DEAR MR. DAD: Six months ago, my wife and I divorced because she was having an affair. After our divorce, she remarried and my 3-year old son has become attached to her new husband, who showers him with expensive presents. I know my son loves me, but it isn’t easy for me not to feel hurt by their relationship. I don’t want to harm my son’s relationship with his stepfather, so how can I deal with these feelings?
A: It’s never easy to watch another person come into the picture and “steal” your family. In your situation, such feelings might be worse because of how your marriage ended and how quickly the stepfather entered the picture. There’s nothing unusual about your reactions.
It’s commendable that you want your son to have a strong, healthy relationship with his stepfather. Your son’s transition during this difficult time will be much easier when he has security and support not only in your home but also in his mother’s.
Second, you may be right about the gift issue, too. At your son’s age, gifts probably are the quickest way to his heart. After all, even as adults don’t we tend to like people more when they’re giving us presents?
It’s not easy to deal with the painful feelings you experience when your son talks about or runs to greet his stepfather. But you must continue resisting the urge to mention your negative feelings to your son. No matter how painful, you have to keep the lines of communication open between you – even when you are discussing his stepfather.
You may have an urge to fight back against the stepfather by buying your son presents you can’t afford and by getting lax on discipline. Spoiling your son and permitting him to ignore rules may make you his favorite parent in the short run, but in the big picture you won’t be doing him any favors.
You need to keep moving on with your life. You don’t have to start dating right away, but go out and start living again. Go out with friends, meet new people, and get involved in activities. Something as simple as having your friends over to watch a movie or to play poker can improve your outlook on everything.
Above all else, though, keep being an active part of your son’s life. Make sure he knows you’re always there for him.
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