Why Reality Triumphs in Your Stepfamily

My son has strep throat. As he whined about his symptoms while picking at his breakfast yesterday, I didn’t want to believe him. My to-do list for the day didn’t include a trip to the doctor, a two-hour wait with screaming children sliming their germs beside me, another trip to the pharmacist, and a sick child at home for two days.

But it didn’t matter what I was imagining in my head. My son was sick. If I had sent him to school, the virus lingering in his body would have continued to attack his healthy cells, creating more and more symptoms of illness. Eventually, I would have heard from him and the trip to the doctor would have been later in the day, which would have included even more time in the waiting room with too many germy, screaming kids to count!

It’s the same in our stepfamilies. Maybe your stepdaughter doesn’t want to acknowledge the marriage of her dad to you — her stepmom. Maybe she’s fantasizing that her parents will get back together. Maybe she’s believing the lies her mom is putting in her head about you. But the truth is… reality wins!

Eventually, your stepchild will accept the reality of your presence in their life. Even if the biological parent in the other home is bashing you on all fronts, reality will win. Eventually, your stepchild will recognize that you’re not going away and she needs to squelch her fantasies and begin to develop a relationship with you. At some point, your stepchildren develop a mind of their own, separate from the garbage the other biological parent is feeding them, and form their own opinion of you!

It’s not easy. There may be some squirming and squealing in the process. There might be one step forward and two steps backward. But from my own experience, I can assure you — even if it seems hopeless…it’s not!  Even if there’s a lot of conflict in your stepfamily right now, it eventually subsides. I promise. (If you don’t give up).

I love Dick Dunn’s words in his book, “New Faces in the Frame.” He says, “At first you may see little or no progress. Remember that as children mature, their capacity to understand matures also. True maturity is a life-long process. In time, fantasies give way to reality, and children move on with their lives. Fantasies attach us to the past–letting go frees us for the future.”

Be gentle with your stepchildren as they learn to put aside their fantasies and live with reality. It’s not an easy process, but it will change your relationships over time. Reality triumphs every time.

Do you agree? Is your stepfamily living in reality or still struggling with fantasy?

Pic by Victor Habbick

Have you heard of our Stepmom Retreat? Come join us in April near St. Louis and find hope, camaraderie with other stepmoms, and fun! Details here: http://sisterhoodofstepmoms.com/



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11 replies
  1. Ailsa
    Ailsa says:

    Hi Gayla, I was wondering if you could give me some advice or point me in the right direction to it. Im meeting my bf kids for the first time in a few weeks, and I thought to bond with them we could go mothers day shopping together to get something for our moms. I wasn’t going to help the the kids to get emerging for their mum as she may not be to keen on that but just go along to support them. Have you got any advice on do and don’t for meeting your stepkids for the 1st time. My bf has a son-8 and a daughter-6.
    hope to hear from you soon.

    • Gayla Grace
      Gayla Grace says:

      Hi Ailsa, Thank you for your comment. I think that’s a good idea to go with the kids and help do some shopping. As you get to know them you can find out what their interests are and help know what would best to spend some time together. You can always take them to get ice cream or maybe go to a movie. Start with small amounts of time together until it feels more comfortable to be around them. Good luck! Keep me posted. Gayla

    • ailsa
      ailsa says:

      Dear Gayla,
      Im training to be a doctor and I also tutor kids in maths,English and science so when my bf became concerned that his kids could be doing better at school, I quickly created a study chart n found useful resources that he can follow them up with to do. Im more than happy to tutor them. But I would like the kids mum to get involved eventho she’s not too much into education etc. But i dont want to create the impression im taking over. My bf is the one ensuring the kids stick to the study plan and I just do the background work but their mum doesn’t want to be involved.Is there anything I can do to help her play a part?

      • Gayla Grace
        Gayla Grace says:

        Hello Ailsa, There isn’t anything you can do to change the mom’s behavior. It’s best to stay focused on what you and your bf can do to contribute to the kids’ lives. Gayla

  2. Losing Hope
    Losing Hope says:


    These few lines “Maybe your stepdaughter doesn’t want to acknowledge the marriage of her dad to you – her stepmom. Maybe she’s fantasizing that her parents will get back together. Maybe she’s believing the lies her mom is putting in her head about you. But the truth is… reality wins!” really hit home with me. I’ve been dealing with bashing from the other parent since before my husband and I got married and it’s only gotten worse as time has gone on. My husband asked me to stay silent and not respond to the bashing for his daughter’s sake so I have been quiet about it and have just hoped that my step daughter would eventually form her own opinion and that one day the bashing will stop.
    The bashing doesn’t just come from the unhappy ex, but from the kids as well who get their ears filled with lies. If I address their rudeness or disrespect with either child, I get called down by my husband – in front of them. I am very close to giving up right now. How do I cope with all of this without losing my temper or my mind?

    • Gayla Grace
      Gayla Grace says:

      Hello Amy,
      Thank you for your comment. I’m sorry to hear of the challenges with your stepkids. If there is disrespect going on toward you, it would be best if your husband would address it with the kids. Kids shouldn’t be allowed to be disrespectful or rude to adults, no matter who it is. Part of the success of a stepparent role lies in the biological parent supporting the stepparent. Without your husband doing that, it will be harder for you. There are some stepfamily resources on my website that address this further that would be helpful for you and your husband – The Smart Stepfamily book and also The Smart Stepmom. I would also love to see you come to our stepmom retreat. It would give you some tools, encouragement, and hope. http://sisterhoodofstepmoms.com/ God bless you. Gayla

      • Amy
        Amy says:

        Oh, I know my husband should be addressing the disrespect toward the kids and do does he. He just chooses to address it with me instead. He accuses me of “attacking” his kids; this happens any time I open my mouth to speak so I basically have to stay away from everyone to avoid any accusations or confrontations. I do everything alone. I can’t take either child with me somewhere because two weeks later I hear stories about things I supposedly said or did during the outing. I eat alone in my bedroom while my husband and the kids eat together. I watch TV alone in my bedroom. If I’m in the same room with them, he finds a way to yell at me for something. I’ve found the best thing to do is just separate myself from everyone. I’m interested in resources to help us work on things, but he is not. He claims he has absolutely no issues to work out. It’s all me. So, you see why I am to the point of giving up.

        • Gayla Grace
          Gayla Grace says:

          Amy, you’re in a tough spot in your stepfamily. I want to suggest some free resources on Laura Petherbridge’s (author of The Smart Stepmom) website. She has some interviews posted with some great information about the logistics of stepfamily life. It would be great if you and your husband could watch them together. That might help him better understand his position in the family. You can find it at http://www.laurapetherbridge.com. I’ll be praying for you and hope you can find some peace in your situation. Gayla

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