Lately, in the work I do outside my coaching, supporting stepmoms in a support group, I have seen many stepcouple relationships come to an end. It tears at my heart. The statistics for second time marriages ending up in divorce tears at my heart. Up to 70%. In her article “Lessons Learned from Stepfamilies” written in Psychology Today , Virginia Rutter states stepfamilies represent “the spawn of failure, the shadow side of our overidealized traditional family”. We have the odds stacked against us. Why? It’s pretty obvious to the women who struggle day in and day out. Common experiences I’ve heard say it all: feeling shunned and disregarded; being undermined and unacknowledged; being unappreciated and invalidated, even being a target of hatred and jealousy. High conflict exes, children with torn loyalties and unresolved feelings of grief and loss create difficult behaviours then you add parenting conflicts. A stepmom is an incredibly resilient, incredibly strong, incredibly patient woman, and is a foundational person in the life and success of a stepfamily. Despite these adversities, she continues to commit, love and sacrifice for the well being of her family and her man. But, if she has a partner who doesn’t understand (and often they don’t), who doesn’t communicate and often times completely misses the mark in supporting her, or even goes so far as to undermine her efforts, we can see the fine line between staying or going being stretched too tight. But, let’s be honest. It’s even the day to day grind of LIFE- intimate relationships and parenting added to the many, complicated layers of stepfamily life. Life is stressful and busy enough without high conflict exes and stepkids.
But what does it take to keep the stepfamily on the road to long term success? It really is the strength of the stepcouple. They must be a united team. Being on the same team means support, patience, compassion, better than average communication and negotiation skills, and unconditional love and acceptance of the other person. But how? That sounds HARD. First of all, there is plenty of research that shows that it’s usually the newer stepfamily who are unable to handle the extra pressures and extra players and extra politics. It can take up to seven years for the stepfamily to gel as a unit. That seems like a REALLY long time if you feel rejected in your home. I read the book “Stepcoupling : Creating and Sustaining a Strong Marriage in Today’s Blended Family” by Susan Wisdom. It’s a fabulous resource and it is the foundation for creating The Successful Stecpouple Retreat. Why a retreat? Because, if my research is accurate, it’s never been done before. AND look at the divorce rates noted above. Better to take an ounce of prevention in beating the odds and investing in each other than investing in a divorce lawyer for 1000’s of dollars for a pound of cure.
You can do the day to day replenishing, but if the day to day connection and replenishing each other isn’t there then sometimes relationships take some repair. If you are solid already, great. But sometimes relationships start to weaken. Especially if they get put on the back burner too long because of the day to day of LIFE. The retreat is a weekend crafted specifically to meet the unique needs of stepcouples and the intense challenges they face. This is so that you can focus on your partner and yourself without distractions so you can re-connect, replenish, and repair.
A second time divorce feels like a bigger failure to us as adults. And the children have already gone through at least one divorce as well. Divorce sucks for adults but divorce for kids is traumatic. Worse, they are egocentric and most often blame themselves, thinking it’s their fault their parents are divorcing. They have a hard time rebalancing and adjusting to massive life changes.
“Nurturing your stepcouple relationship is the most important thing you can do for the long-term health and stability of your stepfamily. While special dates don’t take the place of caring for your partner on a daily basis, they can be wonderful ways to connect.” Susan Wisdom
I have had the pleasure of becoming great friends with a local stepmom I met and she’s coming to the retreat. This is what she says:
“It’s a challenge! Ironically our struggle right now is finances. I will do whatever I can to make this retreat. Sell odds and ends etc… because to me… making things like this retreat a priority is how we stay strong as a couple. We can’t give up ‘eh can’t afford us time so let’s stay at home and nit pick at each other ‘.. heck no to that!”
Her thoughts on prioritizing for the retreat “Well we should save and take the kids somewhere”. It’s not wrong to do that but people forget how important building your spousal bond is.” She also said that she and her partner don’t need the retreat. “We are strong, we communicate. NOT going to this retreat would make us incredibly naive in thinking we don’t need to always be working on things to keep it the way it is.”
So very true Jenny Goch, thank you for allowing me to share your wisdom. Join us September 29 to October 1 in Canmore Alberta and make your partnership your priority.