“I thought I would naturally love my stepchildren as my own but the feelings are not there,” my friend, stepmother of two said. “I tried to deny my feelings for a long time, but I’m finally accepting them for what they are.”
Denying our feelings puts off what should be faced. It’s okay if you don’t feel love toward your stepchildren all the time. You might develop more loving feelings as your relationship develops, but you might not.
If we’re really honest, we must admit that some stepchildren are easier to love than others. In her book, Stepmonster, Dr. Wednesday Martin paints a painful, but realistic, picture of how some stepchildren behave. “Our stepchildren do, in fact, frequently try to exclude us. They do things — consciously or unconsciously — that make us feel overlooked, left out, unappreciated. They send subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle signals that they wish we simply didn’t exist, that they’d like to erase us from the picture, or from the message on the answering machine.”
Dr. Martin goes on to tell a story “of a woman who was not invited to her stepdaughter’s wedding, after nearly two decades of marriage to the young woman’s father, ‘because it will be too difficult for Mom.’ Her husband told his daughter that they would attend together or not at all, but the stepmother never really recovered from her hurt and, not surprisingly, ceased making efforts with her stepdaughter for a long time.”
Hopefully, your stepchildren have not been that cruel to you. But, if you’ve been a stepparent long, I would guess you’ve been hurt more than once by your stepchild. That doesn’t make it okay to stoop to his/her level and react with similar behavior, but it is okay to acknowledge how those actions affect your feelings.
I learned early in our marriage that I would need God’s help to love my stepchildren unconditionally. It’s not easy and I don’t get it right all the time, but as I pray for God to soften my heart toward my stepchildren, I’m able to offer them my love and forgiveness. In our early years of marriage there were days I felt my stepchildren didn’t deserve another chance, but then I was reminded that I don’t deserve the love and grace God offers me either.
Feelings are not facts. They will change as your relationships develop. It’s okay to admit to feelings of hurt, anger, and disappointment in your stepparenting role. Just don’t get stuck there. Work through your feelings with a friend, a minister, or your spouse. Or seek professional counseling if you need help identifying your feelings and coping with them.
We can’t allow our feelings to control us. But we can seek to uncover their roots and deal with them appropriately.
What feelings are you burying, in hopes they will simply go away?
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Your blog really has been a sanity saver. I had wondered if I was cold-hearted when the 'feelings' didn't flow freely for my stepson. I treat him the same as our other children but have recently had to accept that I may never 'feel' the same even though we have a 'fairly' good relationship. His mother causes no end of grief and does a lot of subtle whispering in his ear, so he brings this back into the home after visitations. It is very difficult at times to not take the frustration toward her, on him. Your blog has helped see things from a mature perspective, of someone further down the road. Thank you.
Thank you for your comment. I understand your feelings and I know it's hard. When the other parent sabotages the stepparent's efforts and the relationship we're trying to build, it makes it so much harder. But we can't control that. We can only control our reaction to it.I don't know how old your stepson is but as he gets older, he will form his own opinion of you, regardless of what his mom has told him. You may never have the relationship you want but if you've done your part to love and care for him, you'll know you've done all you can. God bless you and your efforts.Gayla
Thanks for this post. As a future stepmom to my boyfriends 4 children ( I have one Teen DD of my own) I struggle with my relationship with his children regularly and it pains me to know that I may have reached the limits of what our future relationship will be. I do experience pain, anger and resentment and it affects how I am with them sometimes. It doesn’t help matters that their mom’s behaviour borders on parental alienation and that she coaches them from the sidelines on what to say and how to act. This makes me even more angry when a parent can’t step up and recognize these children have 2 parents. Sometimes just accepting how things are is the way to go for the time being.
It may seem that you have reached the limits of your future relationships with your stepchildren because of the influence of their mom. The other biological parent can have a huge affect on what kind of relationship a steparent has with his/her children. And there may be months or even years that the relationships stagnate without much growth. However, I would encourage you to never give up on a thriving relationship with them.
The rewards of stepparenting are sometimes seen at the end of the journey, when the stepchildren leave home or become young adults and are thinking on their own, instead of listening to their parents. If you are still a steady, loving stepparent, you will have a better opportunity of developing a healthy, thriving relationship. My stepdaughter was 10 years old when we married and our relationship during her adolescent years was strained much of the time — a great deal of it was caused by her mom’s influence, I believe. However, when she moved out from her Mom’s house and was allowed to develop her own relationship with me, she began talking to me more often and wanting me to be part of her life. She is now 27 years old and is driving 4 hours this week-end to spend Easter with us.
Don’t give up on your relationships. But you are wise to realize that you might have to lower your expectations for now. And encourage your husband to do his part in helping you develop stable relationships with his kids.
Thanks for your comment. There are some great resources out there for blended families. I highly recommend any of Ron Deal’s material if you’re looking for additional resources.