A Stretch for Stepcouples
As a counselor, I hear a lot of stories, many of which amaze me:
Mom was married 4 times. One of my stepfathers sexually abused me.
I saw my stepfather hit my mother.
My dad left us for another woman when I was 7.
Mom was mentally ill and hospitalized for long periods at a time.
I just remember my father being drunk all the time.
If you have similar stories in your memory banks, you will relate to this blog. You grew up with a poor road map for how to love, trust and support another person in a relationship. You didn’t experience it in your parents’ relationship nor did you get your early childhood needs met consistently. Your early losses probably forced you to grow up insecure and angry.
In taking clinical histories, I notice that many of you left home early. Some girls got pregnant and married their high school boyfriends. Guys left as soon as they could at 18 and never went back. You felt strong and determined to not need parents… or anyone. You were survivors!
Fast forward Things changed. Many of you were in successful careers and fiercely independent. Then love came along and you hooked up hoping you could do it differently from your parents. Many of you married people who had children in tow from previous relationships. You became a stepcouple with the obligation to care for and help raise someone else’s child.
This is where your early childhood experiences cast an ugly pall. How could you know about loving, trusting, and supporting a person in an intimate relationship? How could you know about putting other people’s needs first, especially children’s needs. You’ve been alone and self reliant…and self centered for years. You’ve been in complete control of your life. Now you’re in a RELATIONSHIP. Your buttons are going to be pushed and it will be a huge learning curve to give and get what you want and need.
But I always tell people, IT’S DOABLE, IF YOU’RE WILLING TO DO THE WORK.
- Take it slowly. Be patient with yourself. Recognize how this can be difficult for you.
- Don’t set yourself up for failure by setting unrealistic expectations early on. You don’t know what to expect so be open and flexible. Be willing to be influenced by your partner in a healthy way.
- Concentrate on building a relationship with your partner based on something different from what you experienced as a child. Share each other’s stories.
- Learn how to talk, listen and hear each other. Talk about what you want and listen to what he/she wants. Be willing to ask for help and understanding.
- Remember, this is new territory, and you want it to last – be patient. Allow your partner to know you and vice versa. Allow familiarity and trust to build.
What about your past gets in your way of your stepcouple and stepfamily relationships?
Susan Wisdom, LPC