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Stepfathers are twice as likely to leave

Stepfathers are twice as likely to leave their wives, a new poll suggests.

Sixty-one per cent of former stepfathers surveyed said they were the ones who had left, more than twice the average number of biological fathers who initiate divorce (30 per cent).

The anonymous poll of stepfathers in several countries by suggests that many feel unappreciated and say they don’t understand what their wives expect from them.

Almost two thirds (61.54 per cent) of the former stepfathers said feeling unappreciated and arguments regarding how to raise the children were key factors in the breakup. More than 38 per cent, meanwhile, cited “arguments or turmoil”; and almost two thirds (30.77 per cent) said a sense that the role was undefined, the kids being ‘out of control’ and problems with the children’s biological father were key reasons.

Another contributory factor for some stepfathers was: ”being overwhelmed by having an instant family”. Only 18 per cent of the stepfathers had children of their own.

One told the researchers:

“I thought I knew how to do it (be a step-dad) but I didn’t.”

Stacey Wheeler of said:

“In four of five of these families the only new addition is the step-dad.”

He said the 61 per cent break-up rate was “shocking”

“Just a few generations back the Stepdad’s role was better defined. When a man married a single mom it was typically assumed he’d function as the father in the home. He know his role. Today -things have reversed. The Stepdad’s role is undefined.  It’s no longer safe to assume. Many moms and Stepdads have different vision of the role the man will play. Couples who don’t make sure they’re on the same page usually run into problems later.”

He added:

“It’s hard for a guy to succeed when he’s  trying to do his best version of “Stepdad” but his wife has a different vision. It’s easy to start feeling frustrated. But it doesn’t have to be that way. When couples talk about the role the Stepdad will play, they can reduce the turmoil and avoid hurt feelings.”

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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  1. Luke says:

    I don’t think this is a surprise, I know a number of men who are only staying in their marriage only because of their children. Step parents can often work wonderfully but the biological link is I think underestimated by many.

  2. Stitchedup says:

    “Step parents can often work wonderfully but the biological link is I think underestimated by many.”

    Including the courts.

  3. Stitchedup says:

    Divorce figures in the UK are 68% initiated by women, 28% jointly, only 4% by men. It appears from the figures presented in the article that UK men are more committed to family life than men in other countries and/or UK women are less committed.

  4. JamesB says:

    The thing is as a man in England and Wales you have nothing to gain by applying for a divorce and everything to lose, there is nothing you can possibly achieve by it and most men are not silly or masochistic.

    Wrt this post, bringing-up another man’s children can be very difficult, unless your are in the fortunate position of my ex’s fiance as my children are very nice. I had a girlfriend who’s children were very ill disciplined and difficult which was a shame as she was nice but it would not have worked because of that. So, I think that partially explains the issue. Whereas you might like your new partner, your children may not and may not be nice to them. I tell mine to be nice to her new partner as I don’t want them in a war zone but in a happy stable environment. I find it hard to say that though as he is a parasite living off my family and work and house and children and household and the maintenance I pay while slagging me off to my children. Anyway, that’s my thoughts on the matter.

  5. JamesB says:

    My relationship with my ex girlfriend failed – despite us having a nice child together and her being nice – failed because of her rude, aggressive, ill disciplined teenage boys to me they were spoiled also and I had to walk or beat them up. I walked.

    A criticism of women to listen to. If you are a single mum, bring up your children well and with good self discipline and manners and it will make it more likely for you to have a new happy long term partner.

    I have found children better brought up when their fathers are involved. The ex girlfriend I refer to was a widow and her kids went feral.

  6. JamesB says:

    How your kids get on with your partners kids may also be an issue, also all the children fighting for parents attention and time which is finite and less with a new partner who also has children.

  7. JamesB says:

    Message for the women in marriages with children thinking of divorce. The grass is not always (or indeed usually) greener.

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