You married someone with children. Of course you knew the kids before tying the knot, but something changed after the "I do's." Now you find yourself jealous of the time your spouse spends with the kids or the gifts he buys for them. You may be irritated by how often the kids are the focus of your conversations and the need for ongoing communication with the ex-spouse. You don’t want to be jealous of the kids. And you are afraid your jealousy may lead you to behaviors that could harm the marriage.
Identify what your jealousy means. In her book, “Stepwisdom,” Eleanor Spackman Alden states that jealous feelings are a sign that you are not getting enough of something you need. For example, perhaps your spouse takes you for granted now that you are married and puts more energy into the relationship with the kids. Or your spouse may be spending money on the kids that the two of you need to set up your new home.
Make your needs known to your spouse. Once you understand that your jealousy is not something to be ashamed of, but merely an indication that some basic intimacy or other needs are not being met, you may find you are able to raise your concerns with your partner in a calm manner.
Acknowledge your spouse’s needs and those of the children. Guidance counselor Louise Hajjar Diamond writes in “Step-parenting” that your spouse and the kids need time to adjust to the new family arrangement. Freedoms they once had before you married are now restricted to a certain extent. The kids may no longer feel that the parent’s home is their home. Your spouse may feel somewhat unnatural parenting the children with “an audience." When you express your understanding for these issues, you make it easier for your spouse to pay attention to your difficulties.
Find a mutually acceptable balance. Find a way for you and your spouse to nurture your marriage while ensuring that your partner and the children have the space they need for their relationship. When this balance is achieved, you may find you no longer feel jealous.
- Be prepared to discuss jealousy issues over and over again, probably until the children are grown up and then some. Each new developmental stage, whether that is child development or development in the marital relationship, requires adjustment to new needs that arise. For example, when the spouse’s children reach adolescence this will challenge the balance you worked hard to achieve and you may find yourself again experiencing jealousy.
With an Master of Science in marital and family therapy, Sheri Oz ran a private clinical practice for almost 30 years. Based on her clinical work, she has published a book and many professional articles and book chapters. She has also traveled extensively around the world and has volunteered in her field in China and South Sudan.
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