Before you send “hate” mail for me asking this question, may I advise you that Constance Ahrons, therapist and author of “The Good Divorce,” described divorce-related anger between our parents as, “an extreme rage, vindictiveness, and overpowering bitterness that is felt when a love relationship is ending.”1 I’d say that qualifies as hate among spouses.
Also Valerie Bertinelli2 and Gwyneth Paltrow3 were both quoted using the word “hate” about their exes. So is it ok for parents to hate, but not ok for us to hate the new parents?
Ron Deal, author of The Smart Stepparent, observes that in the original marriage the kids want their parents to succeed. However, when the new marriage occurs, the kids are ambivalent at best and antagonistic at worst—the brunt of the animosity being aimed at the stepparent. But what happens when the children grow up?
Fortunately, many stepparents weather the initial new-family-storms (which can last five to seven years according to Deal). They move slowly and build life-long relationships with their stepkids.
However in other situations, because they move too fast, or the kids won’t give them a chance, the stepparent relationship is weak or severed. Basically, the children reach the age where they can “get out of the house” and off they go.
“Well you don’t know what it was like with my stepdad!” You’re right. I don’t. “She hated us from day one and never did a thing for us!” That may be true, but the biggest loser when unforgiveness and hate take over, is you. The next people that suffer are your spouse and children.
“Getting out of the house” and being away from someone doesn’t lessen the damage hate causes. It just hides it. “Well, I don’t really hate them.” Okay. Jesus said, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.”4 With Thanksgiving coming, how do those words set with you? Be honest. Does the thought of loving “that witch” or “that bum” turn your stomach?
Like it or not, if your parents want to hate each other that’s their choice. But do you really want to follow their example and model that for your children? “Well, no. But what can I do?”
- Share your true feelings about your stepparents with God in prayer. Trust me. He already knows, and He wants to bring healing to your heart.
- Seek His forgiveness for the sins of hating and unforgiveness. (He’s more willing to forgive than you’re probably ready to ask!)
- Seek the counsel of a godly person at your church to help you take further healing steps.
So is it ok to hate our stepparents? No. Is it ok to hide the hate we have for our stepparents? No. Is it time to bring healing to our heart and allow God to use us to bring healing to others? Yes!
1 Anger, By Jane Nahirny. http://www.divorcemag.com/articles/Health_Well_Being/anger.html Jan 2005
2Detroit Free Press, 1-23-11
3Michele Zipp, http://thestir.cafemom.com/love_sex/188096/how_gwyneth_paltrow_gets_through
4Luke 6:27-28, ESV