My Stepson hates me.

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

I feel I am at a loss, and have come to you for some advice. For 3+ years now I have been dating a man that is exactly 20 years older than I am. He has three children: 9 year old boy, 11 year old girl and a 16 year old boy. I myself have one daughter who will be 5 years old in December. His ex-wife is horrible!!!! She is evil and tells the kids bad things about me. We aren’t a big fav of hers due to the fact that he left her for me, and I am younger.

The girl and I get along good. She has her times. The youngest boy is so so. He also has his times where he doesnt want to come over, and the ex says its because of me. I do not try to discipline them nor do I yell at them. I simply try to do what I can to make them happy. The 16 year old son hates me. He blames me for everything wrong in his life, and even talks rumors about me behind my back. Him and his mother have started so many issues for me. They are all untrue — so my significant other and I simply keep our heads high and try to ignore it all. It is very hard. He is a good kid other than all of this. He doesnt drink or do drugs. He is a hard worker and doing so so in school. He is a major hunter… its his life. Everytimes he is around it’s like he is always nit picking and trying to start fights at home — if its not with his Dad, he does it with his brother and sister. He normally does not say anything to me to my face. Its always behind my back. Then things get built up and built up and an explosion happens. I cant handle it anymore. I cant let this happen anymore. Ive done nothing to the children to be treated this way… other than being in love with their father. Why do I get treated this way? What should I do here?? Please help.

A: As hard as it is on you, it’s important to understand that from the kids’ point of view, you are the reason that their family fell apart. They don’t have the perspective or the information to understand it another way. The younger two were only 8 and 6 when their father left so their memories of the original family are less clear. But the oldest boy was 13! Just at the time that he was beginning to understand sexuality and romance, his father left his mother for someone who, from his point of view, could be the babysitter. He lives with his mother who is angry and feeling betrayed. He can’t be friends with you without feeling like he is betraying her too. When his brother and sister warm up to you, he has to stir things up out of loyalty to his mom. As you point out, he’s a good kid. My guess is that he is torn between his loyalty to his mom and his desire to have a relationship with his dad. He (and probably the other kids as well) need help, not scolding.

Ideally, their dad and mom should talk with a therapist or mediator. I hope they can agree that for the sake of the kids they will work together to figure out how to get their children out of the loyalty bind. The kids all need “permission” to love both parents. They need to know that that neither parent’s love depends on them taking sides in their parents’ fight. Meanwhile, you are right to work on defining your role as another adult friend, not a replacement for their mom. However, you do have a right to be treated with respect and courtesy. The kids’ father should be quietly insistent that the kids be polite. Love may come later.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 3 Dec 2007

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2007). My Stepson hates me.. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 19, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2007/12/03/my-stepson-hates-me-2/