Stepfamily chaos. We all know about it. We’re talking about problems with exspouses, spoiled kids who aren’t disciplined, stepkids who are openly rude, exes who brainwash their kids, teenaged stepchildren, money problems, sibling and stepsibling rivalry … It’s endless. It’s painful. As a counselor I’ve heard some sad, and incredibly frustrating stories. And yet somehow stepcouples make it through and live to a ripe old age …together. How do they do it?
What does it take? It takes resiliency, thick skin, luck (to have found each other), patience and love. It takes a strong bond. It takes two people who accept each other for who they are -baggage and all- and are willing to make the necessary stepfamily sacrifices. No one can control everything that happens in stepcoupling and stepfamilies. But for the ones who survive, they survive by supporting, listening to, and helping each other through every crisis. They do it by loving their partners even if and when they’re in miserable situations. Somehow they KNOW that nothing will break them up. They’re right because nothing can! They’re a team, a force…a stepcouple. They’re willing to go the extra mile for their stepcouple relationship and their stepfamily…end of story!
They’re lucky in their absolute determination that they want each other. Furthermore they need each other to get through their difficult challenges. They’re resilient. They have the ability to not let the anger, resentments and jealousy re: kids and exes destroy their commitment. They fell in love, chose each other and darn it! they deserve to be together in spite of what the kids and ex think about it! They’re fighters. They’re determined to stay in their stepcouple relationship no matter what it takes.
I remember when my husband and I were a young stepcouple going through difficult times in the early years. It never occurred to us that we would split up. We never even came close. But that doesn’t mean that we weren’t at our wits end. We never threatened each other with thoughts of divorce. That was the last thing from our minds.
I’d see my husband drive up to the house after working a busy day. He’d sit in his car listening to the radio before getting the courage to come inside. He was afraid he’d get blasted with complaints about the kids. ( It was a legitimate fear.) I had days also when I didn’t know how I could survive. Like the day I read my stepdaughter’s diary. OMG, the things she said about me! (Advice to stepmoms: Don’t do it. You’ll only be hurt.)
In stepcoupling, how do you know when you have that strong bond? You know because there aren’t huge walls separating you. You know because you deeply care about each other. There is respect and trust. You know because you can reach out to each other, talk without fear of recrimination and ask for help with what troubles you. You know because during angry talks about kids and exes you will be safe. You may not always be happy but you will not be mentally or physically insulted or abused. You know because you are a devoted stepcouple.