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Dealing with Feelings of Resentment as a Stepparent

By: Elizabeth Grace - Updated: 2 Mar 2018 | comments*Discuss
Parent Feelings Emotions Children

All parents experience moments when they may resent parts of their lives – parenting can be a thankless job at times, but for stepparents, who may take on many parental responsibilities without getting credit, the sense of resentment can be even greater.

Stepparents often deal with negative input from their spouse’s ex, who may be uncomfortable with a new person playing a role in the lives of the children, and even the kids themselves may not always be kind or welcoming.

So if stepparents are resentful at times, who could blame them?

Dealing with a Spouse’s Ex-Partner

Oftentimes, the biggest obstacles to a stress-free home life for stepparents come from the actions and attitudes of their spouse’s ex-partner. Exes often seem determined to cause trouble for their ex’s new family, refusing to allow the input of the spouse’s new partner to influence decisions about the children and even discouraging the kids from forming loving bonds with their stepparent.

While no one can control the actions or attitudes of another, stepparents may be able to minimise their frustration and resentment by requesting that their spouse intervene on their behalf, asking for at least respectful silence if true cooperation is out of the question. Unresolved issues between the children’s natural parents may prohibit the ex from ever accepting their children’s stepparent or appreciating the things that they do for the kids, but it isn’t unreasonable to expect that they could at least refrain from outward rudeness or troublesome behaviour.

Coping with Ungrateful Stepchildren

Kids often take it for granted that their needs will be met. Young children, especially, are inclined to simply expect things to be done for them without expressing gratitude to those who make it their business to provide.

As they get older, though, children should begin to understand that parents and stepparents typically work very hard to provide all that the kids need and often do without so that their children can have more. While a certain amount of gratitude doesn’t seem like an unreasonable hope, not all kids let their parents know that they are appreciative – some go so far as to complain incessantly about what they don’t have, rather than being thankful for their blessings.

The Importance of Expressing Emotions

Rather than being silent in their resentment, stepparents should express their need to have their contributions recognised and acknowledged. Sometimes, families have operated in a manner for years, never realising that their actions may be hurtful to other members. When a stepparent joins a family and finds that their ways seem disrespectful, it is quite possible that family members are unaware of how they are being perceived unless it is brought to their attention.

It is important for family members to talk about their feelings and to let other members know what they need to feel loved. Some people need to hear that they are valued, while others prefer that those who care for them show their appreciation by offering help with chores and lightening their load of responsibilities. In either case, stepparents (and other family members) cannot expect others to automatically know what makes them happy – they need to speak up.

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@kids - He has been the same since 5 years and still throws tantrums like he is 5 anytime asked to help, pick up, do anything. He refuses to get a job as nothing is good enough for his self entitle butt. He has actually laughed when i got upset over his behaviour and attitude and treatment of his father.I have tested him before to see what he says to his dad and told him i would do something and 5 minutes later he is off whispering to his father and having his dad yell at me. Oh happy day!!... i hope he does make it to uni as he applies no effort to school.
PaddlesMom - 2-Mar-18 @ 3:31 PM
@PaddlesMom - 16 is an horrible age. Ride it through. Hopefully he'll be at uni or leave home and get a job at 18 then you might be able to relax.
Kids! - 2-Mar-18 @ 3:26 PM
My 16.5 year old stepson who I have been in his life since he was 5 has never accepted me. My husband always overrides anything I ask or expect of him also, so makes it even worse. The child mocks me when I’m upset so I no longer get upset, but now the child is grating his father even worse than ever. Anything I say he tells his dad I’m putting words in his ear and to not listen as I’m lying ormaking things up. The child plays his dad like a fiddle and anytime o try to stop it I’m told I’m not his parent. The child’s mom is your house your problem he’s an angel At my house. Her boyfriend has been around since day 1 and she backs him up so child cannot abuse him like I get verbally.He only talks to his dad when he wants money or video games and lives with us 50% of the time.I have managed to hold on somehow but with the kid getting more manipulative what do I do?
PaddlesMom - 2-Mar-18 @ 1:05 PM
@Me...Are you saying that you are invisible to your husband? Sorry but your husband doesn't sound like a very nice man. You need to discuss this with your husband and I think I would be on my way out of the door if my other half was a) consitently rude to my kids and b) rude to me. I think you need to listen to the way you feel and act on it. You deserve to be loved and feel wanted and needed by your husband most of all. At least you have the support of all the children - but you also need the support of him too :(
Needaglassofvino - 22-Feb-18 @ 3:26 PM
All of these are very important. Mine is different, that my step kids love me, talk to me more than their dad or mom. I have adult sons and my husband has 2 teensgers that live with us. He has nothing to do with my kids, hates when they come over and is a bear and usually leaves, not saying anything to them until they are leaving.He is good with his kids, will bend over backwards to please them. Exs are not in picture. My problem is I am invisible to him. His kids mention this to him all the time. Tone of voice everything is different. I feel more alone than when I was single for over 10 years. Thoughts?
Me - 22-Feb-18 @ 2:44 AM
@Dream a Little - there is nothing you can do legally, unless you can prove 'parental alienation' But you would not be able to do this if your daughters are now adults :(
Rache - 20-Feb-18 @ 2:01 PM
My situation is very complicated...I divorced my exhusband when my 2 girls where hitting their teens. Bad time anyway but was due to a very long abusive relationship/marriage. I met my current husband very soon after the seperation. Was a very bad divorce with harassment and manipulation from the kids father and family. During this time the ex took advantage of the opportunity to help the resentments grow in my girls. Now mind you this relationship is not perfect either. Luckily their father dropped out of the picture during the up bringing of my girls teen years and into adulthood. My girls have chose to be the bigger person and have a relationship with their father now that they are adults. Well needless to say but the manipulation has not stopped nor has the trouble starting from the he said she said crap. I love my daughters more than life and i also love my husband. We have struggled through this 9 yr relationship (married for last 3) and have become stronger and better than ever but my girls still have the resentments and bad feelings. I just want everyone to be happy and to be able to enjoy our grandbabies together as much as we can without all the immatureness. Idk what to do or if there is anything i can do.
Dream a Little - 19-Feb-18 @ 8:58 PM
@Miserable - I know how you feel exactly. I AM so close to having my bags packed and leaving - just so I do not have to deal with this weekly ritual that makes me feel like my whole world has imploded. I've even begun to dislike my hubby as it irritates me when he can't see how massively devious his kids are. Grits teeth.
Jen - 22-Jan-18 @ 3:13 PM
I have been a stepmom to 3 kids for 2 years now. I also have one child of my own from a previous relationship. I am absolutely miserable when my stepkids come around. They speak however they like to me and act like its ok. Their dad defends them no matter what. It's always and I mean ALWAYS me overreacting. I have tried many times to say how but it's been proven to just be a waste of my time. They all, him and his kids, sit their and just act like they don't understand and they dont remember anything and Im just being mean. When they aren't there he and i get along just fine.I hate being in my own home when they are around to the point i feel physically sick. I just feel trapped there. I hate to say this but im ready to breakup with him just so i don't have to ever see his kids again.
Miserable - 20-Jan-18 @ 10:40 PM
@*m. You're doing a good thing to step back an allow your husband time with his son. We can't like all of the people all of the time and step-parenting is tricky. He's obviously very unhappy and I'd hate to think my stepson didn't want to come around because of me (even though we don't see eye-to-eye all of the time and I do find negotiating it difficult). You say you clamp down and put a wall up - he'll sense that - kids aren't stupid. He'll sense if you're pretending to like him even if you don't. So go an have some nice times with your girls and leave him to his dad. But try and give this generously. It's not his fault his parents have split up and he feels unhappy. He may feel overwhelmed and uncomfortable and unable to adjust - we all feel like that in certain situations.
CareyNN - 15-Jan-18 @ 3:00 PM
I'm have been married for 2 years been with my husband for 6. I have a daughter from a past relationship(who doesn't see her dad) my husband had a son from a past relationship( who we have on a Saturday) and we have a daughter between us. My daughter is 11, out daughter is 4 and his son is 9. Know I have tried for the last 5 years to have his son like me. I have tried to include him in games that I play with the girls, mucking around and making sure there are things here from him. But he don't really talk to me, he won't sit near me, he never thanks me only his dad, he won't play with anything, and when I think we have had a good day and I'm getting some where with him, we receive a text from him mum saying he feels left out and not wanted. This make me feel so bad that I build a wall and don't want to let him in. And every time I bring it down something happens for me to put it back up. Just before Christmas I told them all off for breaking my daughtersaighters cupboard as no one would own up to it. Then he stopped coming round and on boxing day he didn't want to be picked up until we where going to my husband's mums. He only wanted to come round half a day. Over the years he use to cry just to go home or just sit in silence and not do anything. He stopped coming round all together. My husband picked him up from school one day last weekto find out what was going on and he had said it's because of me he don't want to come round. I feel bad for my husband and I have now decided to go out on a saturday and leave my husband and the kids to have a relationship, as I feel bad he hasn't one with his son because of me. But am I doing the right thing? My husband doesn't want me to not be with him on a Saturday and I don't want to be withwithout him or the girls but I can't change who I am and I don't want him to miss out on his son because of me.
*m - 13-Jan-18 @ 11:12 AM
@Jamie871 - it sounds as though he is just scared of the major commitment of having an instant family. If you are pregnant now, then he's going to have to make up his mind pretty sharpish. Your kids are your kids and you come as a package. But you don't want to live with someone who resents your kids at such an early stage :( This could go two ways; he either settles into family life after his initial wobbles and takes on your kids as his own. Or he becomes increasingly resentful which is not a good way to begin a co-habiting relationship. You might be better living apart if you can - but that's not great for you if you have a third child to bring up and if finances are tight. You don't say how many months your are into your pregnancy. If you are really early days, you may have to make the decision whether to go ahead, as this will/could affect the rest of your life. You need to do some serious talking to him, that's for sure. Any other opinions from anyone? I really feel for you, this is not a great position to find yourself in. Hopefully he may man-up and sort himself out.Jess
Jess-89 - 7-Nov-17 @ 2:12 PM
I have been dating my boyfriend for two years. I am divorced and have 2 boys that are 8 and 5 and both lovey boyfriend. We were supposed to move in together over Labor Day and my boyfriend had a melt down of becoming and instant family so we postponed the move. Fast forward a few months I am pregnant(which was planned) and now my boyfriend is having serious issues with being apart of the boys life. He feels he isn't good enough and that he shouldn't sacrifice for them when he will never be more than a friend. I am seriosuly confused and not sure where this behavior is coming from. The boys adore him and I love him more for the impact he has had on them. I dont know what to do, we haven't moved in yet and I am pregnant with his child, but he is resenting mine. Please, any advice is greatly appreciated!
Jamie871 - 4-Nov-17 @ 12:27 AM
@Jaz - ahhhhhhh. You are amazing to take all this on board at such a young age and to sacrifice so much. It's lovely that you love your stepkids, but it's not them that are really the issue here, it's the dad. I'm sure if he was around more then you'd feel much more settled and contented. But, you are not put on this planet to serve him, you also have wants and needs of your own and please don't forget this. This sounds like an old-fashioned relationship from the 1950s where the woman was left at home looking after the kids - but this is not the 1950s and these are not your kids. If I were you I would get back to your career. The children are his responsibility and therefore he should take the majority care, but while you're at home waiting for him, by the sound of it, he's going to take advantage. Get a job, go on a course, get yourself a career, but please get out of the house and don't waste your life being an outmoded woman from a different era. You need to take control of your life as five or ten years down the line you will regret it. You may love him and the kids, but for your own confidence you need to get your own life too. Your man is being really unfair and selfish here and you need to put your foot down for fairness. The only way you will become more secure in your relationship is to take more control of your life and not be made to feel like a general dogsbody. You deserve happiness too. There is nothing more attractive than a happy, independent woman and your man needs to help you achieve this, not try to pull you back. Best of luck - let us know how you go <3
India** - 3-Oct-17 @ 12:16 PM
Hi There, I have been a step mother to two boys whom I meet when they were 5 and 8 years old, and are now 8 and 11 years old. My Partner is a musician by night (meaning he has a day job and doesn't normally get paid for his musical endeavors) and tends to have to leave multiple times a week in the evenings, leaving me with the children to feed, finish homework and prepare for school, showers and all those before bedtime rituals. Earlier this year we won full custody of both his children from their mother (she was an addict, and very ugly to him as well as myself, and we had basically taken the kids over full time within the first month we started dating). Issue is, We have been fighting a lot more recently because I have been getting upset about his leaving. Most of the time his reasons to leave are very last minute (rarely ever planned), usually have to do with his friends needing him for something, and they tend run a lot later than he initially states all while he's not the best at communicating when he is gone( I.e He will leave saying hell only be gone for an hour then 3 hours later he comes home and hadn't notified me that he would even be late.). A little more back drop history - he cheated once, with his ex wife, a year and a half into our relationship and so now It makes me even more uneasy and insecure when he leaves because he was supposed to be out doing music when he cheated. Now a days I get upset every time he has to leave because its always the same fight. He tends to lack planning and communication, and I'm left to feel like other things that do not contribute much to our family at all, take priority over us. While I am not the biological parent, I tend to be around or home more often than he is and the kids I know feel that too. I need some suggestions on how to get over this insecurity and become more secure in my relationship and giving him his freedom. Before this relationship, I was a 23 year old college grad with no children who met her SO at a concert of his, and now I'm more of a mom than anything I've ever been in my life. With that being said, I'm posting to this page because I feel like this may be due to a feeling of resentment - given my SO can leave whenever he's needed or he deems needed (whether I'm mad or not), but I have sacrificed most of my hobbies and personal activities to be a parent, as well as an available and supportive SO. I guess I feel like he needs to be home for the kids at least as much or even more than I am because they have basically lost their biological mother and I as the step parent can only fill that void so much. I love my three guys with all my heart, But I've become so consumed in running this household as the parent I always hoped I would be, that I've failed to give myself my own freedoms. Please help!!! <3
Jaz - 2-Oct-17 @ 5:52 PM
My husband and I have been together 13 years..I have 2 son's from previous marriage, and 1 together.Several years ago my middle son started acting out.. mostly taking it out on my youngest and husband.As long as he gets his way.It's fine.However when he gets in trouble and he looses privileges or we in force from my ex ( who he currently lives with).He blows up.I truly do not believe he treated them different..however the last several yrs have been extremely rough and trying.The disrespectful and resentment are unbearable.I am often caught in the middle.Our middle has recently lied continuously, and we have caught him messaging in appropriate..when he is here he also disrespects verbally his father .. I feel we have tried almost every thing. Niw do to the hateful comments.. my husband is starting to resent.. how can I support my family and bring them back together?? I try to respect my husband feeling and support him,. but there are times it will not be enough until I out a stop to our middle visiting until apologies...But it is also face value...And even if he does. My husband is very closed off for now...I'm crushed,. I truly do not know or understand where and what happened.. they used to be very close
Lost Ma - 26-Sep-17 @ 5:10 AM
@thompbecky - the main thing to do is not to let the son split up you and your partner and try to work together. It will take time to adjust to the son living with you (if he has only recently moved in). But, it's rare that a 13-y-o will pick up after themselves. But if you want to stay with your husband, you need to start working with him and not against him. Complaining to your husband is only going to put him under pressure and feel caught in the middle. Your husband needs your support, no matter how difficult it might be to grit your teeth!
BrightStar - 15-Sep-17 @ 1:40 PM
@Grumpy - by saying she sucks up - at least she is aiming to please - which is one good thing. She's a teenager, they are often histrionic these days! If you love her - talk to her to try to make things better and encourage her to calm down a bit. But I agree, I can't understand why teenage girls are so loud these days - everything has to be dramatised so it is completely OTT.
Pip - 11-Sep-17 @ 3:36 PM
A feel like I am getting resentful because of my SD. Through no fault of her own, when she comes to spend her weekends with us, then all the drama comes with her. Her mothers drama, my husbands family drama, a bunch of negativity. Then while she's hear, she's all up mine and my husbands butt the entire time doing and saying anything to get attention from us. Anytime I say anything to my husband he acts like im a child and that I need to grow up. I do really love her but it's like everytime she comes around me and my husband fight over everything. Now when she's not here we are 95% good.
Grumpy - 9-Sep-17 @ 3:04 PM
How do you know if a comment post?? I wrote a novel this morming and i cannot find it???? I am in dire need of mental help with dealing with a very troubled stepson who is 13 and in 3 short/long weeks has almost ended my relationship with his father.. I meed to know if its me, if i am being unrealistic in expecting this 13 year old to pick up his dirty close everyday, pick up his trash everyday, and be respectful towards me??? The father just recently had a mini meltdown himself due to the sons actions, but last night informed me he is sick if my complaing about what his son is not doing... the son was in counseling before coming to live with us, even told my a judge that he had better change his ways.. the father himself told me how manipulative and challenging his son is, I have a hard time letting go of the disrespect the son has shown me and I am also disappointed that my boyfriend is choosing not to make the son continue therapy which is needed due to the sons mother commiting suicide 4 years ago..please share some advice for me
thompbecky - 8-Sep-17 @ 2:34 PM
@LL (and Rosie): what you feel is frustration with your husband and the presence of his bio daughter is a pretext to not address the real issues.Example from your own post "Here's the issue: He makes me the weekend dad, as it were. I'm in charge of her clothing, food, entertainment, and so on. I even sign her up and pay for summer camp so I have a bit of free time." You still have your other two children, right? So he is no more involved with all of the above when it comes to them than to her. Also "Even when he is around, he either spends no time with her or he tries to get her involved in his hobbies (archery, canning. stuff no one is interested in! :-) )." Again it doesn't sound like he spends much time with the other two either.You could ask that she only comes when he doesn't work, but not for the reasons stated above. Rather because she needs time with her dad not just to be away from her mother. And are you prepared to face the financial consequences if there is a change in custody arrangements? My best advice: be the girls advocate, it's not her fault her father doesn't pay attention to her needs and take it up with him on how much he is there for your own two kids.
cyanna - 5-Aug-17 @ 4:59 PM
@Hammie: is it just to you she is behaving like this? If it is, you do need to set some ground rules. Regardless of the role, we have in a child's life as adults we need to be role models. If she is at a stage when she resents your role as a step parent, take a step back. She might feel pressurized by your offers of doing things together, asking her opinion, doing her hair.By all means calmly ask her to not raise her voice at you and refuse to continue the conversation if she does, similar when she is rude. but otherwise.she is a teenager and they are from a different planet (i've raised three so I do have some insight). All you can do is decide how you behave and where the line goes.As to leaving your house when she is there.it shouldn't be a routine, but do make sure she has some time alone with her dad. My now grown daughter (23) has just spent 2.5 days alone with her bio dad. They see each other often but usually either her brother's or my ex's new partner are around. this time it was just the two of them and she couldn't stop telling me how nice it has felt to have time just the two of them.All families are different so take this with a pinch of salt, but in our mixed one although we all think the new wife is a very nice warm person and a blessing since she is now taking care of some of the father's emotional needs, all three children view her as 'dad's friend'. They are grateful for her being a gracious hostess when they are over there, but don't want her involved in their lives. And they don't socialize with her unless their father is also involved.
cyanna - 5-Aug-17 @ 4:22 PM
@Hammie. Sometimes in situations where you are trying, it's time to stop (especially if you are getting nowhere). It might become a bit worse before it gets better. But your SD may need to be treated like she treats you. She might come around then. This is the only way I can think of turning the tables if you are not getting any response the other way.
alibabs - 31-Jul-17 @ 1:56 PM
Hi all, I am really glad to have found this site. I have had 2 step children for about 6 years. I have always had a good relationship with the younger one but things have been challenging with the younger one since she realised I was her dad's girlfriend. I continue to make an effort with her - things like giving gifts, trying to chat and doing her hair, as well as the usual cooking, cleaning etc, however she consistently fails to show me respect. This ranges from looking at others when talking to me, giving me the silent treatment, deliberately doing the opposite of what I say etc. She is now an adolescent and has become very insular, despite this I try to find activities that she would like to do and ask her for ideas but she isn't interested. She was recently very rude to me, screaming and telling me to shut up (not the first time) She has now said I'm the reason she doesn't want to come to our house (every other weekend). She seems to think I am the reason her parents aren't together, however this isn't the case. Indeed, her step dad has been with her mum for about the same time as we have been together. I now try to arrange to see my friends on the weekends we have the children as it easier to remove myself from the situation, but this isn't resolving anything. I don't know what to do, I have tried with her but she is continually rude. My OH is understanding but unfortunately the ex's view seems to be as adults we just need to get over this. Easier said than done when it has been happening for years. Any thoughts?! Thanks.
Hammie - 30-Jul-17 @ 12:07 PM
No i don"t think it sounds extreme at all. I think it sounds extreme that he expects you to do all of the work looking after.a child he chose to have along with holding down a career. He made his bed he should lie in it and face his responsibilities.
Rosie - 29-Jul-17 @ 9:01 PM
I need some advice on a situation that will probably make me sound awful, but here goes. I have a step-daughter (SD) whom I've know since she was 4. She's 12 now. When I met my husband, he only had her every other weekend, and for no overnights. This was the result of his decision when she was 1 to allow her to stay with her mother all the time--he felt it was best. Unfortunately, this locked him into a huge child support payment, and of course his ex wasn't willing to suddenly give him overnights and sacrifice all that money. Anyway, he took her to court and won, etc, etc. Four years ago, she started staying every other weekend and summers. At the time, he was in school and working weekends, so I basically took on all her care. I thought it was temporary, but his job is in healthcare, so he now works four days on/two days off, and is therefore rarely home on her weekends. I'm also a teacher, so I have summer off (not to mention crap-tons of work every weekend during the school year!). We also have two other kids together (5 and 1). Here's the issue: He makes me the weekend dad, as it were. I'm in charge of her clothing, food, entertainment, and so on. I even sign her up and pay for summer camp so I have a bit of free time. I also have our kids and my work to do. Even when he is around, he either spends no time with her or he tries to get her involved in his hobbies (archery, canning... stuff no one is interested in! :-) ). Anyway, she's not a bad kid at all. She reads a lot, is nice to her brother and sister, is generally agreeable. But I still feel such resentment, sometime bordering on hatred (often directed at my husband) when she's around. I never show this. Everyone thinks I'm a competent, happy step-mother. Not true! I'm ready to leave every weekend she comes. What should I do? I've talked to my husband, and he always vows to change, but doesn't. Does it seem too extreme to say that she can only come over when he doesn't work? What do you think?
LL - 15-Jul-17 @ 10:13 PM
@Blondie - it sounds like you and your hubby should just keep away from her. You can make arrangements through mediation and such like where you don't have to see her. It sounds like the dad is caught in the middle of all this bickering. You're right, we should cherish the fact that the person who is a step-parent to our kids loves an not loathes them. Keep up the good work. As long as you are doing right and good by yourself and others, then you are on the right track, despite what others may think or say.
Rache89* - 27-Jun-17 @ 2:07 PM
No no no lol not my best friends dad ..I'm am married to her baby daddy ...but keep in mind I didn't meet my best friend till after me and her ex broke up in highschool ...and you know how women are they get together and talk crap to figure out truth from all lies men tell that kind of thing...but you would think she would be pleased to know the whole eveil stepmother saga wouldn't be there with her child due to me loving this as my own since she was two and always treated her as well as I do my part n children even before I was with her dad ...this last time you would think she would be pleased he married someone who in turn loves their daughter as much as they do you know but no she tells everyone I'm a bad parent I do everything wrong and that I'm not he reason they didn't work but yet she never wanted anything to do with my husband after their daughter was born even went so far to accuse him of some things to keep him from seeing his daughter before he was even with me if she hates him so bad why is she trying to ruein my marriage...and the in-laws is a trip in its selves
Blondie - 26-Jun-17 @ 6:36 PM
@Blondie - yours is a tough one. It sounds like a bit of a mess especially if you ended up with your b/f's dad, she probably hates you for that, so it's never going to be easy :( It sounds like there are all sorts of jealousies flying around which are impossible to unravel. Can anyone else out there help Blondie? I don't know what to suggest. Ali.
alibabs - 26-Jun-17 @ 4:21 PM
@Jam - I just think it's hard for any parent to take on another parent's children. There are always going to be issues because they are not your kids and you haven't grown up with them since birth. Sometimes it can work, if the dynamic is a natural one but more often than not it's tough. I quite like my stepkids, but I know that they will always come down on their dad's side because blood is thicker than water.
alibabs - 26-Jun-17 @ 4:13 PM
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