Help! I Feel Jealous About the Memories My New Husband and Stepchildren Shared
How do I cope with the jealousy I’m feeling over the memories shared between my stepchildren and their father (my new husband)?
You’re basking in the warmth of a great family moment, with all the children surrounding you and your spouse. Then one of your stepchildren interrupts with, “Dad, remember when you used to rock me to sleep with my special teddy bear when I had a bad dream? Those were great times, weren’t they?”
Your spouse responds, “Yes, honey, I remember. Those were special times.” He leans over and gives the child a kiss on the forehead.
In families that haven’t been shattered by divorce, this exchange between father and child is welcomed. But it can be a different story in a blended family. A fond memory that brings delight for one family member can also create a sense of isolation for another.
When unshared memories break into conversation, the stepparent can actually feel like an outsider looking in on another family. It can escalate to feeling unwanted or unneeded. These feelings can, in turn, lead to jealousy.
There are at least four things a stepparent can do to address jealous feelings because of memories shared by only one side of the family.
Don’t act on your jealous feelings. Acknowledge that you have jealous feelings, but realize that these are feelings that you shouldn’t act on. Giving in to jealousy will only increase the tension you feel. Manage your feelings and don’t let them direct your actions toward your stepchildren or your spouse. It will only harm these relationships. As servants of Christ, we’re to pray for the strength to put aside our needs for the moment and allow another’s needs to be met. “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” ( Philippians 2:4 ).
Share your feelings with your spouse. Talking with your spouse can help your feelings of being left out, especially if your spouse listens without judging you. Some, though, hold their feelings, which seems to make them take on a life and reality of their own. Keeping your emotion bottled up inside can distort your perspective. Speaking “the truth in love,” however, can help prevent a warped perspective from developing, and encourage deeper sharing and intimacy between you and your spouse ( Ephesians 4:15 ).
Build your own memories. Good memories are essential for building closeness between family members. They make us feel affirmed and warm toward each other. In the same way, we have shared memories with our heavenly Father. We remember what He has done for us so that we can continue a close and trusting relationship with Him ( Psalm 105:5 ).
Some of the ways parents can give stepchildren happy memories is through special family rituals, vacations, and new family traditions. Holidays and birthdays are great opportunities to create unique family ties, but even ordinary moments can also become special to children (i.e. riding bikes together, reading by the fire, eating popcorn and watching a movie.) Remember these good times through taking home videos, photographs, or simply reminiscing together.
Recognize the importance of a stepchild to reminisce with his or her parent. Just as it is important for your blended family to build new memories, it is crucial that children stay connected to their parents through old memories. Children love to remember what it was like when they were little, and that need is magnified in a blended family. Because their family was torn apart, they desperately try to piece it back together so it won’t be erased. These memories give them a sense of stability by remembering how they were loved. God, too, compassionately chronicles who we are and how we’ve been loved. 1 John 3:1 reminds us, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!. . .” In this way, the Bible is a memory book of God’s great love for us.
At times you will feel close to your stepchildren, but at other times you’ll seem disconnected because of memories that you don’t share. This is a difficult, yet natural part of being in a stepfamily. Putting aside jealous feelings for the moment, talking to your spouse, building new memories, and valuing memories shared between parents and children can give you the freedom to grow and bond together into a healthy blended family.