I feel like my sister-in-law is putting things in my SK’s minds and I’m finding very difficult to be around her and my SKs together. On a recent family trip, it was somewhat obvious that every time they came back from spending time with her, they acted different towards me. I’m standoffish, resentful. Lately, it seems like there has been a lot of tension when we are all together. My 16-year old SS often shows her affection by hugging her a lot and sitting next to her and sometimes I feel jealous but I have never really been able to show him affection.
I guess it’s because of the past history we had with the BM during custody hearings. I show my BS a lot of affection and will do so always. I often think ss is missing the affection at home from the BM and I really don’t know as I don’t communicate with the BM. My sister-in-law was known to cause issues in my husband’s previous marriage and I often wonder if she is again trying to do the same thing and almost like she’s trying to hit me where I’m most vulnerable as she knows that my husband will always choose my SKid’s side. She doesn’t have children of her own and in the past, 2 sets of different nieces and nephews have come to with live her for different reasons. We have never really had issues, the issues just recently started after our recent family trip (which btw she organized for my husband as an early b-day present).
Also, it seems if my sister-in-law isn’t a part of something then the SK don’t think it’s a good idea (like when my husband mentioned going on another fishing trip and my SD automatically said “for Aunt’s bday.“ What am I ? Why can’t it ever be for my b-day? It seems like they are always calling her to come over to the house which is fine but here we go again with showing of affection. I have never had anything against her so I’m not sure what is going on. I’m just waiting for my SS to say that he wants to move in with her, that would rip my husband’s heart in two.
Should I be jealous of the affection my SS shows to his Aunt (after all he has known her longer)?
Am I wrong for not showing affection to him?
How can I handle the situation if she is telling them things?
Insight Needed for Peace of Mind
Thanks for your letter. I’m hoping that I can say something that will ease your mind. These are not simple questions and I only have a small bit of info but let’s talk about a couple of things in your letter and see if anything comforts you.
About your comments of feeling uncomfortable when they return from time with their aunt…sometimes we can feel “slapped in the face” energetically when we’re all excited to see our stepkids and they just sort of glance our way, mumble and keep on moving. That can really hurt and I see why you’d feel badly or worry that she’s saying something about you. However, it could be something that has nothing to do with you.
We’ve noticed that when stepkids return from time with their bio-moms or perhaps any other woman (this aunt, for example) there can be some issues with “emotional re-entry” into your space. We found it was helpful to give stepkids some space to adjust to being at Dad’s and/or with you when returning to your home. What if you tried something a bit different? Next time, when they come back from time with their bio-mom or aunt, just greet them cheerfully then move on to whatever you were doing. Happily give them their space. Let them come to you if they want to share or talk. Just be your happy, loving self and interact with them whenever you’re all together (maybe at meals). Sometimes we SMOMS try so hard to connect that stepkids’ actions unintentionally hurt us even when they’re really just oblivious. I don’t know about your stepkids but what does your gut, not your worry, tell you about their actions?
From what you’ve said, I can’t imagine why the aunt would be trying to turn your stepkids against you unless she is jealous of you! Could that be true? Sometimes people step up their efforts if they feel insecure or threatened by another. Could it be she’s just trying to hold onto her place in their hearts? Maybe she’s just enjoying them OR maybe she’s trying to negatively impact your connection with them. Since we don’t know, what if you decided NOT to worry about it, until (or unless) you get some proof. My dad used to say, “when in doubt, throw it out.” In this case, you’d have more peace of mind if you decided that there’s nothing going on and that everything’s alright. Promise yourself that if you hear or learn that there is a problem, that you’ll address it with the stepkids or the aunt, right away.
If you find that she’s actually telling them “un-truths” about you, I would hope that your husband would step in on your behalf AND it would be the time to speak with the stepkids directly. We can’t control what others say to them, nor whether or not they believe us but we can look them in the eyes and tell them our truth. Kids are so influenceable so all you can do is be yourself, be honest and trust your intuition. Worrying about what we don’t know isn’t going to ever give you peace of mind.
From what little I know about the situation, seems like you may be feeling left out and that’s a very painful feeling. At 16 your ss will look at you very differently than the Aunt he’s grown up with. It’s harder for Stepmoms to connect with the stepkids on every level when the stepkids are older and the expression of affection becomes even more tricky when the boys are teens. If you two can kid around, can talk about school, sports and whatever he’s interested in, that’s a whole lot more than many of us SMOMS got from our teenage ss. I think you should be yourself. We smoms, can’t make up for whatever the stepkids haven’t gotten from their mom’s in life. We can, however, model lovingkindness. That will come across in your tone, your attitude and your energy when around them. There’s no need to force yourself to do more than you are comfortable doing-it wouldn’t be honest, would it? Could your expectations of your relationships with your stepkids be a bit too high if you’re comparing them with your connection to your own child? Could you be asking too much of yourself? Are you feeling pressure to do more than you are? What if you decided (a more powerful feeling) that everything is OK with them and that YOU are the one who needs more love and less worry? Can you give yourself that gift? Even just try it for a day and see how you feel? Right now, how you choose to feel is the only thing you have control over.
About your jealous feelings…It’s such an awful, gnawing feeling isn’t it? It’s hard to watch others have what we want. Along with showing affection with your stepkids, she appears to have a close relationship with them and they admire and love her back. You could be right, she could be playing up the connection in front of you or maybe she’s acting as she is for reasons that have nothing to do with you. (For example: She has no kids of her own, so nieces and nephews are her chance to experience the kids.) My sense is you wouldn’t be jealous of her if you felt better, more OK about, your connection with your stepkids.
Do you want to express and share more affection with your stepkids? If so, maybe you could shift your attention and energy into looking for more ways to do that. What about planning something with the aunt? Do you like her? if you weren’t feeling suspicious of her, would you enjoy her company? Is your hubby supportive of your feelings? Perhaps you need a big dose of loving attention from the ones you love. You may want to read my article about “Comforting Ourselves” as it is about feelings of jealousy.
What you are feeling is very uncomfortable and if you’re willing, maybe making some different assumptions about what is happening, will give you the peace of mind you are looking for. I hope something here is helpful.
Best Wishes, Cathryn
PS: Please read my latest post about Catastrophizing for more support of your anxiety and a deeper understanding of how to support yourself when confronted with unknowns and uncontrollable issues.