My daughter just returned from a cross country Spring Break trip with six other girls who go to college together. Toward the end of the week, the girls started having conflict and one girl began manipulating the others with rude comments to get her way. Unfortunately, the girls allowed her selfish behavior to dictate what they would do instead of confronting her.

As I talked with my daughter about confronting her friend, she said, “She’ll just get mad and won’t listen.” That may be true, but if a friendship can continue with this young lady, the other girls must express their feelings about her behavior and how her interaction is harming their relationships.

While reading an article at http://www.beingastepparent.co.uk/, I came across a statement I completely agree with. “Some family problems remain unsettled for years because no one speaks up, but by doing this, family members deny themselves the chance to develop and maintain close, loving bonds with those nearest to them.”

In other words, if we don’t address the problems we’re having with other members of our stepfamily, we will never be able to develop a loving relationship with them. Anger, bitterness, and resentment are the result of pushing our feelings under the carpet or using the silent treatment toward others, instead of addressing those who’ve hurt us.

The longer we wait to resolve the conflict, the harder it gets. But if we choose to lovingly approach the person with “I” statements of how the interaction made us feel (as opposed to “you” statements that singularly point the finger at the other person), we can begin to resolve the issue at hand. It’s not easy and it requires  concentrated effort toward healthy communication, but the end result allows the relationship to positively move ahead.

During my stepson’s adolescent years, he used aggressive anger toward me to control my parenting responses. Until I confronted his hurtful behavior (with my husband at my side), his angry speech manipulated my reactions as I cowered at his remarks.

When we began enforcing consequences for his angry outbursts and disrespect, he started changing his behavior toward me. It didn’t happen instantly and it required a great deal of prayer on my part to love him despite his anger toward me, but I knew that time and patience were on my side.

Ignoring conflict doesn’t make it go away. In the heat of the moment, it may be necessary to take a break from volatile emotions and come back later to address it. Or you might need to find your spouse for support if the conflict involves a stepchild. But don’t bury your head and hope the conflict will take care of itself, because it won’t.

Do you have unresolved conflict in your stepfamily that needs to be addressed?

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