Excerpt from Chapter One. Congratulations! You're Part of a Stepcouple
The eventual success of the new family hinges on the quality and strength of the stepcouple relationship. And the success of the stepcouple itself hinges on the willingness and ability of the partners to grapple with personal and family issues. Few understand at the outset how complex and demanding stepcoupling is.
In the beginning, Bob and I and the four kids reeled from the effects of divorce. Looking back, the only reason we made it through the early part of our stepfamily was because we were such a strong couple. We had lots of problems. The kids fought all the time. My house was way too small for the six of us, and we couldn’t afford a bigger one. A third of Bob’s paycheck went to his ex-wife, so we barely made ends meet.
Neither of us wanted another divorce. We had to learn how to talk to each other, love each other, and to stay together even when things got tough. Especially when things got tough.
— MARY, STEPCOUPLING FOR SEVEN YEARS
Each partner needs to rely on the pivotal stepcouple bond—one they might not yet fully understand—to get through this challenging early period.
It’s a paradox: the strain you feel comes from being in a stepcouple, and turning to your partner is the best way to deal with the strain you feel.
My husband is pressuring me to spend more time alone with him, but I don’t think it’s a good idea. We haven’t been together long, but there’s so much else to do—at work, around the house, and with the kids. I feel like we’d be better off spending more time taking care of things. We can romance each other when the kids are gone.
Nurturing your stepcouple relationship is the most important thing you can do for the longterm health and stability of your stepfamily. While special dates don’t take the place of caring for your us on a daily basis, they can be wonderful.
Bill had sole custody of his two children, I had sole custody of my two. When we married, we were suddenly a full-time family of six. We were inundated.
Once a week, on Tuesday night, we’d go out. For us, Tuesdays were wonderful - we had each other all to ourselves with no interruptions. We’d sit next to each other in a booth, hold hands, talk nonstop. He’d talk about his day, I’d talk about mine. We’d plan for the future. We rarely talked about the kids. It was our time.
We knew the kids were safe at home. We also knew they were probably doing some things they shouldn’t, like eating junk food or watching TV instead of doing homework. That one night, I could let go of control over the kids to have the time with Bill.
I don’t think we would have become as strong a couple if we hadn’t had our date night. Twenty-eight years later, we still go out once a week.
— SHARON, FIFTY-SIX, STEPCOUPLING FOR TWENTY-EIGHT YEARS
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