As much as we don’t want them to be there, anger and resentment are common in stepfamilies. It’s easy for a stepparent to become angry that their partner’s ex isn’t holding up their end of their responsibilities, or angry that their partner doesn’t notice how much they are doing.
And it’s easy for a stepparent to become resentful about running an entire household while helping raise another person’s children
or feeling like they are being taken for granted.
Anger and resentment are common in any family — not just stepfamilies — and part of life, but are not something you should make a point of holding onto. We may be justified in our anger and resentment, but dwelling on it only hurts us, making us bitter and unhappy.
Besides being harmful to your relationship, anger and resentment can raise your blood pressure, damage your heart (both emotionally and physically), and increase your risk for depression and anxiety. It can also lead to peptic ulcers, heartburn, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, a repressed immune system, rashes, hives, and an entire host of other medical problems.
It’s easy to justify staying in a position of anger. It’s often a natural and normal reaction to life’s events. We can always find people to support our feelings, and good friends and family often take our side because that’s what we expect from them. But, as much as possible, you should let go of any anger and resentment you are experiencing.
Here are eight things you can do to do just that: 1. Breathe.
There is nothing like 10 deep, meditative breathes to calm you down. Breathe in slowly through your nose to the count of five, hold for two seconds, and release slowly through your mouth. Make the breath go deep and slow. While you breathe, say to yourself, “I breathe in relaxation and I let go of all negative thoughts.” 2. Work off your anger.
Take a long walk, go to the gym or do another physical activity to work out any increased adrenaline until you are exhausted. This will allow the anger to subside. 3. Examine your perspective.
When you are ready, take a look at what you are angry about. Consider that your point of view is only one point of view. While it has validity to you given your experience, your partner, stepchildren
, or children are having a different experience. Sit down and look at the problem from their point of view. What are they experiencing? What is this like for them? 4. Don’t become defensive.
When you talk with other people about their perspectives, do it without becoming defensive of your position. If you are not ready to do this, wait a day or two until you can. If you are defensive and continuing the argument in your head, you are not ready to do this. If you need a friend to help you, ask for help and talk the situation out with them first.
5. Consider empathy. Try to realize that, though your anger and resentment may be valid, your partner and stepchildren may be doing the best that they can and have no idea how it is affecting you. Consider that your stepkids have been hurt and damaged by the divorce of their parents and try to relate to them from that perspective. And consider that your partner is doing the best they can, and try to give them the benefit of the doubt instead of getting angry.
6. Learn to be flexible. It’s likely your position isn’t set in stone (is it really important that the dishwasher be loaded a certain way?), so try and be flexible about things that aren’t that important to you or your family. Begin to rate how important something is to you. Everything can’t be a 10, but when something is, you can hold your position. Being in any family is about compromise if you want to live without constant anger and resentment.
7. Try changing one assumption. For instance, change the idea that your stepson is a rude person to the idea that your stepson sometimes acts rudely but, other times, he does try. If you can change the assumption that he’s a rude person, you may find your way through your anger.
8. Practice forgiveness. Why is what you are getting angry or resentful about important to you? Instead of holding onto these emotions, forgive the people in your life. When you forgive them, you free yourself from holding onto anger and resentment and allow yourself to find more joy in your life.
Our bodies can only hold so much emotion. If they are holding anger and resentment, it will suppress joy and happiness. Both cannot really co-exist. The more you let go of anger and resentment, the more you can experience joy and happiness and, after all, isn’t that a better way to live?