Cathryn's Mailbox
Stepmoms wrote in, Cathryn replied​.
Cathryn's Mailbox
A- I love my partner, but I also wish his daughter didn't exist! (8/11)

A-About ready to throw in the towel! (4/12)

A-About to become a stepparent and am terrified!(5/12)

A-Are you in the mood for Stepmom's Pep Talk-read this! (3/15)

A-Clarifying Mission Statement for SMOMS. (11/11)

A-Do I love my stepson? Sometimes I don't know.(8/12)

A-Don't know where I went wrong. Please help me!(6/12)

A-Ever Feel Like Leaving? (5/11)

A-Feeling like invisible parent to stepson- help! (12/13)

A-Feeling like the enemy in my own house. Yes I have a teen stepdaughter.(5/15)

A-From BB: Self-awareness can hurt...why is that? (10/12)

A-Holiday traditions? Some ideas from sister SMOMS. (11/113)

A-How can I find the right balance & boundaries? (4/12)

A-How do I deal with all the hurt and anger? (1/12)

A-How to let go of the single life versus being stepmom?(8/15)

A-How to step back in after stepping out? (8/12)

A-I need some better coping skills and I'm open to new ideas.(7/16)

A-Invested so much love, time, energy & $$...seems it's never enough. (2/16)

A-It's too much work- I need help from my partner & Family!(7/12)

A-Not a step mom yet but need some guidance (7/12)

A-Right now, I HATE being a Stepmom!!! (10/13)

A-Self-Pity-an emotional numbing,energy draining tactic-find a new option. (7/15)

A-What about the rage! I "Lost it" last night. Help! (10/11)

A-What are reasonable expectations? (3/11)

A-When to call it quits? What to do? (3/12)

A-Why am I so jealous? What about my irrational fears? 7/15)

A-Why don't I matter in this stepfamily? (12/11)

B-Dealing with SD at my young age (7/15)

B-Feeling resentment towards my stepson and can't connect with him.(2/16)

B-How can I handle my stepdaughter(8) who loves negative attention? (8/12)

B-How do I deal with a bio-mom who doesn't want to get along with me? (9/13)

B-How do I handle my feelings when my stepchild stops saying I love you? (4/16)

B-How do I help her understand chores/rules don't mean that I don’t love her?(1/12)

B-How to help my stepson, when his mom encourages him to lie to us? (10/11)

B-How to make the transition between homes easier for stepkids?(12/17)

B-I am frustrated with my stepkids 99% of the! (5/14)

B-I feel left out and invisible with grown SDs (4/12)

B-I have issues with my teenage stepdaughter and the car...Ugh! (4/12)

B-I have two stepkids I can't control.(9/11)

B-I want a better relationship w/ teen stepson. (6/12)

B-I want a Closer relationship w/ stepdaughter (5/12)

B-I'm at the end of my tether... Stepchildren don't seem to like me. (12/11)

B-It feels like my 5-year old stepson throws his mom in my face! Help! (10/11)

B-Just jealous or maybe time to leave? (6/11)

B-My 3 yr old stepson seems to be crying all the time!(9/12)

B-My husband stays at his mothers when he has his daughter for the night. (10/12)

B-My stepdaughter chooses her bio-mom for school play-it upsets me. (6/11)

B-My stepkids don't recognize how much their dad does for them. (6/11)

B-Struggling w/ a jealous stepdaughter (3/12)

B-What to do about disrespectful 20 yr/old stepson? (4/11)

B-When your stepkids are away on Christmas Day. (12/12)

B-Why do things my stepkids say bother me so much? (11/11)

B-Why does my stepson idolize his bio-mom? (4/12)

B-Why does my stepson's rudeness bother me so much? (12/11)

C-Bio-mom assaulted me & told stepkids it was the other way around. (8/11)

C-Bio-mom back & I'm hurt by her impact-what can I do? (8/11)

C-Bio-mom doesn't want her kids, then does-what's going on? (8/11)

C-Bio-mom doesn't want me present at any of my skids school events.(8/15)

C-Bio-mom is badmouthing me to my stepson & he tells me and my kids.(6/16)

C-Bio-mom used me, I drew a line, she’s angry--now what? (9/11)

C-How to accept bio-mom's "bad" choices? (6/11)

C-How to deal when bio-mom returns into the picture. (1/16)

C-How to handle bio-mom who keeps asking for more $$$? (9/12)

C-No matter what I do, bio-mom still hostile. I feel hopeless and scared.(3/17)

C-What to do when bio-mom turns my stepdaughter against me? (9/16)

C-When bio-mom sends stuff from life w/your partner-what to do? (5/11)

D-How do I cope w/DH's need for perfect family? I'm more realistic. (4/12)

D-Husband still has divorce guilt and his kids are in their 30’s--ugh! (10/14)

D-I think the problem is my partner. Why is he fighting my efforts?(6/15)

D-My partner doesn't understand why my feelings are hurt. (7/11)

D-My partner feels divorce guilt so lets his ex interrupt outlives (6/18)

D-My partner w/3 bio-kids is not trying to bond w/ my 2 kids.(8/11)

D-Partner sets no Boundaries for SD20-what to do? (8/11)

E-A bio-mom worried about her daughter's new Stepmom. Will we help? (2/12)

E-Bio-mom is online stalking and has issues w/ pictures of stepkids. (6/12)

E-Dealing w/ Deceased Bio Mom's Extended Family (5/12)

E-Dealing w/ unkind stepkids, ex-wife, MIL costing me my relationship? (2/12)

E-Help w/situation that dad, biomom & stepkids all agree on but not me! (3/11)

E-How do I change my attitude towards my new inherited family? (4/12)

E-How do I stop SD from lying to me, DH, BM, and BM's boyfriend? (8/12)

E-How to deal with a lying stepdaughter, her bio-mom & ex-stepmom? (1/12)

E-I feel jealous of my partner's ex & unheard by my partner. (10/11)

E-I want my bed back! (5/11)

E-Jealous of sister-in-law and my stepkids. What can I do? (8/12)

E-My partner found out he has a daughter-I feel terrible (10/12)

E-Stubborn partner and sexually active teenage SS (8/12)

E-Transitions and Coparenting Struggles (3/16)

E-Trouble coping w/BF's newborn and his ex-spouse. (7/12)

E-What boundaries do I need to set with husband and stepdaughter? (11/11)

E-When BM causes drama, how to preserve my relationship w/ stepkids?(6/12)

A-Do I love my stepson? Sometimes I don't know.(8/12)
Hi Cathryn,

I’ve been with my fiancé for seven years, we’re getting married next year. My ss is 13 now and it seems as he gets older things get worse between us. I never feel included with him, every time he talks (before or after every sentence) he says dad directing it to him like I do not exist. When we go places together he is right next to his dad taking every step and movement his dad does even if it means he is pushing me out of the way to be next to his dad.

I do care for him and I want him to be this perfect kid. It seems that I am the only one that enforces discipline on him so it seems like I’m the bad guy. When I was growing up I didn't have all the gooshy love cuddling stuff so I don't do it with my ss. My fiancé now says that we would have a perfect relationship if his son wasn’t there because that is all we ever fight about and I don't know what to do.

He says I don't show his son any love but that's the only love I know is guidance and discipline. He and his sister don't seem to realize that other people show love differently but maybe I don't love him...I don't know how to tell.

It sometimes seems his son does things deliberately just to leave me out of things. It really hurts me to where sometimes my temper gets the best of me and I start yelling. My ss will always choose to go with his dad all the time to where if he doesn't he sits at the window watching for him to come home. It really irritates me and cannot stand it.

When he was younger things were different. He would say I love you to me and hug me and wanted to be around me even though it felt awkward to me because i'm not use to that. So my question is... how do I know I love my stepson?


Hello, As I read your letter I can see that there are many things going on in your family. What if you decided that it didn’t matter whether or not you love your stepson? What if you looked at how you two treat each other and let the feelings show themselves more naturally? Could you try that?

It is very wise to be aware of how your own upbringing is impacting your ability to see and react to things with your own stepkids. It is also understandable that to be ignored, disregarded and treated as invisible would be upsetting to any of us. This kind of behavior is something that can be worked on from two angles, yours and your fiancé's.

Have you read the various articles on the site about ways of interacting with our stepkids? Given his age, it makes sense that he may feel awkward around you while he (and his hormones) are waking up. I know that can feel a bit creepy but it is something to look into-in case there is anything to this...meaning, that he may feel awkward around you if he has or had any kind of crush on you when he was younger. I’m no expert in child psychology so you may want to get some advice from others about this. My point is that if he is pulling away, behaving differently than he used to, what if you suggested new ways for you two to interact, that felt more comfortable for him? Playing checker or chess? Cycling? doing work in the garden, volunteering for a cause? What can you, your fiancé and your ss do together than is new and may give all of you a “clean slate” when interacting?

His age brings about some unpredictable behaviors.
sure do wish that your fiancé would be a bit more supportive of you.
Does he know how you feel? Can you ask him to help you out in varying situations, so that he can come to your aid, instead of feeling criticized? Guys can be super sensitive when they are feeling guilty and/or between a rock and a hard place (caught between their kids and their lovers).

The book about teens may be helpful for that aspect of your relationship and it will give your fiance all kinds of healthy, practical suggestions and insights that will give him more confidence in dealing with his son. The book is called, “Get out of my life, but first could you take me and Cheryl to the mall?” By Anthony Wolf. if you are interested.

Back to your question, if you can find a way to treat him with respect and with kindness whenever you interact with him, even when he’s not acting as friendly towards you as you’d like, you can feel good about how you are impacting him. You will be modeling kindness and if you can do this and feel good about your role, perhaps you will not feel angry or hurt or irritated with him...and he will feel this shift in you. It may help you both feel more relaxed and if you can not take anything that he does as a personal, intentional attempt to hurt you, then perhaps you and your fiancé will not have as many arguments.

The fact that you have been in his life more so long, makes me wonder what else may be going on. Influence from his mother? is only one example.

Because of the upbringing that you had, if you wanted to invest some time and energy in helping yourself become more healed and aware of how your childhood impacted you, this is always a good thing! You’ve done a good job becoming aware of how and when your background impacts your present moment….this is a great start! If you could work with someone who could help you become aware of how you were wounded as a child (we all were in varying ways) like not having such lovey-dovey expressions and more discipline, this new awareness will give you greater access to your feelings. It could be that your ss’s moodiness and need for his Dad’s is triggering feelings you had but buried out of the need to survive your childhood.

Maybe you could sort of start over with basic kindness and ask him (and his Dad) if you 3 could find a way to treat each other like friends. Decide to have your fiancé handle the responsibility for discipline and you try being yourself with no extra responsibilities. Did you read my post “his Kids: His Call”?

I can understand why this situation is upsetting for you. Please consider the books and some professional support so you can find new ways to improve your self-care, meeting your needs and your feelings in new ways that feel better.

Sincerely, Cathryn

Part 2
Dear Stepmom,

The following letter was written to me FOR YOU from a bio-mom who has been wanting to help other women (who are in the role of stepmoms) but she is NOT a stepmom. She asked me to post this for you.

The name she uses is "Becky" and this is for you. I've not read it yet but wanted to post it in hopes that it will be helpful. She's written to me enough that I am trusting it is offered with the best of intentions. Cathryn

It sounds like she and the dad grew up in very different cultures, which isn't unusual in America. If I had to guess, her background is English, Scottish, German, or Polish, or some mix of these, and that her fiance's background is something different. These cultures can come off terribly cold-fish to outsiders.

If that's the case, therapy with a culturally sensitive therapist (not always easy to find) can be quite helpful. In the end, the fiance will have to decide whether he can live with this acceptingly and lovingly, because this is simply who she is (and who she'll be if they have a child together). These things can be (and should be) explained to the son, too, in terms he can understand. Chances are he already has some inkling about that, but it'd be nice for him to know it's not that she's just mean, or something. In the meantime, it would be helpful if she had a hard look at the relativity of her own attitudes toward discipline. So long as the child is well-cared-for, reasonably polite by most people's standards, and reasonably responsible by most people's standards, that's pretty much a slam-dunk for a 13-year-old boy. She may need to relax her own attitudes about what constitutes acceptable behavior, and recognize that she's marrying into a pre-existing family with standards different from her own. If that's a serious problem for her, this may not be the marriage for her, first because they speak to deep and irreconcilable differences that go beyond childrearing, and second because the boy and his mother will remain in their lives forever.

As far as his recent behavior goes: It sounds to me totally normal for a 13-year-old boy. Adolescents are often barely human, and I think she's finding that battle-choosing is important. His dad does need to step up and correct his son's manners, because what he's modeling is how to treat a wife. And if he lets the boy treat her like she's invisible, that's not okay: it says to him that he should treat his own girlfriends and wife or wives the same way. It may be totally unintentional on the boy's part -- they're often just oblivious. But the dad needs to take that behavior in hand.

I don't agree with the intimation that the boy has a secret lech on for the stepmom, or that he's somehow being poisoned against her by the mom. While those aren't impossible, I think it's best to look first for obvious and less dramatic explanations, and the most obvious is: he's a 13-year-old-boy who wants his dad's attention.

The heartbreaking part is her uncertainty over whether she loves him. It sounds to me like she's feeling very ground-down and uncertain in the relationship. The future SIL needs to stay out of it, for one thing. But whether or not she loves is not something anyone else can or should try to determine. If the reality is that she doesn't *like* the boy, then that's something else, particularly if the boy lives with them part of the time. It's damaging to children to have to live with adults who dislike them; they can sense it, you know. But the first thing she needs is to get out of being ganged up on by the dad & SIL, know that she's done nothing wrong, and get clear in her own heart about her feelings.

Cathryn's Mailbox
Stepmoms on a Mission®
PO Box 7, Medford NJ 08055