boys from her previous marriage. I have a great relationship with both boys who are now 10 and 5 years old. The father was and continues to be trouble though. My partner went through non molestation order and occupational orders granted by the court because he was abusive mentally, physically and sexually to her. Now we are at the fdr hearing in the divorce. I have been involved as a friend at the beginning and now as her new partner and the boys step father.

We now have a child of our own. This has been great… the boys love him as does my partner and I. However the boys father is continually putting pressure on the boys and lies about me and my partner. It’s mental abuse as far as I’m concerned.

The eldest boy spoke to me two weeks ago about how angry and upset he is about his mum and dad breaking up. This is not the first time he talks to me a lot as I never say a bad word regarding his father. But it is not the same when they are with him and his family.

It’s putting so much pressure on us as a family. I’m financial and emotionally supporting everyone in this as he refuses to pay. He is in the marital home because my partner had to move because of his continuous abuse after the break up. I’m having to pay for solicitors and barristers when I have my own sons christening to pay for.

I don’t really now what I’m asking here but I’m looking for some advise because I feel my partner is constantly putting the two boys ahead of our boy. She is struggling I know. I don’t want to keep thinking “well if you are going to be like that, I’ll stop paying for everything and start putting my boy before yours” this I haven’t and dont want to do because it’s not their fault.

There is to much history to explain all on here, but please help?

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tabitha sampa

its a great article, my husband only listens to his daughter. I have done everything possible to show love for his daughter. i have been the one to buy food in the house at times pay for school fees books tried to show emotional support to the his daughter but my husband will still litsen to his daughter more. I have loved his daughter but she hates me to the point she says she is happy when am sick. my house is controlled by my daughter and i have no say

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Hannah

My partner and I have two children together. He has 2 children to another lady. About a year and a half ago we had his two children for Easter weekend. During that weekend their mother rung up and said can you keep them!
I was and still am a stay at home mum, my youngest is now 2 1/2 and eldest 5.
I have now been the main carer for my partners 2 older children for 1 1/2 years.
He leaves before they wake in morning and is home 30 mins to hour before he’s home from work.
I’m now finding it sooo depressing and hard looking after and having responsibility for his 2 kids.
I feel why am I looking after these kids when they are not even mine! Where’s their mother!!
It’s impacting on my 2 kids too, as I feel so stressed and annoyed.

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Outsider

Hello,
Thanks for the article. Any advice for me would be most welcome.
My wife and I got a house together just before we got married last year. (We’ve been together 3 years now). She has a 17 year old daughter who lives with us. My daughter is 15 and was supposed to carry on living with me half the week and the rest of the week with her mum (my ex). However, she has struggled with the change and does not come and stay with me any more. I’m heartbroken but my wife seems relieved.
On top of this, I am clearly an outsider now in my own home. My step daughter has my wife running around after her all of the time and will do nothing independently. She has no social life. She stands in between us and talks over me. She hugs her mum all of the time saying she loves her and even follows her to the toilet. My wife now refuses to show me any affection in front of her daughter because of the jealousy and I feel like I don’t exist and we do not have any time alone with each other. My step daughter and wife seem dependent on each other and really I just feel in the way. We had started going for a half an hour walk after work together so we at least had that time, but now my wife asks her daughter to come along, or my step daughter insists she does.

I have tried to raise these issues with my wife and explained how I felt and that I find it difficult that her daughter even follows us up to our bedroom and that we have no privacy. I said they had no personal boundaries and that I was struggling with this. She left me for the weekend with her daughter and said it’s me that has the problem and that there is no need for boundaries. As further punishment, they then had a weeks holiday together. Our marriage almost came to an abrupt end. All the while I’m hurting that I don’t see my own child and now get to do nothing with her or for her whilst watching my wife and step daughter behave like this. I love my wife dearly and she says she loves me, but I’m really despairing about the life I now have and don’t really know what to do next.

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Rachel

I have a unique situation. I have been seeing the same guy for about 2 years. We have kind of been off and on a bit because I had a little bit of an issue with commitment due to a horrible relationship/engagement years prior. I had finally worked through my issues with commitment and was ready to settle down with him when he told he that he had had sex with a friend and she had gotten pregnant. They do not want to be together but they are going to raise the baby. Here’s the kicker…it is twins. When he told me about the baby, originally I had accepted it and said I wanted to give it all a try as long as we kept communication open and everything. A few weeks later he found out that it was twins. Now, I am terrified for many different reasons and am unsure if I can handle it. We are not married or engaged, we had just started to get into a committed relationship and then we found this out. I had a discussion with him recently about being unsure about being ready for that big responsibility and he got angry with me. What do I do? or how should I handle this. I am in love with him, and I know if we commit to this, I will love the kids. I think starting from babies would make things easier? but who knows really. I need advice.

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