When your parents separate or divorce, it is a very hard time. However, sometimes it is even harder when your parents remarry. The world of stepmothers, stepfathers, stepsiblings and half-siblings can be a tough road to navigate and raises a whole host of issues that you will be forced to deal with. Many times, children and teens find that they don’t care for their parent(s) new partner, and the step-family dynamic becomes difficult if not impossible to deal with.
However, there are cases where kids and teens find they really get along with their parent’s new partner. Generally, this should make the transition easier, but not always! Sometimes the other parent resents the new relationship you have formed with your other parent’s new wife/husband and holds it against you. Sometimes they will even tell you that you are betraying them by befriending their ex’s (your other parent’s) new spouse. This puts you in a terrible position, and unfortunately it happens more often than you might think.
So, what should you do if you like your parent’s new spouse and your mom/dad is making your life miserable because of it? Here are some ideas:
- First, understand and accept that you have the right to love both of your parents and the right to get along with your parents’ new spouses if you choose to do that. Your parents should not put you in a position where you feel like you have to choose between one parent and the other or between one of your parents and another parent’s new spouse. It is possible to have relationships with all of them, and ultimately it is up to you parents to understand and accept this. That said, there are some steps you can take to help your parents see the situation more clearly and hopefully adjust to it better so that you are not caught in the middle.
- Try to understand what your parent is going through. They should not be acting that way, and you don’t have to accept their behavior, but do your best to try to think about the situation from their perspective. If you can understand the pain and the hurt and the fear that they are feeling, you may be able to approach the situation in a more effective way. For example, if their dislike of your new relationship with the other step-parent is driven by fear that they may lose you, you can reassure them that just because you get along with your new step-mom (for example), that she will always be your mother and you don’t love her any less.
- Have an honest an open conversation with the parent who is having trouble with your relationship with the new stepparent. Try to keep the conversation as unemotional as possible. If you can’t have the conversation without arguing and fighting, consider sending your parent an e-mail or a letter instead. Explain to them that just because you have a new relationship with your stepparent does not mean that you are replacing them. Explain how they make you feel when they question your loyalty or put down your stepparent. Explain that your relationship with the stepparent is different than your relationship with them and the fact that you have a formed a good relationship with them has made your life better/easier after the divorce.
- Keep the details to yourself. You should never feel like you have to keep secrets from either of your parents, but it is possible to hold back on sharing all of the details with a parent is struggling to accept your new relationship with your stepparent. If you had a great vacation with your dad and step-mom, by all means, tell your mom about your vacation, but don’t feel like you have to share about how you and your step-mom stayed up until 3:00 AM one morning just laughing and sharing stories.
- Never ever compare your parent to your stepparent. Comments like, “You’re not as nice as my new mom (step-mom)” cut like a knife and are just as cruel to your mom as her accusing you of being disloyal.
- Give it time. Just like it may have taken you time to finally forge a good relationship with your new stepparent, it may take your mom or dad time to get used to the idea of you having a new “parent figure” in your life.