Blended families are not for the faint of heart. Even the smoothest of transitions after marrying has bumps in the road when there are kids involved. But one stepdad’s struggles with his blended family dynamics seem like they might be a bit out of whack — and like he might have some very unrealistic expectations.
The stepdad is jealous of his stepdaughter because she monopolizes his wife’s attention.
We’re all familiar with stepchildren being jealous of their stepparents. Even if we’ve never experienced it ourselves, it’s been a trope in myriad films, TVs and books for ages.
But while that jealousy going in the other direction may not be as well known, stepparents being jealous of their stepchildren is actually incredibly common, and in some ways, this man’s story is pretty standard.
“I’m ashamed to admit this, but I’ve always been jealous of how doting my wife is toward her daughter,” the man writes in his Reddit post, nothing that their blended family journey started out beautifully. “I admired their relationship and thought it was adorable.”
But once he and his wife of eight years exchanged vows, everything changed.
The man’s jealousy surfaced after his wife abruptly ended their honeymoon to care for her daughter during an emergency.
“I didn’t realize how their relationship would affect me until our honeymoon,” the man writes. His eight-year-old stepdaughter was just a baby at the time, and it was his wife’s first time being apart from her daughter.
“I woke up in the middle of the night to find her crying in the living room of our hotel. When I asked her what was wrong, she told me that she missed her daughter,” he wrote, explaining that he was able to cheer her up, but then tragedy struck. “My wife got a call from her mother saying that her daughter was in the hospital with meningitis. My wife panicked and the next thing I know, we were on the next flight back home.”
That’s a pretty standard response to a life-threatening illness — but for this man, it meant so much more.
The incident made him realize he will never be his wife’s top priority.
“That was the first time that I realized that I wasn’t my wife’s priority,” the man wrote of the incident during their honeymoon. And now that jealousy has carried over into basic, everyday parts of being a parent.
“My jealousy just gets triggered by certain things [like] coming home from work to find my wife and her daughter cuddled up together on the couch,” he writes, going on to list everything from baby videos shared on Facebook to the way his wife looks at her daughter.
He’s even tried to test his wife’s allegiances. After seeing the proactive way his wife reacted when her daughter ordered something at a restaurant fried in peanut oil, which she’s allergic to, the man then “ordered an appetizer that contained shrimp (I’m allergic to shellfish)” to test her. To his dismay, she ignored it.
The man admits that his feelings are “immature” and that his wife is “just being a mom.” But he can’t shake his feelings nonetheless, and experts say these feelings are totally normal and common — even if they do arise, in this case, from basic parental duties.
People on Reddit were not particularly receptive to his complaints. “Is this a joke? You’re jealous that your wife makes food for an 8-year-old, and monitors her allergy, but not yours? doesn’t sound like you want a wife, it sounds like you want a mom,” one mystified commenter wrote, and many others couldn’t help but agree.
His jealousy is actually very normal and common.
According to experts like clinical psychologist Dr JoAnne Pedro-Carroll, the parent-child bond by necessity prioritizes their child over their spouse.
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She says getting past it is crucial, though, because “stepparents and stepchildren developing positive relationships is critical to the new family’s success.” She suggests working to understand that one relationship doesn’t jeopardize the other — that a strong parent-child relationship does not mean the marital one is undermined.
At the end of the day, a parent placing higher priority on their eight-year-old child than their grown husband is… kind of how it’s supposed to be? So as one Redditor put it to this stepdad, “you’re going to need to talk this out with a therapist.”
John Sundholm is a news and entertainment writer who covers pop culture, social justice and human interest topics.