How To Be Happy: Take the time to get to know your step-daughters

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The Independent Online

'I resent the visits of my two step-daughters in the holidays, especially as my own children have grown up and I have completed this stage of my life. My husband is a devoted father and I am quite jealous of their relationship; it makes me deeply unhappy, especially as I can't speak to him about it.' R.

Step 1: We often feel resentful when we have an undelivered expectation, which, combined with the guilt of having such negative emotions, must leave you feeling wretched. The expectation that you should now be free of parental responsibilities is unrealistic, however, because you chose to marry a man who is – laudably – committed to fatherhood. Resentment and jealousy might also be related to feelings of exclusion from his past life, represented by his daughters.

Step 2: Sharing your dilemma with your husband and seeking ways to improve how you feel about it together would be a constructive place to start. When we do not discuss problems with the one person with whom we should be able to speak freely, we deny our relationship the chance to flourish. Do not be afraid to voice your concerns; your husband clearly demonstrates the capacity to be loving, caring and thoughtful – witness his devotion to his children. The destructive feelings you experience could obscure the possibility that he can care for you in the same way and take your emotions seriously; perhaps this is something you need to hear.

Step 3: Accepting that your husband only has a few more years left to enjoy their company while they are still children might help you reconcile your difficult feelings. The few weeks of the year they spend with you are precious moments to be fully appreciated, as they will be over all too quickly. True love is unconditional and you can show your love by accepting that your partner loves his children. Next time they visit, plan some special time alone with them – not doing things for them but just being with and learning about them. In this way you will begin to relate to them not as a harried step-mother, but as yourself, a woman who loves their father very much. In time you will not feel so threatened by his love for them, as you too will have enjoyed a shared intimacy and understanding that will ultimately bond you all.