Stepmothers: Will This Ever Get Better?

8 07 2010

A few weeks ago I was working with a stepmother at the end of her rope who asked me a question most of us have contemplated at one time or another: Will this ever get better?

“You’re not going to like my answer,” I said.

“Because it’s never going to get better, right?” she asked.

“Your life is going to get better the minute you decide it’s going to be better.”

It’s true that there are things about our lives we can’t control. And that sucks. It is true that often we are unappreciated, overextended, with no authority and no rights. It is true that we have husbands who get defensive and don’t understand why we can’t just relax and let it go. It is true that we have stepchildren who reject us and ex wives who makes our lives hell.


We have more power than we think to change the dynamics in our homes. The brilliant Michele Weiner-Davis, author of Divorce Busting, says that you can change a relationship by changing how you react to the same old patterns. Harriet Lerner, the author of The Dance of Anger says that anger is a dance with two or more players. If you pull out of the dance, the rhythm changes.

This stepmother came back a week later to report she’d had a major breakthrough. Instead of reacting to the same old fights in the same old ways, she experimented with changing her behavior. Within a week, her stepchildren and her husband had changed they way they acted toward her.

Will this change take work to maintain? Yes. Will they take two steps back, one step forward? Yes. But this stepmother learned a powerful lesson we can all take to heart. Even though we often feel invisible and like we’re outsiders or strangers in our own home, we can empower ourselves. We can change the level of positivity and negativity in our homes by the way we act or react.

Today I want to ask you a few questions: What is your part of the dance? What are you doing to fuel whatever is happening in your home? If you reacted in a new way what would happen?

For example: If you are enraged at a stepchild for leaving dirty dishes under his bed and scream at him and get in a fight with your husband or stew for weeks about it, who does this hurt? What if you closed the door to his room and let him deal with the rotting, nasty odors himself? That would allow him to suffer the natural consequences for his actions and BONUS: You don’t have a heart attack from stress and your marriage is not harmed because you get in a fight about the bad job you think your husband is doing as a parent.

Will your stepfamily life ever get better? I can’t answer that question for you. You’re the only one who can.




11 responses

9 07 2010
Peggy Nolan

Dear Jacque,

I am so happy to read this. If more stepmoms would simply focus on their actions and not the actions of others there’d be more peace in stepmomland.

It’s kind of fun to experience and observe that when you begin to work on yourself and really pay attention to your actions and make the internal changes you need to make, others notice. And they want to have what you’re having 🙂

Thanks for posting this…I hope stepmoms everywhere read it!


11 07 2010

I am no different from anyone else that posts regarding “stepmomhood”. It is the hardest thing I have ever had to contend with in life, and trust me, I have had more than my fair share of life hardships to contend with. I think the reason being a pseudo stepmom (my fiance and I will not marry until the children are graduated from high school because the mother of his children sues us every time we make any life decisions) is so difficult is I love my fiance’s children very much. They are very bright and beautiful girls with soooooooo much potential.

Three years ago I had to make a very tough decision. I quietly removed myself from their lives. Prior to this decision, any time my fiance and I spent time with his children, there would eventually be a phone call from his ex after the children were dropped off about what a horrible person I was. His children admitted to me that they analyze everything I say and tell their mom because she is their best friend. Well, you can imagine the twisting and turning of words that happened. I just couldn’t take it anymore. I prayed consistently for things to be different. Then one day the answer was there. I needed to take an action. Therefore my decision to quietly remove myself from their lives. I am a taxi service for them at times, but that is about the extent of it.

I had to accept that the situation and the children’s behavior was not going to change. By quietly removing myself from the children’s lives, I gained peace. I accepted the situation for what it is and am a much happier person because of it. Thank God my fiance understands, even though it breaks his heart. It is a very sad situation no matter how you look at it. However, there has been more peace and harmony.

Here is something that helped me; “And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing or situation unacceptable to me. I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. Nothing, absolutely nothing happens in God’s world by mistake. Until I could accept m situation I could not have peace of mind; unless I accept life completely on life’s terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changes in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and my attitudes.

Shakespeare said “All the world’s a stage, all men and women merely players.” He forgot to mention that I was the chief critic. I was always able to see the flaw in other people and other situations. Acceptance has taught me that there is a bit of good in the worst of us and bit of bad in the best of us; that we are all children of God and we each have a right to here. When I complain about me or about you, I complaining about God’s handiwork. I am saying that I know better than God.”

My hope is that one day these girls will come to know me as the loving person I am and not the bad person that they have been told I am. So, I continue to pray.

12 07 2010

When you say “removed yourself from their lives” do you mean that you are no longer living them with them or your fiance? I’m going to assume that you are still with your fiance, but you don’t spend time with the kids. I’m going through a similar situation and am naive enough to think that we can move back in together without too much conflict. However, every weekend that I spend at the house results in horrible arguments. Thank you for the words of wisdom. I pray that your situation, and that of others like us, will be better some day.

12 07 2010

This is exactly what I am trying to do right now. AND IT WORKS! I see changes in everybody, simply because I changed the way I react. It’s not always easy however… I do come back to my old ways every once and a while, but the fighting does not last as long because it does not happen all the time.

12 07 2010

I have been a step-mom for almost 10 years, and this is something that I STILL struggle with from time to time. Things are not perfect, and it is TOO easy to slide into anger instead of making things better.

I love my Step-Son and couldn’t imagine my life without him, and THAT is what makes me see each day as a new day and one that I have to be ready to face no matter what.

13 07 2010
Glad Doggett

Joan Sarin offers a really good class called Stepfamily 101 that may help.
My blended family had our best summer yet this year. There were a few bumps (always will be with teens from two different worlds), but I think the communication we used helped a lot.

26 07 2010

I think, for me, becoming a stepmother has not followed any pattern. In fact, it has been the worst experience of my life. I reach out to help the step kiddies (who are adults) and somehow I’m being mean. I develop a list of expectations and rules (like no, you and your underage friends can’t sit out front drinking beer) and get called the nastiest names imaginable. With my husband, he is simply tired of fighting with his kids – especially his son – and has literally given up trying to guide and parent them. Their mother is worse – her only goal for her children is that they live – not go to school, not be sucessful. She yells at me because I won’t let her 19 year old son have a 16 year old girl spend the night (it is legal where we live – I checked) and says she lets he and his friends party at her house whenever she is out of town.

Beign a stepmother isn’t all about how we react, how calm we are, how ‘open’ we are – It is also about the disasterous position some parents have placed their children in.

I’m just a another Wicked Stepmother hoping for the best and that my fairy tale ending will some how come back.

3 09 2010
Heather Rayne

I am trying so hard to disengage after some traumatic events caused by my stepdaughter’s mother. If you are interested, I wrote about it on my blog…anyway, as a last resort I will be starting EMDR therapy next week at the suggestion of my therapist. She thinks I cannot handle being a step mother or even in this family anymore due to PTSD after the Biomom falsely accused me of child abuse – a child I have raised for the past 9+ years since she was 14 months old. I wish I could open the window one day and have it all figured out. But it is so much more than a lack of control or appreciation. I feel my person has been damaged. I am not who I was. I was never an angry, hateful person. Never. I hate who I have become.

Thank you for sharing this post. I do hope to one day be able to accomplish these things.

5 09 2010

hi. iv become a step mom to 2 kids.. boy 4 , girl 10… trouble is when girl goes home her mother (who has given me a black eye) quizzes daughter every way with every question & twists things making me out to be a monster. i live with my boyfriend for past year.. the trouble wit his daughter is her being manipulative & sneaky. my boyfriend does acknowledge this but where our biggest problem is that this girl is not is biological; daughter. he is afraid to rock the boat to fear of losing his bioalogical son.. we are having a LOT of arguments lately & all are down to his daughter’s behaviour n refusal to stick to house rules IE no eating in sitting room or taking food up stairs. This again aggravates his x wife & threatens if she not left do what she want when she want in our home she will stop his access to his son. he has court order to have him 3 days a week.. HELP ME PLEASEEEEEEEEEEEE … i feel like im going CRAZY

14 04 2012

I am a step mom of a 12 year old girl and a 10 year old boy. I have been in their lives and them in mine for 3 years now. They are both still testing me with bad behavour. But irs only when their father is never around. The father gets mad at me when I come to him when I can not handle it and need advice. I’ve told him well he has 12 & 10 years of experience of raising them and disciplining them. And what have I, only 3 years. I need help.

14 04 2012

Also id like some advise to give my partner so he will understand its not easy to be a step mom.

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