We all have difficult people in our stepfamilies we must deal with and sometimes it feels overwhelming. If you’re having one of those days, consider some options on how to cope with challenging people.
1) Don’t give them power over your emotions.
In other words, don’t allow their hurtful words to affect you. When someone says mean things to or about us we have a choice: will we let those words penetrate our heart or will we let them roll off, recognizing mean words often come from an unhealed hurt. I learned of a physical altercation that happened last week between a biological mom and a new stepmom. The bio mom can’t cope with the stepmom in her young daughter’s life and during the week-end exchange, erupted toward the stepmom. The stepmom did nothing to elicit the response; the bio mom has unhealed hurt related to her ex-husband’s re-marriage and the stepmom’s role in her daughter’s life. If the stepmom recognizes where the hurtful words came from, she can let the altercation roll off without allowing the bio mom’s response to have power over her emotions.
2) Seek out healthy people to hang with.
If we’re surrounded by healthy people, we are less likely to let an unreasonable person affect us. And if our ego gets bruised from hurtful words, we can turn to others to help re-build our esteem instead of lashing back. It also helps to minimize the amount of time we spend with those who tend to be unreasonable. If you have an unreasonable stepchild coming for the week, plan time away with friends or your spouse to maintain a healthy image of yourself and your surroundings.
3) Accept the relationship in its current state.
If we spend our time trying to change another person or fretting over a tense relationship, we gain nothing. A peaceful heart comes with accepting a difficult relationship as it is and seeking to do our part to improve it, while recognizing that unreasonable people sometimes thrive on drama. I like to consider the words of the Serenity Prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
4) Be a positive role model
Commit to take the high road as often as possible. Someone needs to be the mature person in an unreasonable person’s life – how about you? We can influence others through positive attitudes and behavior. If our ex-spouse learns we’re not going to fight back when he/she becomes unreasonable, the game ends. If our stepchild doesn’t get a rise from unreasonable behavior, it’s more likely to end. Positive attitudes and behavior with unreasonable people, however, take intentional effort. Are you up for it? Remember: “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” (Phil 4:19)
5) Maintain healthy boundaries.
Respect yourself enough to erect boundaries that work for you. If you’ve had a difficult day and are not in a good place emotionally, don’t walk into a tense conversation with your stepchild over chores that didn’t get done. Ask your spouse to do it. If you know the unreasonable person in your stepfamily who chooses to pick battles with you is going to attend the Thanksgiving meal, make sure you don’t sit by him/her. It’s not selfish to take care of yourself – no one else can do it for you. And you’ll maintain a healthier demeanor for whatever situation occurs when you know you have the right to maintain boundaries that work for you.
Unreasonable people abound and tend to show up more frequently in stepfamily relationships. Stepfamilies often have unhealed hurts that foster tense relationships. But we don’t have to get sucked into the dysfunction and allow others to have power over our emotions or influence our reactions. If we accept that some interactions will be difficult and some persons in our stepfamily will be unreasonable, we have a healthier mindset to cope with the behavior when it occurs. We will also appreciate the relationships with reasonable people in our lives even more!
Can you offer other tips for dealing with unreasonable people in your stepfamily?