Fear of Stepfathers

There are a lot of emotions tied up in the idea that your mom might marry another man that is not your father. You secretly hope that your parents will get back together and an interloper appears that puts and end to your dream. While many children come to love their stepfathers there are those who maintain a steadfast fear. In the worst cases it becomes Vitricophobia.

Perhaps we’ve seen too many movies on television or at the theater that show men whose only passion in a new marital relationship is the spouse. The children are either ignored or worse yet informed that they are not wanted in the new marital relationship. This Hollywood viewpoint is often very far from the truth, but it can add fear to the potential phobia.

What Causes Vitricophobia?

This phobia can feel a bit like living through a nightmare. You would never dream that your parents would divorce. You cannot fathom that your mom could love anyone besides your dad or that any man could somehow take the place of your father. Yet, in many cases there is another man and he does take the place of your dad in some way. You can feel as if you have lost both father and mother when a step-father enters the picture. Therein lies one of the more complicated reasons why this phobia exists.

Change is hard for everyone, but is made even more difficult when it comes to the emotional connections that are damaged and the emotional turmoil of someone new trying to exert an authoritarian role in a family whose children are not his own.

The struggle is often very personal, but can be the result of observing something similar in the life of another family member.

Symptoms of Vitricophobia

This fear may exhibit early on in acting out if a man shows any interest in your mom. It can continue into an arena in which you may try to sabotage their relationship. If you mom does remarry you may do everything possible to avoid contact with the step father believing you might be in danger.

Other symptoms may also include…

  • Panic attacks
  • Air hunger
  • Avoidance
  • Trembling
  • Crying
  • Screaming
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

While parents are often unaware of how difficult it can be for some of their children this is a phobia that can be worked through.

How to Overcome Vitricophobia

Family counseling can be very beneficial in this instance. It can serve to defuse issues when conducted prior to a remarriage. The parent and soon to be step-parent need to allow the child to express their concerns and allow the therapist to work with them to understand what it means to have a stepfather and how to interact with this new dynamic within the home. The child can learn coping skills and can begin to understand that the stepfather never replaces the father completely. It is still a great idea to continue to love both birth parents even when those parents are no longer together.

The fear of stepfathers is also referred to as:

  • Stepfather fear
  • Vitricophobia
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