What To Do If You Hate Your Stepparent
Families are supposed to be a group of people we trust and feel safe with. Many people spend most of their lives having close relationships to their immediate family members, and “traditional family values” keep us bound together for better or for worse. But when something happens to upset the standard nuclear family model, it can stir up a lot of feelings. Whether it’s a remarriage after death or divorce, adding a stepparent to your family is a big deal! Every feeling you’re having about your new stepparent is valid and normal, and you are NOT a bad person for experiencing those emotions. But if you’re stuck in a negative place, know that your relationship with your stepparent doesn’t have to be a total disaster.
What Exactly Do You Hate About Them?
First off, you need to figure out exactly what it is that you hate so much. Identifying the specific source of the problem is key to determining whether there’s a workable solution.
Let’s establish right away that if your stepparent is cruel or abusive toward you or others, or engages in inappropriate or illegal activities, that is NOT a relationship you are responsible for solving. You need to tell another healthy adult in your life immediately, report your stepparent to the authorities if necessary, and seek counseling for your family so healing can start taking place.
If, however, the source of your hatred for them is something smaller like curfews and food tastes and holiday traditions, there’s a huge chance that you can actually channel the hate into building a more functional, if not loving, relationship with them.
When Do You Fight with Your Stepparent?
Do you have fights or disagreements with your stepparent? Are there moments when your hatred for them flares up more strongly than others? Here are some examples of specific moments that might trigger your distaste for them:
- They tell you that it’s time for bed.
- They tell you that you can’t go out with your friends.
- They punish you (ground you or take away your phone).
- They ask you to do chores or babysitting.
- They go on dates with their partner/your biological parent.
- They have a new kid with your biological parent.
- Their cooking is different than what you’re used to eating.
- They buy you a gift that proves they still don’t know you.
- They don’t respect longstanding family traditions.
- They don’t make you feel welcome in their home.
- Your biological parent tells them everything.
- Your biological parent seems happier around them.
- Your biological parent doesn’t have time for things you used to do together.
- Your other biological parent badmouths the stepparent.
- Your other biological parent won’t speak to the stepparent.
- Your other biological parent refuses to be in the room with your stepparent.
This list could go on and on, but it’s important for you to figure out exactly when you feel the hate most. When could tell you who your problem is actually with as well as where it’s coming from.
Why Are You Resisting a Relationship With Your Stepparent?
Once you know when you’re feeling the hate, you can ask yourself why? There may be multiple reasons that you are responding to your stepparent in this way. The Stepkid/Stepparent relationship is so fraught that there is a ton of research out there on what makes that relationship healthy or not. PsychologyToday says a few of the big reasons you might be resisting a relationship with your stepparent or feeling disconnected from them are loyalty, possessiveness, jealousy, and how healthy the relationship is between your biological parents.
Maybe your source is loyalty. Do you hate everything your stepmom does because you miss your mom, and you’re too loyal to her memory to let yourself betray her by loving your stepmom? Is your dad a perfectly wonderful guy, and you’re way too loyal to him to have any love leftover for this stepdad your mom remarried? Do you cherish really beautiful memories from when your biological parents were still together, and you’re too loyal to that family to embrace this new one?
Maybe your source is possessiveness and jealousy. Maybe you and your biological parent spent a lot of time together before they remarried, and you’re feeling forgotten or left out now that the stepparent is always tagging along. Maybe you’re angry that your parent could possibly care so much about this person they’ve just married when they’ve known you since birth. Maybe you feel replaced because your parent had more kids with your stepparent, and you don’t feel special anymore. Maybe you miss the days when your parent was single because you’re tired of “sharing” their attention with someone new.
Maybe your source is that there’s still a bad relationship between your biological parents. If your parents broke up, it’s their responsibility to build a healthy relationship as exes for the sake of their kids, not yours. If, however, they’ve allowed things to remain tense and volatile between them, you may be mirroring the feelings they’re experiencing when you resist relationship with the new stepparent. Maybe your bio mom talks about how much she hates your stepmom, so you do too. Maybe your bio dad says your new stepdad is a loser, so you agree.
Maybe your source of resistance is a mixture of all these reasons! Families are complicated and unique. Spend a little time reflecting on the source of your hatred for this person. You have to understand the problem in order to find a solution.
How Can You Start Moving In a More Positive Direction
In her studies on the feeling of belonging, Brene Brown says “people are hard to hate close up.” So the first thing you might want to try if you hate your stepparent is… talking to them. Ask them to sit down with you over coffee or lunch, and calmly explain to them how you’re feeling. Take them through the whole what, when, and why process to help them understand where it’s coming from. You may be surprised to learn that your stepparent is totally willing to work with you on this. As much as you might not want to admit it, your stepparent probably already knows you “hate” them and wants a healthier relationship with you.
If you think your problem might actually be with one of your biological parents, you need to talk to them too. Sit your dad down and tell him that you miss him, and it hurts your feelings when he spends all his time with his new partner on the weekends. Be honest with your mom that it makes you feel caught in the middle and guilty when she badmouths the new stepmom, when you really need her to help you form a healthy bond instead.
You are NOT a bad person for feeling this hate in the first place. Your feelings are there for a reason, and you should listen to them. But dwelling and stewing in hate can mess you up in a lot of ways, and you deserve healthy relationships with the people playing these major roles in your life. You deserve to have love and joy in your family life, and believe it or not, your stepparent does too. So the last thing you need to do is try. With compassion, admit that your stepparent hasn’t technically done anything wrong. See what it might feel like to cut your stepparent a break for a day and let them be human. Relationships are a two-way street, though, and your stepparent will need some practice with this too. There will be good days and bad days, but hopefully, with communication and respect, you can build a sense of family together.
If you’re still feeling overwhelmed with negative feelings about your family, you’re not alone. Check out this resource to help you gain greater understanding about God’s love for you (AND your stepparent) and His ability to care for your family… and as always HopeCoaches are available 7 days a week if you need to chat about your struggles.
Tough relationships and people talking about "letting go" or telling you to forgive is hard. Read Dawson's blog to find out how God can help you with forgiveness.