How to Thwart the Jealousy You're Afraid to Admit You Feel
So there I was…Stuck.
I had this ugly emotion I didn't dare speak out loud. I was supposed to be the adult. I was supposed to feel compassion and empathy for my step-daughter.
Sure…I loved her, but what I really felt was jealousy.
I was jealous when it felt like Kim was only giving me the "table scraps" of her energy, but she had plenty of energy for her daughter. I was jealous of how close they seemed, but I felt like an outsider in my own home. And it wasn't just my step-daughter that I was jealous of…I was jealous when Kim paid close attention to what her Ex was up to, but didn't seem to focus on what was going on with me.
And all this jealousy wasn't something that suddenly blindsided me when we first got married like I have heard from other couples. For me, it creeped in over several years. That's why I felt so stuck.
Even today it's hard to admit I felt this way. And at the time admitting what I really felt seemed impossible.
Admitting it meant I was just a bad step-parent…it meant I was selfish and petty…right?
Or could it be that jealousy is a common struggle in stepfamily life…
Don't Worry…You're Normal
If you're connecting with my experience at all…don't worry, you're not alone. One research article from the Journal of Divorce & Remarriage states, "…jealousy is not only present between former romantic partners, but also within a variety of other relationships involving parents, children, step-parents, and even grandparents."
It seems that everyone in a stepfamily might feel jealous at one point or another.
And it's not even a new thing! There was an article published in the Los Angeles Times back in 1986 titled "Jealousy, Frustration are Progeny of Stepfamilies--Not Instant Love". (Don't worry, I don't know what Progeny means either…I had to look it up. It means "a descendent" or "offspring")
So, when I was growing up in my stepfamily back in the '80s, jealousy and frustration were expected to be a part of stepfamily life — regardless of how easy the Brady Bunch made it seem!
If you're still reading this, then you've probably dealt with some feelings of jealousy in your stepfamily just like I have. Guess what…you're normal. But being normal isn't an excuse for holding onto that jealousy.
I felt stuck with my jealousy and it slowly turned into resentments. I had resentments toward Kim, my step-daughter and Kim's Ex. And resentments left unchecked turn into relational wedges that rip families apart.
2 Steps to Thwarting Feelings of Jealousy
Once you recognize that you're struggling with feelings of jealousy, it's time to move forward so that you can safeguard yourself from those destructive resentments. Here's two steps you can take to get started:
Choose Gratitude over Grumbling
The positive effects of intentional gratitude has been studied for years in the psychology realm. Over and over again, it's found that people who focus on what they have to be grateful for tend to experience more happiness, peace and even success.
Grumbling on the other hand will hold you hostage. Grumbling is like putting blinders on while you're watching the sunset. All you can see is an excruciatingly bright light that's burning your retinas and causing discomfort.
Gratitude will destroy those blinders so that you can see the full picture…the colors, the beauty and grandeur. The sun is still there, it's just as bright and it can still burn your retinas. However, it's no longer your focus and the negative aspects of it no longer ruin your enjoyment of the overall experience.
This is a choice you get to make every day.
You can choose to grumble about your step-kids because your wife is spending all her energy on them…or you can choose to schedule a date-night with your wife and be grateful to connect with her.
You can choose to grumble each time your husband has to take a call from his Ex…or you can choose to be grateful when he's focused on doing the right thing for his kids.
Grumbling will keep those feelings of jealousy alive and lead you to unwanted resentments. But gratitude is the surest weapon against jealousy.
Ultimately grumbling will leave you depleted, but gratitude will fill you up! And you'll need to be filled in order to take the next step…
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Focus on Giving rather than Getting
You reap what you sow…
It's better to give than to receive…
I could go on and on with the quotes we all know on this subject. And the reason we all know them is because they're rooted in truth.
But when the rubber meets the road and we're feeling jealous — giving is pretty much the last thing we want to do. Jealousy keeps us focused on getting — or maybe it's better to say that jealousy keeps us focused on what we feel we're NOT getting.
That keeps us stuck in a pretty small world. Author Eugene Peterson says it this way, "The world of the generous gets larger and larger; the world of the stingy gets smaller and smaller."
I don't know about you, but I've experienced that plenty of times. Those times when I'm feeling jealous, I get stingy with my time, my energy and especially my patience and kindness.
By doing that, I usually think I'm building walls of protection…setting "healthy boundaries". The truth is, I'm building a trap and find myself in a pretty small world of my own making.
But my world gets larger, more connected and much more fun when I can find it in myself to be generous.
When I give more to Kim by being attentive to her and vulnerable about myself our connection grows and my jealousy shrinks. When I give to my step-daughter by listening to her struggles and being patient with her imperfect progress, my jealousy starts to fade away.
This isn't an easy step…and it doesn’t mean you lack boundaries or ignore relational dysfunction. It's a mindset shift that can be challenging to achieve, yet becomes easier to maintain the more you do it.
This is Just the Beginning…
Jealousy can slowly dismantle your stepfamily. These are two vital steps to protecting yourself and your family...but they are only the beginning.
Sooner or later most step-couples struggle with bonding, parenting, co-parenting and marital satisfaction. To protect your family from jealousy creeping into any one of these areas, decide how you're going to take the next step.
You might consider checking out one of our video courses or downloading our 4-Part Plan for Building Connection, Order & Peace in Your Stepfamily.
Whatever you decide to do, let today mark the beginning of you getting rid of jealousy in your stepfamily. You'll be so glad you did!
QUESTION: What next step will you take to get rid of jealousy? Leave a comment below…