Do You Feel Like an Outsider as a Stepparent?

Tears rolled down my face as I left Bible study. In an unfamiliar church, surrounded by strangers, I missed my life from our prior community we had been forced to leave.  I began to question if I would ever belong again. I felt like an outsider everywhere I went.

Fast forward eight months and I’m slowly beginning to feel a sense of belonging in our new town. I still see unfamiliar faces everywhere I go but sometimes I see someone I know who says hello. Occasionally I have a friend ask me to lunch. And most of the time I know how to find my way around in our new town.

I recall those feelings as an outsider during the first decade of our marriage. Every time my husband’s kids began talking about prior experiences I wasn’t part of, I felt like an outsider. When they cracked inside jokes among themselves, I felt like an outsider. And when I wasn’t readily accepted into their circle, I felt like an outsider.

It’s not uncommon for stepparents to feel like outsiders. Sometimes it gets better with time but sometimes it doesn’t. You can only control one piece of the puzzle that determines whether you will become an insider. Your stepchildren control the rest.

You can do your part to become a part of your stepchildren’s lives, but they ultimately decide whether they will let you in or not. It may seem unfair, but unfortunately, it’s reality.

In my Bible study group, the ladies welcomed me as an outsider with open arms. They wanted me to feel part of their group. They weren’t threatened by my being there. It didn’t affect their relationships with other members of the group if they also developed a relationship with me. There was plenty of love to go around. As a result, I now feel like an insider.

Becoming an insider as a stepparent is vastly different. Our stepchildren don’t usually welcome us with open arms. Particularly if they have two active biological parents, they aren’t looking for another parent. A loving relationship with us often threatens the relationship they have in their other home. As stepparents, we are expendable.

How do you cope with that?

On days you’re feeling like an outsider in your home, you embrace the relationships where you know you’re an insider. I am an insider as part of the couple relationship with my husband. I will always be an insider with my biological children. As a Christian, I’m an insider as part of God’s family. I’m an insider in my profession as a writer. And I’m an insider with my dear friends who know me intimately, and still love me.

You can also pray that your stepchildren will grow to love you and accept you as an insider. But if they don’t, it’s okay. I know you have insider circles that will help navigate your path through the outsider relationships at home.

How about you? Are you feeling like an outsider? Has your insider status improved since the beginning of your marriage? I would love to hear about it.

Other Posts You Might Like:

What is our Role as a Stepparent?

Will You Embrace the Opportunity for Grace with Your Stepchild?

4 Responses to “Do You Feel Like an Outsider as a Stepparent?”

  1. 1 inspiredstepmom June 4, 2012 at 8:56 pm

    I can definitely relate to this. My stepchild doesn’t remember life before I was in the picture. We have a phenomenal relationship. Everyone thinks she’s my bio child. But I still feel a little pinch sometimes when she and her dad are curled up together & I realize I will never be her “real” mom or the woman who gave him this sweet child we are raising together. I try to remember that I want them to have time together and their strong bond is a blessing — and that they both love and adore me too.

    • 2 Step Parenting with Grace June 6, 2012 at 6:46 pm

      I don’t think it’s uncommon to feel like an outsider at times, especially in the beginning. But it sounds like you’ve done a wonderful job as a stepmom! And what a blessing that you guys have such a great relationship.
      Thanks for your comment. God bless you.

  2. 3 Chris August 17, 2012 at 3:39 pm

    I completely relate. My stepdaughter was 2 and a half when we met but as there is no natural bond. It is always touch and go. I realized that a lot of what you can have from a stepchild depends on what her natural parent is willing to allow. Her Mom is pretty much on top of things, and Im her utility should something come up. As far as love.. it is a moving target based on what their needs are. I am the bread winner for this household, I get included because of that occasionally, but beyond that it is largely circumstantial. And though I do get hugs from them both and a kiss from my wife (we get a long great!), Im pretty much kept on the outside when they are focused on something. I love the little one, but my heart is broken and then rebuilt all the time.

    • 4 Step Parenting with Grace August 17, 2012 at 9:14 pm

      Thank you for your comment Chris. Stepparenting is hard, isn’t it? You didn’t mention how long you had been married but it is likely your relationship will bond over time and you will develop a closer relationship with your stepdaughter. There are many variables that determine that. I would encourage you to talk to your wife about including you more in interactions with your stepdaughter. I would let her know that you often feel like an outsider. She may not be aware of your feelings. It took many years for my husband to bond with my girls (they were 2 and 5 when we married) but now they are very close and consider him a primary parent in their lives (they are now 19 and 22). So don’t give up. Perseverance can make a difference. God bless you on your stepparenting journey. Gayla

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