Some days it seems to take everything out of you to just stay together. It’s hard and painful. The romance has faded. What’s left? You wonder why did you do it. What were you thinking?
Most stepcouples have these moments… hours, days, even weeks… or longer. You miss the fairy tale romance… the hopes and promises that sealed the deal. That romantic twosome, fresh and exciting… nothing beats it.
What happened? Was it a lie? How could you be so fooled?
You’re sad and maybe a little surprised to have that taken away. You’re angry that your partner spends so much time, love, and energy on the kids. When bedtime finally comes for the two of you, one or both are too tired to connect in any way! You blame the kids. You can’t compete with them. You feel left out. You’re losing the battle. You begin to feel the wall between you.
You sense a big gap growing in your stepcouple. The romance has been sacrificed to the demands of the kids…daily living…problems with exes, etc. The adjustment from that awesome twosome to a complex stepfamily is a shock no one really expects.
You wonder if you’ll ever get it back? The answer is NO, not the way it was when it was just the two of you. It’s a stepfamily! You have to adjust and find your own way to make it work.
What do you have to do to make the adjustment? It’s not about what you DO, but more about how you ARE as a stepcouple.
It starts with an acceptance of stepcouple reality, a rude contradiction to that exclusive romantic twosome you experienced with the person you fell in love with. (Please note I’m not excluding romance in stepcoupling!)
Stepcoupling requires a willingness to bond together. It takes confidence that the other person knows and understands you, accepts you and respects you for whom you are rather than what they need you to be. This goes for both of you.
You have to use your head and your heart. Honesty is important. It takes time, patience and mutual willingness to deal with what stepcouples face on a daily basis.
How do you get there?
Start with talking with each other. Ask questions and get answers. Some questions you might think and talk about: Do you know your partner for who he/she is? Do you respect each other? What does your partner think about and care about? Can you afford to be honest without guilt or fear? Do you trust your partner? Can you listen, understand, and soothe each other? Can you rely on your partner …or are you often disappointed?
Do you have similar values and goals? Do you know about each other’s families of origin and previous relationships? Is there anything that concerns you?
Can and do you make collaborative decisions? When conflicts arise, can you come up with creative solutions and compromises? Do you cooperate with kids homework and activities, discipline and chores?
OR do you more or less live independent lives… eat and sleep in separate quarters…especially when the kids are around? Are you satisfied with your arrangement?
Everyone experiences stepcoupling differently according to their situations, wishes and needs. The stepcouple has to decide what’s right for them as well as what’s best for the kids and stepkids. The challenge is to be the best stepcouple you can be. That’s good enough!
Susan Wisdom, LPC