My Husband Won’t Let Me (Step) Parent
I adore my step-children and I want to share in their lives. My husband seems to resent this. He often speaks in terms of ‘me’ and ‘mine’ when referring to them or to activities that we share with these children. I have no children of my own and understood when we got married that my husband’s family would be my family, too. Am I expecting too much? Should I excuse myself from contact with these children?
Dear Hurt & Bewildered,
Step-parenting can be a difficult job for many reasons. The step-parent is often eager to parent and become the best parent they can be for their new children. Sometimes, a new step-parent, in their enthusiasm, may try to be too much too soon. There is the parent one becomes when they newly step into a parenting role, and there is the parent one becomes through time and trial. The first can happen with marriage; the second happens over time. The process can be a long, hard, slow one for the eager new step-parent. In addition, a step-parent needs to slow down enough to integrate their step-parenting style with the needs, expectations, and acceptance of the step-child – as well as their new spouse and even, to a lesser extent, the new spouse’s ex.
It sounds like you and your husband have had a misunderstanding. I encourage you to go back to the original discussion and find out where you misunderstood each other. You may both, for example, fundamentally believe that his family is your family, too, but have different expectations about how that would happen.
A parent may want to share their children with their new spouse, but feel uncomfortable about, among other things: sharing disciplining; the style of discipline; the use of the phrase ‘our children;’ the idea of ‘walking’ into a parenting role; sharing pride and commentary over a child’s accomplishment. In short, a parent can feel proprietary about their children.
Likewise a new step-parent has certain expectations about what they imagine their role and relationships to be. Rather than excuse yourself from contact with the children, I encourage you to take it slowly and talk to your husband. Talk to him about your original discussion and your expectations. Ask him about his expectations. Discuss what behaviors/attitudes/semantics he is comfortable with and what he is not. Likewise, let him know what you feel comfortable with and what you do not. Together find a new understanding about what will work for you.
As the newly entering parent, I encourage you to bring your own unique qualities into your relationship and follow your husband’s lead regarding pacing and transition. Learn about your new role and children and evolve slowly and steadily into a satisfying parenting role.
If you and your husband are still experiencing discord, I encourage you – both of you, if he is willing – to seek the help of a therapist. Blending families is challenging business, and there are no rule books. A therapist can help you and your husband have an open, honest, and forward-moving dialogue which moves you closer to having the kind of family you want.
is a Licensed Professional Counselor passionate in her work to help clients develop and assert their voice, face life fearlessly, and live with integrity. Lauren’s private practice, Counseling Breakthrough, is located in Burke, Virginia.