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Excerpt from Chapter Five. Blending Your Sometimes Opposing Styles

You can count on style conflicts to be one of the forces that act as a wedge between the partners in a stepcouple.

When we met, we used to talk for hours. Now my husband’s like a closed book when we have a problem. The more I think we need to talk, the less he wants to.

Different communication styles can be problematic for any couple. However, this tension is worse for a stepcouple because of the increased stress they face from stepfamily hotspots like children, ex-spouses and money.

Pressure and anxiety can exaggerate your basic personality style. If you tend to turn inward to mull problems over, you’ll withdraw more dramatically if you’re stressed. Similarly, if you need to talk through your issues, anxiety will further loosen your tongue.

In style conflicts, there’s no right or wrong, just different. The key is to understand your own communication style, to accept that it’s different from your partner’s, and to find, together, an effective way of communicating.

Some questions to consider and share with your partner are:

  • When you’re upset or trying to solve a personal problem, do you want input from others? From whom? Do you conceal the fact that you’re upset. If so, from whom? Your spouse? Your children? Your closest friends?
  • When you’re stressed, what can other people do to make you feel supported and safe? What makes you feel more upset?
  • When people you care about are upset, how does it affect you? What do you do?

I can’t stand it when we fight. I rarely fought in my first marriage, but my first wife and I divorced, anyway. When my wife gets angry at me, I’m afraid of what’s ahead for us. I don’t know how to respond.

Adults who’ve had a previous marriage end in divorce commonly–and mistakenly–fear that conflict leads inevitably to the end of the relationship. One of the fundamental lessons that both members of a successful stepcouple learn is that they can be in conflict, even fight, and still stay happily married. Healthy conflict in marriage is an expression of adults who feel anchored enough by their love, commitment and connection to air their differences.

Successful stepcouples can create a mutually agreeable style of fighting. Begin by setting ground rules.

My husband makes decisions without consulting me. From purchases to social plans to his kids’ visitation, what I think doesn’t seem to matter.

A stepcouple can be particularly troubled by decision making differences when one partner is used to making independent choices and likes it that way, while the other is more comfortable working as a team.

 

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