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How to force yourself to love your Step child

AKW's picture

I don't even know where to start. I guess I could start with how I feel about myself, my situation, towards my 10 year old step child. I feel evil, disgusting, resentful, hopeless, undeserving. I feel as if I should be grateful as everyone is in good health and there aren't any real financial burdens. When I was 18 I met my spouse. We dated but broke up after about 1.5 years because our paths were headed in two very different directions. About 2 years later he reached out to me. I still loved him. We ended up getting back together but this time he was divorced and had a young daughter. Regardless, we worked things out and got back together and eventually had two children together. Stepdaughter has never known her mom and dad to be together. As far as she knows I have always been with her dad. I met her when she was 2. She lived with her grandparents and mom for the first 4 years and came to us full time mid-kindergarten. Presently, she has been with us since then, mom still has primary custody and has been receiving child support from my husband for the entire time. Whatever though, he's got his daughter and I feel that is the most important thing. He's a good father and he deserves to have his child. Mom doesn't really care in the sense that normal mothers do/should.  I have always struggled with SD, just as everyone does with her. She is highly intelligent and manipulative for her age and expects constant attention. I would think that because I have known her since she was 2 that I would overcome this dislike of her and I have grown to care for her but I don't like being around her or doing things with her. I love that the pandemic is over and I can drop her off at school and not have to deal with her until 430. I dread picking her up. WHY DOES IT HAVE TO BE LIKE THIS? I loath weekends because she's home all day and there's no school. Sometimes I can forget and we can just be, but it always bubbles up into more. I get angry at the things she does and her behavior and though I don't physically/verbally abuse her, my actions are not necessarily acceptable when dealing with a 10 year old child. BUT I CANT HELP IT! I become this irritated angry person with her around. I don't want to be that person. I can fake niceness/customer service with anyone and everyone but not when it comes to dealing with her. Why do I become so angry and powerless when she's around. She's 10 I'm 32(almost). I should be mature enough and strong enough to deal with a child, especially since I am a mother now. How do I at least pretend to like her to keep my husband and I happy. He stuck up for her tonight, and rightly so, and it led to him getting very angry with me for not handling the situation correctly. I feel so helpless, and it creates an ugliness inside me. I want to be good and loving but I just can't. Any words of advice would greatly be appreciated. I could go on all night but I'm going to stop myself here. Thanks for reading!

The_Upgrade's picture

Can you tell us a bit more about how your DH handles her manipulation as you call it. And how he balances caring for her vs the rest of the family? Most of us on this site that claim to dislike/hate or resent our step children really have problems with our spouses. When you feel like no matter what your SD or BM throws at you, your DH is there to back you up 100% - it doesn't matter how crazy they get, you can find an inner peace that comes from knowing your DH fully supports you. Are you taking out your frustrations on SD when they should be directed at DH?

AKW's picture

Thank you for replying! My husband and I have a great relationship until it comes to me handling her behavior, which is huge and eventually leads to a fight. He has the unconditional love for her as her biological father. I get frustrated with my own kids when they don't always behave but with the step daughter I have absolutely no patience with her. My husband allows me to discipline her as fit and typically takes my side. But I must admit, I am wrong sometimes and when I am he steps in. He handles her manipulation, lying, and behavior with all our children with a saintly patience I could never achieve. Of course he gets frustrated at times but takes the time to explain things to them when they do something wrong and rarely lets his anger and frustration out in the presence of the children. My thing with him is he doesn't know what it's like to be a step parent who constantly deals with a child that wants but o be the center of attention and will do whatever to get it. SD wears people down with the excessive talking but they have the option to leave when it gets to much.  

The_Upgrade's picture

Perhaps it'll take the pressure off you if you leave the discipline to him for a while. You'll probably develop more patience for her when she's no longer your problem child to parent. Think of her as your friend's kid and not your stepdaughter. Somehow your DH needs to balance meeting your needs as a spouse and SD's needs as his dependant child. I'm guessing your short fuse at SD stems from the fact that you think she acts up for attention and gets away with it too often. And she acts up because she needs the attention. 

But to answer your question of how to force yourself to love your stepchild? Don't.

Kes's picture

One cannot "force yourself to love" your stepchild.  Usually there are good reasons why they are not very loveable - usually that their bio parent/s have indulged them, provided too much buddyness and insufficient structure and firmness, and the child has developed an unpleasant personality as a direct result.  If this is the case you need to address your DH's parenting tactics. 

Why do you feel powerless when she's around?  Does your DH try to prevent you from disciplining her?  Or side with her against you all the time?   When you say your "actions are not acceptable" - which actions?   

Texashley33's picture

I tried to force myself to love my SS since he was 2..He's 18 now and I hate him even more now.  It's just not natural and his Mom is an awful person..i see her in him..they both lie, cheat, and are lazy. She cheats on people..has had 2 divorces and who knows how many married men shes slept with now..and SS18 cheats on board games.. He will lie to your face and have no remorse..just keeps doing it over and over again to the point where we all want nothing to do with him.  Both the most awful people I've ever met. The more nice you are to them..the more they act out and do bad things. We have 2 children together and they don't act like that.  SS18 is just like his Mom. Ugh. I was almost 18 when I met my Husband and I'm 34 now.  Ex wife is 37 and she's way more immature than me. She has 2 DWIs and lost custody of their son, and she gave up custodial rights to her 2 daughter's with her second ex husband.  I'm still contemplating if I should even go to his graduation next month. If I go it will be for my Husband..not for SS18.

Losingit321's picture

It's ok not to really love you SD.  After all there's a history that you didn't have with her.  I know some people love their steps and I think that's great.  I however care about mine but I cannot say that I love her.  I believe w/ a bio it's very different.  I have resentment against the BM for basically dumping the kid and doing nothing for her.  I do disengage and try not to get to involved... I get it.. the craziness turns you into someone you don't like.  I have been there believe me.  But let the guilt go.... it's the parent's job to "love" her.  And don't buy into anyone that says "you knew what you were getting into" um no you didn't we don't know when we have our own children what we are getting into. It's a hard gig.  If I had to do it again I would have ran. 

Bumblebee3's picture

First, I want to start by saying that I'm so sorry that you are in this position. Some children are just difficult to love. Don't be so hard on yourself- it sounds like you are working hard and doing your best. That's all anyone can expect from you. I can relate to your struggle as my SS is very difficult to love even his father struggles with liking him. I feel super guilty because my SS's mom passed away a few years ago so I'm forced to fill in that roll. I want to love him with a mother's love but his behavior pushes everyone away. He screams, hits the wall, throws things, tries to wear me down anytime I put boundaries in place and just all around ales my life hell. He feels bad after doing those things but his form of ADHD mixed with his childhood experience makes it impossible for him to relate to others in a normal way. My stepson is 13 and behaves this way. I never allowed my birth children to do any of those things and it is exhausting to deal with him. 

Thumper's picture

Who told you that you had to LOVE your husbands child.

You should be kind, show compassion. Chances are high you careeeee about his child.

LOVE my dear is not a feeling. It is an action. People think LOVE it is a feeling, it is not.

Please do not be so hard of yourself, OK?

IF your husband or his parents OR anyone else gives you pressure to LOVE another persons child...ask them if they love their neighbors kids UP or down the street. IF they stutter and say WELL thats different. The answer is no it is not.

Always be kind OP...if you cant muster that up then you may need to rethink the marriage. You deserve to live your life as abundantly and happy as possible. 




Rags's picture

Taking the actions of love will build the feelings of love. This takes a major paradigm shift for most people to realize. Love is not that calm, warm, tingly, emotional thing that the majority of people think of when they think of the concept of love. Love is action.  It is action that builds the feelings.

I knew from very early on that my incredible bride of approaching 27 years was THE one.  We met 3 years after my divorce from my adulterous whore of an XW was final.  Though at the time I did not recognize it, I had residual issues from my first marriage that I was still working through internally.

The first two years of our marriage I struggled with those issues and came to a point where I was beating my head against a wall on "Why in the hell did I ever remarry?"  At that crisis point I sat myself down and had a self awareness come to Jesus meeting to work out what my issues were.  I actually never figured out what my issues were but I did know that my incredible bride was.... my incredible bride and the one I wanted to make a life with.  So, I quit focussing on my frustrating feelings and started focussing on taking the actions of loving and honoring my bride, and...... partnering with her on raising her/our son together while modeling a strong high quality equity life partnership, marriage, and family for him and for the two of us.

It was pretty incredible how quickly a few simple things evolved my perspective and started the for ever improvement curve for my love for my bride and my son.  The first thing I did was ..... I changed all of my work passwords to some variant of my bride's name.  To this day I get a quick smile every time I log into something for work.    Over time we also added a constant IM interface every work day.  It takes us a total of about 15mins per work day but that IM conversation is always open on both of our desk tops and we check in, flirt, play, discuss, etc.... throughout the work day.  I also realized that participating in things she enjoys demonstrated my feelings for her... so ....  I learned to actively participate in her fashion/etc... shopping efforts.  She enjoys when I participate and provide my input. Often the things that I key on become some of her go to favorites that she gets regular compliments on from her coworkers, friends, etc.....  My sole focus in participating in her fashion passion is "Does it make her look even more amazing than she already is?".  It took a while for her to come to the realization that when I thumbs up or thumbs down something it is not because I am being a dick head or controlling. It is because when I like something.... it is amazing on her.  If I give a less than flattering opinion, it just isn't right for her even if it is an amazing piece of clothing on the rack, the designer web site, or on the mannequin.

To give some additional perspective on this, she buys the overwhelming majority of my clothes except for my slacks.  I buy those and most of my jeans and casual wear.  My business casual, suits, formal wear, etc... I get told what I am wearing and I am fine with that.  I just provide input and she picks what she is wearing. I know my place.


IMHO all of these things, and many many others, are the actions of love and all contribute to the feelings of love.  Active participation, engaging, 1:1 time, etc... all build the inertia that creates the feelings.

I also had a similar crisis phase at that same time regarding instant fatherhood, the presence of another man's progeny in my home/marriage/family, etc...  The same tactic worked. I started carrying SS-2,3,4 on my shoulders on walks, his mom and I held his hands and swung him between us on walks, I took him to parks, play scapes, etc.... for kid/dad time while his mom was writing papers, studying, and knocking out her undergrad degrees, grad degree, and professional licensing.  As he got older, he and I would have weekend "Johnny Quest" adventures climbing rocks and cliffs together, exploring caves, hunting fossils, etc.... I coached a number of his teams (Baseball, Swimming, etc..) I officiated one of his leagues, when he was little I read him bed time stories nearly every night but always on the nights that his mom was in class, etc....  He was never all that interested in the adventure stuff when he was a kid.  Like most his age it was all about video game and Pokemon, etc...  He would have rather sat at home and played games.  I/we did not give him that choice. We did play those things with him upon rare occasion. But we did not allow it to subvert reality.  To this day his most recounted stories from his childhood are camping trips we have taken as a family, our Johnny Quest adventures, etc.... Not one story about a video game or Pokemon tournament.  Not.... a ............ single  Action.... builds feelings.......... builds memories ............. makes families out of blended relationships. IMHO and experience.

Interestingly, as an adult, he is into adventure racing.  Monster Mudders, etc....  He does play online games with his friends all over the planet, but....  his real life is his focus.  The adventures we had as he was growing up have influences his adult life.  I am happy about that, and proud of him, and of his mom and I for building the foundations of his successful adult life.

A bias for action is a powerful thing.  Tolerance for the toxic or less than tolerable, is not powerful in the least.

I cannot picture me without them, or my life any other way than this life that we have built together is unfolding.  Take the actions, they build like a snowball rolling down a mountain, feelings grow, great things can happen.

By no means a universally applicable formula for relationship/blended family success.  But it has worked well for me/us.

Disclaimer:  It takes collaboration, strictly enforced standards of behavior and performance, and tolerance of nothing less than respectful interface. 


BethAnne's picture

I have a short fuse and a temper particularly when it comes to my SD12. At times it is worse than others. I think that some of it is related to depression (anger can be a symptom of depression) and some of it is related to ADHD symptoms. Some of it is just that we clash in personality in some ways and she is a tween who is stretching her independence. I too feel bad as I should be able to be calmer and deal with these situations better. 

Getting help for the deprerssion and ADHD, making sure I am taking my meds, exercising, sleeping enough and doing the basic things can help. I have been doubling down on these in the past week or so because I got to a really bad place. Exercise is like magic it helps me tremendously  when I remember to prioritize it.

I have also stepped back from trying to help/monitor homework and commenting on how much/which foods my sd is eating (she has a large appetite and is overweight). It is tricky for me to adjust and I am not perfect but it reduces conflicts. It does mean my husband is having to step up more and I have to accept that his ways of doing things are different to mine. I have to trust that although things might not work out how I would like them to, that it will probably be more or less ok. 

I know I have not addressed the love portion of this, but if the anger/irritation can be reduced then at least life will feel more pleasant and you won't feel extra stress of kicking yourself that you are not acting as you feel you should. Love, as others have pointed out is a nice extra, not a necessary component and certainly cannot be forced.

The fact that you feel enough empathy to want to reach out to try to change your behavior shows that you are not a horrible person but someone who is trying thier best. That is all that anyone can ask. 

Maggie86's picture

I feel i can relate to this sooooo much its scary! I dont have my own child just my SS. From the begining I was lucky husband told SS from the start if i say he has to do something then he does it as I am also the parent. When we got our house SS had to be reminded it wasnt his dad house it was OUR house i am lucky to have the support. And it is difficult but I found stepping back from discipline and letting my husband deal with the bad he statred to understand my fustrations. I remember a time if i got a call saying SS had accident at school I would leave work to go to the hospital with him but now I couldnt care at all I dread weekends and although i dislike my job i would rather be there. I would advise talk to your husband about your feelings. I know i have tried my best and it sounds like you have but I dont think u can love a person who doesnt love you and thats what I know my stepson feels. Its not always about been a grown up its about been human! Dont worry soon they are old enough to move out and you hopefully only have to worry about seeing them a few times a day (i hope its a dream i have anyway)