I Can Not Stand My Stepchildren!

Dear Dr. Coleman,

What do you do when you don’t like the kids of the man you married? I married a great guy 3 years ago, love of my life, but his kids drive me up the wall. They’re disrespectful to him (not to me yet, but I’m sure that’s coming), demanding, and spoiled. Worse, I just don’t like them as people. They’ll all be out of the home in about 5 years but that’s 5 years too long. How do I survive?

Dear Reader,

This is a common complaint that I get from stepparents. There is a lot to tease apart here:

  • Many stepmothers feel guilty that they don’t like their stepchildren. Most women are raised to feel like they’re going to love being a mother and therefore feel confused and self-critical when those feelings don’t spring eternal for their husband’s kids. Guilt and self-criticism are hard on oneself and hard on a marriage. Work to accept that you feel the way that you feel and that that doesn’t make you a bad person.
  • Sometimes stepchildren are difficult or unlikable as an expression of loyalty to the parent who isn’t in the home. Their guilt about being close to you may make them feel more conflicted about having you like them and of them liking you. Assume it will take some time for a relationship to develop. Maybe years. Don’t assume that it will go quickly.
  • While you don’t have to love them, you should try to find some common ground with them. Not only is this important for them, it is key to your having a life in a blended family.  So, see if you can find something, ANYTHING, that you might have in common. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy: a TV show, a musical artist, a love of a certain kind of food, an author–just some toehold of similarity and compatibility to build a relationship from.
  • Let your husband know what bothers you the most about their behavior. If they hog the television, talk on the cell phone during dinner, talk over each other all of the time, ask him to step in more. But don’t assume that he can change all of their behavior to accommodate you. If he can change even some of their behavior, that’s a good thing. However, if they behave in ways that are directly disrespectful to you, it’s better for you to set limits with them yourself in the same way that you would set limits with anyone else.
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104 Comments

  1. KatieP
    Posted November 29, 2014 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for this blog. I cannot even put into words how dysfunctional, narcissistic, greedy, nasty and delusional my stepchildren are. I love my husband dearly but in all honesty know that getting those spawn out of my life will feel like a millstone has been removed from my neck. The younger daughter (who is probably not even my hubby’s biological child, psycho ex had several affairs) is evil to him and to us. She only calls to either berate him or demand money. She is married, with a baby now, and almost 30. The other daughter (who is definitely hubby’s), is so dysfunctional, she married a man like her narcissistic, borderline mother and is now going through a horrible (and very expensive) divorce and custody case. The ex – by everyone’s definition (except – of course – the PAS victim daughters) – is plain evil. From the moment she conceived the first daughter, she went on a campaign to alienate my hubby from the kids. He stuck in there like Job, and almost died from doing so. He was literally almost dead from physical illness and stress when I met him. In the first six months, he had three surgeries just to get rid of what was wrong. His kids didn’t even come to visit. Truly, the situation is the worst I have ever seen. I’m almost ready to see a therapist. The alienation worked, however, and nothing my husband does is ever good enough, or right or anything. Not one holiday have they ever even visited him since I’ve known them but they feel no qualms about calling asking for pricey gifts! If you suggest that maybe they should treat their father better they rip your head off and start blaming him for everything under the sun. Believe me, this man has been a saint. We are really left with only one “healthy” choice and that is to walk away, but as an adopted person, I disagree with abandoning children, however, I am at a loss as to what to do. It’s not like these girls are young, they are 29 and 32. My husband has funded their lives, desperately tried to play a role in their lives, and still they act like being less than rude to him is an “insult” to their hellspawn mother. You can’t even tell anyone else this because it is so extreme they don’t believe it. My hubby feels bad, says I’m “not happy” and this has changed our relationship. I don’t know what to do, frankly. We are nearing retirement and I’m terrified of something happening to hubby and having those evil things come after me. Any suggestions would be welcome. Thanks.

    • KatieP
      Posted November 29, 2014 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

      Another problem I have with all of this is that they are 29 and 32. Neither my hubby or I were dependent on our parents, nor as dysfunctional in the world, as they are at that age. It’s mind-boggling. Though we offered to pay for a townhouse, SFH or condo for the older daughter when she left her (remarkably similar to her mother) soon-to-be-ex-husband, the girl moved back in with her mother, then started posts on FB about how happy she was that “her mother was there for her” … this after we offered to get her a place where she could live cost-free! It’s as if there are some major cognitive deficits … I told my hubby once that if he hung the moon for them, they’d denigrate him for a loose thread on his astronaut suit. Sadly, this is not an exaggeration. Now, we are on our vacation (we get one week off a year), and the younger “daughter” claims that “mother would never leave” the other daughter during her time of need (though she’s over there living with her mother) and we just gave her almost $5K two weeks ago for legal fees. It’s like a sick joke, and it makes me feel sick, and I worry that it is harming my marriage…but when I got married I sold my house and gave up everything, now I just feel depressed.

  2. Mimi
    Posted October 20, 2014 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

    I’m so disgusted with my Stepson. He steals, lies, breaks things . I feel zero love fir him. I want him back with his bio mom. It is where he belongs. They are just alike, liars, and thieves. I have tried. To the point of complete exhaustion with him.
    He’s ADHD , which I am calling BS on. He is bipolar, and moody.
    I don’t know how to convince m husband to just let him go to his mother.
    This will save the rest of our family.

    • Bj
      Posted November 12, 2014 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

      Omg I’m going threw the same thing I’ve tried and tried and get told I need to respect them or they won’t respect.. I can’t stand even being around them and there grown and we still argue because I don’t want them in our home

      • KatieP
        Posted November 29, 2014 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

        Well I have been just the opposite – tried to be kind, understanding and loving; rolled out the red carpet for the spawn, and all they do is crap all over the place. My hubby has seen his newest grandchild exactly three (short) times, and his “daughters” treat him like absolute garbage. I’ve never seen anything like it. They also said to him once, “We don’t have a problem with Katie, we have a problem with you” … not even having a darn clue how flabbergasted I am (and not in a good way) at their stomach-churning behavior. My hubby has wanted to walk from the scene time and again, he doesn’t even want me to mention it. I am beginning to think I need therapy.

  3. Melissa
    Posted June 3, 2014 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    It is so nice to find a place to vent like this! I met, fell in love and married the man of my dreams or so I thought. Yes I knew he had 3 kids and had been divorced for 6 years at that time ages now 20, 16 (sons) and a daughter who is now 9. He’s the one who filed for divorce after finding out his ex had been sleeping with an old high school love whom she got pregnant by back then but had an abortion. This woman never held a job while they were married so he was busting his ass to give them everything they needed solely on his own. They tried counseling but she said the problems were his and his alone as he came from a “broken home” so she refused to go. When he finally left, the youngest was a year old. The counselor he was seeing at the time told him it would be “best” for the children if he could leave her the house so the kids could still retain their friends and stay at the same schools etc.

    This is what he did and he moved into a shed with no electricity or water so that his kids would not go without. He sacrificed so much!!! He had to pay out the nose in child support but he signed the house over to her and suggested she get a job since she hadn’t worked in 19+ years to help pay for utilities, food etc. She went on food stamps but never did get a job. She’s the very nosy type and never missed get together with friends to commiserate about her life. Since he left she has blamed him for leaving and takes no responsibility in the dissolution of their marriage.

    We met in 2012 and had a long distance relationship for 6 months before he proposed. I refused to move where he lived until we were married so we married one year ago in 2013. I felt so sorry for him and all that he had been thru and I knew I wanted to spend my life with him though I didn’t see the children when I came down but a few times. We got along ok I guess and in never really saw any red flags until just before the wedding when she called him about something and he was whispering in my hallway. I could hear the other person chewing him out on the line but not once did I think it was his ex because by this time, they had been divorced almost 8 years and in my mind I thought no way could it be her yelling at him but sadly it was. Apparently she still wore the pants even tho they were divorced. This pissed me off royally when I found out!!!! How could she? How could he let her still run his life? Apparently she was upset because he didn’t tell her he was getting remarried but the kids knew.

    I am a mother of two, a son 24 and three years ago my beautiful 17 year old daughter was killed in a tragic accident so I kno a little bit about kids you could say. I had left my husband in 2007 after years and years of abuse, verbally, physical and emotional. He was this way with all of us and I just could not take anymore!!! I was raising my daughter on my own as she had a dad who was too busy to spend time with her so I pretty much had her 100%. It was the best decision I ever made though even tho times were very hard. I am a good mom and I believe I raised my kids to work hard, respect everyone and treat others as they would like to be treated. It wasn’t easy but I did it by the grace of God.

    Back to the marriage, at first his kids treated me ok and I did all I could to try and get to know them as individuals which wasn’t always easy. They even seemed to like me too but soon enuf they stated saying things like……my mom does this better or I don’t like your cooking so they wouldn’t eat unless it was junk food. I’m the kind if person who loves to cook for others and that is how I show my love, thru my cooking but when this started I just gave up! Nothing I do is right in their eyes so I just shut down emotionally when it came to them after a while. I tried staying in my room but this only made my husband angry and he said some nasty remarks about me not liking them. Some of what he said is true, I don’t like them at times. They are entitled, spoiled, dirty little brats. When I say dirty I mean that literary!!!!!! Apparently hygiene is not taught in their moms house because every time they come over they need to bathe and brush their teeth especially the daughter!!!!! She littary smells with stinky feet and her hair is always a rats nest and greasy!!!!

    We just bought a new home and I try my best to keep it tidy and clean at all times but when they are here, the messes are everywhere!!! They don’t listen to me, make their beds or bathe unless dad tells them to!! I feel like a stranger in my own home when they are here and sometimes I look for excuses so I don’t have to spend anytime with them. I swear I’m not a mean person but all this instant parenting my husband expects me to do is causing some very real problems for us and we are already in counseling!!!! I don’t know where else to turn so if you have ANY answers I would greatly appreciate hearing them. The kids are here tues and thurs and every other weekend. I just want to take my dog and run away when they are here!!!! I love my husband with all my heart but I can’t stand his kids!!!!!! HELP

    • blue
      Posted June 13, 2014 at 11:34 am | Permalink

      I am lucky not to have to deal with my step-children. I just don’t care for them, and don’t ask about them, am I wrong?

    • thinkthrice fts
      Posted October 3, 2014 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

      For those of you who think the nightmare will end at 18 you are sorely mistaken! Especially in states like New York and California. The fault lies with the biological parents and their nonparenting by GUILT! The stepkids are so coddled and spoiled that in most cases they will fail to launch.
      My oldest stepson who has been shunning his father for over six years turned 18 today. He has no plans for the future as mommykins told him he’d be a rock star. Kind of hard to do with no musical talent! He barely graduated high school, is a pot fiend and has a part time job making smoothies on a food truck. The worst part is that biodad has two younger ones that are even worse than the oldest! And to top it all off biodad OVERPAYS his child support to the point of being impoverished for the last ten years; completely relying on my salary and has NO problem with it!!! Mommykins is remarried and uses the child support for her fun money while I struggle
      Do yourself a favor and RUN!!!

  4. CE
    Posted May 22, 2014 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    This sounds all too familiar…. I have been with my boyfriend over 3years now and we get along great. There is one issue though. His grown ass daughters. I am nineteen years younger than him, and in the beginning his daughters and I got along just fine. It wasn’t until he moved in with me and they started to see stronger commitment between us. Then things started to get crazy. They have manipulated and created issues out of nowhere due to their jealousy and insecurities. I continued to be very nice and polite to them, but things just became harder. I’m 29, his oldest is 25 and youngest 22. I know age may be a factor in this, but for me it was a positive for common ground with them. They have lack of respect and maturity though unfortunately. I guess it boggles thier mind that thier dad could love someone slightly older than them. Not sure if that’s the real issue but I do think it plays a part in this scenario. The thing is, I also gave a 10 year old son, graduated college and have my own house and worked for everything I have. They started to even compete with me on these levels. I got pregnant and we now gave a for month year old son, plans to marry and moving soon into our own house. They straight up told him that they wish for us to split custody and not live together. I really think this roots back to their childhood due to their parents divorcing and they wish that for us, too. I think it’s extremely selfish, and displays disrespect to their father. He even recently found to the has stage three cancer and I’ve been very supportive along the way and felt like this could be the very thing to bring us all closer. Unfortunately, they have only created more drama since then. When they visit, I have given them each gifts, hospitality, and caring for them but seriously nothing is appreciated or good enough. I’ve decided to take the high road instead of the dead end that gets you nowhere. It us what it is. Just gotta move forward and live your life and choose to be happy. Not going to allow their negative influence affect me any longer. I’ve come to terms with this, and the fact that I don’t need to go out of my way to please them. I can be civil, but I refuse to be pushed around and that’s his decision to be disrespected. I’m removing myself from situation and he is the one to have a bond with them, not me. I’m blessed to have two sons and can only hope one day they will grow up.

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