Posted by: Debbie | 2009/07/07

Trouble adjusting to being a step mum

Hi Doc

I am 39 with a 10 year old daughter who I have raised on my own since she was 13 months old. We have lived on our own in our own house for these 9 years. Her dad lives in another province so we have had little man contact in terms of living arrangements.

I met the greatest man and we have been living together for nearly two years. He has a 14 year old son.
I am currently in a 12 step Al anon program as I was bought up by two alcholics. I know I have issues due to my dysfunctional childhood and have been in this program for over 3 years, I know I have insecurity issues and abandonment issues and I am jealous. I' m working on it !

I am having problems adjusting to my boyfriends son coming to visit now that the honeymoon period is fading. I think its because its an issue for my partner if I get grumpy. I feel very on edge when his son visits as I think the dad expects it to be a perfect pleasant stay for his son. He wants his son to feel welcome and feel at home. I try my best, but our space is small and someones there are 4 of us in a little two bedroomed home and I am overwhelmed with all these bodies in my home !

Its a tall order for his son to feel at home. Its been my home for 9 years and his son visits so little he wont automatically feel at home until maybe we move and he gets his own room (i' m looking into this). His son and I get on well. And I think he' s a great kid.

So I feel I have to be on my best behaviour and am getting anxiety about it. If I am honest with my partner he huffs and puffs and doesnt understand and thinks I am-|-for even feeling this way. I feel very left out when his son comes to visit. I do not want to mess up our relationship.But I have to be honest.

i felt very left out and like they both completely take over. I try not to sulk, but I feel very hurt so I go very quiet which they notice.

I asked my partner if he could handle me and his son differently when we' re all together because I feel very pushed aside. He says that he needs to focus on his son and its only once a week. I understand that but its not nice to be pushed aside once he turns up. My partner says I am probably jealous. I dont want my partner to move out so I have to fix this somehow. It feels like my boyfriend feels I am the problem and this is how it is. I dont feel very understood. I have a good heart. I dont mean to make his son feel unwelcome. I wish I was more laid back.

I' ve always wanted a family and now I have one, I' m not handling it very well.

I do let them do their own thing together. I' m happy for them to spend time together. They invite me out with them and often I say no you need time alone and off they go. I just find it difficult when I am ignored me in favour of his son for a day or two.

I also cannot stand having disagreements. So then I cannot sleep from worrying about it. And then I worry all day in case my partner says he is going to move out for the sake of the childen.

We hardly ever argue or have disagreements. But I know I am disappointing my partner in not accepting his child whole heartedly.

Please could you give me some advice,


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Our expert says:
Expert ImageCyberShrink

Good to hear you recognize some of the important issues that trouble you, and are working on them --- i 3 years one would hoppe you've seen some real progress. A divorced person like your man, often feels guilty towards the child(ren) and can easily fall into the trap of spoiling them. Neither of you would want his son's visits to be unpleasant, but they really don't have to be a slice of heaven on earth ! They need to be realistic.
let the boy know you think he's a great kid, and that you feel worried that as the home is currently rather small, you'd like to make him feel comfortable and at home. Have a family discussion, with him, his son, and your own child, about how best to manage such visits, so that nobody feels left out. He can have good quality time with his son, without making you feel pushes aside. And why should he not aim at good time for you and he and his son ?
It also sounds as though you are a bit contradictory in how you approach this., telling them to go off together and not to worry about you, and then feeling left out.
You don't feel pushed aside when he concentrates on his work --- why, when he spends less time with his son, does this make you feel pushed aside ?

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Our users say:
Posted by: Kelly | 2009/07/07

I have to be honest here... You sound like my step mom and that' s NOT a good thing. I was 13 when they got married and although she was prepared to marry my father, she didn' t want us (my sister and brother as well). She got very upset when we' d talk about our childhood (like we were trying to exclude her) and when we just wanted to spend sometime with our dad and when we struggled to listened to her as an authority figure... Looking back, she treated us badly because of her jealousy and insecurity. Don' t do the same to your step son- be an adult and accept him.

Reply to Kelly
Posted by: Liza | 2009/07/07

I for one suggest that you stop trying so hard. It just causes anxiety for you which then escalates and makes the whole situation worse instead of better. In addition to Al Anon, you might want to see a CBT counselor to help with what is perhaps a low self esteem and/or anxiety issue. Believe me - CBT works wonders.

Then perhaps some couples counseling can also help so that your husband realises that you need his support and that he should help you to let you know how he wants you to handle the situation with his son. It will also clarify any other issues you might have and help to reach compromises.

Good Luck

Reply to Liza

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