Stepfamily Realities 17 & 18 - Earning Love

        Longing to build an ideal new (step)family, co-parents and their relatives may expect the members of their merging families to quickly or eventually exchange the equivalent of biofamily love. This may happen over time - especially if the children are very young, and prior divorces were amicable and well-grieved. It also may never happen. Adults can unintentionally stress their kids (and themselves) by expecting them to love their stepkin. Like respect, trust, and friendship, love must  be earned, and partly depends on chemistry.

        Even if a stepchild feels affection for a stepparent, his or her (wounded, insecure) bioparent may resent or fear that. S/He may criticize, manipulate, or discourage their child from feeling or openly expressing that warmth. This puts the child in a stressful loyalty conflict which they usually  don't know how to handle.

       Painful reality - some stepparents or stepsibs can't find a way to like a stepchild (or vice versa), let alone love them. Despite hope, effort, and prayer, the "chemistry" just doesn't fit, over time. Experts advise making mutual respect the basic relationship goal for stepparents, stepkids, and stepsibs. This may ripen into friendship, affection, and perhaps real love. If it doesn't, it can't be helped. No one is wrong or "bad."