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How Do I Overcome Jealousy of My Older Partner’s Wonderful Children?

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From the U.S.: I am a 21 year old woman who has been seriously involved with an older man for nearly three years. He has been divorced for quite a while after a ten-year marriage due to the ex’s unexpected mental breakdown. I love this man more than I can possibly say, but I am finding myself terribly jealous of his two children whom he has full custody over.

What baffles me is that these children are actually wonderful, smart, charming, polite angels aged 8 and 12. They are a beautiful reflection of their kind father and adore me–they want the two of us to get married! However, being so much younger, I have trouble still grasping how much attention these kids need. I have also always been uncomfortable around kids for some reason. I suppose it is because my parents , although great, were severely less affectionate and sensitive as my boyfriend is. But I do feel jealous not only because of how little time I get to spend with him, but I even get jealous that he has children to begin with.

I feel terribly guilty, and I have been open about it with him. I tell him that even though his boys are great, I still get jealous and frustrated that I cannot feel like “number one” on his list … although I know I shouldn’t be! He reassures me that he actually loves me just as much as the boys but they need him, especially because the mother pseudo-abandoned them. I completely understand … and if I could change my feelings I would.

He is a wonderful father … ideal even. But I even get so jealous that such a wonderful father couldn’t have spent the last ten years with me and have children with me(even though that would be impossible–I would have been eleven!) … he says he would be open to having a child by reversing his vasectomy if I ever wanted one.I feel like I am too young to make the decision. I have never had a strong desire to have kids or a very maternal instinct because of my upbringing, but I have no clue if that will change.

Honestly, it would be easier to date younger version of him, pre-kids and ex wife … but I cannot. Can I get over these irrational, selfish thoughts? If so, how?

How Do I Overcome Jealousy of My Older Partner’s Wonderful Children?

Answered by on -


The reality is that your boyfriend’s relationship with his sons will always be older and deeper than his relationship with you. Kids, being kids, are going to need his attention in ways I hope you don’t. He can’t love you “as much.” He can, and should, love you differently — and deeply. Partner love is very different from parenting love. There is no competition. They are entirely different emotions. There is no “number 1” when it comes to love in a family.

“Getting over” your thoughts is a decision. If you can’t make that decision and stick to it, you owe it to this fine man, the kids, and yourself, to take a big step back from the relationship. It may be that the age gap is more of a problem for you than you are willing to admit. It may be that on some level you know you aren’t yet mature enough to take a parenting role with two children who are going to need you to do just that. It may be that as much as you love him, you don’t really want kids but don’t want to give up on the man — even though it is absolutely a package deal. Or it may be that you aren’t yet secure enough in your own adulthood not to be jealous of what children rightfully get from a parent.

It would be wonderful if I had a way to help you grow into being ready to be a partner to this man and a stepmom to his children. Unfortunately, I don’t. I hope you will work on it. If you can’t get to a better place, I hope you will be fair to everyone — including yourself.

I wish you well,
Dr. Marie

How Do I Overcome Jealousy of My Older Partner’s Wonderful Children?

Therapists live, online right now, from BetterHelp:

Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Dr. Marie is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2018). How Do I Overcome Jealousy of My Older Partner’s Wonderful Children?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 25, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018 (Originally: 19 Apr 2015)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.