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The best step parent

white knight
Community Champion
Community Champion

Ive been in a step parent situation 3 times out of my 4 long term relationships and now my wife of 8 years is a step parent to my daughter. She didn't have children.

In the first case, in my twenties I was step dad to a boy 2-8yo so for 6 years I had him nearly 24/7. I was young, jealous and frankly he irritated me. We ended up splitting up for other reasons but, the abrasiveness between myself and that child was a factor.

By the time I reached my 40's I commenced a defacto relationship and she had two teenagers. I got on well with both but my partner did not get on with my children so for years I pondered why. I came to the conclusion that a nurturing factor was missing. Also she was jealous of my children as I had 20 years earlier to my first step parent life.

Ive noticed this lack of nurturing and possessiveness in many other step parent families. But if the nurturing is there or the step parent is genuinely interested in the child then it can work well.

There are tell-tale signs of a possessive partner with limited interest in your children. He/she might not include your childten on holidays and excuses given "not until they behave themselves". They might resent any money you give your kids "you already pay child support". They might not pitch into help eg I couldnt drive due to a broken leg but she wouldnt pick up my kids for any reason.

This resentment isnt good and will erode an otherwise sound relationship.

My children grew up with some psychological issues due to their step mothers rigid and cold attitude. Me hanging onto hope she'd eventually like my daughters was an unwise thought, it doesnt happen.

Meeting a potential partner has its problems compounded when children are involved. Take it slow, perhaps test out his/her attitude in basic short camping trips or holidays. Seek out if nurturing or friendship is present in them before solidifying the relationship. Feel free to get counseling.

That chemistry must be there between step parent and children ...must.


3 Replies 3

Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni

Hi Tony,

Interesting discussion.

I grew up with a step father from ages 7 to 18. He did not like me or my brothers and exhibited many of the warning signs you have stated.

To be fair, my brothers and I didn't like him either and probably pushed him pretty hard, especially when we were younger. He was also abusive to my brother, although this was 'excused' because my brother had ADHD and was a real handful. Thankfully I now have zero contact with him.

I love my mum and we are very close, but sometimes I feel angry that she made us put up with him for so long. Having someone in your home that has power over you, but doesn't like or love you is really difficult for a child. I wonder why she put his needs before ours. Especially as their relationship was not great even without the pressure of us kids.

She did eventually kick him out after he tried to hit me and I refused to return home until he was gone.

My half sister (his 'real daughter') has a very different relationship with him.

I agree that there really does need to be a solid relationship between the potential step parent and the child before making it permanent. If not you risk your child's mental health and their relationship with you.


Hi Jess

I might have some answers to your post above.

See, my last defacto 1998-2008, the one that didnt try with my daughters, I was the "meat in the sandwich".

Even though she was abusive, I loved her and I was afraid of another failing relationship. Furthermore we had our finances blended including a mortgage (perhaps thats another no-no). Finally I always had hope that she would grow to like my kids which I know now is preposterous.

My youngest when 14 was nearly slapped in the face (I was slapped many times) and I stopped her. I then found out she was a closet alcoholic. It was the last straw and we split. Yes some regret not leaving years before but it isnt easy. Your mum like many of us are wanting to be loved and hoping our partner will change, they dont, hence the thread.

I hope it all worked out for you.



I saw an interesting event yesterday at the doctors surgery.

A family of 4, mum, what turned out to be the step father and two children around 3 and 5yo boy and girl.

The little boy was allowed to run around the surgery without discipline. With ill people there I found this wasn't acceptable but being a patient also, I remained quiet. The step father intervened and told the 3yo to stop running around, then sat him down with the toys provided. The boy began to cry. His mother comforted the boy and said to the step father "he's ok running around why did you stop him from having some fun". The step father was starting to show anger so raised his voice "because we are in a waiting room in a doctors clinic, its not right to allow him to run around". She replied "leave him alone" The boy took off again.

Less than 10 seconds later a nurse walked into the running child. The nurse a young slim lady fell over trying to miss the boy and her metal bowl and needles flew onto the floor. The boys mother apologized and the step father stormed out of the clinic.

The mother was now visibly upset. I asked her if she was ok. It was then she told me her partner was the childrens step father. She admitted she did wrong and didn't consider her boy was doing any harm. I casually mentioned boundaries for children particularly in public places but it is common for the step parent to have tighter boundaries.

It remained me that step parent chemistry is delicate. Extra communication is needed, tolerance beyond normal levels and patience but above all teamwork. Spend time alone together working out your common boundaries and try to understand your partners limits.