Stepping Up: 3 Insights to Improve Your Stepfamily's Trajectory

3 Insights to Improve Your Stepfamily's Trajectory (Things I've Learned, Part 2)

 

I'm thankful that early on in our stepfamily life, some valuable nuggets of insight and wisdom were brought to our attention.   This took place at Ron Deal's seminar for Stepfamily Success (one week before our wedding)! 

The things we learned changed the trajectory of our journey and transformed our thinking.  Our eyes were open to what we could intentionally do to make our transition into stepfamily life better.  This information also helped us to avoid some common pitfalls.  We've had a few of those "glad we dodged that bullet" experiences over the last 16 years…I call them 'trajectory transformers'!  Here's my top three:

1.  Stepfamily relationships are re-ordered and parent-child allegiances can impact the marital relationship.

Stepfamilies are different than first families.  In first families the couple relationship comes first, BEFORE the parental relationship and tends to be a stronger bond.  But in stepfamilies the couple relationship comes AFTER the established parental relationship(s).  Because parent-child relationships are bonded by blood and have more history, the marital relationship is secondary and tends to be the weakest bond in the home.

This dynamic often creates unhealthy parent-child allegiances which can have a negative impact on the marriage; creating excessive stress, frustration and anger.

Bottom Line:  Step-Couples must learn healthy ways to integrate and overcome parent-child allegiances so they can position their marriage as the foundation of leadership in the home.

2.  It is healthy, smart and often necessary for step-couples to reach out for support.

Like I said, I'm thankful that we got some education early on, but it certainly didn't stop there.  After we were married, Mike and I started a stepfamily group at our church where we continued to grow and learn from educational materials and other step couples.

Due to the complexities of stepfamily relationships, the divorce rate of step couples is nearly double that of first family couples.  Seven years into our marriage, Mike and I faced some challenges that had us thinking about divorce.  Thanks to the help we received from counselors, mentors and coaches we survived and have even thrived in our journey.

Bottom Line:  Get help…early!  It can greatly increase your chances of success - we wouldn't have made it if we hadn't reached out for help!

3.  The process of stepfamily integration takes time, patience and 'low heat'.

Statistics show it takes an average of seven years for a stepfamily to function together effectively!  Stepfamilies need time to adjust to new living conditions, new parenting styles, new rules & new responsibilities.  They need time to experience one another and develop trust, connection and a shared history.  They need time to find a sense of belonging and an identity as a family unit.  None of these things can be rushed or forced.  Knowing this really helped us to relax and allow integration to happen naturally, over time, and reduced stress and pressure.

Bottom Line:  We need to let go of unrealistic expectations, be patient and focus on creating a 'crock pot' environment where healthy bonding can take place over the long journey ahead.

When it comes to managing delicate stepfamily dynamics, information is power!  I've said it before and I'll say it again...don't stop learning!  There are so many challenges we face as stepfamilies.  Those that are blatant and right in front of us, and those that are hidden that we can't see coming.

The Bottom, Bottom Line:  You don't know what you don't know…so educate yourselves and be open to learning, growing and improving! 

If you enjoyed the article above and want to learn more about Mike and Kim or need help in navigating step-family dynamics, please visit: www.MikeandKimCoaching.com

 

Ian Christopher