Thursday, November 5, 2015

Loyalty Conflicts

loyalty conflicts, step family, blended family, stepmom, step mothers
First thing, Loyalty is a good thing. It tells us who we belong too and plants our feet on solid ground.  Loyalty offers up identity and security in the children and it is what every child needs.  The loyalty our stepchildren have towards their biological parents can be difficult especially when it involves the biological mother.  As one stepchild said to their stepmom “Is it okay if I like you when I am with you, but hate you when I am with my mom”.  That’s really a hard thing to hear when you are a stepmom, but we should focus more on the fact that they like you when they are there. Do not dwell on the negative.  Because the children have experienced a divorce and their loyalty is even stronger than children who don’t come from a divorced family. Children that do come from a divorced family, their loyalty is on “steroids”, that is how strong it is.
What can I do to break it?
There’s nothing you can do to break it.  Even children who don’t see or have any close relationship at all still have a strong loyalty towards their biological mom.
How can we earn the stepchild’s loyalty?
We can earn it by developing an emotional attachment.  An emotional attachment could be developed by taking care of them when they are sick or by listening to them when they get upset about something. Making sure all of their physical needs are met, helps it further along.
For example, my stepdaughter had a dance recital and I went to it along with my husband and mother in law. After it was over she came over to where we were standing and hugged everyone but me and just totally ignored that I was even there.  I was really hurt and felt like an outsider.  At the time I didn’t really know why she treated me like that; in fact my husband apologized to me for it.  I didn’t know until I read about loyalty and the fact that her Mom was just a few feet away from us.  I understand that since her Mom hates me, she had to pretend she hated me to for her Mom’s sake and if she would have paid me any attention it would really hurt her Mom.  Every event after that day if her Mom was there, I started to expect that she or my stepson won't acknowledge my presence.  Did it still hurt, yes it did every time, but it did hurt a little less.
It’s natural for stepchildren to compare you to their Mom.  Early on when you become their stepmom it’s important that you have a talk with your stepchildren. When you talk to them make sure you tell them these 4 things:
  1. You are not trying to take their Mom’s place
  2. You are not like their parents, you are different from them
  3. You are going to try your best to always have their best interest at heart
  4. That if you were them, my first loyalty would be to my Mom and I understand and respect that
It does make things harder when the biological mother is bitter and full of resentment towards your husband.  The stepchildren often times cannot form a bond with the stepmom when the mom is not over the divorce.  It’s especially hard if the ex-spouse is causing PAS (Parental Alienation Syndrome) with the stepchildren.  At this point, the only thing a stepmom can do is love the stepchildren the best you can.  Us, stepmoms need to realize that, there will be days where you will get treated unfairly and get the short end of the stick.  Don’t take it out on the stepchildren because they are only acting out because of their strong loyalty to their mom. To the stepchildren, any affection the stepchildren give to you feels like to a betrayal towards their mom.  I call it the hot/cold treatment, where one minute they are nice with you and very talkative and then the next minute they don’t want anything to do with you.  Don’t take it personally; just try to understand that they are struggling with loyalty.  For stepchildren that go back telling mom things that go on in this house, the best thing you can do is when you notice this behavior is to sit down with the stepchildren and say this to them: “We know that being in the middle stinks. We also know that sometimes you feel compelled to say things to both parents in order to show your loyalty. We understand you might feel like it’s wrong siding with one parent. Is that right? [Pause for their answer] When you tell your mom inaccurate stories about the home so that she will feel better, it leads to conflict between this home and your mom. Please stop. We would rather you be honest with her and with us. If you are afraid to be entirely honest with your mom, we ask you not say negative things about us” (R. Deal & L. Petherbridge; 2009).
If you are a stepmom having problems with feeling insecure about the place you might be with your stepchildren, don’t let it affect your significance in their life.  A stepmom that competes out of being insecure will usually be thought in a negative way and end up be resisted.  Please handle your insecure feelings with God, your husband, friends or even a support group.  Your stepchildren are not responsible for your well-being. You are not responsible for the maturity of the biological mother either. Helping the stepchildren cope with the emotional tug-of-war begins when you and all parental figures, remember that you are not in competition for the child’s loyalty. The right and mature loyalty takes some time to develop. Until then, pray about it and grow a thicker skin.

Have you dealt with loyalty issues with your children or stepchildren?

Ron Deal and Laura Petherbridge, The Smart Stepmom (Bloomington, MN: Bethany House, 2009), 89.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Great article with great perspective. You definitely sound like you're well on the way to a happy blended family. Thanks for sharing!

  3. congratulations on such an insightful article - I wish all blended families could be reading this

  4. This is a good article. I have two step parents and I think they would really be able to relate.

  5. I came from a lucky family where all of our families got along, my step dad and my step mom were great, I had more sisters and brothers to play with and it just worked out really well. I've seen families where it ends in tragedy though :/.

  6. Sounds like a very healthy perspective. Thank you for sharing.

  7. Sage and loving advice. May you and your girls and husband continue to grow in love with one another. :)

  8. This is a good post. I'm sure there are lots of step parents to can use this and relate.

  9. Such an great article with great prospective and I loved reading this post!! I will also share this through my Facebook!