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The tangled web of stepfamilies

"Oh, what a tangled web we weave . . ."
"Oh, what a tangled web we weave . . ."

“Oh, what tangled web we weave . . .”

When considering just this part of the famous quote, it makes one wonder if author Sir Walter Scott was a step-parent! When we consider all the connections and cross-connections within a stepfamily, it can be quite overwhelming. And one thing that gets all these connections tangled up in knots is jealousy. WinningStepfamilies cites jealousy among the many reasons that over 60% of blended families end in divorce.

Here is a list of just some of the forms in which jealousy can appear in step:

  1. The biological parent is jealous of the children spending time with their step-parent.
  2. The Ex is jealous of the new spouse spending time with their Ex.
  3. Children are jealous of the attention their biological parent bestows up the step-children.
  4. Stepchildren might be jealous that their new step-parent always puts their biological children before them.
  5. New spouses are jealous of The Ex – even though logic tells them that if there weren’t an Ex, they wouldn’t be able to be with their new spouse in the first place!
  6. Step-moms might even be jealous that their stepchildren like their step-dads (The Ex’s new partner) more . . .and vice versa.

Are you dizzy yet? These examples of jealousy, while the most common, are just the tip of the iceberg. And while they are not necessarily destructive in every situation, even the most functional of stepfamilies experience some form of jealousy at some point. But what exactly is jealousy? Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines jealousy as “an unhappy or angry feeling of wanting to have what someone else has” and “an unhappy or angry feeling caused by the belief that someone you love (such as your husband or wife) likes or is liked by someone else”. cites definitions that include: “feeling resentment against someone because of that person's rivalry, success, or advantages” and “characterized by or proceeding from suspicious fears or envious resentment.”

While jealousy is completely normal, if you are experiencing it yourself in any form, you have to ask yourself if it is helping you in your relationships or hurting you. Is it productive or unproductive? In his article in Psychology Today, Avidan Milevsky, Ph.D, explains that “Productive worry is when your worry about your jealousy produces some positive outcome. . . Does it motivate you to develop better relationships with your family?” And that “unproductive worry is when your jealousy does not result in any type of productive behavior. It is when all the jealousy does is make you anxious . . .”

If you are a victim of unproductive jealousy, the question is how you can change the negative into a positive. In the article Overcoming Jealousy in Psychology Today, Raj Raghunathan, Ph.D., says, “The most important step in overcoming jealousy is taking action.” He also advises that you should “acknowledge the feeling honestly (even if only to yourself). Doing so will allow you to turn your attention to ways of overcoming it.”

While acknowledging your feelings to yourself is the first step, sometimes it’s most useful to share your feelings with others who fully understand and share your emotions. If you are feeling tangled in a web of jealousy in your step relationships, talk about it with like-minded stepparents at the upcoming Stepfamily Solutions of NYC Meetup, and you’ll be able to find solutions together.

In the meantime, slay that green-eyed monster by focusing on the loving relationships you have in your life rather than fearing that others have more.


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