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Letters from Homes:
My Counselor Cut

Dear Stepcoach,

  I have been getting your online information for awhile and I really appreciate it!  I have been in a blended family for a few years new. I have a stepson who is the most difficult person in my life and is the major wedge in my marriage. 

My husband and I are in counseling. Up to this point, the counselor has been helpful and we are doing better. But last week when we went, the issue of love came up. Because I stated that I was not sure I could love my stepson, (I'm hoping for more of a respectful tolerance at this point), the counselor said I had no right to complain or vent frustrations about him or my situation anymore.

I know I chose to marry my husband and that my stepson was part of that package, but I am not sure I can love him as deeply as my husband expects. Was it right of the counselor to say this?  Do I really now have nowhere to turn to voice my frustrations?

WestCoast Confused

---------------

Dear Confused!

How little "they" understand the bind we stepparents are in! When I married Jo Donna, I loved her with all my heart. I would do anything for her, including live or die for her. But her daughter was another story.

At 14, this girl seemed to be her own worst enemy. When she should have been joyful and accepting to have a new home where she was wanted and loved, she was, instead resentful and rude. I had patience. I ignored barbs. I smiled when she snapped. And slowly, she wore my initial determination to love her down to a nub. And that wore on my relationship with her mother.

We survived and succeeded. But there were many hard feelings and many long nights when I just wanted to run away and give up. 

The very fact that you are still there is testimony to your love for your husband (and his son). A stepparent's love is not, nor can it be the same as a bio-parent's love. Our love is that of determination and gritted teeth stubbornness.

If you will focus your emotional energy on loving your husband and yourself, your stepson will eventually either

1) become more lovable with time, or

2) grow up, move away, and give you grandchildren you CAN love.

Through either scenario, you will be teaching him, your husband, and yourself that your love is tough and that you are a true partner and friend. 

Love with stepkids comes and goes. Never give up on your marriage. Never give up on yourself. And never really give up on your stepson, love or not. You don't have to love like a parent to be a good influence and a good partner to your husband. If you can do this, then "your life - your story - your way" will be one of heroism and honor that you can look on proudly.

God bless y'all!

----------

Bob Collins, CDM
Certified Domestic Mediator
coach@FamilyMediator.org
479-522-7490

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Letters from Homes:
My Home, My

Dear Stepcoach,

"on paper I agree 100% with your advice to take it easy on stepkids, but when some smart a**ed teen comes to MY home that I WORK to pay for insults me....I have a problem....I don't care if they are my child, steps or mu kids. My home, my rules."

============

Dear insulted stepmom

Good luck with that approach. Keep us apprised as to how you influence this child of your beloved with his future. I understand completely. Really. My stepdaughter physically attacked me, insulted me in public more times than I can recall, reported her mother and me to various officials for various types of abuse, and tried everything she could to alienate me. She lost. I was tougher than she was. No way she could make me break my promise to my beloved to love her daughter. Even when that daughter turned out to be a horror show. I won. She watched me for four years refuse to surrender to her demands for mutual hatred. Finally, she admitted I beat her, and she started loving me back.

Stepmom, remember that there are a host of witnesses watching you to see how you react to this "smart assed teen" to see if you adopt her ways or teach her yours. What are you showing her and them? Who are they seeing has the stronger character and greater determination? Someday you will wear your actions. Be careful what wardrobe you choose. Do you really want to look like that teen taught you to look?

How does your beloved feel about how you treat their child? Who is this all about - you or them? Who did you vow to put before all others (including yourself)?

Folks, too many times our marriages become contests of pride where in we try to make everything better for the great, holy ME. But that's not mentioned in any of the standard marriage ceremonies. Perhaps you wrote your own vows and included that phrase, "until imperfection do us part," or "as long as everything goes perfectly well all the time for me." If so, you're getting what you asked for. 

Marriage, as well as the love it's supposed to be based upon, is about self-SACRIFICE to accommodate someone else, whose needs you place above your own. Marriages that are not based on that are called d-i-v-o-r-c-e-s. And ain't we got a buncha those? Sacrifice. It builds marriages, love, character, futures, and heroes. Are you a hero? Are you destined to be remembered as a hero? or as someone who whined about how mean their stepkids were to them? 

Sure stepkids are mean. Heck, a cuddly little kitten will scratch the blood out of you if you torture it enough. And most stepkids have been through more hell than you and I can imagine when their parents told them they didn't love each other enough to stay married anymore. Then we come along and expect them to reverse their trauma and suckle up to us as their saviors? Silly, silly us!

BUT (and that's a big but!) if you'll stick with your vows, keep your promises, withhold your whining until you're in a nursing home, and tough it out, YOU can be a hero. Maybe not to your stepkids, but most likely to your (step)grandkids, probably to your beloved, and most definitely to your mirror, whom you'll face every day the rest of your life. Heroes don't get medals in peacetime for kickin' back in the dancehall, but for surviving war, for rescuing compatriots, for going far above and beyond what's expected of them.

Sorry you have been insulted. But it comes with the title of stepmom. Just part of the challenge.

Hang in there ... or run away crying.

Either way you'll be watched and judged by that teen and your whole family.

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