We all have them – maybe it’s your stepdaughter. Or your husband’s ex. Or perhaps it’s your mother-in-law. If you’re honest, there’s probably at least one person in your stepfamily who’s difficult to be around and creates tension when you’re together.
How do you cope with them? Here are a few tips:
1. Don’t give that person power over your emotions.
We don’t have to allow hurtful words to affect us. When someone says mean things to or about us we have a choice: will we let those words penetrate our heart or will we let them roll off, recognizing mean words often come from an unhealed hurt.
I recently learned of a physical altercation that happened between a biological mom and a new stepmom. During a weekend handoff, the bio mom lunged at the stepmom with an intention to harm. The stepmom had done nothing to bring about the response. Unfortunately, the bio mom has not accepted her husband’s remarriage and a new stepmom in her daughter’s life. If the stepmom recognizes where the hurtful words come from—an unhealed hurt—she can let the event roll off without giving the mom power over her emotions.
2) Seek out healthy people to hang with.
If we’re surrounded by healthy people, we are less likely to let an unreasonable person affect us. If our ego does get bruised from hurtful words, we can turn to others to help re-build our esteem instead of lashing back. It also helps to minimize the time we spend with negative people. If you have an unreasonable stepchild coming for the week, plan some time away with friends or your spouse to maintain a healthy image of yourself and your surroundings.
3) Accept the relationship in its current state.
If we spend our time trying to change another person or fretting over a tense relationship, we create frustration for ourselves. A peaceful heart comes when we accept a difficult relationship as it is and seek to do our part to improve it. Also, recognize that unreasonable people sometimes thrive on drama. I like to consider the words of the Serenity Prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
4) Be a positive role model
Commit to taking the high road as often as possible. Someone needs to be the mature person in an unreasonable person’s life – how about you? We can influence others through positive attitudes and behavior. If our ex-spouse learns we’re not going to fight back when he/she becomes unreasonable, the game ends. If our stepchild doesn’t get a rise from unreasonable behavior, it’s more likely to end. Positive attitudes and behavior with unreasonable people, however, take intentional effort. Are you up for it? Remember: “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” (Phil 4:19)
5) Maintain healthy boundaries.
Respect yourself enough to create boundaries that work for you. If you’ve had a difficult day and aren’t in a good place emotionally, don’t walk into a tense conversation with your stepchild over chores that didn’t get done. Ask your spouse to do it. If you know the unreasonable person in your stepfamily who chooses to pick battles with you is going to attend your stepson’s band concert, make sure you don’t sit by him/her. It’s not selfish to take care of yourself – no one else can do it for you. And you’ll maintain a healthier demeanor for whatever situation occurs when you know you have the right to maintain boundaries that work for you. Check out this post if you need help with boundaries.
Unreasonable people tend to show up more frequently in stepfamily relationships. Stepfamilies often have unhealed hurts that foster tense relationships. But we don’t have to get sucked into the dysfunction and allow others to have power over our emotions or influence our reactions. If we accept that some interactions will be difficult and some persons in our stepfamily will be unreasonable, we have a healthier attitude to cope with the behavior when it occurs. We will also appreciate the relationships with reasonable people in our lives even more!
Can you offer other tips for dealing with unreasonable people in your stepfamily?
Could you use some stepmom encouragement? Join us at our next stepmom retreat where you’ll find hope, healing, help, and camaraderie with other stepmoms! Details here: www.SisterhoodofStepmoms.com.