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I've noticed some new faces and names (interactive thread)

AgedOut's picture

And I thought it might be fun (in a non fun way?) to welcome everyone and for each of us oldsters to give one piece of advice that we've personally learned. 


I will go first since I'm the one suggesting this. 

(I'm a BM, a SM, a Grandma, I've been divorced, I've walked away from bad relationships but I found my happy and it's all good now)

You should always know it's okay to feel what you feel.


It is okay to feel off balance in your new situation. It's okay to admit it might not be the right thing for us. It is a different world and there are no set in stong guidelines so it's okay to try to find what works for you and your situation and there's nothing wrong with changing it up or moving on if need be. You get to be you and feel what you feel and there's nothing wrong with that.


You matter and what you feel matters.

advice.only2's picture

BM to two bios and SM to one.  My DH’s ex became a meth addict shortly into our marriage and we ended up raising his daughter until she aged out, so be aware getting full custody and having skids full time can happen.

My advice don’t buy into the bullshit “societal norms”.  They aren’t your kids; you aren’t required to raise them or love them like your own.  Demand respect in your home from your spouse and your skids and make sure they have a launch plan after high school.  Don’t settle for less just because your SO and his Ex have.

AlmostGone834's picture

SM for over 10 years here. My first piece of advice is don't do it. My 2nd piece of advice is always have an exit plan. 

PetSpoiler's picture

I'm a SM of 1 and BM of 2.    I don't regret marrying my husband.  I love him.  I do regret allowing him, BM, and the in-laws to run things as long as I did.  I'll give a potential future step parent the same advice I would to someone who is getting married and there are no kids involved.

If they can't set boundaries with their friends, family, kids, or ex, then step away.  Tell them why.  Let them list their excuses, then tell them either learn what boundaries are and how to set and enforce them, or I am outta here!  That means they need to set and enforce boundaries with the fami!y, the kids, the ex, etc, not with you.  You did not sign up to be a doormat!  

Those skids may even treat you with love and respect for years, call you Mom even.  Then they get married and their true colors come out.  They say they think of you as Mom, but then they treat you like a polite stranger.  They still expect you to treat them like your own child though.  Don't fall for it.  Treat them kindly, yes, but don't parent them. Don't treat them like your own.  They already have parents and you're not one of them.  It will come back to bite you in the butt.  Even if their BM isn't there for them, even if they themselves want nothing to do with their biological mother.  Sooner or later they will figuratively slap you in the face.  That's been my experience anyway.  

Remember also, that while the skids may live with their biological mother now, that can change in an instant.  Mom could die, go to jail, or just decide that she doesn't want to be a full time parent anymore.  Also my experience.  BM decided she didn't want SS living with her anymore.  

Rumplestiltskin's picture

My experience too. I sort of "adopted" one of SO's kids for a few years. It seemed he and his BM didn't have a relationship at all and she wasn't really in the picture (for him, but was for his younger brother) when i came along. BM and her family hated me for what i did. Turned some of SO's family against me. Now, they get along again and it's "polite stranger" for me. I have my own kids and never went into this trying to "steal" BM's kid, but to them apparently it looked that way. I just wanted to help where it seemed to be so badly needed. Live and learn. 

Rags's picture

Conceptual question. If BM does not want the kid but is the COd CP, can dad as the NCP refuse to let the CP BM dump the kid on him?

I know that this is a kid and the very thought of one much less two BPs wanting to reject the kid and leave him with the other parent is not a pleasant idea.

But, it strikes me that a CP deciding to dump the kid on the NCP might find that the NCP will not accept that action.

Rumplestiltskin's picture

"You matter and what you feel matters."

Second this. You should not feel like a background character in your own home, or in your own life. Be kind, and you are doing what you are supposed to be doing.

Also, beware of overfunctioning for your partner. There are no awards for this but there are many punishments for it in Steplife. No matter how much help your partner seems to need, if they aren't pulling their parenting weight, don't pull it for them. 

ImperfectlyPerfect's picture

There's the "right" thing to do...and there's the right thing to do for YOURSELF. Choose YOU always. 

In the blended family situation, everyone is choosing themselves, but the stepparent. The stepparent is choosing to give to everyone else and everyone expects her/him to sacrifice. The sooner you learn this lesson of choosing you, the better. 

Merry's picture

BM of one, SM of two. DH and I married when all kids were "adults," at least chronologically. All are now mid 30s to mid 40s.

Don't waste your time, energy, money or heart trying to fit other people's expectations. Don't lose yourself, your holidays and traditions, your hobbies, your dreams and desires, or your bank account and credit score. Attend to your marriage and expect your spouse to attend equally. 

Early on I did all the "trying."  It was never enough, never quite right, never appreciated. Learn the difference between enmeshment or mini-wife behavior and "he's such an amazing dad." We keep shoveling ish looking for a pony, but there isn't one. Jackass, maybe.

Once I stopped trying to twist myself into something I could never be AND insisted that DH act like a husband 100%, he was no longer as susceptible to their manipulations. He still has a decent relationship with one, but the other isn't talking to him for reasons unknown. He's supposed to chase her and he's no longer playing that game. Oops, plot twist right there. Our house is peaceful. 

Dogmom1321's picture

BM to our son (3 y/o) and SM to SD (13 y/o - known since she was 5). 

Advice similar to those above.

1. Don't fall for the fluffy narratives of being a "bonus mom", loving as your own, co-parenting successes, etc. It can all turn in an instant. Blood is always thicker than water. Everyone's true colors show eventually. 

2. Know the in's and out's of EVERYTHING before marrying. Official court orders, child support, visitation schedules, etc should already be finalized. SO should be 100% transparent. Don't fall for the "we're flexible and co-parent for the kids." In reality, "co-parenting" typically translates into having zero boundaries with BM and letting her walk all over your household. 

3. Find a therapist. You'll need it. Unless your friends in real life are also stepparents, no one else truly understands the in's and out's of stepparenting. You will be judged. It can become very isolating. 

Rags's picture

Step Dad to one.  SS-31.  His mom and I met when he was 15mos old.  We married the week before he turned 2yo.

He asked me to adopt him when he was 22yo. We made that happen. He is a successful man of characater and honor of standing in his profession and community.  His mom and I are very proud of the man we raised together.

5 critical success factors that we have learned and lived.

1.  The marriage and the partners in the blended family marriage are the priority. Period. Dot.  Kids are the top marital responsibility.  They are not the priority.  Understand the difference.  

2. Establish and enforce standards of behavior and standards of performance for kids in your home and blended family.  If your partner is an issue, establish and enforce standards of behavior and performance for the partner too.  Basic respectful behavior is a non-negotiable.  

3. Equity life partners are also equity parents to any children in their mariage.home. Regardless of kid biology.  Anything otherwise subjegates the non breeder spouse to the breeder spouse and their failed family progeny and their X(s)

4.  Important to the viability of the marriage and blended family is that the X(s) are irrelevant.  They do not matter. If they are reasonable, interface with them reasonably.  If they are not reasonable.  Keep them under control.

5.  A Court Order clearly defining Custody/Visitation/Support is a must.  Do whatever it takes to get a CO.  Learn it, know it, live it, love it.  The side in the blended family dynamic who is most versed in the CO has a distinct advantage in defending and protecting their blended family from a toxic opposition.  If your intended does not have a CO structuring their failed family interface, do not marry them until they have one.

Good luck.

Take care of yourself.


classyNJ's picture

SM to 2 SS26 and SS21.  No bios. Been with DH 16 years.  Ups and downs with SS's but DH has always enforced my boundaries with the SS's and BM.

I learned that it is OK to feel what you are feeling and that you cannot care more then the parents.

We are now empty nesters and i have a great relationship with SS26 and  the one with SS21 gets better the more he matures.

Winterglow's picture

I'm the odd one out  I'm not a step but I am very much a sympathizer. I first came here to try to understand  why my  brother's divorce was so incredibly awful. He married a HCGU woman.

I am not here to criticise, I am here to understand, to give a different point of view and, above all else, to support all of you.

tryingjusttrying's picture

Thank you for this thread. I am newish to posting here, but I have been reading for a few years off and on. It took me some time to let go of some of the same fluffy, sentimental tropes that kept me locked in a holding pattern that has not really worked. I am learning a lot about the unique, specific situation SPs are in. Very much appreciate the sentiment that all feelings are okay, and that it is okay to choose oneself over some ideal or someone elses' expectations.

Rags's picture

Futons used to be an inexpensive bed option.  They also last forever.

Since this is at BM's she nor the Skids get a say. They get.... what they get.  Go cheap. 

I would.

And ugly.



grannyd's picture

Don’t try too hard; it never works and the steps will despise you for it. Treat them like you would a cat by letting them come to you.

MorningMia's picture

I'm SM to two adult aholes, no kids of my own. I was wide-eyed and naive when I stepped into the pile. High-conflict borderline personality disordered religious addict BM who had cheated on DH with a married father of an infant wanted control of her ex and me as well, and then full-blown parental alienation went into effect once we married, putting terrible pressure on us individually and as a couple. She truly wanted to ruin our marriage and was using the skids as her primary weapons. Two years in, I was making plans to see a lawyer to jump ship when we decided to see a marriage counselor, and things changed. 

What has worked for me/us:  Counseling. Setting boundaries. Finally, if things are toxic, disengagement. Skids for the most part have not been welcomed into our home for over 10 years because of their behavior (we gave them a few chances, which ended up disastrous). I haven't had a conversation with BM in 14 years; I went 7 years without seeing SD. I stopped sending gifts to the skids. I stopped signing birthday and holiday cards. I finally blocked them on social media (they pretend that DH and I do not exist, but the mommy worship is rampant and likely part of the reason why 35 yo SS can't sustain a romantic relationship). Giving is NOT a one-way street. They live several hours away; had they lived closer or in the same town, I don't think I would be married. . . at least not to DH. 

What did not work: Going into this expecting that I'd have this wonderful relationship with his kids. Being too giving, even after getting smacked in the face multiple times. Spending my money. Not speaking my mind or speaking directly early on. Not seeing the bright red flags when we were dating (or, rather, ignoring them). 

Grannyd's advice is perfect (and made me laugh)! 


ImperfectlyPerfect's picture

I like your advice on this too and the back story @morningmia. It's all so very true.

Steppedonnomore's picture

I'm a BM, GM, and, very recently, GGM. Former SM.  Boundaries are crucial. Remember that boundaries are something you set for yourself.  You can't make another person respect your boundaries but you can remove yourself from their presence if they don't.

Also, make sure the BP has "done the work" prior to entering into a serious commitment.  Do they have a CO in place and do they follow it?  Do they effectively parent? Have they established their own household? 

Rags's picture

I am of the mind that we can influence others to comply with our boundaries and established standards of behavior and performance.

Delivering unto them an escalating state of abject misery if they fail to comply is how that is done. No quarter, no tolerance for anything but compliance.  

Simple things like re-keying door locks, locking up food and cabinets if they do not clean up after themselves, bagging the crap they drop around the house and putting it on the curb the day before garbage day.  They can rescue it, or it goes to the dump. There are many things that can induce abject misery to the point that they either comply or stay away.  Both of those are a win.  

Rumplestiltskin's picture

"There are many things that can induce abject misery to the point that they either comply or stay away.  Both of those are a win."

I saw fighting for my boundaries/dealbreakers as "fighting for the relationship." I know what i can and can't live with. Either the fight saves the relationship or ends it, but there are certain things i just can't abide, and they will be gone one way or the other. 

Kara55's picture

3 bios and 3 SKs, all launched. I have been lurking around here the entire time but haven't posted too much over the years. My steplife journey has been less fraught than most of the stories told here and I don't feel comfortable  offering advice on serious issues. I have a unicorn BM (truly) and SKs who were raised well. We've all had our less than stellar moments of course, but it's been good overall. One piece of advice I would give is to simply trust and respect your own feelings. I STILL have to draw this boundary with DH. This mostly comes up when he's trying to push the one big happy family narrative. No DH, I do not love your children like my bios. I do love them, but it's not the same. It's a completely different, quite complex relationship and nobody gets to tell me how I should feel about it, him included.

Rags's picture


JRI's picture

I have 2 BKs, 3 SKs, all in their 50s and 60s.  The surprise of my life was BM letting all 3 of her kids go after ferociously fighting for her position as Queen Mother.  So, we ended up with 5 kids within a 6-year age range living here.  Thank God for counseling which changed my life.

My big takeaway from counseling was staying close to DH. If we had enough time together, we usually agreed about things.  But, 5 kids and a demanding job sometimes kept us from communicating enough.  So, making a conscious decision to carve out our "together time" was crucial.  If that meant finding a babysitter for 5 kids (difficult), I did it.  If it meant begging my mom to babysit and DH paying BM to watch his kids while we vacationed, we did it.

My other recommendation (thanks, Steptalk) is to disengage from fraught steps, like my notorious SD62.

CLove's picture

You are not alone in this experience. There are hundreds and thousands that are going through what you are going through and who are having the same challenges. Different flavors of the same ice cream cone, chit sandwhich.

NotMeAnymore's picture

Been in this journey for 7ish years. 

I missed the warnings 8 years ago when SO said while dating "my two kids are mi priority #1 in life"... being in love really blinds us.. I drank the koolaid and put on my Rose Colored Glasses to find out after I moved in that the koolaid was tainted and the glasses were dark and my SO and the other BP were major Disney parents; and to add insult to injury they have totally different parenting styles which adds ish to the already ished mix...

I still love my SO and that's why I'm still here. And, I'm gonna say the twins are not bad boys but also have no structure, are not mindful of their surroundings, really no perfomance requirements, lazy lazy lazy, and are praised just because they are the boys and show up (like the participation trophy nowadays)..., so that makes life hard when you are are person with principals and always looking for excellence in life...

Thanks StepTalk for this space.

ESMOD's picture

I'm not new here.. member for several years..   but been a SM for over 20 to now adult SD's 26 and 30.. came out of it with a great relationship with my YSD and a decent one with my OSD... they are both married and fully supporting themselves with no help from us.. and relatively little assistance except for advice since they graduated HS.. BM was high conflict.. but generally has been a non issue since the youngest aged out.

The advice I have learned.. both in my own life and on here?

1.  Love is not enough.. there are situations where the person that people want to stay with is just contrary from their ever having peace in their life.. and choosing to stay makes you a participant in the drama at that point. once you realize your partner isn't right for you.. or the situation is not right for you. 

2.  Stay in your lane... that can be said rudely.. or nicely.. but as step parents.. these are not our bio kids.. we can help our partners raise them.. we can coexist with them in our homes.. but they aren't our bios.. and there will be a limit at some point of how far we can be involved.  Let the parents raise them.  Let your SO deal with his crazy EX.  don't fall into the trap that you are somehow a better person.. mother.. influence than their other parent. or that home.. there are forces bigger than you at work.. if you fight it. you will lose.

3.  The goal should be peace in your life.. that may mean you don't always get your way.  You may not always be THE priority.. the kids are your partner's primary responsibility as minor children.. but you should be a priority in your home to your partner.. and sometimes your needs WILL trump another's.. sometimes they won't.. and we have to be able to accept that.  Sometimes you can be right.. or happy.. but not both.. be happy.

4.  Flexibility and acceptance of things you cannot change.  Learn to ignore and not worry over things you have control over.

5.  Try to have some empathy.. try to understand that this may not be easy for others either.. it's not easy for a child to accept a new authority.. it's not easy to shuffle back and forth to different houses.. different rules.. with parents that may attempt to put you in loyalty binds... it's not easy to be a bio mother to send your kid off to someone else's home. and have no control over what happens.. it's not easy to be a partner trying to balance everyone's feelings .. that doesn't mean you accept crap treatment.. but to an extent..sometimes understanding things aren't personal all the time.. that it's situational.. can make us feel less hurt.

JRI's picture

I agree with all you said.  I told DH what I want is like a rap song,   Respect, Affection, Peace.

Cover1W's picture

Been a SO/SM for almost 11 years now. SDs were young when I came into the picture, both under 10. I've dealt with major Disney Dad and passive parenting on DH's end and passive parenting & I suspect disengaged parenting on BM's side. Now we have OSD20 who is Parental Alienated out (starting around age 13), in college in another state, and DH hasn't had any contact with her for 4 years now. YSD18 is going to college this summer, likely also in another state, and maintains some contact with DH. I am disengaged from all of it but I listen to DH, support him as I can, and maintain a superficial relationship with YSD.

One piece of advice:  Know your boundaries (what you will/won't do, what you will/won't support, what you will/won't be involved with, etc.) and make it clear with your SO as well. If your SO expects you to do things, don't just accept it - boundaries!