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Frustrated Stepfather... first post... please help

dnelsen's picture

So here’s my situation… married to my wife for 1 year, we’ve been together for over 4 years… I have 10-year-old stepson, my wife’s child from a previous relationship… we just had our own child (my first) 2 months ago.

Stepson lives with us about 80% of the time, otherwise he’s with his dad and his family… relationship with bio Dad is very good, no issues there.

The issues I need help with are my feelings towards my stepson. They are tough to admit, and they make me feel very guilty:

- After 4+ years of living with him, I can’t say that I love him. I just don’t feel it.

- I look forward to the time that he spends with his dad, and wish he spent more time with his dad.

- I do make time to spend with him. We go do fun things just me and him, and I keep hoping we’ll bond over them and get closer. It’s not working. These activities feel like obligations rather than things I really want to do. They feel forced.

- Sometimes I feel simple indifference. I just don’t care. For example, rather than deal with getting him to do his homework, I’ll say to myself “Whatever, let him do poorly in school, and suffer the consequences. I don’t care.”

- Here’s the really tough one: If he all of a sudden (“poof”) didn’t exist anymore, I’d be happier. Of course I don’t mean something terrible were to happen to him… rather, if he had simply never existed in the first place, and it were just myself, my wife, and the baby… (of course then I never would have met my wife, yadda yadda yadda, but you get what I’m saying)… it feels like he’s in the way of what would otherwise be a perfect scenario for me, and I end up feeling resentment towards him. That’s just awful, but it’s true.

He’s a really good kid. It’s not his fault at all. He’s doing absolutely nothing wrong.

I don’t hate him. But I don’t love him. On good days I’m just numb to him. On bad days I wish he wasn’t there.

How do I deal with this? I really don’t know how to make this better. Thanks for your help.

ChaiLatte's picture

Even though it would make life a lot easier for everyone, there's no magic button we can push to make us instantly love a child. All personalities do not mesh. You are not abnormal, because you cannot bond with this particular child. There are so many factors that contribute to why people do and do not experience the very complex emotion, love. I wish I had advice on how to change things, but a peaceful coexistence with her child may be as good as it gets. Has your stepson voiced any concerns to his mother about the realtionship the two of you have together? If not, he's hopefully satisfied with the way things are. Do the best you can and don't beat yourself up over something feeling completely unnatural.

NewBeginning's picture

Hi - I feel you have some natural feelings going on there. We have all felt this way at one time or another.

Trust me - when my SS leaves for his mother's house - I do the happy dance. He's a slob, eats everything in sight, whines like he's 2 years old most of the time, and is a huge defiant brat.

And he's just shy of 18...sad isn't it?

I can say that I care about my stepkids but I don't love them - not like my own daughter. I don't..and maybe never will. I have accepted that's how I feel and can't make myself change.

I think you are quite normal in your thinking..just my 2 cents, but I do.

Keep your chin up.

blondie66's picture

Ah, yes! I know the feeling.
After 5 years, I simply don't care either way for my skids. I still am looking forward to them going to their mom's house and wish they would stay there more (the problem is, their own mom seems to have the same feeling - she wants them to spend more time with US, eh).
All that I have ever done for them was also forced. Mostly done to appease my hubby. Or it was just the part of what I do anyway (laundry, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning).
I don't know what to tell you. I don't think there's a way you can make yourself like your stepson. It will either happen or it won't. Period. It didn't happen to me. You know what, I don't think it happened to my DH either (my bio kids live with us full time). He likes to portray himself as a giving, doting stepdad, but I know better. He's good with my kids, don't get me wrong, but I don't think there are any real feelings there. I just happen to be more vocal about how I really feel, that's all.
I'd say as long as you treat the boy well, with kindness, occassionally do the "father-son" things with him, you're fine. I would not torture myself over the lack of real emotions. I know I don't do that to myself. If your frustration is coming out of the guilt you don't love him, I'd say, accept you won't and you can't and just work on staying a good stepdad to him.
I also have those "evil" thoughts about my skids not existing. I know it's bad but it's human. I also wouldn't want any harm done to them, but yes, if I never ever ever saw them again, I would be just fine.
My "advice" is all over the place but I hope it will make you feel better you're not alone in the way you feel. I know it helped me realize I couldn't be such a monster when so many other people feel the same...

Gia's picture

like someone else said. Don't feel guilty that you don't love him. One day, you might be surprised at how your feelings change. Keep doing what you are doing, spend time with him, be a good role model, etc... hang in there

dnelsen's picture

Wow, what a great forum. Thanks for everyone's responses.

Don't know if it's gotten better or worse since my bio kid was born two months ago...

Better in a way maybe, since the baby takes up a lot of my time, and therefore I'm spending less time with my stepson... in a way it's an excuse to be less involved with my stepson.

Worse in a way too, since I'm juggling more and have that much less patience for abandoned pizza in the living room (etc).

One big problem is that when I discipline him, how I do so is watched like a hawk by my wife... the slightest mis-step and my wife gets involved, and then all of a sudden it's two against one, with me being the bad guy...

Yes, sometimes I've snapped at him a bit, over-reacting... (NEVER violent, or anywhere near)... just a bit of a snap where I maybe get a bit angrier than I should... my wife is ultra-sensitive to this, and will cut me zero slack.

She steps in and defends him, in front of him, so I become the bad guy. She establishes a precedence whereby my discipline can be overruled.

Don't get the impression that I'm overly strict. I'm really not. Often I ignore him and don't bother disciplining him. But when my possessions that I worked hard for are being abused, or he's lying, stealing, etc, (typical 10-year-old boy stuff, he's really not that bad), I have to be able to step in and discipline him.

I've tried talking about all of this this with my wife, but she got very upset when I admitted that I didn't love him. She's much too emotionally invested for me to have a rational conversation about it with her.

Thanks again for everyone's input. It really helps. This is the first time I've talked to anyone about this.

stormabruin's picture

If your wife gets sensitive to your discipline, perhaps that's something she should be responsible for. I know it works differently for different families, but if you're trying to discipline & she's defending him, she's undermining your authority in front of him, & he's left with the lesson that what you say doesn't mean anything & he's left with the message that his mom is on his side & will support his poor behavior. It's the wrong message to send to any child, but a 10-year old boy will grab it & run with it.

IMO, a discipline a bit too harsh is better than no discipline. I'm not saying it's acceptable to scream in his face about how sorry he is, or that it's okay to beat a child by any means. Just saying that if he's stealing something, it's better for you to raise your voice a bit louder than perhaps needed than it is for your wife to coddle him & defend him so his feelings aren't hurt.

Gia's picture

That is a HUGE no-no. Even if you don't agree with what how your spouse is disciplining (unless is abuse) you NEVER step in. You talk to your pouse in private about how things could have done differently.

riekate's picture

I read in the book Step Coupling by Susan Wisdom that (and I am paraphrasing here) you act like you love them and you do things for them like you love them and you may or may not ever love them but you are doing what is best for them.It sounds like you are doing those things. Love didn't come right away for me especially with the SS5 who is a handfull but one afternoon when he was home sick and he was sleeping on the couch next to me he looked up and found me, gave me a big beautiful smile and fell back asleep. My stomach did a flip flop and I knew that I loved him, that doesn't mean that sometimes I wish that he wasn't at his other home and I still feel indifference toward them both at times as well. You can help the way you feel and it sounds like you are doing great with your new family.

MaGoose2010's picture

Dnelson...I identify totally with your posts.. I too have a SS13 who I actually can't stand and besides his stealing, lying, bad attitude towards my BD11, he really does nothing wrong, in fact he overdoes trying to get into my good books. I haven't said much about it on this forum for fear of being tackled about it bcos I also feel very guilty and feel like a terrible stepmom.

I also try to discipline him and FH laughs at me sometimes and says to SS13 'Oh women!'and they have a laugh together which makes me livid becos I think that my actions are valid! When I challenge him later, he tells me to relax. If I press him further, he tells me his kids are not as perfect as mine, so perhaps we shouldn't be together. So now I only discipline him when FH is not present. I think our personalities just clash.

You cannot love someone else's child like you love your own....just a fact. For us women, if you gave birth to it, then you love it....if you didn't, there's nothing that says you must love it... Sounds harsh but it works like that. Don't get me wrong, I care...I care about the kids steps or not, but love...I can't.

By the way, welcome to this forum. I have also found it very helpful.


CrystalRE's picture

Ooooh...I can see why you are feeling the way you do. When she takes your ability to parent away from you it not only makes you resent the child but makes you resent her as well. This will surely create issues with your bio-child when he gets old enough to see whats happening.

In the past my DH tried to force my SK's on me and I had a lot of guilt that I didnt feel the way he wanted me to towards them. I have since let go of most of that guilt. I like having my SD's around and care about them a lot but I dont feel for them like I do my daughter and no one can force those feeling on you. IMO, I think your feelings are very normal. Keep doing what you have been and let go of the guilt Smile

dnelsen's picture

I've tried explaining to her that she shouldn't step in when I'm disciplining him, her reply is "if you weren't being such an ***hole I wouldn't need to step in"...

So it becomes a matter of opinion as to whether or not my level of discipline is too much or not.

She thinks I'm too mean, I think she's too sensitive, too soft on him, and needs to stay out of it.

What really sucks is when SHE snaps at him, and is over-reacting... of course I never step in when this happens.

So there's a double standard I'm expected to adhere to :?

CrystalRE's picture

Its perfectly normal to have those disagreements but she needs to let you follow through and then discuss it with you in private. You can work to be on the same page but it shouldnt be done in front of the kids.

dnelsen's picture

Need some translation please...

Please define:

DH? BD11? FH?


stormabruin's picture

DH = Dear/Darling Husband or Dick Head
BD11 - Birth Daughter 11-years old
FH = Future Husband

MaGoose2010's picture

SF - Step father
SM - Step mother
BF - boyfriend
GF - Girlfriend
BM - Bio mom
BD - Bio dad
SD - step daughter
SS - step son
IMO - In my opinion
WTF - What the f*ck (my favourite!!!!)
OMG - Oh my god
CS - Child support etc

There used to be an explanation page on Steptalk for all these acronyms, but it has gone...well I can't find it. But you get the lingo after you have been blogging for a while!

Good luck

Willow2010's picture

Everything you are feeling is natural. So don’t feel bad about that.

Have you thought about disengaging from the SS? It sounds like the more you try to discipline, the more your wife will go on the defense. BTDT.

When DH and I first got together (dating) he was very hard on my son, even after I told him to back off. It did not take long for him to realize I was serious, so he disengaged. He still told me how he felt about things, but he was not to say crap to my kid. He never understood how I could NOT want him to be the disciplinarian for my kid. I had to tell him a few times to stop being a butt to my son. We nearly split over it.

Fast forward to now. (7-8 years later) His son came to live with us and he now realizes what an ass he was to my kid and he apologized to him. He told him he felt that way because he was on the outside looking in, but now that his son lives with us, he sees how he was wrong.

What makes me angry is he used to chastise me if I was not a complete and total hard ass with my kid. BUT NOW…he is such a wuss with his kid it is sick. A complete 180. But of course it is HIS kid. The golden child!

I am actually writing this and getting mad at DH. Lol. So glad that is behind us now. (knock on wood).

Maybe you are doing that. Maybe you are too hard on your wife’s kid…?

I am confused's picture

I had two skids (no longer) and I didn't think I cared much for either of them, and I forced myself to spend time with them and do fun things with them and still didn't really feel great about them. I didn't dislike them, I just didn't care either way and I felt better when they were gone.

This went on through visitations, springs breaks, summers, etc. Well, completely without realizing it I started to get attached to them. I hated the money I had to spend on them and I was bitter towards their BD, but I started to actually have something of an interest in them, even though I didn't realize it.

Now they're gone and honestly, I find myself looking on their facebook pages to see if they're dating people and how they're handling the split between me and their mom. I actually miss them. Definitely more than I miss their mom (which is not much if any at all).

You may care more than you think, or one day you may.

Lastly, remember that even though the skid isn't important to you, he's lifeblood important to his mother and if you love her (as you clearly do) you need to do your best to have feelings for him because what is important to her MUST be important to you.

redheaded_stepmom's picture

I completely agree, SBS. That advice has truly helped more than anything else I've heard on here so far. When I started treating my duties as a stepmother more like a job, it became easier for me to deal with it all, for the most part. I have the same exact feelings towards my SD14 as the original poster. I don't love my SD14, in fact I don't really like her very much most of the time. I do what is expected of me when it comes to taking care of her. I have tried multiple times to try and do fun things with just me and her, but it never works. I noticed the lack of feeling towards her get more intense after my own children were born. I don't beleive I will ever love her. I want what is best for her and I can't wait for her to grow up and move out. Most days I wish she wasn't around or that her father had never met her mother, yada yada. I would never want anything bad to happen to her, but it would be nice if she just didn't exist. My life would be so much more enjoyable. I think these feelings are normal, and as someone else stated earlier, you can't make yourself love someone, no matter who it is. SBS gives excellent advice here, and like I said, it made a world of difference for me.

cyberwoman's picture

No reason to feel bad, bonding and love can not be forced. It is a two way street and it either happens or it doesn't. It does not mean that it is your fault and that you are a bad person. I have spent 14 years caring and contributing to the welfare of my SS and regretful to say I feel closer to my cats and horses than him.

Step relationships are very complex. A step parent is expected to contribute to the welfare of a child he/she did not make a decision to bring into this world. When SK's are children they naturally rely on your contribution to support them, however -unless corrected at an early age by bio parents- they naturally reject you as an authority in their lives. Add the never ending drama of SK's wanting their parents back together you will be aways viewed as an outsider. So the relationship becomes unbalanced you give they expect more and dislike you at the same time. Creating love and bonding under these conditions is extremely challenging.

ybarra357's picture

Do you feel this is more between you and your wife rather than you and your SS? From what I’m getting in your posts, you resent the fact that you really can’t discipline your SS (he knows it and works it to the hilt). And that resentment maybe manifesting itself to SS. It also looks like you’re getting no help from your wife in that department. I would resent that too. Perhaps family counseling would benefit all of you.

jojo68's picture

What you are feeling is natural...human nature. It is all about personalities meshing such as Chai said. Realizing that has made me understand my own feelings better. I had a stepdaughter from a previous relationship that I loved very much. She was such an awesome kid...She loved me and let me be a part of her life. I looked forward to her coming to stay with us. The one i have now is very different. She doesn't want to share her father with anyone and that is that. She is the most annoying, spoiled, selfish, immature child I have ever met...seriously and it is very hard to like her let alone love her. She doesn't allow me in her life and doesn't want my love. That makes a huge difference. So don't beat yourself up...your only being human.

dnelsen's picture

Wow, thanks for all the feedback... I have mixed feelings about it.

On the one hand, it's great to know that what I'm feeling is not at all uncommon, and doesn't make me a bad person...

On the other hand, it sounds like it might always be this way.


stormabruin's picture

It probably will always be that way as long as your wife continues to interfere with your discipline. It obviously irritates you, & is something that will continue to cause resentment in you as long as it keeps happening.

stopandchat's picture

As a few others have said, don't be so hard on yourself. I don't believe I'll ever love my 6 yr old stepson. I don't even like him. He's an obnoxious, spoiled, whiny brat. I tolerate him for the few days a month he's with us. I'm nice to him, I play with him, feed him, that's about the extent of it. I care about what happens to him, but I also care about what happens to the kid across the street. There is nothing special, and there is no bond.

I've been beating myself up about it as well, but, I can't force the bond. I have to fall in love with my SS just like I did his dad. And, the way things are now, I really don't see it happening. I wish I did love would make my life a little easier.

Mich811's picture

I could've written your post (although I am a stepmom.) I find that my feelings toward my ss7 warm when DH allows me to intervene if SS is misbehaving. Without that right, I just feel resentful and annoyed, and although I try hard it is difficult to have the warm feelings that I wish I could have.

Shannon61's picture

I love this site! I'm simply estatic over the fact that we can air our TRUE feelings about our steps on this site and not get slammed about not being a good person or other foolish character assignations! All of you above offered excellent advice.

After marrying DH and moving in with him and SD (26), I had a very difficult time adjusting to her living here. We'd pull up and just the site of her car outside would deflate my mood. I too felt that if only she weren't here, we'd be a happy couple.

This site has helped me come to terms with the resentment I felt for her because not only was she daddy's coddled little girl with a horrible disposition, but he also made excuses for her behavior. At this point, she and I are in a better place. However, I've told DH if she's still here by end of year next year, I'm leaving because she's an adult.

It's a good feeling to have a place where I can vent truthfully, and get the benefit of other peoples insight, wisdom and experience. I'm grateful for this site! Smile

dnelsen's picture

So it's been a few months since I initially posted this, and I think things have gotten slightly better.

My wife and I have been in couple's therapy for a few months now, and that's been a good way to be able to talk about it.

But it's still tough... the notion that I don't love my SS is just brutal to my wife. She doesn't understand, and thinks I'm just a heartless person.

It's impossible to discuss without her being in tears the whole time.

She talks about how if some child somehow landed on her doorstep, and it was her responsibility to take care of them, she would take them in, and love them. Just like that. She expects that I should be the same way.

Of course she's never been in that situation, so how would she know?

I don't think I'm ever going to develop the feelings for him that she wishes I had... I think she's going to have to learn how to deal with it.

StillSearching's picture

dnelsen, you remind me a lot of my step dad. He married my mom when I was 11 and I have a brother he was 10 at the time. My step dad and my brother to this day do not get along and my brother is 23. When I was 22 and started working at a factory my step dad worked at for 12 years (he quit and got another job) I had a man come up to me and tell me how much my step dad bad mouthed me and my brother. I was really hurt and felt that he didn't care about me or my brother. Growing up my step dad would ignore us and walk right by us without saying anything. My mom started to catch on and talked to him about it. Then out of the blue when my brother and I were grown up and out of the house our step dad called us and apologized for all the years of ignoring and he said he should of been a better father to us. I am just telling you this because it is normal and most of us feel this way. Now I am with someone who has kids and I find it hard sometimes just like you do.

Selene's picture

I completely understand your feelings, dnelsen. My situation is slightly different than yours though because I have always known that I didn't want kids; now at 37, I still feel that way. I like and get along with kids well enough and I've always enjoyed being an Aunt. I will NEVER regret my choice to be childfree, although technically that term isn't entirely accurate as I have two step-children (ages 8 and 4) following my marriage a couple of months ago. The kids are good and we get along, but even just having them 50% of the time (our schedule is 4 nights on, 3 nights off, 2 nights on, 5 nights off) is MORE THAN ENOUGH for me. I often feel a bit claustrophobic, for lack of better description, when we have them. By Sunday evening when we have had them since Wednesday after school, I am ECSTATIC to see them walk out the door to go to their Mom's place! I secretly count down the hours until they are gone. I can't ever admit that to my husband because he wishes he could have them all the time and feels guilty that they have to share households. I would die! Kid time for me will be much less annoying when the younger one is older and not so needy; I can't stand the whiny way he talks, not to mention how much attention he has to have all the time. I know adults are supposed to find every little thing that kids do "cute" and "amazing" but I do not and never will. I am missing that chromosome. I am annoyed that I am forced to pander to his "look at me, look at me" behavior. All that being said, dnelsen, I also feel that most things where they are concerned are just perfunctory obligations on my part. I often feel indifferent too. The weekends when we have them are so long, that I actually look forward to going back to work on Monday; how pathetic is that?!?

ddakan's picture

Its easy to hate our skids they aren't our kids. I hate my skids and although I do what is appropriate and correct in the world's eyes, I secretly hate on them here in this forum.

They are 21, 20, and 17 and I've known them for 10 years. I can say I love them, in a dutiful way, but honestly, if I never saw them again, I wouldn't care. I just act in a way that is respectful to DH.

By continuing to do what is right is good, even if you don't feel it. You don't have to feel it. We can't be programmed to bond with a skid like we do with our own babies. Its just freakin hard. Probably having the baby makes you more aware of your feelings for skid, because you love your baby so much!!!