You would think after 28 years as a stepmom there wouldn’t be anything new to learn.
It all began when we decided to update our last will and testament. Our new attorney did a magnificent job of helping us navigate the major decisions. Steve has 2 grown sons, 2 daughters-in-law and 2 grandchildren. I have 3 nieces and one nephew, my brother’s family, who I view as my own children.
Steve and I had already discussed and decided that when one of us dies, the other will receive the entire estate. We also agreed that we would leave 10%, a tithe, to a Christian organization or church. No debate or concern there.
The problem began when the lawyer needed to know what we wanted to do if we died simultaneously, and Steve’s entire family was also no longer living. For example, if we were all on a plane or a cruise and a tragedy occurred killing everyone.
My assumption was that my family should inherit everything. Steve had other thoughts about where the money should go.
That’s when the “stepfamily monster” displayed its razor-sharp fangs—once again. Even after 26 years this menacing device of division still shows up periodically when I least expect it. He is always hungry for a kill.
My wounded heart racing, I sat there silently and whispered to myself, “Steve, You really don’t love my family—do you? You pretend to care, but when the truth comes out it’s all an act.”
An emotional wall came up, and mentally I began to retreat. Fortunately, this wise lawyer observed my body language. He said, “I think you better discuss this.”
My natural instinct was to lash out and say all the hurtful things I was thinking and feeling. But I have discovered that response creates more chaos—not solutions. I remained calm, and clearly explained why I was deeply offended at his response. My husband is a kind man who loves me very much. And I could tell he felt badly about what had just occurred.
In my early stepmom years I would have brewed about this situation for days, licking my wound. And it would have caused me to withdraw my love from Steve emotionally and physically. But that serves only to steal, kill and destroy our marriage. And I have finally gotten to the place where I want a healthy, enjoyable relationship more than I want to be right.
In my heart I know that Steve loves my kids. Does he love them as much as he loves his own? No. In wisdom I lowered my expectations and realized that unconditional parental love, the natural bond, is radically different than any other kind.
Steve chooses to love my kids because they are an extension of me, not because he has a natural bond with them like I do. And it’s the same for me with his family.
Chosen love is still love. It can be even more precious because it’s often harder. Sometimes it takes a lot of work!!
Click here to read more.
Laura Petherbridge, TheSmartStepmom.com
Thank you for sharing this. As a stepmother to one and biomother to one, I often struggle with these feelings of ambivalence. I have found myself trying to conjure up feelings and emotions at times. It’s a difficult façade to continue for any length of time. I love what the author says about chosen love. I really do love my stepdaughter, but my love for my daughter will always be different and that’s ok.