Help with a step-son

sking_2004February 6, 2009

I had a baby 4 months ago with my husband. He already has a son who is 8 years old. My husband and his ex shared 50/50 custody of him until December when we received full custody due to some unfortunate circumstances.

We have been married for 2 years now and in the beginning my step son was great. We got along really well. At the end of my pregnancy I started getting these weird feelings and didn't really want him around. I figured it would go away once the baby was born and I saw how he was with him.

Well the feelings haven't gone away. I just don't like to be around him and do stuff with him. I'm grinning and baring it though and trying to do my best. My main question is how to I handle all of the "I love yous" from him? I'm a firm believer in not saying "I love you" if you don't mean it and he's saying it all the time. It makes me uncomfortable and I don't know what to say back to him that won't cause him to cry and through a fit saying I hate him. I don't hate him, I just don't love him.

Please help!! :(

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You don't have to say you love him. I would answer with 'you're so sweet' and a hug.

But, the bigger issue I see here is that your feelings for him have changed since you were pregnant and had the baby. I don't have much advice for that except for YOU to get some counseling. You need to figure out why your feelings have changed. It could be the change in hormones or some sort of depression. If you don't figure it out, he will eventually feel your discomfort and rejection if he doesn't already. It will also cause bigger (sibling) problems if he sees your new baby is loved and he isn't.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2009 at 11:59AM
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I can see why you dont want to say "I love you" if you dont mean it to an adult, but I think it is a little different for a child.

I feel so sorry for this little boy. I suspect he is saying I love you a lot because he understands at least partially what is going on. I agree with Ima, you need to see a therapist immediately. Have you discussed this with your DH? If you are SAHM, suppportd by DH, I think you have an obligation to do better by SS. IMHO.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2009 at 12:54PM
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I can relate to some of your feelings. I understand. There are times I resent my SS's presence. That sounds terrible, but it's how I feel at times, and I can't change how I feel. I CANNOT and DO NOT allow myself to act on those feelings, though.
I have noticed that the times I feel like this are when BM is causing drama and making our life less than pleasant. It's easy for me to look at SS and see him as an extension of BM. And it is NOT that I think he is, or that Ithink he is at fault for ANYTHING--but it's more that he is a reminder of her presence in the "wings'' of our life. And THAT irritates me. I have to remind myself over and over that HE is not his mom.

Grin and bear it is a good way to put it.

I think a lot of what you are feeling has to do with your hormones and your being a brand new mom. You can't help how you feel, and I give you much praise for trying to sort these feelings out. I do think talking to a counselor would be a good idea.

As far as saying "I love you" goes....I don't think you have to say it if you don't want to. Ima gave you a good idea. BUT I definitely think you should bring that particular issue up with a counselor---he or she might be able to help you delve into why it is you feel uncomfortable saying that, and help you find a way through that.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2009 at 1:09PM
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I think the change happening with your pregnancy and after birth does have alot to do with your hormones and being a new mom is not easy. Its a readjustment of yourself, of your relationship with your husband and it also means a readjustment with your ss.
I also do not believe in saying i love u when i dont mean it either. My sd has been taught to say i love u regardless and its just plain affection in how kids want to show something. Its not the in the same meaning as with an adult. saying thank you so much for telling me is another way to acknowledge it and without you saying those words either.
Your ss repeatly saying i love u just want to reinforce that he is being accepted by you since you did give birth and that living arrangments have changed and he is not going to live with his mom 50% of time anymore.
So i dont htink you need to worry and feel fake. You are in the process of bonding with your baby and its very natural to fend off anyone even anotehr child from your task at hand. Your doing it probably instinctually.
BUT you need to enforce the fact that you do like him and that you just need some privacy at times with the new baby. Dad can spend a little more one on one time with him as well during the transition.
What exactly changed for mom to lose 50% of custody if you dont mind me asking?

    Bookmark   February 6, 2009 at 1:19PM
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Sounds like hormone-induced "Push the intruder out of the nest syndrome" to me, and that can do a lot of damage to your SS and your marriage.

That little boy is saying "I love you" so often exactly because you won't say it back! He desparately needs to hear you say that you still love him and that your new baby hasn't changed that.

Even though it's an outright lie right now.

And while it may feel dishonest to you, my advice is to lie your silly head off while you go through the counseling needed to make it not a lie anymore. Because to do anything else is just too cruel.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2009 at 2:00PM
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"And while it may feel dishonest to you, my advice is to lie your silly head off while you go through the counseling needed to make it not a lie anymore"

I think belittling OP and calling her "silly" is not going to help in this situation.

I totally agree with sweeby in that this is "push the intruder out of the nest" syndrome and, while it's not good, it's NORMAL. OP came here for help--at least she recognizes that there's a problem, and she is asking for our help.

I don't have more than 1 bio child right now, so I can't say for sure---but I have heard of moms even looking at their first-borns differently when they had a new baby. I've heard moms describe how "big" their first-borns suddenly seemed, and how they felt they had to protect their newborns from them. I think Vicki Iovine (love her books!) mentioned this in one of her books.

I think it is normal to feel like you have to protect your BABY and that your priorities seem to shift a bit in the beginning. Now, of course, all moms love their children equally, but I do think it is an adjustment, even for bio-moms, when having a second (or third, etc) baby.

Throw post-partum hormones into a stepfamily AND add in the fact that the custody arrangement has gone from 50-50 to FULL---that makes for a LOT going on emotionally.

Let's try to HELP OP work through this time so that she can be the best SM she can be to her SS.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2009 at 2:14PM
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Right, it's normal for the OP...but not normal for this little boy. I think you should talk to your DH about your feelings, it is very honest of you to even admit them and come up with some plans to minimize any damage to SS while you are working through this.

While these feelings may be normal for a grown woman, her husband needs to know what is going on to protect both her and his son. Whether that means he steps in and takes over all parenting or whatever, he needs to step up and know what is going on.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2009 at 2:33PM
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Lie your silly head off while you go thru counseling to not make it a lie anymore?????? What kind of counseling do you go to that makes you love someone? Sking, my first thought was post partum also, I like Imas temporary solution of you re so sweet..Thats good...He s only 8, things may change, you dont hate him, maybe some love will grow, maybe not..But I do think you should raise him in a loving considerate atmosphere..I have a SS that I like, care about too, but love, not there yet..

    Bookmark   February 6, 2009 at 2:39PM
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I don't think the actual I love yous (unless she was saying before and then stopped) is the problem, but the little boy is probably using that as his tool for figuring this all out. OP says she doesn't like being around him and doing things with him. While she may be grinning and baring it, kids do know when something is not right and can pretty much figure out when someone doesn't like them or want them around.

Ontop of having a new baby, this could be a recipe for disaster if OP and her husband don't start working on this now.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2009 at 2:47PM
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Sounds like a lot has happened in just a couple of months, new baby and change of custody. This is your problem, not your SS"s! You have to fix it and sooner is better. This poor boy needs to hear where he is living he is loved! The newborn knows and feels it, he doesn't. I would think your marriage could be in trouble if you don't get some help soon.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2009 at 3:35PM
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I agree that you should speak to someone and that hormones may have something to do with how you are feeling. Perhaps if you should look at your step son as you do your new baby. Wouldn't you want the person taking care of your baby and in who's home your baby lived to love him/her? This little boy has no idea what you are going through. He just wants to be as loved and as adored as he sees this new baby being. He sees you in the role of a new mom and he wants you to love him the way he sees you loving your new baby. It is heart breaking isn't it that things have changed so in his life. Every child should be loved by their mother and when he is with you and the new baby he wants to be a part of that love.

I have heard that it takes a woman 18 to get back to where she was before she had a baby. This isn't your fault. Start with your OB and I'm sure they can help you find the right way to go. Don't wait.

I don't really believe that you don't have love for this child. You felt it before and he hasn't done anything to change that. You love him in ways that he doesn't taking care of him, feeding him, tucking him in at night, washing his clothes, loving his father etc. Don't you think that you do love him?

    Bookmark   February 6, 2009 at 3:58PM
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"I think belittling OP and calling her "silly" is not going to help in this situation. "

Sorry Hadley - but 'silly' was the most charitable word I could bring myself to type.

A good mother simply doesn't put her own "I don't feel comfortable" ahead of a little boy's legitimate NEED.

Being a good mother simply isn't comfortable.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2009 at 4:05PM
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I feel terrible for this child. immidiatelly see a professional about it.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2009 at 4:16PM
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I think she s asking for advice because she knows its a horrible situation for the poor boy..She says she s uncomfortable Saying I love you..She states she doesnt want to make him cry...does that not denote caring? She never said she loved him, and now does not, she says she is having a hard time being with him right now...Many stepparents here have professed their love for their stepchildren, she s asking what if that just doesnt happen? She fell in love with his father, she just hasnt caught up to falling in love with the boy YET...Dont see how she can be castigated for that....

    Bookmark   February 6, 2009 at 5:00PM
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"A good mother simply doesn't put her own "I don't feel comfortable" ahead of a little boy's legitimate NEED."

Maybe not, but let's keep in mind, she is not this boy's mother. And like it or not, she doesn't have the bond with him that she WOULD if she had raised him from birth. She has only been married to his father for 2 years.

I think OP is experiencing some hormonal issues that are to be expected post-partum. I think she is also having a hard time with her feelings because the love for her own baby is so intense. No doubt she does care about her SS (or she wouldn't be posting here!) but I imagine that caring, at least at the moment, pales in comparison to how she feels about her baby.

I remember how I felt when my DD was born--I knew I would love her, but when she was actually THERE and in my arms, I just had no idea how intense that love would be.

I think OP is trying to sort through her feelings, and it's natural to feel confusion as she processes everything. LOTS has gone on in the last two years.

I am NOT saying that how she is feeling is good, and I completely, 100% agree that her feelings need to be dealt with, for both her sake AND this little boy's sake. But let's just not berate her for how she FEELS.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2009 at 6:26PM
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I guess I should clarify -- I'm NOT berating the OP's feelings --
Just stating very plainly that she needs to put her own feelings in that regard WAY back there in importance,
or else the price she (and this poor boy) will pay will be way too high.

It's not like a situation where a guy you're dating says he loves you long before you're sure about your own feelings.
This is a little boy we're talking about who looks to the OP as his mother-figure.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2009 at 7:31PM
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I have a card on my frig decorated with hearts and gingerbread men that my little 7 y/o neighbor's girl made for me. What all the "I love yous" on that card actually mean is, "Thank you for the Christmas present." After I read it, I hugged her and said, "I love you too sweetheart!"

I also have an air compressor and after pumping up bicycle tires, little kids tell me, "I love you" all the time, and I respond the same way. They're really just demonstrating appreciation, and I'm graciously accepting. Of course I don't really "love" them, but so what? If I didn't respond "in kind" all it would accomplish would be to hurt their feelings, and why would I want to do that to them?

From what you've described, I think your SS may be afraid of being abandoned and/or rejected and is seeking your reassurance. I don't think your reluctance to provide him with the reassurance he needs has anything to do with your desire to be "honest." Maybe the real reason you don't want to provide him with the reassurance he needs is because doing so would make you feel "disloyal" to your own child? That saying "I love you" to him would constitute a betrayal of the "bond" between you and your newborn?

    Bookmark   February 6, 2009 at 8:37PM
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How would you feel if your baby said "I love you" to HIS big brother and your SS just says "aren't you sweet" Kids are very perceptive. I'm sure your SS can feel the distance you are creating between the two of you. And it won't be long until your DH sees it as well (if he hasn't already) Unless you want to give the poor kid a serious complex you'd better get some help and right your self out. You are the adult who KNEW your DH came as a package deal. So deal with it.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2009 at 10:55PM
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"Maybe the real reason you don't want to provide him with the reassurance he needs is because doing so would make you feel "disloyal" to your own child? That saying "I love you" to him would constitute a betrayal of the "bond" between you and your newborn?"

I think there is a lot of truth to these words, and all the more reason for OP to get into counseling to work through this so SS doesn't suffer.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2009 at 11:52PM
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Hi Sking, are you considering seeing a counselor after reading all these replies? I think it will help you a lot and you will probably feel really relieved once you go, so please go ok?
And until then, if you can't say 'I love you' back, then maybe try and praise him for things he does. He needs to be reassured and praising him for things he does well might help him heaps. I do this a lot with my skids, and it's good for their self-confidence as well.
For example if he is quiet when your baby is sleeping; tell him how nice it is that he is so quiet. Or when he helps out with something; tell him you appreciate it. If you are watching tv together and he laughs about something, laugh with him.

Boost his confidence a bit, I sometimes say things about the skids to my FDH when they are present, just for that reason. For example; "Earlier today SD10 was playing so nicely with the dog, you should have seen it" and SD10 knows that I noticed and feels good. It's a great thing.

It's not that hard to find things to compliment on, and from your post it doesn't sound like he's a bad kid, so I hope this helps a bit. And kids, especially from divorced parents, really need to hear it, they don't 'just know'.

Let us know how you go ok?


    Bookmark   February 7, 2009 at 1:02AM
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I agree with sweeby. Lie. There is such a thing as too much honesty, and "I don't love you anymore now that I have my own baby" is too much honesty for an 8-year-old child. And that is basically what you're telling him by withholding the I love yous (that you used to say to him before you got pregnant, if i understand?)

It is not your fault that you are in a situation where you have to choose between two evils (lying vs.hurting your SS), but you do have to choose, and in this case lying is by far the lesser evil.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2009 at 1:33PM
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