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To Future Stepcouples – Three Questions You Must Ask Before You Remarry

May 24th, 2011

Love is in the air and many people are planning remarriage ceremonies this summer. When you were young and first looking for love, it probably wasn’t very complicated. You thought you found what you wanted…the rest is history.

People who find themselves looking for a partner later in life discover that dating has become much more complicated—especially if you and/or your love interest are divorced and have children.

In remarriage, it takes emotional maturity and a deep commitment to each other to be a stepcouple. Adults should ask serious questions of each other and share concerns as early and as often as possible in their relationship. If there’s enough love, trust, and support in the adults’ relationship to carry out the responsibilities of co-parenting kids, the prognosis for success is good.

My book Stepcoupling includes a list of questions that people should thoroughly and honestly consider while dating, falling in love and planning a future together (p. 11-13). Three of the most important questions are:

  1. Is this relationship right FOR ME? Does my partner respect and listen to me? Can I be honest with my feelings, thoughts, and fears? Can I grow and change in this relationship? Can I rely on my partner to help me? Can I be myself?
  2. Does this relationship work FOR THE TWO OF US? Are both of our needs being met? Do we listen and are we kind to each other? Do we share common interests and values? Do we make time for each other? Do we have fun and laugh? Are we willing to face conflicts, make compromises, and resolve differences with each other?
  3. What’s right FOR THE CHILDREN? Am I willing to be a stepparent and accept his or her children? Can we trust each other with our children? Do we respect each other’s relationship with our children? Are we patient with each other’s children? Do we honor each other’s children as individuals? Do we have similar parenting styles, and if not, can we learn from each other and reach a middle ground?

It won’t be perfect in the beginning. Forming new stepfamily relationships is difficult. What’s most important is that you trust your partner, that your partner is willing and able to grow with you, and that you respect each other deeply. With those ingredients, you’re in a good position to tackle anything…together. Oh yes, LOVE helps too!

Susan Wisdom MA
May 2011

Feeling Alone And Finding Help

May 10th, 2011

A long time ago, David and I went to a fancy cocktail party hosted by friends of David and his ex-wife. I knew the hosts a little but hardly considered them my friends. We got our drinks and were standing around when I saw a woman making a beeline towards me! Following the obligatory hug, she asked, “SO SUSAN, HOW’S IT GOING WITH YOUR NEW FAMILY?” Her penetrating eyes and piercing expression scared me.

I told her that I was doing OK, but that “it was a struggle.” (Big mistake.) I explained that it was hard taking care of three more kids who weren’t my own. She said she didn’t understand why I would feel that way. I tried to explain, but with each word, I dug myself deeper into a hole. She said, “Some people have trouble raising ANY CHILDREN…you might be one of those women!” Her final shot was, “You should have thought of that BEFORE you married him!”

I found the nearest door, ran outside, and burst into tears.

Why was I so vulnerable? The problem was that I knew I was failing. I knew I was in over my head, and no one understood my situation. How could they? The incident just reinforced how alone I felt in my struggle.

Our new stepfamily was on shaky ground. My stepchildren missed their mother terribly, and they wanted little to do with me. My husband was busy at work, and it was my job to raise the five kids—his and mine. It was an impossible expectation…in the beginning, anyway.

Fortunately, resources for new stepfamilies have come a long way since then. There’s a lot of good information and help for stepfamilies in the way of books, counseling, coaching, forums, blogs, support groups, etc.

Looking back, I can see that I was young, vulnerable, sensitive, and way too hard on myself. What I needed so badly…and didn’t have…was thick skin and permission to stand up for myself! I was always comparing myself to the ideal of the perfect nuclear family. It was impossible to fit the mold. All I could do was pretend…and try harder.

Thank God for the passage of time and growing up… and also for the good support and understanding of stepfamilies today.

Susan Wisdom MA
May 2011

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