this page outlines four more basic Project-9 (biofamily-merger)
interventions with typical courting and committed stepfamily clients,
that the &
symbol indicates a printable handout from this site to explain and
illustrate the concept.
Explain, illustrate, and discuss the
and relate it to the clients' merger plan.
Why? Adults and kids in new stepfamilies have pre-existing bonds
and loyalties to their genetic relatives and (some) in-laws and key
friends. They usually have had little or no time to get to know their
new stepfamily members, and start to value and bond with them.
Stepfamily structure and
realities - including the complex merger of three or more
multi-generational biofamilies -
guarantee that all adults and kids will have to repeatedly
demonstrate who they're most loyal to - for many years.
This reflexive ranking inexorably causes escalating mixes of hurt,
resentments, anger, frustration, pretenses,
("I am not putting my kids before our marriage!", self-doubt, and
because typical family members...
are unaware of significant false-self
dominance and wounds and what they mean,
don't understand and/or genuinely accept
stepfamily realities (Projects 3
and 4), and...
average adults and their lay and professional supporters don't know
how to identify, validate, and resolve loyalty conflicts
The personal and systemic
stress from these conflicts is usually amplified by psychological wounds +
ignorance of effective communication skills + adults' inability to
identify and resolve simultaneous, related values conflicts
(intervention 9-6) and relationship
triangles (9-8) as stepfamily teammates vs.
Watch for the clients to describe a loyalty conflict. (Don't
expect them to use that term). If appropriate, (a) affirm that they
- like most normal stepfamilies - have a potentially toxic, common
loyalty (or priority or inclusion) conflict, and (b) ask if the
adult/s are open to learning about how to resolve them effectively.
When they are, explain and illustrate
the concept, and some or most common
stepfamily loyalty conflicts &.
Emphasize (a) their close ties to
(intervention 9-6) and
(9-8 below), and (b) the inevitability of all three stressors
happening frequently n and between family-members' homes as kids and adults merge their biofamilies over
many years (Lesson 7).
Ask the clients their reaction to the
concept, and whether they (a) think their stepfamily members are -
or may be - significantly stressed by loyalty conflicts, and (b) if
their adults have an effective strategy to resolve them yet.
Whatever they answer,
ask each mate to
describe what they feel their partner's current 4-5 top life
priorities have been recently, as judged by their actions, not
their words. Then ask the other partner to describe their own
priorities, and compare what the mates perceive without judgment.
If both partners usually rank their
first, their primary relationship second, and all else third except
in emergencies, affirm and congratulate them on what they're
modeling for their minor kids and others. Continue with the
If either partner ranks anything else above the mates' primary
relationship (e.g. one or more kids' welfare), propose (a)
their false selves may have made unwise commitment choices, and (b)
this ranking weakens their primary relationship and romotes eventual
psychological and legal re/divorce.
Emphasize that loyalty conflicts force
co-parents and kids to demonstrate their real priorities,
regardless of what they say.
If clients dispute or discount this, assume protective false-selves
control them, and consider
confronting them with that and switching to
Lesson-1 interventions. Options -
remind the adults
they and their descendents probably face, and/or...
"plant seeds" about accumulating stress from
psychological wounds + ranking health and the committed relationship
below kids' or others' welfare (a major
Pass out and discuss a copy of
this article (or equivalent),
and invite client adults to tailor the ideas in it to help form a
viable strategy for avoiding or resolving loyalty conflicts in their
stepfamily. Compare and contrast the proposed solution with the way
the adults have been reacting to these conflicts recently, and
explore their normal outcomes (needs met / needs not met).
Explain, illustrate, and discuss the concept
and relate this to the merger plan.
Why? The Persecutor - Victim - Rescuer (PVR) relationship
triangle first identified by Dr.
Karpman is a universal dynamic in all human groups. It is inherently
divisive and stressful because it polarizes the people whose subselves
unconsciously take these roles into adversaries rather than teammates.
Most lay and many professional adults are unaware of these triangles or how to
avoid or eliminate them. Implication - few kids enter adulthood with
effective strategies to avoid or manage these triangles well in their relationships, and the problem
is spreading in our culture.
PVR triangles are always triggered by conflicts over values (9-6),
family loyalties, (9-7), and other relationship problems that are common
in average low-nurturance groups.
If adults aren't aware of how to spot and dissolve them (our social
norm), triangles compound the antagonism and intensity of other
rela-tionship stressors by causing all three people give and get 1-up or
as they interact.
It's common for several triangles to co-exist, further blocking
and teamwork until they're dissolved one at a time. Adult
and ignorance of effective-communication
(Lesson 2) further compound the stress among all three people and their
family. For more perspective on
triangles, see this.
Become thoroughly familiar with how
values and loyalty conflicts and PVR triangles affect each other,
and assess clients' knowledge of all three dynamics early in the
Watch for clients to describe a
significant family relationship triangle, and decide if it's
appropriate to refocus on teaching them how to recognize, discuss,
and manage these pervasive systemic stressors. When it is...
Ask (a) if client adults are aware of
these triangles, and (b) know what to do about them. (Expect "No,"
and normalize this to minimize unwarranted guilt and shame). Then explain and
illustrate triangles, using the client's example. Ask if the concept
makes sense, and if clients see why triangles would be divisive and
stressful. Option -
provide a copy of
or an equivalent educational handout.
Ask clients (a) if they can name several
other recent instances of stressful triangles in and between their
related homes, and (b) to identify which members were in which of
the three roles in each example. Note if several triangles existed
at once, and whether members held different roles in each of them.
("Bill was in the Persecutor role in this triangle, and in the
Victim role in that one.")
Propose that normal adults
and kids take on these roles unconsciously, and are
unaware, not "bad," "dumb," or "wrong" for doing so. If
clients don't agree, suspect false-selves are in control, and note
that. Option - ask adult clients to recall how their
childhood and perhaps first-marriage families reacted to these
Review the concept of current primary
needs and the dig-down technique of identifying personal needs as
appropriate, and describe how these relate to dissolving triangles
Help clients evolve
words and phrases they can use to identify, discuss, and dissolve
relationship triangles. Then role play using these in recent
triangles, and note the outcomes.
discussion of how client adults can teach these concepts to other family
members - specially kids.
9-10) Ask clients to identify (a) where
their multi-generational (extended) stepfamily is in their merger process, (b) whether there are any
significant hindrances to their progress, and (c) explore options for effectively
reducing such hindrances.
This two-page article is part of a series
describing effective clinical interventions with typical
and stepfamily clients using this experience-based
related article provides basic perspective on effective
This article outlines 10 basic interventions aiming to help informed client adults
overcome barriers to evolving and implementing an effective
biofamily-merger plan together. Any client
need to be stabil-ized before using these interventions. Intervention
selection builds on (a) clinicians having these
and (b) their knowledgeable assessment of
client awareness of stepfamily basics
and how to merge their biofamilies
successfully while balancing many other concurrent needs and tasks.
Typical client adults will not have researched and discussed their
complex biofamily-merger pro-cess, and/or will discount its stressful
complexity. So clinicians need to proactively...
alert clients to this vital part of
building and maintaining a successful stepfamily, and...
motivate and guide them toward wanting
to evolve an effective, consensual merger plan, and...
help each other stay
as they do this, their other concurrent tasks
and "regular life."
Success with these Project-9
interventions requires (a) the clinician and client co-parents usually
and clients (b) fully accepting their stepfamily
and what it
- including their vulnerability to these five
and (c) being steadily motivated to help each other learn and practice
effective-communication basics and
as mutually-respectful teammates.
These Project-9 interventions are most effective when (a) combined with
interventions 9-7 (loyalty conflicts) and
9-8 (resolving relationship triangles), and
(b) refreshed often, as the clinical work progresses.
Pause and reflect - do these interventions and the reasons for them make
sense to you? If so, is there anything in the way of your weaving
them into your working with these clients? If not, (a) which of your
are judging these interventions, and (b) what do they feel are more
+ + +