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The Five Greatest Challenges for a New Stepcouple

[Continued from the previous blog post, “One Mixed Up Bundle of Relationships”]

Newly married, we had no idea what we were doing or how to do it. Everyone felt fragile and confused…completely out of our comfort zones.

David’s kids and my kids were very clear about who their parents were—the stepparents did not qualify. All the kids’ attention and conversation was directed at their “real” parents. The “steps” were foreigners, and we knew it.

It took a long time for us to begin to feel like a family. And our stepfamily wasn’t alone. We soon learned that everyone feels this way in the beginning of stepcoupling.

Looking back, I understand much better the five conflicts with which we struggled the most.

  1. Transitioning from that romantic twosome to a GROUP AFFAIR. We got married because we wanted to be with each other, but after we married we hardly had time for each other. There was always a fire to put out or a kid who needed something NOW. We just had too much on our plates to be a romantic couple. It made us wonder why we bothered to get married!
  2. Accepting each other’s children. Naively, we thought we’d be able to accept each other’s kids immediately and raise them just as we would our own. We struggled when we realized that there was nothing natural or easy about this. To do it required surviving the long process of opening up, getting to know them, getting over the resentment of having to raise them, and arriving at the peaceful place of knowing that we are a family that belongs together. (There were tons of glitches along the way, btw!)
  3. Learning how to play a positive role in guiding, raising, and coparenting each other’s kids appropriately.
    David & I discovered tremendous differences in our approaches to parenting. We soon learned that neither of us would always be in control or get our way. There were two of us in it together! We had to be open to each other’s methods, compromise, and learn from each other. This was possible only because we each trusted that the other wanted the best for all our kids.
  4. We never had enough time or money…or so we thought.
    We stretched to make things work.  But we had each other.
  5. Baggage from the past.
    We all have it: frustrations, anger, jealousy at the ex, poor coping skills…and on and on. The best tool we had to deal with this was the ear and support of each other. If you’re lucky enough to have a caring and supportive relationship with the love of your life, the baggage can resolve itself as you both mature and successfully deal with challenges along the way.

Do you ever look back and observe that the horrible stuff that used to bother you so much isn’t there anymore, or if it is there, it’s a lot less difficult? That’s the gift of a contented stepcouple and stepfamily—you all grow up together.

Susan Wisdom MA
April 2011

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