Have you ever had those thoughts? Were you afraid to say those things out loud? And did you expect your friends and family to understand and be supportive of your stepfamily heartaches and headaches but discover that they just don’t get it? If you answered yes, you are not alone and I am thankful you’re joining me here. If you are anything like me, you’ve had a really tough time being in a stepfamily. It’s so hard to find your fit and feel like you belong in a stepfamily. I didn’t know my place, my role and I certainly didn’t know how to be a stepparent.
People offer well meaning advice on being a step- parent all the time. Trouble is, unless they are a stepparent themselves they usually have no idea what they are talking about. Even the professionals. Being a stepparent is hard. Hard on your head, your heart and your soul. I know it was for me.
Other people don’t know how hard it is to be left out- or shoved out- in your own home. They don’t know how hard it is to raise children but not actually have any say in how they are being raised while not having any authority over them. They don’t know how hard it is to love your stepkids even though the kids (and their mom) won’t allow you to or want you to. They don’t know how hard it is to have your life dictated by someone who doesn’t even live in your home. They don’t know how hard it is when an ex wife causes so much emotional distress and chaos in YOUR home (most have never even heard of a high conflict personality). They don’t know what it’s like to feel like you are paying for the mistakes your partner made. They don’t know how hard it is to deal with the guilt and shame that often accompany you on your journey as a stepparent.
They tell you to love them like your own. They tell you to be the adult. They tell you to take the higher road and be the better person. They encourage you to blend your family and make everyone feel like they belong. But, they just don’t get it. Blending a family isn’t like a creamy latte. All the right ingredients coming together. Because sometimes the milk you have to use is chunky and expired. It’s frustrating, it’s confusing. It can be painfully complicated: high conflict exes, child support, custody disputes, one income over two or more houses, and that is just the beginning.
But, they also don’t know how resilient, how strong, how resourceful, how determined you are as a stepparent either. They don’t know how often the kids and the ex have come between you and your partner. For me, being in a relationship where I had to share my man with a family – kids AND another woman- was a completely different playing field. My vision of married with kids didn’t include an ex, access with the kids, child support, and instant family vacations. I had no idea how to handle all of these complicated relationships with so many people I wasn’t choosing to be with. All the while feeling insecure and ..LOST.
If you are like me you were falling madly in love without thinking about how hard it would be- just relishing in the feeling of sunshine and roses and jumping in with both feet. And you hang on to that love and your faith that things can be better have pulled you two through some really dark times. They don’t know that you HAD to dig deep and team up with the best part of yourself (and your spouse) and you worked through the biggest challenges of your life. They don’t know how powerful you are with your partner as a co- parenting team. In fact you can be unstoppable when the two of you team up!
Being a stepparent and part of a step couple myself, I get a lot of that. The hardest thing I’ve ever had to do is be a stepparent. I had to grieve the loss of my vision for my stepfamily by letting go of my expectations. That was a game changer. That can be YOUR game changer too. Being a successful stepparent and step couple requires several things: an open mind, an open heart, healthy boundaries and a lot of self care and couple time without the noise.
The growth you experience as a stepparent can transformational. It pulls you and stretches you in ways you did not expect…the secret is…. you never would have experienced that if you hadn’t been a step parent. So, if you think it isn’t easy- I agree. BUT, I’m here to say it can GET better. I can help you discover how #stepfamilystrong you are and how #stepcouplestrong you can be.