Valentines Day is the perfect time to focus on your stepcouple relationship. If you’re looking for help and inspiration, read on…
Posted with permission by StepMom Magazine and Peggy Nolan
A Review of: “Stepcoupling: Creating and Sustaining a Strong Marriage in Today’s Blended Family”
By Susan Wisdom, LPC and Jennifer Green
If I could mail every new and struggling stepmom a care package, I would enclose a box of tissue for those first few difficult months, a new tube of pretty pink lip-gloss to give her spirits a lift, some dark chocolate and a copy of “Stepcoupling,” by Susan Wisdom and Jennifer Green.
This invaluable resource is packed with information, tips and strategies based on Wisdom’s own stepcoupling experience and her professional counseling services for divorcing couples and stepfamilies.
“Stepcoupling” revolves around two major premises: The eventual success of the new family hinges on the quality and strength of the stepcouple’s relationship, and the success of the stepcouple hinges on the willingness and ability of both partners to grapple with personal and family issues.
The book has six main chapters that fortify stepcouples with new ways to think about old behaviors. Two chapters stand above the rest: Chapter 2, “Tailoring Your Expectations of your Spouse and Family,” and Chapter 3, “Shaping and Knowing Your Own Boundaries.”
Chapter 2 covers a topic that nearly every stepfamily struggles with – expectations. Many stepcouples expect their stepfamily to behave just like a first family. Your partner may expect you to love his or her children like your own (and you may be guilty of the same). You may expect to have the same span of control and authority in your home with someone else’s children. Many new stepparents expect the same warm and fuzzy feelings from the stepkids to continue after they have married the kids’ biological parent. When these things don’t come to fruition, you may very well be left with what Wisdom refers to as the Three D’s of expectations: disappointment, discord and disillusionment. If you find yourself feeling disappointed or disillusioned and you and your spouse are arguing nearly all the time, read the second chapter first.
The second most important chapter in “Stepcoupling” is the third chapter. “Shaping and Knowing Your Own Boundaries.” If you are a people pleaser or a chronic yes person, this chapter is vital. Too often, women in the stepmom role complain about how poorly their partner’s ex-wife treats them or about how their stepchildren disrespect them. This chapter helps stepmoms understand the value of personal boundaries and why they are so important within stepfamilies.
It is also the responsibility of the stepcouple to agree upon, establish and enforce boundaries around their marriage. In the beginning, your new marriage is the weakest relationship in the stepfamily mix. In her book, Wisdom asserts that strengthening the stepcouple boundary is of vital importance and requires intention, time and tack. When you create your stepcouple bubble, you take care of yourselves and the children in your home.
Wisdom explains how detrimental anger toward an ex-spouse can be. “All the vocabulary, time, and energy you put into anger at the ex is being diverted from other areas of your life,” she writes. For stepmoms who complain about how much power the ex-wife wields, beware of collusion. According to Wisdom, “the ultimate irony is what happens when a stepcouple colludes in anger toward an ex-spouse: The ex gets exactly what he or she wants. Ex-spouses who seem to sabotage your relationship want a loud and clear presence in your home. When you talk constantly about what a jerk your ex-husband is or plot ways to foil his ex-wife, you grant that presence. Maybe the ex isn’t there physically, but he or she rules your life emotionally.”
Ultimately, the everyday realities of stepcoupling are what get most stepfamilies in trouble. Some examples are mundane, ordinary things like chore distribution, parenting styles, discipline, finances, stressful days at work, the sick puppy, the pile of laundry, homework, dinnertime, etc. Different values and priorities will chip away and erode your union. That is why it’s so important to make your marriage and your partnership the top priority. When your marriage is solid, everyone in the family benefits. If you want to fortify your relationship with your partner, “Stepcoupling” is a must read.
Each chapter includes thought provoking questions that you can discuss together during your couple time. Stepcouples will benefit from reading about the experiences of other stepparents and stepkids and will receive practical and useful guidance to manage the complex challenges that can divide stepcouples.
The only topic that’s missing from this otherwise invaluable resource is money and finances. As you read through and discuss this book with your spouse, don’t forget to talk about your finances: child support, extracurricular activities for kids, college, retirement and every other area that money touches your life.
This Valentine’s Day, give yourself and your partner the gift of greater understanding by reading this book together to become a strong, united, and fortified stepcouple!
PEGGY NOLAN MA, RYT is the CEO of Frazzled to Fabulous, a website dedicated to helping women reclaim the lives they were born to live. Peggy is a contributing writer to the Huffington Post and The Women’s Toolbox. She is the mother of two adult children and the grandmother of two. She is a 2nd degree clack belt in Muay Thai Kickboxing and a certified yoga teacher. Peggy and her husband, Richard, live in Derry, New Hampshire.