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It’s Not the Kids or the Exes… It’s You!

October 27th, 2010

It’s you who makes or breaks a stepcouple.

All married couples, partnerships, and families have problems.  Granted, stepcouples may have more problems and certainly different problems than traditional families.  But that’s not the issue.

A stable adult stepcouple relationship with a strong emotional commitment will endure no matter what.  No person and no force can tear them apart.

I’ve seen stepcouples where everything is a problem.  They can’t rise above the fights about his and her kids, the nagging jealous exes who won’t let go, issues over money, ongoing resentments, etc.  They’re miserable!  Everyone’s miserable.

On the other hand, I’ve seen stepcouples who have HUGE problems.  Frankly their stories amaze me.  I wonder how any relationship can survive what they have on their plates.  Yet, they do survive… together.  It’s touching to witness the power of love, commitment, and sacrifice these people exhibit.  Naturally the positive effects trickle down to the kids and everyone who’s part of these stepfamies

WHAT DOES IT TAKE?

It takes a strong boundary between the stepcouple. It’s the primary relationship in the stepfamily.  They’re co-captains of the stepfamily team.  It’s not about his kids vs. her kids.  It’s about the kids.  It’s not about whose ex-spouse is worse.  It’s about dealing with exes using the strength and power of the stepcouple relationship.  It’s infectious. The stronger the relationship at the top, the safer and happier everyone feels.  A united stepcouple is a supportive team defined and protected by a clear boundary.

It takes a partnership based on respect and love… not competition. Stepcouples shouldn’t get tangled up in who’s kids are smarter, whose kids get more, whose kids start all the fights, who’s the trouble maker, who drives you crazy. Take it to a higher plane. Talk about these issues with your partner using non-blaming communication techniques.  Offer and ask for support and understanding from each other.  Try to solve the problems openly.  Talk, listen and hear each other out.  Take time outs from heated arguments to address later.

Don’t keep score and carry grudges. Just do what has to be done to put out the fires. Learn to discipline and soothe the kids fairly and frequently.  Learn to cross over and offer the same to each other’s kids… over time when relationships are established.  Everyone has bad days.  There are attitudes, moods, and poor choices children make. There are always daily messes to clean up…literally and figuratively.  So be the adults. Pick up the messes and move on.

Learn to rely on each other for support, ventilation, love, laughter, and nourishment. Be best friends!  Learn ways to make each other feel worthwhile and lovable.  After a stepchild has dished out an insult, been rude, lied, or done something AWFUL, it doesn’t feel good.  Find your partner to soothe the wounds and help each other move on.

It’s impossible to tackle and solve every problem.  There are always messes in stepfamilies.  It does get better over time.  It gets a lot easier when kids grow up and leave home.  But that’s a long time to wait!  Besides, you won’t make it if that’s what you’re waiting for.

Addendum: My husband and I raised five kids in our stepfamily.   We have the advantage of time passage as our children are grown up now. They tell us how hard they tried to split us up in the beginning.  They wanted nothing to do with a stepfamily. They missed their original families and their absent parents.  They didn’t want outsiders moving in on them, telling them what to do!

Their efforts failed…fortunately for all of us.

Susan Wisdom M.A.
October 2010

The Phone Call

October 14th, 2010

I was surprised to get a call on my cell phone on a Saturday afternoon.  On the other end was a hysterical voice from my niece.  I could barely understand her.  She exclaimed, “My Mom is dead.”  At first I thought it was a wrong number.  She couldn’t be calling me!!… But she was.

My sister Sara died suddenly in an automobile accident on Sept 4.   She was three years older than me.  There were just the two of us girls in my family.  Now both parents and my sister are no longer living.  I’m the last of the line.

For years I was rebellious and wanted little to do with my family.  I checked out, moved away, and rarely went home.  I was tired of Sara telling me what to do and how/when to do it.

Later I softened, when we became married women with children.  We both had 2 kids, just like our parents did. There were some similarities in Sara and me but probably more differences.

I was impatient with Sara.  She’d always call me at the wrong time just as I was leaving the house.

She was computer phobic.  She’d call to rant and rave, “Why can’t you just talk to a real person on the phone anymore!?”  I was having my own struggles with the computer age!

Sara had a mind like a steel trap She never forgot anyone or anything.  She’d call me to report an obituary of “interest.”  She’d say,  “Susan, you remember Mrs. McIntosh?” I’d answer, “No, I don’t remember her.”  She’d argue, “Yes you do!  She lived on San Luis Road in that pink house.  She was the crabby one on Halloween.”  Then I’d remember.

Since Sara died I’ve been going through all the family albums that Sara stored over the years dating back to the 1800’s.  It’s very sad looking at all those pictures without my sister with me. How many times I’ve wanted to pick up the phone and call Sara to ask her about so and so… or did she remember such and such…  or whatever happened to…

But she’s not answering the phone.

I miss her.

If you’re thinking of someone fondly, you might email, call, or drop them a line.  You never know when it’s going to be the last time.

Susan Wisdom
October 2010

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