FINAL ARTICLE IN THE SERIES
In it for the long run…how to hang in there.
In this final article, I leave you with some tips to help you get through the difficult times.
How do you stay strong as a stepcouple when it gets rough?
You try very hard because you’re COMMITTED. You’re a stepcouple and there’s a lot at stake. The love of your life just happens to have a past that includes children and probably ex-spouses too. It’s a package that says “Take me, take my kids.”
You and your spouse are a team. As a team, you’re the heart, soul, brain, and glue in your stepfamily. The stronger and more stable you are, the more it trickles down to the children. Everyone benefits. It gets easier and better over time.
How do you stay together as a stepcouple?
I’m absolutely positive that the only way we stayed together was that we had a very strong relationship, because frankly there times when we were miserable…angry and resentful of each other, the kids and the exes. But we were always able to face each other, argue constructively, and get through it…whatever it took. We always knew neither one of us was going anywhere. We learned not to take stuff personally. We loved each other, we needed each other, and we deserved to be together in spite of how nasty things got sometimes. WE WEREN’T GOING TO LET OUR KIDS OR ANYTHING ELSE BREAK UP OUR RELATIONSHIP.
How do you avoid blaming each other and their kids for causing problems and making you miserable?
It happens, but you learn how to communicate effectively even when you’re upset. You stay away from those angry, critical statements using the “You” word or pointing the finger of blame towards “Your child”. Examples would be “Your child is the trouble maker” or “you always give in to her whining.” You want to get to the place where you both can talk, listen and most importantly hear each other. This doesn’t come naturally or easily. Don’t get discouraged. Keep working on building trust and respect in your relationship. Work on being able to communicate without barriers and walls.
How do you co-parent when you disagree about parenting styles and discipline?
In the beginning, of course you don’t agree on child rearing. You come from different experiences. You have different children and different relationships with them. You hardly know your stepchildren, nor do they know you. Give it time. Keep it friendly.
There’s a learning curve. Don’t set yourself up with unrealistic expectations. Even though every parent knows what they want, they won’t always get their way in stepcoupling and child rearing. I was surprised about how much my husband and I learned from each other by talking and watching each other with the kids. Eventually we came up with our way of raising the kids. Be open to new ideas and styles. Respect your partner’s experience and point of view. And compromise.
Being part of a stepcouple and stepfamily is a lifetime journey that few seek out, but if by chance you find yourself wearing those shoes, be strong, forgiving, and tolerant. You will grow in a way unimaginable…and so will your partner, your kids, and your stepkids.
Disclaimer – Unfortunately sometimes people form a stepcouple relationship for the wrong reasons, hoping for something it’s not. The match turns into a mismatch. When this is the case, this advice may not apply or work for them.
Best to all of you!
Susan Wisdom, LPC
April 17, 2009