Mon 27 Aug 2012
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.
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.