If you always do what you did… you’ll always get what you got.
(Old Southern expression)
There’s no place where this is more evident than in stepcoupling. If you’re doing the same crummy things over and over, repeating the same fights, feeling the same bad feelings…you’re stuck with what you got.
Do you ever think that it’s time to change? Do you ever think that you could play a part… like maybe changing yourself and your behaviors?
Being in a stepcouple and stepfamily is a perfect opportunity for self-awareness and change. Stepcoupling is not for wimps or weaklings… but rather the strong and brave. In stepcoupling, you have a fresh chance to move forward from the past, take responsibility for who you are and what you want to develop in your stepfamily. In stepcoupling, you’re given a chance to stand up to the plate and change – a chance to build new relationships with yourself… your spouse…your stepchildren…your own children… even your ex-spouse.
Seize the opportunity!
If you find that your fights only lead to anger, blaming, and jealousy, back off and take a look. Experiment with a new view and approach. Start with having a conversation with yourself. Reflect back on the reasons you fell in love and agreed to partner up as a stepcouple.
Think about what you thought it would be like and compare it to what it is. I’m sure your complaints have to do with kids and stepkids, problems with interfering exes, not enough time together…and who knows what else. We’ve all been there! The honeymoon is over and reality presents itself on a daily basis. This is the time to build and normalize the relationship you want.
Think about you and your partner as a stepcouple team. How do you want that partnership to be? With love…aka attraction, sex, need, compatibility… as the glue that sealed the deal in the first place…how do you keep that connective glue working for you? Your goal should be to build an effective …and loving… day-to-day working stepcouple team?
In developing a working partnership, you begin with effective communication skills. You talk calmly and openly because this is the only way your partner will be able to listen, stay and respond. (If you’re angry and blaming, he’ll react with a fight or flight reaction for sure!) You set the pace. As a stepcouple, you want to be able to hear, understand, respect and depend on each other now… and in the future.
Let’s be honest! While staying calm and open is important in stepcoupling, it’s also very hard to do. Emotional buttons get pushed easily with all the challenges in stepfamilies… stepkids driving you crazy, difficult exes, child support payments that stress beyond belief. There’s always something that pushes you to the limits.
And when that happens, WHO do you want to listen and sooth you, calm you down, and love you through it? Answer: you want your partner to be there for you! If the stepcouple can learn to support and be there for each other, everyone will benefit…adults as well as the kids.
Set the stage by practicing these positive behaviors in your stepcouple relationship. When it works, enjoy the results. When disappointed, don’t give up. Keep trying.
Don’t wait and hope for others to change. The change can start with you.
Licensed Professional Counselor