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Why can’t my stepdad and I get along any more since he and my mom got married? He and my mom had been dating since I was 12 (three years ago) and I liked him a lot at first. But now we fight all the time.

It might help if you stop thinking of your mom’s new husband as your dad—stepdad or otherwise. The reason you got along well with your mom’s new husband before she remarried is because both you and he were getting to know each other without the weight of responsibility parents carry, both legally and relationally, for their children.

Many couples who remarry after a death or divorce assume that the new marriage automatically confers the rights and responsibilities of parenthood on the new marriage partner. With young children the title “stepparent” is often more naturally conferred based on the child’s developmental stage. The younger the child, the more acceptable the stepparent role. However, children on the cusp of adolescence often feel conflicted about their parents’ roles in their lives, and that is especially true for their relationship with stepparents.

Since the normal developmental stage of teens includes a desire for independence and autonomy, a teen’s resistance to being parented combined with a new marriage partner’s desire to be a good stepdad or stepmom is almost guaranteed to result in conflict. It can be very helpful for everyone in a newly blended family if both the marriage partners and their respective children understand that the roles of spouse and parent should not be assumed to automatically go together.

At 15 you are old enough to be able to initiate a respectful and non-blaming conversation to begin to resolve the conflict you don’t want. Begin by telling your mom what you find difficult and asking her for help, resolve to forgive the hurts you feel, and pray for a new beginning as you look for ways to increase family harmony “as far as it depends on you” (Rom. 12:18).

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