Parenting Stepchildren/step-mother nastyness


Dear Ms Carey:

I have a question regarding the family dynamic of step-families.  Specifically, whenever there is a family occasion…(wedding, funeral, etc) my father’s wife has been EXTREMELY rude to our (my sister’s and I) mother.  She (my father’s wife) is not a particularly nice person to begin with…She is (in my humble opinion) self-centered and narcissistic.  However, in an effort to give her the benefit of the doubt, I have noticed that this is a fairly common phenomenon…IE that current wives are resentful, and rude toward former wives. Thus, despite my personal feelings toward my father’s wife (I do not like her…for obvious reasons) I am attempting to understand this phenomenon. The nastiness she exhibits toward our mother is so blatant and over the top that it almost seems cartoonish…like a caricature of nastiness.

I should note that my mother doesn’t care…or even seem to notice…She is virtually oblivious.  I should also point out that our father has a narcissistic personality disorder, and thus lacks the ability to empathize, and read people effectively…IE to see people for who they really are…So his current wife can stroke his ego, and tell him how wonderful he is, and he does not see through the façade. She (his wife) can pretend to care about his children, and he cannot read her true intentions. I suspect his wife also has a narcissistic personality disorder…my understanding is that this condition presents itself differently in females than in males. Which is to say that his wife is not particularly abusive, as far as I can tell, but she is extremely snobby, and haughty…needs to stay at fancy hotels, and eat at fancy restaurants…and be “served” by those she considers to be “inferior.”

That being said, as I stated earlier, I have observed that this is a fairly common phenomenon…that of current wives being rude and resentful toward former wives, so I am attempting to understand this phenomenon before making a final decision regarding how to feel about it.  Our mother is a genuinely nice person, and has not given our father’s current wife any reason to behave this way.  She has never wanted our father back, and is thrilled to be rid of him.  IE She has never been a threat to our father’s current wife.  My parents have been divorced for over 25 years…Our father has been with his current wife for over 20 years. Yet this behavior persists, and has persisted throughout this woman’s relationship with our father.

Our mother has a dependent personality disorder, (which I suppose explains why she’s so completely oblivious to being treated this way.)

I any event… I suppose my question is this…This:  Is this an underlying psychological need that some women have…IE Should I be more understanding of our father’s wife’s need to be “the only woman” in our father’s life…or is she really just a nasty person, deserving of disdain and contempt?

As I noted earlier, her nastiness…and more particularly selfishness is not limited to our mother, bus this seems (to me) to be the most disturbing aspect of it, and most evidentiary feather of it.

I should also point out that my sister and I are adults (in our 40’s) so we do not have to live with this woman…I find her behavior disturbing nonetheless.

Thank you for your time,


Hello Leigh,

It is true that some women in the role of a stepmother experience jealousy. Sometimes they are jealous of the ex-wife, a woman they know once held their husband's heart. Even jealousy of stepchildren is rampant is stepfamilies. It is not to say feelings of jealousy are wrong, justified, or unjustified, they just are.

It sounds as if you have strong feelings of protection for your mother, coupled with someone you don't like who is observed as treating your poorly is a ripe ground on which to develop the feelings you have currently.

Note that you are experiencing strong feelings regarding the treatment your mother is receiving, but she herself is not. While of course, most people want their mother's to be treated with respect and hold their mother in high regard, we cannot expect others to do the same.

I would encourage you to work on accepting that your father's wife's behavior is not a reflection of your mother, or your father, or any other member of the family. The only person that can change her behavior is your father's wife.

Parenting Stepchildren

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KaRae' Carey, PhD


I can answer questions that pertain to challenges stepparents face, as well as challenges with adjustment and integration of the stepfamily. I can answer questions about psychological, emotional, and social changes that affect adults and children in stepfamilies. I can answer questions that have to do with the emotional and psychological impact of stepfamilies pertaining to child support, visitation, or divorce.


I am a stepmother to one boy and one girl. I have been in their lives since they were about 8 years old. I have first-hand "real life" experience with 'baby mama drama' and strains in marriage due to the complications and challenge that being a new stepmother presented. Bio: Inspired and motivated by her experiences as both a stepdaughter and stepmother of two children, Dr. Carey founded the Triangle Stepfamily Institute and is committed to empowering stepfamilies. She has first-hand experience both personally and professionally, with the difficulties people may experience when adjusting to stepfamily life. Dr. Carey believes that with the right support, and armed with knowledge, living harmoniously within a stepfamily is possible. She has dedicated countless hours to understanding the delicate functioning of the stepfamily and has produced several articles related to stepfamily relationships and functioning. Dr. Carey has studied with research pioneers and clinical leaders in the field of stepfamily life. She has also conducted independent research about stepfamilies with a focus on the concerns of the stepmother. She has also earned certification as a stepfamily counselor. Dr. Carey has also earned seven specialty certifications. Dr. Carey’s specialty certifications include being a nationally certified professional counselor, an accredited clinical supervisor, a credentialed distance counselor, board certified health services professional, school guidance counselor, Child and Adolescent Mental Health, and a certified stepfamily counselor. For more information on services, or to request Dr. Carey for counseling, interviews, or speaking opportunities, please contact her through her web site, or by calling 919-454-7857.

National Association of Professional Women American Counseling Association Licensed Professional Counselors Association of North Carolina

Publications, expert author

Oakland University, Rochester, MI Ph.D. in Counselor Education 2009 Dissertation: “The Experience of the African American Stepmother: An Exploratory Investigation ” Honors: Dissertation nominated for 2010 Outstanding Humanistic Dissertation Award Cognate Concentrations: Child and Adolescent Mental Health & School Guidance Counseling Major Advisor: Robert Fink, PhD Madonna University, Livonia, MI M.S. in Clinical Psychology 2002 Madonna University, Livonia, MI B.S. Psychology 2000 Cartified Stepfamily Counselor, Stepfamily Foundation, 2011 • Licensed Professional Counselor, State of North Carolina, (6893) • National Certified Counselor, NBCC, (234907) • Credentialed Distance Counselor, CCE, (966) • Approved Clinical Supervisor, CCE, (ACS01058) • Board Certified Health Services Professional, CCE, (1472) • Licensed Clinical Addictions Specialist- Provisional- State of North Carolina • Licensed Bachelor of Social Work, State of Michigan, (6802084095) • Limited Licensed Psychologist, State of Michigan, (6301012018) • Social Worker Registration, State of Michigan, (6803075415) • School Counselor license (K-12), State of Michigan, (SC000554) • School Counselor license (K-12), State of North Carolina, (XXXXX2200)

Awards and Honors
•Kappa Gamma Pi, National Catholic College Honor Society, inducted 2000 •Chi Sigma Iota, Counseling Academic and Professional Honor Society International, inducted 2005 •Robert Brown Memorial Fund Scholarship, 2005

Past/Present Clients
Step family members, children, adults, teens

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