Ever notice how STUCK you can get? Ever notice how you and your partner spin around and around getting hung up on the same stuff – often around childrearing, money and ex-spouses. You get fixed in your own feelings and ways of doing things; you have a hard time considering each other’s feelings. You play the “do it my way” game. Your spouse replies with the “no, you do it my way” response. You tell your partner to “discipline” the kids; partner refuses. You fight and no one wins. It can get pretty ugly throwing barbs, threats and ultimatums at each other. You reach an impasse. After a cool down, you make up and again pledge your love to each other. You have blind faith it won’t happen again. But in time, the familiar hassles come up. Your feelings are strong and painful…and scary, because you surely don’t want to face another failed marriage.
So what has to happen to break this spin cycle?
You have to get to the place where both of you can understand what’s going on. You need to get to the “I get it” stage. You’ll know when you GET IT because you no longer feel the intense anger and fear inside you. You can step away from your feelings and observe the process… which is what you want. Then you can begin to discuss the issues more calmly. Eventually you feel more confident, and even though there are still problems, you begin to feel that you both belong here in this stepcouple…along with the constellation of kids you bring with you or you produce together. This is the first step.
How do you get to the “I Get It” Stage
When you’re spinning out of control and are miserable, (see above) that’s the time to reach out and GET HELP. Help comes in the form of finding someone you can talk to freely, someone who can understand and support you and can help you open your eyes and experience things differently.
HELP comes in different forms:
- FRIEND(S): A trusted, loyal friend is an invaluable resource. I couldn’t have made it through the early years of stepcoupling without my girlfriend to turn to. She understood me, (she’s known me for years!). She understood what I was going through because she too was in a stepfamily. She could listen objectively. Sometimes she’d support my point of view, other times she’d point out the errors in my thinking. She’d provide a reality check that I couldn’t see because I was too enmeshed. And the best was that she’d help me make a plan for resolving the problem. She was always there for me.
- FAMILY: Can provide the same support and reality check as friends IF they can be objective and not try to fix you by telling you what to do and how to do it. It’s hard for close family members to see you suffering. It’s much easier for them to rescue you than encourage you to take responsibility to do what’s best for you. The best family can do is love and support you unconditionally and be there for you when you need them.
- OTHER STEPCOUPLES: Nothing better than getting a fresh perspective from others who’ve been there, done that. During the early stages of stepcoupling, the adjustment problems are universal. It’s helpful to reach out for advice, tips, and guidance from other’s who are or have been in your same shoes. Stepcouple/stepfamily support groups are great if you can find one in your community. If not, form one of your own.
- COUNSELORS, COACHES, OR CLERGY: There are many professionals who are excellent in understanding the stepfamily challenges. They work with the stepcouple on their relationship issues, and they facilitate ways to build healthy relationships with children and stepchildren.
- BOOKS, CD’S, BLOG SITES, ON LINE ARTICLES: There’s an amazing amount of information for stepcouples and stepfamilies. Many websites, including my own, www.stepcoupling.com, offer books and on-line resources. The books that are written today are in lay terms for easy reading and understanding My book, Stepcoupling, available now in eBook, has stories that most stepcouples can relate to as well as exercises that stepcouples can do together to improve their communication and stepcouple skills.
So when you get stuck in your stepcouple and stepfamily, you need help to understand what’s going on and how to get to a better place. Don’t stay stuck hoping things will get better on their own. Reach out…get help. Talk with someone – a friend or counselor, go to a stepfamily support group, read a book or go to an on line blog site. You’ll be surprised what you learn and how much you gain.
What and who’s on your resource list to turn to when you get stuck in your stepcouple?
Susan Wisdom, LPC