A grandfather and his grandson were talking one afternoon at their favorite spot by the stream. The boy was worried about something that had been bothering him. He turned to his grandfather, and asked “Grandfather, how come I’m happy and sweet sometimes and at other times I can be evil and mean? How can that be when I’m only one person?”

His wise grandfather thought about it…and replied, ”I believe we have two wolves fighting inside of us. One is sweet, compassionate, generous and loving. The other one is mean, angry, and selfish.”

The grandson asked “How do you know which one will win?”

The grandfather said, “It’s simple – the one you feed.”

Indeed stepcoupling can bring out the best and the worst in us. For some stepcouples, mistakes were made in choosing partners prematurely and for the wrong reasons. For others who struggle, it could be the result of sadness and losses carried over from our childhood experiences and disappointments from subsequent relationships. If unaddressed, these issues can have an unhealthy affect on all our important relationships. This can produce FUEL FOR FEEDING THAT MEAN ANGRY WOLF INSIDE.

A typical example:

I remember seeing a woman in my office who was 6 months into her new stepfamily. She had no children: he had one young daughter, who she described as a good kid, sweet, eager to please. Nonetheless, when the stepdaughter visited every other weekend, my client would go into a tirade of anger and resentment.

In counseling she told me she was raised by an alcoholic mother. She felt she was NOT parented as a child. She remembers little about her childhood. However, when she fell in love and married a man who had a daughter, her anger and sadness from her past dramatically prevented her from having a caring relationship with her stepdaughter. She wanted nothing to do with her stepdaughter!

She was able to quickly recognize the problem and understand how her past drove her to act and feel the way she did. Fortunately over time she was able to develop a nice relationship with her stepdaughter based on nothing she experienced in her past.
Her marriage was strong from the beginning. Her husband was patient and supportive. Together, as a stepcouple, they learned to NOT feed the bad wolf, but only the GOOD ONE.

Which wolf are you feeding inside?

Susan Wisdom LPC
February 2008

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Natalie says:

    I have 2 step-daughters, aged 5 and 7. I’ve been in a relationship (now married) with their father for three and a half years. My husband had been separated for 9 months when I met him. The step-kids stay with us every other weekend.

    I have no children and have never wanted any (I’m 37 now). I had a wonderful relationship with my own mother, who died recently 🙁 I don’t know why that hasn’t inspired me to have my own children… but it hasn’t. I like having a beautiful home, a successful career, international travel, eating out and hanging out with my friends (who are all child-free) and I have always believed that having kids would jeopardise all that and make me miserable.

    I tried hard to establish a bond with my step-kids for the first year, but have gradually withdrawn more and more as it became apparent that my husband and I have different ideas about raising children (I can’t stand my step-kids values – or total lack thereof – and attention-seeking, rude, selfish behaviour) and that the kids weren’t interested in me either. I haven’t adapted at all to having kids around EOW and the step-kids seem to just want their dad to themselves when they visit. We are now at the point where we ignore each other – all weekend. It’s revolting.

    I can relate to the story about “feeding the bad wolf” – that’s exactly what it feels like I’m doing (I know deep down that I am fostering an intolerable situation in the hope that the kids will stop coming). I don’t know how it relates back to a negative experience, though.

    I can see that the step-kids are feeding their own bad wolves, trying to create security in their relationship with their father and maintain their loyalties to their mother (who hates me).

    But… if I switch wolves, and start somehow feeding the good one, and the kids don’t, then how does that work? I don’t understand how things can change if I’m the only one trying.

    • Susan Wisdom says:

      In stepcoupling, it’s up to the adult to reach out to the kids, not the other way around. It’s up to the adult to build the new relationships. These kids are young and they need adults in their lives to care about them and raise them. Even though they have 2 bio parents, you as stepmother are present and important in their lives… in a negative and/or positive way. You choose.

      I sense this isn’t easy since you’ve never had nor wanted children. And of course these children are loyal to their parents. Try to experiment with how you can be with these kids. Movies, shopping, cooking for them, etc. Show them your good stuff.


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