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Husband's Children Hate Me

Husband's Children Hate Me

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Dear Rachel,

I am recently married to a wonderful man who has two teenage children from his first marriage. As I am ten years younger than my husband, and as he was young when he first married, I am not that much older than my "step-children." The problem is that they have decided they hate me, even though they don't know me, and they are really making my life miserable. My husband desperately wants to have a good relationship with them, but they are rude and disrespectful to me and I can't allow that behavior in my own home. Any suggestions?

Hurt

Dear Hurt,

Under the best of circumstances, it is always a difficult transition when there is a second marriage and children are involved. In this case, with children that you feel hate you, things are all the more complicated.

You are most likely a huge threat to themFor starters, is your husband aware of how his children behave towards you? Are they disrespectful in front of him or only when they are alone with you? It is important that he be aware of what they do and how they act. And you are absolutely right that they have no right to treat you badly, especially in your own home.

At the same time, from their perspective, you are most likely a huge threat to them. They are probably concerned that now that you have come into their father's life, that they may be kicked out. Needless to say, there are unfortunately all too many situations where a man remarries a younger woman, starts a new family, and the older children from the first marriage are ignored. Not to say that this would ever happen in your situation, but you can clearly see the source for the fear they may be having.

Children never want to see their parents divorce. It is devastating, no matter how peacefully done. And children always harbor the secret hope that maybe one day their parents will reconcile and get back together. Your marriage has shattered that dream and that possibility. Because of you, they now know that their parents will not reunite. Being that I don't know the circumstances of their divorce, or how it came to be, I can only say that if this was something their father wanted more than their mother, you can double or triple their anger that would be misplaced on you at this point.

I think the best thing you can do is deal with the short term in one way while working towards a long term solution. Your husband clearly loves his children and wants them in his life. You therefore need to recognize that, respect that, and ideally want that for him and for you as well. These are his children and they should continue to be involved in his life and him in theirs as much as possible.

Right now they are not ready to accept you as part of their relationship with their father. And if you continue to always be present when they are there, the response will be that they will avoid and resent their father, which will be the worst situation for everyone involved.

My suggestion would be to make a huge effort to simply not be around when his kids come over. Unless they specifically say they would like you to join them, have other plans, and give your husband the time and space that he needs for his kids. I know this could mean needing to leave your own home, but if that is what it takes, do it. Let his kids know how much you want them to spend time with their father, and help make plans that you know they will enjoy. Find out what foods they like and stock the kitchen with them or make them a meal you know they will enjoy. If you are continuously nice and generous to them, you will be harder and harder to dislike. And the closer they are with their father, the more they will hopefully start wanting to connect to you, who their father loves and cares about. And while you are not around, but only the proof of your kindness is, you give them a chance to slowly get used to the fact that their father is married without having to face you which they are not ready for. That is what I would suggest for the short term.

Children never want to see their parents divorceFor the longer term, hopefully you will be able to slowly spend more and more time with them and enter into their lives. I would continue to clear with them what they want you present for and what they don't. And if they don't want you coming to a school event or trip, don't. You need to show that you are secure in your marriage and don't need to be present for everything their father does. However, long term, you do not need to escape every time his children come. And when they are in your home, it will need to be made clear to them that they are to be respectful to you. If they can't handle that, then they should not be allowed to be there and your husband will need to visit them outside of the house. But again, this should only come after you have spent significant time giving them time and space to get used to you.

It is also important to not try to parent them. They have a father and they have a mother. And they are teenagers, not babies. You should not attempt to act like their mother unless they specifically seek that from you. If they ask your advice, give it to them, but if they don't, don't offer it. Especially since you state that you are not much older than they are, at best they will one day view you as a friend, but most likely never as a parent figure. And that is fine, as long as their father ensures that he is parenting them and doing that role when they are with him or with you both.

So I hope the above is useful and that you are able to provide them and your husband with some space while everyone gets used to this new situation. And hopefully one day soon they will come to realize that you are not the enemy and that even though it is not the ideal situation that they wanted, that you are a wonderful new addition to their lives.

Much luck!

Rachel

"Dear Rachel" is a bi-weekly column that is answered by a rotating group of experts. This question was answered by Sara Esther Crispe.

Sara Esther Crispe, a writer, inspirational speaker and mother of four, is the Co-Director of Interinclusion, a non-profit multi-layered educational initiative celebrating the convergence between contemporary arts and sciences and timeless Jewish wisdom. Prior to that she was the editor of TheJewishWoman.org and wrote the popular weekly blog, Musing for Meaning. To book Sara Esther for a speaking engagement, please click here.
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Discussion (179)
July 14, 2014
Step Children Who Hate
I have been married for 14 yrs to a beautiful man but he has allowed his adult children to treat me with total disrespect.It has been hurtful to me and I have suffered plenty.The times I tried to speak to his 2 girls, I was cursed at for no reason. They told me they never wanted me in their homes or near their children.
When I asked them if they would just tell me what I had done to be treated this way, they couldn't give one good reason. I made an attempt to clear the air between us but they wanted no part of me. The years have passed us by and my spouse has tried to stay in contact with them to no avail until recently. Now that we are older, they want to come around us.I still resent how these girls have treated me as well as their father.I know they are coming around now because they want to make sure they are in our Will. It just makes me sick at how they now try to act as though they care for me but it isn't genuine. I so want to tell them where they can go!!!
Anonymous
Tennessee
May 18, 2014
Oh, yes, it's very, very bad advice
Many well-intentioned people, including therapists, promote philosophies that make step-parents into a special category of non-person. Kids don't choose their teachers, sports coaches, dad's boss, or mom's buddy from college days. But they are expected to treat all such people with respect & courtesy. Somehow Dad's or Mom's new spouse, though, is supposed to squinch themselves up into an invisible wallflower or serenely accept all kinds of abuse because the kids "didn't pick them."

Do NOT leave your home all weekend when the kids show up. Do NOT give the kids veto power over where you go or with whom. Nothing could be worse.

Follow the advice in the above Dear Rachel column and you will get surly, aggressive kids and a second divorce. Guaranteed.

The very best thing you can do for your stepkids is model a good, solid marriage. Being made party to a home of respect and growth prepares kids for their own relationships and for a healthy, happy life..
Zebra Stripes
April 17, 2014
Worst Advise Ever
Obviously Rachel is a divorced woman whose husband has remarried so her advise is one sided and only what she would selfishly want for her own children out of jealousy. I couldn't even continue reading what is the worse advice I have ever heard. Seriously, she should go away and disappear when the kids are there?

They should try to work things out together as a family. They should have family stating the commitment they have to making the family relationship work. Having this poor woman run away will only make the children think they have "won" and will never change their behavior. In fact it will only make is worse and she will have to remove herself from every situation. Unreal! Shame on you.
Anonymous
Florida
March 17, 2014
EXPECT, predict and PLAN
If you can't communicate with the fiance AND his or her children BEFORE the marriage, including expecting problems, predicting and planning with them TOGETHER on what to do if they should feel left out or whatever, then do not marry. You are not marrying ONE person. You are marrying the whole family.
Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell
Riverside, CA
March 14, 2014
Bad Advice
That advice was HORRIBLE. It's naive to think stepchildren who hate their stepparent and behave badly will ever change. I have been married to my husband for 30 years and his children resented me from day one and continue to get their kicks by screwing with me and my marriage. They are selfish, mean and hateful...they were that long before I married their dad. A person with those feelings and tendencies does not change. The best thing for the stepparent to do is live your own life and find happiness any way you can because if your spouse is siding with the step children, you are on your own anyway.
Fed Up Stepmother
colorado
August 18, 2013
Recently Separated
I have just moved out of my own house. Have been in a realationship with my partner for 2 years she has 2 Teenagers from previous Marriage Male 18 and Daughter 16. From day dot there has been some sort of conflict with me. We now have a 11 month old baby together. Things justy kept getting worse not even recognised in my own house. They would rock up whenever they wanted unannounced...Mind you there Fathers partner is getting the same treatment. Our relationship is past any kind of reconciliation. I visited my daughter yesterday but the kids where still there and this created conflict before I entered the house. I kept telling there Mother about the situation but she never did anything to change there ways or if she did it would only last until she left the room.
I suffer from Manic Depression so when things annoyed me and built up there would be an explosion and then they would say I am a bad guy. Yet they kept provoking me.

All I care about now is my Daughter.
Mark
Sydney
July 14, 2013
Child of a Divorce (Early 20's)
I whole- heartedly agreed with this post. Since I am a child of a divorce (back when I was thirteen), and since my father was the one who wanted the divorce and left my mother for a younger woman, I can completely agree that I had resentment in my heart for someone who broke up my family. This resentment lasted well into my early 20's. My hate came in the form of total non-communication toward my step-mother. I never talked back, I just got into a state of mind that she didn't exist. For my adolescent physche, it worked quite well. Regressing any thought of her from my mind to keep from even thinking of her made me hate her less. To my dad this hurt him because it got so common where I would come home and say hi to him, but not to her. Any conversation I ever had at the dinner table, was usually directed toward him, and rarely ever included her. One time it got to the point where my step-mother gave my father an ultimatum either she go or I leave. To my surprise, my father chose me.
Anonymous
March 7, 2013
I came across this and just had to comment, which I rarely do. This is some of the worst advice I have ever read or heard on this topic and I pray this lady did not take it. Goodness! The most important thing that should have been expressed is that the father must be consistent in explaining to his children that his new wife is NOT a bad person, which is why he loves her and telling his children it is unacceptable to disrespect her or any adult for that matter. Spending time ALL together is what should be happening, not avoiding the children. Anyone who has been in a successful second marriage/relationship would say the same thing!
BC
March 5, 2013
I do not agree with the advice given to this second wife dealing with problems with the children. The key word here is children - they are the kids. They have no place making trouble for the marriage. Children are selfish these days. The Father should tell them to respect his new wife and adult decision of marriage or they will be missed! Telling her to stay scarce, etc is giving in to the childrens' unacceptable behavior. If they do not want you around, they should find another place for visits. Rude, selfish, destructive behavior from children should not be coddled, but deemed rude, selfish and destructive. Children are being spoiled these days and the world is going to pay for it sooner, rather than later.
Vicki
California
February 27, 2013
This is another reason I chose to stay single after my divorce.
The good men at my age are either dead or have children who would complicate rhe relationship. Who needs that drama?
Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell
Riverside, CA
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