My 2 bio kids and I have been living with the love of my life and his 3 bio kids for 1 1/2 years. I have worked really hard to have a good relationship all 3 stepkids. One of the reasons I fell in love with him is because he is a really loving Dad and very loving to me. All of the kids are with us most of the time. I don’t feel he has even attempted to have a relationship with my kids. When I have talked to him about this (and I know he has put a lot of thought into this), that women bond first and then build a relationship, men have to forge a relationship over time and then bond. I am starting to feel a lot of resentment. Is this a common problem for men to have trouble bonding as a stepparent?
PS: Thank you so very much for this forum, it has helped me not feel so alone…Your smommentaries are really wonderful, helping me to keep the “real” things in perspective…I could give a big list of the ones that have really helped me, but that would be long! So just a really really big THANK YOU!
Hi, thanks for your letter. I don’t know if this is a common problem or not. This is the first time anyone has asked me this question. Perhaps you can get more feedback from the general BB after reading this reply. It’s an important issue and I can certainly understand why you would be concerned.
Let’s start with your feelings. I’ve learned that when we feel resentment it’s usually because we feel we’re giving more than we’re getting, things are out of balance. Now, while that’s a short general definition, it’s a good way to begin to figure out what we can do about things.
From what you said, your Beloved feels he needs more time and since I know only what you’ve said, I would ask him, “What is he waiting for?” Is he interested in bonding with them or is he happy with things as they are? Since so much time has passed, one wonders what’s holding him back? Does he feel disloyal to his kids? Could he have made a promise to them, at the beginning of your relationship with them that he would keep his distance from your kids? Does he believe loving them all, would upset his kids? What role does he believe a stepdad should have? If his kids have a stepdad is there a chance this relationship is impacting his actions as a stepdad? There are lots of variables to this issue.
What I’ve noticed is that relationships with older children (whether kids or stepkids) can often become closer, quicker when they share a project, experience or goal. Since your family is often together, have you tried family projects that require your Beloved to interact directly with your kids and vice versa? Do your kids notice his lack of “bonding with them?” Are there specific things that you want him to do that he isn’t doing? Do you feel there is an imbalance in the parenting you two do for all the children? Is there a “your kids versa my kids” silent belief about responsibilities or tacit agreement in his mind? Can you find out what it would take for him to share more of his loving dad self with your kids?
Sometimes when we want something from another, we’ll try harder on our end, in hopes that it inspires the other to “step up” and/or change in a desirable way. If you’ve already done so much to make his kids feel comfy and are trying even harder so he will do the same for your kids, this could explain the understandable resentment? What would happen if you tried less hard with his kids? While we can’t make anyone love anyone else, can you help him find ways to increase his interaction with your kids-giving them a chance to form a deeper relationship?
For now, let’s focus on what you can do: (These are just choices, the more choices we have when facing a challenge, the better and more powerful we will feel when we finally make a choice. Doesn’t mean you have to do any of these, maybe they will help you decide what to do or not do. Just wanting to give you some options.)
Re-adjust what you do for his kids so you feel the give and take is more balanced. If your Beloved notices, it’s a chance to explain your resentment and ask him if he is willing to do more to match your efforts with his kids. This is certainly a direct approach and his response will be noteworthy.
Ask him what activities he’s willing to do with your kids to give them the chance to relate then bond. This will gage his honest level of interest so you can look at whether you can accept this…or not.
Ask your kids what they would like from their stepdad that they are not getting now? If you ask it as an open-ended question (meaning not a yes/no question) their answers will be very insightful. How does what they want line up with what you want for them? If they are AOK with things, your feelings may indicate an imbalance of giving and getting in another area of your relationship and worthy of your thought and time also.
You can try to create some family activities that just naturally involve interactions between everyone. (you may have already tried this one.) Team games are good when you can mix up the kids and parents. You can pick categories that you know will team your Beloved up with one or both of your kids. Ex. Odd versus Even numbered birthdays (or birthday months or birth years), Lefties versus Rightees, Girls versus guys. You can also divide up chores and house projects randomly to give everyone a chance to work together. The bigger the project, the better the chance of them getting to know each other and then bonding.
Now that I have been thinking about this, I hope you will post to the BB. Perhaps you could write a more detailed post to include some of the answers to my questions. This will increase the value of the replies you get. If you want to write to me again with answers to these questions I will amend this reply to include both of our replies so it will help anyone else in your situation.
I’ll hope this triggers something to help you in your situation. Sincerely, Cathryn