As stepcouples, does it sometimes feel as though other so-called “normal” families are better off? Do you sometimes observe them and feel jealous of the way they appear to interact—to talk and play and laugh—so naturally and comfortably? And, as a result, does this comparison make you feel as though your stepfamily were somehow worse?
I used to watch “normal” families and conclude that they had no problems, and that because my stepfamily was “different,” we were the one with problems. Extended family gatherings gave me plenty of opportunity to envy “normal” families, which always left me feeling depressed, alone, and incompetent.
With few stepfamily models to learn from, we felt alone and uneasy in how to build our stepfamily. And comparing ours to “normal” families didn’t help. But, in time, I learned that there is no such thing as a family that is normal or perfect; that all families face their own unique set of challenges. Comparisons, of course, are only relative to who’s doing the comparing.
Today, now that our five children are grown, some with children of their own, I can look back and appreciate that, while our family has never been “normal,” it is pretty darned great. Life is a journey, after all—for all families. True: the stepcoupling and stepfamily journey is one of the most challenging. But it’s worth every bit of blood, sweat, and tears, no matter how “abnormal” and difficult it may seem.
As a stepcouple, can you and your partner think of activities, traditions, or experiences that you particularly cherish in your stepfamily? Anything that puts a smile on your face and makes you happy counts.
Susan Wisdom LPC
July 12, 2010
Please share your experiences and thoughts.