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Parenting Stepchildren/Girlfriends Son creates anxiety..


Why do I feel like I am cheating on my two boys when they are not around and I'm spending time with my girlfriend of 4 years, and her 7yr old son.  We tried living together at her place for 6 months, about a year into our relationship as we knew each other in highschool (since 1995) but did not date back then. I feel like I dont care for her son because he is a mama's boy and needs his mothers attention 100% of the time.  He would cry at 5yrs old if she even walked into the garage and out of her site. His father is a 1 overnight every 2 weeks kind of dad.  He cheated on her when her son was 1yr old and he is remarried now. I have my own two boys 5, 7yrs old that I have 50% of the week and I'm on good terms with my ex, their mom. We discuss their activities daily.  When I do not have my boys and I stay at my GF's house I feel like I dont want to  be there, that I have to sit and be a guest while her son rules the roost and gets the attention he needs until bedtime, then I enjoy my time with her.  It bothers her that I dont even want to play with him, she knows I avoid her son and avoid doing things with them, such as going to a movie or going fishing.  I feel like I'm cheating on my boys when I do things with my GF and her son when my boys are not with. So I tend to be bump on a log when I'm with my GF and her son.  We get along great with my kids, when just she is with, or when its just her and I we are awesome together.  But you add her son to the mix and I get this anxiety when he is there.  This may stem from him needing her attention so much that I'm jealous of him and smite him for that need he has, which she enables, but how do i fix my feelings.
She knows i dont care to spend time with the two of them and it has been bothering her more as of lately.
I will support her and pick her son up from school if she is running late and take him to hockey practice if she cannot.  I question if we should still be together. What causes this anxiety and why do i feel this sense of cheating on my two sons by spending time with her son when mine are not around.

Hi Josh - welcome to the complex world of stepfamilies. You partners probably have several problems:

1] unresolved guilt about your split-up and how that may be affecting your biokids:

2] you partners not knowing or accepting that you are a multi-home step family, and not knowing what that identity means

3] you partners appear to have a values conflict about disciplining your stepson:

4] your stepson may feel majorly insecure because of his parents' split-up, so he's extra needy for his Mom's attention.

5] your partner may feel guilty about her son's pain, and over-coddles him [?];

6] your partner may not be able to put your adult relationship ahead of her son's needs:

7] you partners may not know how to do win-win problem-solving:

8] one or more of you 4 adults may have inherited unseen psychological "wounds" from your parents. If so, until you admit  and reduce them, the wounds will cause problems in and among all of you:

I suspect this answer may be more than you bargained for, Josh Overall, For your kids' sakes, I urge all 4 of you co-parents to adopt a long-range view, and study and discuss this free online stepfamily guide:

If any of you have questions about any of these ideas, please ask!

Compassionately, Pete

Parenting Stepchildren

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Peter Gerlach, MSW


I can answer questions about remarriage preparation, stepparenting, stepchild discipline, child visitation, grieving, stepfamily norms and myths, mission statements, stepparent job (role)descriptions, communication skills, loyalty and values conflicts, stepfamily identity problems, common pitfalls, ex mate and relative problems, stepfamily merger and adjustment tasks, name confusions, choosing an effective counselor, resolving money disputes, co-parenting support groups, and the family effects of court (legal) battles. I can`t answer questions about medicine, family law, legal stepchild adoption, or financial planning.


I have studied and worked with stepfamilies clinically since 1979, and I have been a "step everything" personally. I was invited to be on the board of the Stepfamily Association of America (SAA) by it's founders, Drs. John and Emily Visher; and later was re-invited by president Margory Engle, PhD. For more detail, see this.

Former Board member, Stepfamily Association of America (SAA)
National Stepfamily Resource Center (NSRC)Experts Council

Hundreds of Web articles on ; I've uploaded over 150 self-improvement videos on YouTube; and have self-published 6 books. My ad-free Web site offers a unique, practical 7-lesson self-improvement course.

Stanford University BSME (1958) George Williams College MSW (1981) Hundreds of post-graduate seminars on a wide variety of "mental health" subjects

Awards and Honors
Hundreds of appreciative emails and comments on my Web site and videos from people all over the world.

Past/Present Clients
I have worked clinically with over 1,000 midwestern divorced and remarried family members, and have had over 800 stepfamily students in various seminars and courses since 1981

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