Love for Dad not diminished by love for stepfather

Dear Annie: I am a 13-year-old boy in Kentucky, and my friend told me about you and said you could probably help me.

My mom and dad had a bad marriage and divorced when I was 8 years old. They got into a lot of fights, and my dad could get really hateful and mean.

I have visitation with him, but I only see him when he has time for me. He breaks a lot of promises, and even though I love him, I stopped believing him a long time ago.

My mom married “Derek” when I was 10. He may be my stepdad, but I love him as if he were my real dad. He always has time for me. He comes to all my baseball games and practices. He takes me on camping trips, to movies, to college basketball games and to a bunch of other stuff. He helps me with my homework and teaches me about cars and sports. He is my hero.

If we are out together and he runs into someone he knows, he always says, “This is my son, Greg.” That makes me feel really good because I know he loves me as if I were his own son.

He tells me he loves me every day, and he gives me hugs every day. Is it weird that I enjoy this and it makes me feel special?

I started calling him “Dad” when I was 11. I guess that is where the problem started. My other dad got really mad about my calling Derek “Dad.”

He told me I am a rotten son and he is the only person I should call Dad. He said I am being disloyal to him. I don’t see him much, but when I do, he spends the entire time bashing Derek and saying he is going to hurt him someday.

Is there anything I can do? Is it wrong and disloyal to love my stepdad? He is the best man I’ve ever known. Thank you, Annie. By the way, I saw your picture, and you remind me of one of my favorite teachers. — “Greg”

Dear Greg: No 13-year-old boy could be expected to handle such a situation. Tell your mom and stepfather about your dad’s comments, especially the ones involving threats to your stepfather. Know that when your dad calls you disloyal, he’s not speaking from a clearheaded place. He is struggling with his own personal problems and needs the help and understanding of a competent therapist. Perhaps your mom and Derek could encourage him toward that end.

The love you have for your stepdad doesn’t detract from the love you have for your biological father. Your stepdad sounds like a great man, and your appreciation for him isn’t strange at all. It’s beautiful.

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