What to do When Your Spouse’s Adult Children Hate You

| September 11, 2013

Family Portrait 26

If you thought marrying a partner with adult children would be significantly easier than marrying one with with little kids still under their roof, you were probably surprised. In fact, dealing with your spouse’s adult children can be remarkably similar to dealing with younger ones. They are still prone to conflicted loyalties, irrational emotions, and unfair judgments which are natural and expected but can put a major strain on your relationship.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, one third of men and one quarter of women who get remarried are over the age of 45, and most of them get married within 5 years of a divorce. If you’re facing conflict with adult children who claim to outright hate you, you should know you’re not alone. Then take a deep breath and do your best. You’re not responsible for their feelings, but you can do you best to make the situation as positive as possible.

Realize It’s Not You

No matter what elaborate and detailed reasons your spouse’s children present for not liking you, remember they’d just as likely dislike anyone else who married their mom or dad in any other set of circumstances. Okay, sometimes their feelings are justifiable, especially if there was infidelity involved. In that case, you need to acknowledge and express regret to them in the most respectful way possible, treating them like any other adult and not justifying your mistakes. But the main difference between stepfamilies with minor children and those with adult children is that your spouse has earned the right to their own life and priorities.

Young stepchildren need their parents, and you have to accept that their well-being takes priority. When those children are off living their own lives and raising their own families, you have a right to take priority. Your spouse’s kids are dealing with the resentment that comes with learning that they are no longer the sole focus of their mom or dad’s life. It’s natural, but it’s also tough.

Remember Finances Aren’t Trivial

It might seem crazy to you and pretty insulting to be seen as a so-called gold digger, but if your spouse’s children are worried about their inheritance, they’re not being greedy or out of line. There are plenty of instances where a parent dies without a will, the spouse inherits their estate, and then the spouse dies and everything goes to their heirs instead. Encourage your partner to write a will designating exactly what you will inherit and what you won’t.

If you don’t have a pre-nuptial agreement, consider a post-nuptial one that grants you a certain percentage of the estate and leave the rest to the children. Then be honest with them. You can promise you won’t interfere with their inheritance, but it won’t get rid of their fears unless they know it’s in writing. Too many parents are secretive about their wills until it’s too late, and that can be a source of further family conflict.

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Kill Them With Kindness

If you strongly believe your spouse’s children are making unfounded claims and arguments against you, the best thing you can do is consistently prove them wrong. This can mean offering respect and understanding when none is offered in return.

Instead of trying to create barriers between your spouse and their children, encourage interaction without letting the children dictate either of your lives. They may have concerns about providing their own children with an active grandparent or be jealous of the way you monopolize their parent’s time.

This was not a family change they asked for, so their expectations of how things will be different might be far from reality. Give them time to find out that you’re not going to impact their family in quite as dire a way as they might imagine. You can do this by staying out of drama and disputes as much as you can. Be yourself and be honest, then let them come to you.

When your spouse’s former husband or wife has died, you might find connecting with their children even more difficult. Sons and daughters can be extremely loyal to the memory of a parent who has passed, and their instinct to fear being abandoned by the only living parent can be very strong.

You are not trying to take the place of their other parent, whether the relationship ended with death or divorce. Adult children should remain an incredibly important part of a parent’s life, but they don’t have the right to prevent their parent’s happiness. Not even when they want to.

Writer Mary Harmon is an avid blogger for www.lastwillandtestament.us where you can read more about coping with family dynamics.


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