We hadn’t been married long when we were invited to a party given by my husband’s old friends. Almost immediately this woman made a fast beeline for me! In a loud voice she asked, “Susan, how’s it going with your new family?” “OK,” I said. She probed deeper… definitely fishing for gossip. She asked me detailed questions about the kids, the ex, what it’s REALLY like… Slowly I crumbled under the pressure. I admitted, “It’s difficult.” She poked around further. I told her way too much! Her parting shot was, “Susan, I don’t understand why you’re having trouble. They’re just kids!” With trembling lip, I found the nearest exit and burst into tears.
SO WHAT HAPPENED HERE? Why did I feel so alone… and misunderstood? Sure, I was in love. But I was also naïve and idealistic… and LOST. I didn’t know what my role was. I didn’t know what I was supposed to be, think, or feel. I hardly knew my stepkids…and yet I was supposed to raise them. Just because I had authority over my kids… didn’t give me authority over his kids.
This is where the rubber hits the road for stepcouples! It was time for us to blaze our own trail… chart a new course that would work for us and our stepfamily. We had to redistribute the power and authority to share appropriately as a stepcouple.
It’s a process… a stepcoupling process… and everyone does it differently.
Stepcouples have to respect the past, but focus on the present and future.
HOW IS THIS DONE?
As a stepcouple, you create a team. You talk… you listen… and HEAR what the other has to say. You talk about goals and values. By being open, you learn from each other. You’re both motivated and responsible to look at the part you play as well as the part your partner plays. As partners, you help each other move into a better pattern of communication and co-parenting. Patience and mutual understanding is key.
As a stepcouple, you respect each other and are curious about your partner’s feelings and opinions. Over time as you get used to each other, you notice slowly that you can be honest. You can be who you are and safely say what you want. You develop a connection, one you can both trust. Habits, laughter, activities, rituals and intimacy are mutually enjoyed.
As a stepcouple, you learn to co-parent by respecting and negotiating each other’s parenting values and styles. You build healthy relationships with each other’s kids as a basis for co-parenting.
All this time you’re building your relationship. Sometimes you argue. Sometimes it’s painful. When stuff comes up, you deal with it. As you both mature in your stepcouple, the defensive walls slowly come down.
When I look back and think of that horrible night with the woman at the party, I shiver. We had a long way to go back then! Somehow we traveled the journey… one day at a time.
It’s all in the process of stepcoupling.
Licensed Professional Counselor