Dear Auntie,
When I was 12, my mother died due to breast cancer. My father married his cousin. Initially she was good to me, but then she started comparing herself to me and my biological mother. She still does all the house chores and other stuff and is so obsessed with this that it can be said that she has obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). But she has destroyed my morale. She discouraged me in every aspect of life. Never appreciated any thing I did for her. She has some major issues with my father, but she always involves me in this regard. I also became empathetic with her, but she again didn’t reciprocate. I am a very sensitive soul and this hurts me a lot. Please help me. I don’t know how to deal with her. After all I have to live here.

Dear Child,
I am so sorry you lost your mother at such a young age. Before you try to sort out the issues with your stepmother, think hard about the problems you are having with her. Be very honest, because sometimes, in such relationships, we tend to hold things against our stepparents just because they married your parent. I am not saying this is so in your case. However, it is possible that when you truly introspect, you might discover that. This is the underlying issue.

You can also talk to your father or some other close relative about the problems you are facing at home. Try to stay balanced when you do so, and avoid saying strong words like ‘hate’ when you do. Also, admit it if some of the problems are your fault. Share your side of the story. Letting it out will help. They might be able to suggest some solutions. In fact, your father might be able to intervene and help sort out some issues. This may or may not happen and will depend a lot on the dynamics in your family.

‘My stepmother has destroyed my morale’

At the same time, I suggest that you get to know the woman. She is probably not a bad person; however, she is probably a little intimidated by the fact that she is partially responsible for her husband’s child. If, as you say, she has OCD, she might be terrified that she will mess things up. Sometimes putting ourselves in other people’s shoes can really help us see things in a new light.

You said you made efforts to empathise with your stepmom. At some level you should continue those efforts and see where it goes. Who knows? At some point, her heart might soften towards you.

I suggest that you get to know your stepmother. She is probably not a bad person; however, she is probably a little intimidated by the fact that she is partially responsible for her husband’s child.

However, even if things don’t improve at home, you should continue working on yourself to keep your morale high. If you are criticised and your morale is destroyed, change your inner voice and remind yourself regularly that you are wonderful, intelligent, smart and proactive. At the same time, work on developing a strong armour against any jibes that come your way. I don’t know how old you are, but this could be the time to start figuring out a plan for staying out of your stepmom’s way when you are at home. If things continue to go south despite your efforts and talking to your father does not help, try and stay out of her way. Eventually, focus on leaving your home, perhaps to study or work in another city.

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Published in Dawn, EOS, May 5th, 2019