Articles written for StepMom Magazine


(poem originally published in the May 2012 edition of Stepmom Magazine)

Mother’s Day can be a very hard time for some stepmoms. You put in motherly work while caring for your stepkids but often don’t get acknowledged on the day. Your stepkids are with their mom as they should be but their absence leaves a hole…. a reminder of the complexities of blended family living.

I wrote the following poem to celebrate the blessing that a stepmom is to her family and to the world around her. May we all take a moment this month to celebrate ourselves and the mothers in our life. Happy Mother’s Day and never forget the blessing that you are!

A StepMom is a Blessing

a tender heart

a gentle spirit

unselfish acts of kindness

these are just some words that describe a stepmom

She joins a family by choice not chance

She embraces another woman’s children

pledging to love and nurture them

She seeks not to replace their mother

but be a positive role model in their lives

She celebrates her stepchildren’s successes and

her heart aches when they are hurting

She is her partner’s biggest cheerleader

supporting him through the easy and the difficult times

She is the heart of her home

even when her heart is breaking

She stands strong during the storms of life

holding onto the truths she knows

even when lies are raining down on her

She does much for her family

often without a thank you or acknowledgment

She is often overlooked for the love and care she gives

and the positive impact that she makes

She presses through those challenging times

knowing that doing what is right is often not the easy choice

She is stronger than she thinks

wiser than she knows

and more precious than she often realizes

She is sustained on a diet of faith and hope

She makes peace with her past,

embraces her present and plans for her future

She models a healthy relationship with her partner for the children

a gift more precious than gold and silver

She breathes light, love and peace into her home

even when dark forces from the outside fight to get in

She loves with abandon

She lives passionately and purposefully

some call her stepmom, bonus mom, smom

regardless of the title the world gives her

She is love

She is light

 She is precious

She is truth

She is beauty

She is compassion

She is selfless

She is self-control

She is committed to her partner and her family

She is a blessing!

- Heather

This is the last article in the three part series on jealousy and the stepmom and stepdaughter. This last segment focuses on the impact that the jealousy between a stepmom and stepdaughter has on the stepmom’s relationship with her partner and offers tips to help your relationship weather storms of jealousy. Read on and share your thoughts…..

 (Part 3 of 3) Jealousy and Your Relationship

“Jealousy is that pain which a man feels from the apprehension that he is not equally beloved by the person whom he entirely loves.” Joseph Addison

Jealousy lives and breathes in the hearts of all of us. At its core, jealousy is the fear of losing something that one possesses to another person and that something is typically the affections of a third party. Given the multiple complexities and people in a stepfamily, there are boundless reasons and opportunities for members to feel jealous towards one another.

stepmom magazine, stepdaughter, stepmother, jealousy

Often stepmoms are jealous of the relationship their stepdaughter has with their dad and stepdaughters are jealous of the love their father has for their stepmom. This stepmother – stepdaughter jealousy is a triangle with the third person being the man they both love. While the jealous feelings may not be aimed directly at our partner, they often feel the impact of the jealousy.

Feelings of jealousy may be hard to avoid and it is what we do with the jealous feelings when they surface that matter and define our relationships. When jealous feelings affect our partner and our relationship, it’s time to take action to protect both.

Last month we learned that much of the jealousy stepdaughters feel towards their stepmother is based on perception not reality. Perhaps some of the jealousy that stepmothers feel towards their stepdaughter may also be based on unfounded truths.

Jealousy in a stepmother’s heart may stem from the advantage she believes her stepdaughter has over her in her partner’s life given that the stepdaughter was in his life first. The stepdaughter’s jealousy often grows from feelings of resentment of her perception of being replaced by her stepmother in the heart of her father.

Regardless of who is jealous of who, if there is tension in the home everyone feels it and every relationship can suffer from it. 

As the third and final installment of this series on jealousy within the stepfamily, this piece deals with the impact that jealousy between stepmom and stepdaughter has on the stepmom’s relationship with her partner. We will look at how perceptions impact jealous feelings in a stepfamily and then provide tips for stepmoms on how to address and deal with the jealousy to preserve their relationship with their partner and bring peace to their heart and home.

Looking Through the Lens of Your Stepdaughter’s Life

The jealousy in the home is often permeated on the perception of either the stepmother and/or the stepdaughter trying to control the man in the home. A stepdaughter perceives her stepmother’s kindness and/or actions to change things for the better in the home as a threat. The stepmother perceives her stepdaughter’s constant control of her father’s time as a clear message to “stay away.”

Looking at potential insecurity in our stepdaughter and a desire for things not to change may help explain a stepdaughter’s negative treatment of her stepmom and/or clinging closer to their father. Feelings of “losing dad” may be motivation for a stepdaughter to push back on her stepmother regardless of how kind and goodhearted the stepmother is to her stepdaughter.

As one stepdaughter put it “before Amanda entered the picture, dad used to ask me where I wanted to go out for dinner and what color he should paint the living room now she gets to make those choices. I just don’t feel important to my dad anymore. I wish things could go back to the way they were before HER!”

While it is important to view stepfamily life through our stepdaughter’s eyes, it often helps for us, as stepmoms, to be proactive in showing our stepdaughter that we value them and the relationship they have with their father.

The following proactive tips can serve to communicate we are neither here to replace mom nor to take dad away:

Make The First Move. If we get upset because we feel like our stepdaughter is always trying to keep us away from our partner and sit next to him at the kitchen table, on the couch, at the movie theatre, etc…. we may want to consider offering up the space instead of having it taken from us.

Offering the seat next to our mate to our stepdaughter serves two purposes. First, offering the spot lessens the pain we may feel in not sitting next to our love. If not sitting next to our mate is our idea, it doesn’t hurt so much. Also, if our stepdaughter is desiring to be close to their father because she truly wants to be close to dad than the unselfish offering will be seen as a kind gesture and can go miles in building our relationship. If our stepdaughter is seeking closeness to dad to spite us and she sees that we are offering the spot and don’t seem upset, than the motivation will wane when she doesn’t get the desired result in upsetting us. When motivation lessens so may her moves to be close to dad and purposely push us aside if that is in fact her goal.

Plan Daughter and Dad Day Out. Set up a time once a month for your partner and his daughter to go out and spend time alone. Whether it is out for a meal, to see a movie, do an activity like bowling or ice skating, or just going to the library…. when we set it up and offer the time alone it communicates that we place a value on their time together.

There is a difference in creating the time for our stepdaughter and her dad versus being made to feel that we aren’t welcome during their time together. Creating this time is a gift we give to our stepdaughter and her father and to ourselves.  Be the driving force for their time alone and see the benefits for everyone unfold.

Control the Jealousy so it Doesn’t Control You and Your Relationship

Jealousy based on perception is a total misrepresentation of reality yet feelings of jealously can be so strong and powerful they can cause us to act out. Regardless of why a stepmother may feel jealous, dealing with jealousy is essential to nurturing and preserving the relationship with our partner.

When jealousy isn’t acknowledged and dealt with it can plant seeds of bitterness and resentment deep in our relationship and lead to emotional behavior atypical of our personality. Here are some basic steps we can take when we are feeling jealousy towards our stepdaughter:

Accept Your Part. Understand and accept the feelings of jealousy and acknowledge that we have a choice in how we will allow this emotion to affect us, our stepdaughter, our partner and our relationship. Decide if whatever is making us jealous is worth having an impact on our own emotional state and the state of our relationship with our partner.

Because jealousy is an emotion inside of us, it can also be tied to other emotions. Take the time to understand if our jealousy is fueled by fear, past hurts, insecurities deep within and/or any other emotion from our past that we may struggle with.

Acknowledge The No-Win Situation For Your Partner. From our partner’s perspective, jealousy between their child and us puts them in a no-win situation. It really hurts our partner when their own child is the source of our pain and it also causes them pangs of distress when their daughter(s) is upset at our hands.

One dad told me “I’m often in a no-win situation. If I side with my wife, my daughter thinks I’ve deserted her. And if I side with my daughter, than my wife feels unloved and unwanted. I love both of them but I often feel like any choice I make is doomed from the start,”Steve, married for 5 years; father of two and stepdad of one.

Understand that your partner loves you. They have chosen to spend their life with you. Your partner loves both you and your stepdaughter in different ways. If we are concerned about any feelings our mate has for us it is best to ask them rather than assume something that could be wrong.

Communicate With Your Partner. If something is truly bothering you, talk with your partner but not at them. There is a difference. Understand that there is no right or wrong way to feel towards the relationship between you and your stepdaughter. If something is troubling you and it has the potential to pull you and your partner apart, than you owe it to yourself and your romantic relationship to address the issue.

Before talking with your partner, keep these things in mind:

First, check with your partner to make sure it is a good time to talk. Right before bed is never a good time to bring up a potentially heated topic. Also, make sure both you and your partner are in a good frame of mind to have the conversation.

Second, start off by verbally affirming your mate as both a parent and a partner. Also, counter any negative comments you share with two positive comments.

Finally, focus the conversation on how you feel not on what your stepdaughter or your partner is doing. When we focus on how something is making us feel, it takes the pressure off of our mate to fix another person and lessens the probability of them becoming defensive.

Jealousy is often self-serving and can lead to feelings of confusion, frustration and self-doubt. The important thing to remember is to not allow jealousy to consume our relationship but rather allow it to be a springboard to uncover any hidden emotions deep within us moreover to have positive discussions with our partner.

Seek Professional Help. If you find that jealousy is causing issues in your relationship that you cannot resolve together then please seek the professional help of a counselor and/or stepfamily coach. A professional can help you and your partner with tips and tools to identify jealousy and how you can work together. The reality is that it is often challenging to talk about some topics with our partner especially if they regard our stepchildren. A qualified third party can bring up the topics and provide a neutral environment in which to discuss feelings and provide tangible solutions.

Avoid Disengagement From Your Partner: Intentionally Nurture Your Relationship

No person wants to be hurt by someone they love. In our stepmom role, we can slowly disengage from the relationships that are causing us pain. We can find ourselves disengaging from our stepdaughter and our partner.  While disengaging from our stepchild is not a good thing, disengaging from our partner can have long lasting negative effects on our relationship and on our stepfamily.

At those moments when we least want to be close to our partner, are the moments when we need to be the closest. Disconnecting with the father of our stepdaughter does not happen overnight but rather is a slow fade. Passion, respect, love can slowly fade over time when we don’t nurture our relationship and when we allow emotions like jealousy to pull us away.

“It is difficult for some people to accept that love is a choice. This seems to run counter to the generally accepted theory of romantic love which expounds that love is inborn and as such requires no more than to accept it.” – Leo F. Buscaglia

Make it a point to intentionally show your partner love and respect. This can be challenging at times especially if you aren’t feeling much love or respect for your partner. Feelings follow actions and the more you intentionally show love to your partner the less affect the jealousy may have on you and the more connected you may feel to your partner.

It is my hope that this three part series opens up discussion about jealousy that may prevail in your home. It is a very normal and typical emotion in stepfamilies and its important to continue to have honest conversations about those things that impact us most. Jealousy can become a vicious cycle in a stepfamily if we allow it. Recognize that combatting jealousy is often an ongoing challenge for everyone in our stepfamily where dynamics are many and stresses can be high.

This article was originally published in StepMom Magazine, November 2011.

Part 2 (of 3) – The Stepdaughter’s View of StepMom

“Once upon a time I had a devoted dad

Then he got remarried and I got really sad

He started spending less and less time with me

I blame it on my stepmom

But dad says that is jealousy

He told me not to worry and never to doubt

That he will always love me and to wipe those wrong thoughts out”. – Julia, age 13

Many agree that while jealousy does permeate the heads and hearts of some stepmoms and stepdaughters, it isn’t something that is readily addressed. While it may not be talked about, it is having an impact on many young girls who are aching for their father’s attention and blaming what they perceive as a lack of it onto their stepmom.

This is the second installment of this three part series on jealousy between stepmoms and stepdaughters. Last month, we heard from the stepmoms and how they view the jealousy tango with their stepdaughters. This month, the stepdaughters take a step into the spotlight and share their hearts regarding the jealousy that many feel towards their stepmother. Interestingly enough these young women are jealous of their stepmoms for one of the same reasons stepmoms are jealous of them. Next month, the focus will be on the impact jealousy has on the stepmother’s relationship with her partner and offer practical solutions for a peaceful heart and home.

Jealousy is all the fun you think they had. - Erica Jong

Feeling Pushed A side

I surveyed stepmoms and stepdaughters across the country to delve deeper into the potential jealousy they have for one another. In part one of this three part series, we heard how some stepmoms feel like an outsider and are jealous of the close relationship that their partner has with his daughter(s). On the flip side, some stepdaughters reported that they felt  “set aside” once the stepmom was in the picture. Most admitted pushing harder to be physically in their dad’s life the more they felt threatened by their stepmom’s presence.

Here are some of the responses I received:

I feel like my dad cares more about my stepmom than he does about me. My dad only turns the air conditioning on when she says its hot in the house but never when I beg him. He only takes us out to eat when she can go. I feel like whatever she wants, she gets and that I’m chop liver. I hate it. Plus he wants me to bond with her and I don’t want to spend time alone with her. I don’t get why I should have to have a shopping day with her but never alone time with my dad. He is who I want to spend alone time with.” - Monica, age 12.

My dad and I were just fine until she moved in. I like things the way they were. Now the house looks like her and not like me and my dad. My dad used to let me decorate the house. She has totally redecorated it. Sometimes I put stuff back the way it should be.”  - Annie, 15

As stepmoms, we can often get caught in the cycle of focusing on the trials and tribulations that we go through in our role. Heaven knows, we have our share of struggles. Sometimes, looking at the same situation through the eyes and life of our stepdaughter in the same situation can offer both insight and compassion.

Concerning Annie’s situation above, her stepmom probably was decorating the house with a pure heart to make the place homey and to add her own touch. Her stepdaughter, however, viewed her acts of kindness in a negative way perceiving that she had not only taken over her job as “woman of the house” but redone all the things Annie had done with her dad. This can cause the stepmom to feel unappreciated and the stepdaughter to feel like parts of her are being replaced in her father’s eyes.

Two stepdaughters shared this from their hearst;

I only get to see my dad two weekends a month. That’s six days. I don’t want to have to share him with someone else. I don’t want to have to check schedules with someone else. I just want my dad.” - Erica, age 14

“I text my dad every weekend I’m not with him to ask him to take me places even if I don’t really want to go just to make sure he still will. I know my stepmom doesn’t like it but I really don’t care. He’s my dad.” – Kate, age 16

The Influence of a Stepmother

Some of the situations and sources of frustration that stepdaughters shared with me signify they are jealous of the power and influence their father has given their stepmom in the home.  This is a perception that was shared by a few of the respondents:

Every Friday on the way to pick up me and my brother, my dad would pick up a pizza for dinner. We would go back to his place, eat pizza, watch a movie and camp out in the living room. Now Judy says pizza isn’t healthy every weekend and that dad and her have to sleep in their bedroom. In my mind, she is changing the best parts of seeing my dad and he just goes along with it. I feel like he is letting her make all the rules I hate it.” – Cindy, age 9

I like my stepmom but my dad lets her choose everything. Why does she get to pick the restaurant, the movie, and where we go on vacation? Before my dad got remarried, he let my sisters and I decide what to do. Now we don’t get that anymore. I want to feel important again.” - Michelle, age 15

This last quote is very telling. The father trusts his wife to make choices and obviously values her opinion which is a very healthy component of a positive relationship. However, those choices used to belong to his three girls. Because their decision making power has been shifted to their stepmother, they are jealous of her “power” over dad and grieving their perceived loss of influence in his life.

Another area that was a hot topic was how some stepdaughters were bitter towards their stepmom for changing the family menu. One stepdaughter said this:

“My mom makes us eat healthy and I liked visiting dad and eating pizza and junk food. When dad got remarried, Julie started cooking dinner and insisted on no pizza and no junk food. My dad makes us eat healthy now. I liked eating at dad’s before he married Julie. Whatever she wants, we get. Not fair.” - Amber, 12

Physical Proximity

Some girls shared that they are uncomfortable with how much their dad and their stepmom show physical affection. One stepdaughter wishes it was her mom that her father was so in love with while another misses sitting with her dad during movies.

She’s always hugging and kissing my dad. Yuck! I don’t like seeing someone kissing my dad unless its my mom. Its embarrassing. Before her, my dad would take me fishing, to Wendy’s, or out for ice cream. We did just fine without her. Now I have to share my dad and I hate it. Sometimes, if I get her mad, she stays in her room all day while I’m over. I kinda like it cause I get my dad all to myself.” - Angela, age 14

I ask my stepmom to make me popcorn or get me a drink when we watch a family movie so I can get her away from my dad. When she gets up from the couch I take her place. I think it makes her mad because sometimes she doesn’t finish the movie but then I get my dad all to me.” - Alyssa, age 11

One stepdaughter shared with me that she has no memories of her mother and father spending family time with her. She is jealous of what her stepfamily does and wishes her dad could have done those things with she and her mom.

What Mom Says Means A Lot

Our culture does enough to pit ex-wife against stepmother but the reality is that what moms say to their children about their father’s new partner greatly influences both their perception of their stepmom and their ability to have a positive relationship with her.

One stepdaughter confided in me that her mom told her that the reason she doesn’t see her dad much is because he would rather spend time with his new family. This girl is blaming her stepmom for the limited time she gets with her dad and stepfamily based on what her mother has told her. Her mother’s words may or may not be the truth but her stepmom has become a target of blame based on them.

Non Jealous Stepdaughters

Just as there were some stepmoms who reported feeling no jealousy towards their stepdaughters, there were some girls who reported a healthy, positive and non-jealous relationship with their stepmom. Two things these girls had in common were that they felt they got to spend quality time with their father and that their mother was accepting of their stepmom.

I like my stepmom. She’s cool. When I come over, she is really nice but I  usually don’t see her the whole time because my dad and I usually do something. I’m on swim team and my dad takes me to practice and then we go out to lunch and run errands just me and him. I love that time.” – Ella, age 12

“My dad is happy since he married my stepmom. She takes care of my dad and I like that.” - Anne, age 8

Common Threads

Overall, these stepdaughters care about their father and their stepfamily. Any jealously they feel towards their stepmom seems to be related to how much time their stepmom spends with their father, how much time they get to spend alone with their dad, their mother’s relationship with their stepmom and whether they feel they have lost influence in their father’s life to their stepmom.

What’s important to note is the role that perception plays in all of this. As if you didn’t know that being a stepmom was a complicated endeavor, the complexities of jealousy some stepdaughters feel towards their stepmom is often based on how they perceive their stepmom and her actions.

Often times the stepdaughter’s perceptions of their stepmother’s actions may not be in line with the true motivations and heart of the stepmom.  This disconnect can be a breeding ground for jealousy.

Dealing With Stepdaughter Jealousy

Don’t take it personally – I know it’s the common mantra that all stepmoms hear and it’s because it is so true. You can’t take the jealousy personally. Stepdaughters tend to be jealous of the role you play in their father’s life rather than you personally. They are jealous of the time their father spends with you and how close you are with their father. For girls who are older, it may be hard to accept that you are intimate with their dad. Girls don’t like thinking of their father doing that “sort of thing.”

Look at your role through your stepdaughter’s eyes – You’ve heard the old adage “is that glass half empty or half full?” It’s purpose is to demonstrate that any situation may be seen in different ways depending on each person’s point of view. Nearly every stepfamily situation can be viewed differently depending on whose eyes and life experience you look at it through. When it comes to jealousy between stepmoms and stepdaughters, depending on whose lens you choose to view the relationship with dad, a different picture can be painted.

Understand that hurting people hurt others – while we know that all stepfamilies are formed out of loss, we also sometimes forget that it takes children much longer to grieve the loss of their parents relationship. While adults can heal and move forward, children often harbor the fantasy that their parents will one day get back together. When stepdaughters are angry towards and/or jealous of their stepmother they may purposely act out towards them.

A stepchild acting out towards their stepmother is not acceptable but often the behavior can be an indicator of a much deeper pain within the child. Pay attention to patterns and  approach the situation gently with their father.

Next month, we’ll address how stepmoms can use their stepdaughter’s perceptions to understand and lessen the jealousy they feel. Practical tools and tips will be shared to bring peace to the stepmom’s relationship with her partner including how to approach him if you feel your stepdaughter has a deeper than “normal” hurt and jealousy towards you.

Names of the girls who have participated in this survey and the names of their stepmothers have been changed to protect the innocent.

My article originally appeared in the October, 2011 issue of StepMom Magazine

~~~~~~

Your thoughts? Did any of the quotes from the stepdaughters resonate with you? Do your stepdaughters struggle with jealously?

A 3-part Series exploring jealousy between Stepdaughters And Stepmoms

Rock stars sing about it. The Bible warns against it. Crimes are committed because of it. Many stepmoms and stepdaughters are frustrated because of it. I’m talking about jealousy.

While it may be a large elephant in the stepfamily living room, jealousy between stepmoms and stepdaughters regarding dad is REAL and is having a REAL affect on both the stepmom and the stepdaughter and the man they all love.  stepmom, stepmom magazine, stepfamily

Many stepmoms and stepdaughters struggle with feelings of jealousy towards each other. Some stepmoms are jealous of the close knit relationship that their stepdaughter(s) has with their father and many stepdaughters are jealous of the new woman in their home and the impact she has on their dad’s time.

Often the jealousy turns to bitterness and resentment towards each other. This root of bitterness is planted deep in the stepfamily and can cause emotional distress for everyone.

Jealousy is a toxic cocktail and one that is difficult to digest regardless of why, how and by whom it is concocted. 

In this three part series, we will first look at jealousy through the stepmoms’ eyes. The second part will focus on the stepdaughters’ point of view and the third will speak to the impact jealousy has on the stepmom’s relationship with her partner and offer viable solutions to making peace so the stepmom doesn’t fall to pieces.

In surveying some stepmom and stepdaughter duos across the country, I delved deeper into this stress filled mystery. Part 1 reveals what fuels a stepmother’s jealousy towards her stepdaughter(s).

Feeling Like an Outsider

An overriding theme that presented itself was how many stepmoms feel jealous of how close their partner is with his daughter(s). These stepmoms feel like an outsider in comparison to their stepdaughter(s) and they don’t like it. Here’s what a few stepmoms had to say:

“I often find myself jealous of the relationship between my husband and his daughter. I feel like we (my husband and I) are so close when she is at her mom’s but when she texts, calls, or walks in the door – I become second fiddle. I hate feeling this way. It seems wrong to be jealous of a 15 year old but I can’t seem to help it. I don’t like feeling second best” – Meghan, stepmom to a 15 yr old stepdaughter

My husband and his two daughters are so close. He was a single dad for three years before we met. I feel like the girls view me as an outsider and they do everything in their power to make me feel that way. He seems to always make time to listen to their sorrows but when my heart is heavy, he brushes me away. It’s hard to see him one way with his girls and another way with me. I wish I had what they have with their father” – Tonya, custodial stepmom to 17 yr old and 13 yr old stepdaughters

Stepmoms love their partner and they desire to be one with them. Issues of stepfamily living can place stress on a stepmom and her partner’s relationship. It can be very hard on a stepmom when she seeks validation and compassion for what she is going through and gets little from her partner yet witnesses a very strong, loving bond between her partner and his daughter(s).

The stepmoms I talked to said that they know their partner is capable of being attentive, loving and compassionate. They see these characteristics exhibited towards their stepdaughter yet they often don’t feel it present in their own relationship with their partner.

I’ve spent most of my life walking under that hovering cloud, jealousy, whose acid raindrops blurred my vision and burned holes in my heart.  ~ Astrid Alauda

One stepmom told me “I never spoke this out loud until you asked but yes, I am jealous of the relationship my husband has with his three daughters. I often don’t feel as important to him as they are and that’s very hard on me. I can feel like an outsider when they are at our house. I hate it. I feel guilty saying this but I want to run and hide when they are at our home.” – Liza, stepmom to 8 yr old  twins and 14 yr old stepdaughters

The Blind Eye

Another area of jealousy for many stepmoms is the area of their partner’s “blind eye.” Stepmoms struggle when they witness their partner bend over backwards for their daughter(s) and yet be taken advantage of by them. It is extremely painful for these stepmothers to see their partner’s love and generosity taken for granted by their own daughter(s). This is especially true for the stepmom who wishes to receive the same type of love and generosity from their partner.

“I don’t know if jealous is the word I would use to describe how I feel concerning my husband’s relationship with his two daughters. It’s more of frustration in how they walk all over him and how he allows it to happen. It’s so obvious to me that they use their father, especially his wallet, but he never seems to see it. That hurts because I love him and it makes me not like his girls. It’s a real problem for me. I don’t care that he spoils them, I just would like to see them be appreciative.” Sylvia, stepmom to 8 yr old and 14 yr old stepdaughters

“He never seems to see what she is really doing or like. She is perfect in his eyes and it drives me crazy. He gives her whatever she wants and when she’s upset he validates her. I wish I would get validation for my concerns but I don’t. Somedays, I can’t stand to be in the same room as her when I know she is using her dad.” Susan, stepmom to an 11 yr old stepdaughter

Another stepmom shared her struggle with the lack of boundaries her partner has with his daughters:

“I put much effort into my family and it’s hard for me to watch his daughter walk in the door from soccer practice, ask what I’m making for dinner and then announce she doesn’t feel like eating what I’m making. Only to watch her dad jump up and start preparing her a different (special) dinner that she’ll eat. I feel like she plays her dad and it literally makes me ill to watch it unfold. He sees nothing wrong with what he is doing. I feel like he needs to set boundaries.” Stacey, stepmom to 21 yr old and 16 yr old stepdaughters

Stepmoms whose jealousy stems from the “ungrateful attitude” of their stepdaughter(s) and/or the “blindness” of their partner reported more feelings of bitterness. A challenge for these stepmoms is not allowing jealousy to evolve into resentment towards their stepdaughter and more importantly towards their partner.

Non-Jealous Stepmoms

There were a few stepmoms who noted that they did not feel jealous of their stepdaughter(s). These stepmoms also noted a stronger bond to their partner’s daughter(s).

“I don’t feel jealous of my stepdaughters. Both my husband and I made a promise that our marriage would come first. While he and his girls are very close, he also makes me feel top priority. I can’t be jealous of their relationship when he makes me feel so good” – Bonnie, stepmom of 10 yr old and 6 yr old stepdaughters

“My husband and his daughter are extremely close. That’s one thing I loved about him when we were dating. My father and I have a very close relationship so I completely get it. I don’t feel threatened or jealous at all.” – Mae, stepmom to 11 yr old stepdaughter

This stepmom brings up an interesting point. Can our relationship with our own father have an impact on how we view the relationship between our partner and his girl(s)? If we didn’t receive attention, love, validation from our dad is it harder to see our stepdaughters receive what we were never given?

Is it even harder to witness our partner give so much to his daughter(s) when we don’t see gratitude returned, especially if they are receiving the time and attention we would have treasured receiving from our own dad? Are we more secure with a strong father/daughter relationship if we have one ourselves? These are great questions to ask if you are jealous of the relationship between your partner and his daughter(s).

Common Threads

It’s important for stepmoms to recognize that it’s not their stepdaughter personally but rather the relationship she has with her father and/or the blind eye he seems to have when it comes to her that fuels most jealousy.

You are not a bad person if you have feelings of jealousy towards your stepdaughter(s). Thinking something and doing something about it are two completely different things. You may have some hard feelings about how close they are but it doesn’t mean you are going to mistreat your partner and/or his daughter because of it.

Time as a stepmom and the age of the stepdaughter when the stepmom came into her life seems to contribute to the level of jealousy a stepmother feels. The longer a woman is a stepmom, the less jealousy she seems to have for her stepdaughter. In addition, those women who partnered with a man when his daughter was in her tween/teen years reported feeling the most jealousy.

What can a stepmom do when she feels jealous?

Own the feeling. Allow yourself to recognize the jealous feelings. Know that feeling some jealousy regarding the relationship is typical and normal. The truth is that it is hard to see your partner laugh, connect and share with their daughter(s), especially when you don’t feel like you get that type of connection.

He that is not jealous is not in love.  ~ St. Augustine

Identify the situations that make you feel jealous. Is it when he jumps at any request his daughter makes? Is it that he never seems to see anything wrong that she does? Is it that he buys his daughter whatever she wants without checking with you (even if it’s a big ticket item)? Etc….

Spend time figuring out what situations trigger the jealousy and then address them. Talking with a counselor is a great way to work through this challenge. Breaking down what triggers these feelings will help you develop a game plan to talk with your partner and work through them.

Communicate with your partner – The focus of the conversation needs to be on how the events in the home make you feel not on what he and/or his daughter(s) are doing. Focusing on you and your feelings will allow your partner to make those conclusions himself. It’s when we go into attack mode and tell our partner everything he and his girls are doing wrong that he will very likely shut down. Once your partner shuts down emotionally and physically, they won’t hear anything you have to say. This only leads to more frustration.

Time is on your side - The converse relationship between length of time a woman is a stepmom and the depth of jealousy they feel towards their stepdaughter indicates that slow and steady wins the race. Things will likely get better as time goes on. At some point, stepdaughters grow up and move on with their life. Right? With maturity developing in the stepdaughter and understanding in the stepmom, time seems to dissipate feelings of jealousy.

Next month, we will examine jealousy through the stepdaughter’s eyes. Yes, many stepdaughters are jealous of their stepmoms and these girls really opened up and their truths will hopefully lend insight into why they do what they do with their father and reveal their motivations for purposely making stepmoms feel like an outsider. Yes, these girls admitted to it! Stay Tuned!

My article originally appeared in the September, 2011 issue of StepMom Magazine.

What are your thoughts on Stepmom and Stepdaughter jealousy? Can you relate? Let’s start a real conversation on this topic. Thank YOU!

When Brenda, the editor of StepMom Magazine, sent me a note that she was looking for real-life StepMom covergirls I knew I had to put the word out. You ladies are beautiful on the inside and outside and I invite you to submit your photo to grace the cover of this great magazine.

Be a StepMom Magazine

Cover Girl!

Stepmoms are beautiful people! We’re looking for real women to grace the covers of our monthly publication. Check out the details below and submit your photo today! You might just be the next StepMom Magazine Cover Girl!

SEND AN EMAIL TO: publisher@StepMomMag.com and include:

-A studio-quality photo of yourself -Your name, address & phone number – Marital status / length of time with partner – Number of children and stepchildren – A few sentences about yourself and the reasons you love StepMom Magazine!

PHOTO INFO:

Photos must be studio quality and should be submitted electronically (high resolution, jpg file format). Have your photo taken by a professional photographer or a local portrait studio like Olin Mills, JCPenney or Clix! Photos that do not meet this criteria will not be considered.

Have your portrait taken against a stark white background (silhouette style). You can be sitting or standing. Both full body or 3/4 upper torso shots are acceptable. Wear casual clothing that reflects your personal style!

THE FINE PRINT:

Selected cover girls will be notified by email and asked to complete a standard release form prior to publication. By submitting your photo and information to stepmom Magazine you consent to all StepMom Magazine terms and conditions. Submission does not guarantee placement. Cover images may be used for StepMom Magazine promotional purposes including but not limited to: internet, print and Facebook advertising.

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I am honored to be a Contributing Writer for StepMom Magazine and to be part of a publication that addresses and celebrates the lives of StepMoms. Go for it and make sure to leave feedback on what you think of the idea and whether you are submitting. I would love the world to see your beauty shine from the cover of this great publication.

Yes, I admit it. I was living in fantasyland when I envisioned what being a stepmom would entail. I thought my journey would be different from the vast majority because my story was missing the ex-wife that everyone warns you about when you date a man with kids.  I foolishly thought I would never have those horrid ex-wife situations that I had heard so many stepmoms complain about when I said “I do” to my husband and his two girls.

You see, my husband’s ex-wife lived two time zones away when we met. She had left the family and started a new life. Yeah, she called a few times while we were dating but the calls were so short and infrequent and my soon-to-be stepdaughters didn’t seem very interested in talking with her. They were so excited to get a mom again who would live with them and do girly things with them. They were excited for our marriage and to gain four new siblings that I would bring with me into our new family.

Life was good. I was marrying the love of my life and the most genuine and compassionate person I had ever met. I loved being a mom to my four kids and embraced the idea of gaining two more children to call my own. Since loving my soon to be husband was so easy and I loved being a mother, I assumed being a stepmom would be a cake walk for me.  Cue the theme music from Jaws……

Bam! Reality hit hard and fast. It swallowed me whole. How could I be so stupid? I had looked at my new family situation through love goggles. My love for my husband and my love of being a mother clouded my thinking. My delusions that I wouldn’t have to deal with an ex-wife were so incredibly wrong and unhealthy. My cloud with the “no ex-wife” silver lining quickly vanished once I became a stepmom.

You see I learned a very valuable lesson:

The ex-wife is always present in your life whether she lives down the street or across the country.

There is no denying it; I am reminded of my husband’s ex-wife and her legacy on the girls each and every day. She is alive in the hearts and thoughts of my two stepdaughters (ages 9 and 12). She is alive in their conversations. Early in my marriage this was especially true when my cooking, cleaning, clothing and basic “doing” were compared to her. My stepdaughters were understandably examining me through lenses that were built by their mother. I cannot, nor should I, deny her presence.

Many stepmothers endure the emotional challenges of having a physically present ex-spouse who calls their husband daily, changes visitation schedules, tries to overthrow their authority in the home, bad mouths them to their stepkids, etc…  Those are painful, ever present issues that frustrate and tear at a stepmom’s marital security and emotional sanity.

For me, and for other custodial stepmoms, we also deal with insecurity and emotional distress from our husband’s ex-wife but for different reasons. My anxiety and frustrations stem from watching my stepchildren struggle with the loss of a relationship with their mother. I also have become the target for all their suppressed anger towards her and their fear of being abandoned again.

Custodial stepmoms endure the presence of their husband’s ex-wife in the brokenness and rejection we see in our stepchildren who don’t have a positive relationship with their natural mother.

I have two stepdaughters who cry themselves to sleep at night wondering why their mom never called on Christmas.  I deal with the question over and over “why doesn’t my mom want to see me?” “After four years, I think she’s forgotten about me.” When we go on family vacations, the youngest one always asks “will I recognize my mom if I see her here?”  And just recently, we were at the community center and my youngest stepdaughter saw a sign that read “IF IT’S LOST, YOU’LL FIND IT HERE”. We were walking out when she tugged on my arm and said “Stop. Look at the sign. I need to check to see if my mom is in the lost & found bin.”  Even though it’s been over 4 years since she’s last seen her mom, my stepdaughter still looks for her everywhere she goes.

This spirit of rejection can be all consuming to children and it has definitely impacted my youngest stepdaughter’s ability to focus and learn in school. All she can think about is her mother and what made her leave their family.

Custodial stepmoms also endure the presence of an ex-wife in the anger, resentment and bitterness misdirected at them from their stepchildren.

Shortly into our marriage, this sweet little girl who used to tell me “I love you” and follow me around like a shadow was screaming at me, calling me names, breaking things and even once spit on me.  These were unprovoked events in my mind. I would ask her to change her shirt before school because she had outgrown it or pick up her toys before bed. These simple requests would often send her into a rage. I had become the target of all of her pain.

I used to get so frustrated when I felt rejected and mistreated by my youngest stepdaughter. I knew what their mom had done to them and I thought how can you still love a woman who can leave you yet reject a warm and loving mom who is right in your home willing to care for and raise you? I kept beating myself up and asking over and over, what am I doing wrong??? I was focusing on me and not on them and how they are naturally wired to love and want love in return from their mom. My stepdaughter’s counselor helped me to see that I was dealing with transference from my youngest stepdaughter.

In my situation, my 9 year-old stepdaughter transfers her anger, confusion, resentment and bitterness that she actually feels towards her biological mother onto me – the mom in the house.

Psychologists refer to transference as an unconscious redirection of feelings from one person to another. According to The Source published in June 2001, “During transference, people turn into a ‘biological time machine.’” A nerve is struck when someone says or does something that reminds them of their past. This creates an “emotional time warp” that transfers their emotional past and their psychological needs into the present.

I am working on identifying triggers of rejection and abandonment for my stepdaughter.  I have come to realize that requests to change something set off her transference. She internalizes my comments as a rejection of her personally. This rejection triggers the feelings of abandonment she still harbors from her mother and she transfers all of that emotion on to me.  This has helped me make sense of how a simple request of “Can you please pick up the cornflakes you spilled on the floor?” turns into her screaming “You hate me. Why don’t you drop me off at an adoption center? I know it would be easy for you to give me up!”  Even though I only asked her to pick up some crumbs, in her mind she heard me say ‘you are worthless so pack your bags for a one way trip’.

Even though my stepdaughters haven’t seen their mom in over 4 years, every time she calls or sends a photo of her two new children, it’s like ripping the scab off an old wound – it is never allowed to heal. I recognize the transference and am actively working on not taking things personally. It is not easy but I am really trying my best. And I also understand that many stepmoms must deal with transference from their stepchildren whether they are custodial or not.

I am happy to report that I am no longer delusional about the presence of my husband’s absentee ex-wife in our stepfamily. While it’s true that I do not have the drama of the ex-wife as it relates to my husband, I do have the dramatic effects of maternal abandonment on my two stepdaughters. I am thankful to be married to my wonderful hubby and to be the mom of four and stepmom of two more. The journey of a stepmom is not an easy one but it is one worth taking. I have no regrets.

Remember your love and commitment to your husband when your love goggles fall off and you see your new family for what it is and the work that it requires.

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This article of mine first appeared in the April edition of StepmomMagazine. You can subscribe to StepMom Magazine at www.StepMomMag.com

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