What mistakes do typical partners make before
deciding to form or join a stepfamily?
Common errors (uninformed decisions) include...
Assuming that these five major
don't apply to you, your kids, and ex
mate/s; and/or that these 16
"for other people."
Assuming that "re/marriage is
essentially the same as first marriage, so there's nothing I need to
is one of five
major reasons millions of U.S. stepfamily couples
See this quiz and self-improvement
Another common error is...
Assuming that co-parenting and
relationships in a new stepfamily are "not much different than in a(n
biofamily." They differ greatly in
children's needs, family
other bioparents (ex mates) from full stepfamily
Their genes, needs, opinions, legal rights, finances, ancestry, actions, and values
will affect your lives for decades, including nurturing any grandchildren.
Not learning stepfamily
these 60 common
not taking the
of these realities seriously.
common co-parent mistakes in courtship are...
telling your child/ren or ex mate/s you're seriously considering
re/marriage until the last minute. They need time to learn,
grieve, process, and adjust!
Not bothering to learn or respect (a) potential stepkids'
adjustment needs, and
related need to patiently build a
those needs (to
to persuade you to
commit to the wrong
for the wrong
at the wrong
What are the best
sources of stepfamily education for
This Website exists because in researching since 1979, I've found no
comprehensive source of valid, practical stepfamily information.
- How to make three right
(Xlibris.com, 2003) is the only
available book based on 28 years' professional research and these five common stepfamily
and seven safeguard
Build a High-nurturance Stepfamily
(Xlibris.com, 2003), is for post-courtship readers. There are many other books
about stepparenting and stepfamilies. I've read over 40 of them. Each has its own merits,
co-parents need to be
for suggestions on evaluating stepfamily advice, and
this for suggestions on selecting
useful stepfamily books and articles.
For perspective, see this,
Q17) How long after
divorce should co-parents wait to
One of three core reasons
millions U.S. stepfamily re/marriages fail legally or psychologically is that
or both mates were
vowed "I do"
follow one or both partners'
All adults and kids in
families need time to
(broken bonds) which
usually takes at least several years after adult-couple separation.
checklist to expand your awareness
about family recovery from separation and legal divorce/s.
Courting couples also
need enough time to (b) get to know each other and related kids and adults, and
to (c) learn what they're getting into by progressing at these
I urge you suitors to not commit
until at least 18 months has passed after the most recent
divorce or mate death. Longer is safer. See
this for more detail.
How soon should I
tell my child/ren I'm serious about
committing to a new partner?
Dating after divorce or mate-death
will cause your minor and grown kids (and ex mate and key relatives) major
They'll need to know about
that will affect them. Seriously considering re/marriage
and/or cohabiting causes major
for custodial and visiting kids and key others.
It also offers potential
I recommend informing your kids clearly as soon as you (a) start dating and
(b) seriously considering co-habiting and/or re/marriage.
At any age, they need time to...
explore how they feel about these new people and
your potential stepfamily
evolve and ask key
test some key things,
I become less important to you? Have less time with you? Be abandoned - again?");
(broken bonds) to prepare for new attachments.
Hiding your dating
re/marriage from your kids (and anyone else) is a sure sign of
and is a glaring
Is there a
best way to conduct
partners each (a) acknowledging they're part of a
committing to work patiently together at these vital
before exchanging vows, and (c)
these Q&A answers about
Q20) How can I tell if
I'm ready to commit to a stepfamily?
You can be reasonably sure if...
confident that your
(capital "S") has often
for well over a
year; and you have...
read and discussed
and discussed all the
Lesson 7 honestly, and you...
stable, clear, and sure of making
three right decisions
you honestly feel that none of
apply to you all; and...
your excellent partner has done
all these things too.
Gain extra assurance on the last three
criteria by working on this study
course with your partner for
Q21) Why are
typical U.S. stepfamilies at higher risk of psychological or legal divorce
average biofamilies (first marriages)?
Many stepfamily authors and commentators estimate American
(legal) re/divorce rates to be
60% to 70%, though I can find no census data to support
36 years' professional study, I believe
explain why typical stepfamilies experience significant
which may promote
eventual legal or psychological
despite mates' prior experience,
in one or both mates
ignorances and unawareness
of prior life losses (broken bonds)
making up t5o three unwise
help with thee stressors locally or in the media.
For average mates, statistics are less important than
realities and their
How can we tell if we need courtship counseling, and how can we pick an effective stepfamily counselor?
"traditional" (intact) biofamilies in over
Millions of disillusioned, exhausted American couples eventually
there is a lot to learn and evaluate before deciding if and when to
re/wed, I recommend that no matter how
couple seriously thinking about forming or joining a stepfamily...
invest time and energy taking and discussing
these worksheets, and then...
get an informed
professional opinion on the feasibility of their re/marriage.
"Informed" means "thoroughly
knowledgeable of these
or equivalent. See
these questions and answers on counseling, this
this unique self-improvement
Q24) How heavily should I
weigh my child/ran's opinions in deciding on stepfamily commitments?
thinking of forming or joining a stepfamily do well to...
keep your personal
and short and long term
inform your kids honestly and
promptly if you date a new partner seriously;
educate yourself on these three
inevitable stepfamily stressors and
decide how you mates should handle them;
your minor kids' status on filling their
respectfully to their
questions and reactions, and respond factually and clearly; and...
do not let their opinions
or needs determine
you should re/marry
to commit to.
you're sure your
found your soulmate, and...
you've put in months of honest work at
do let your kids' feelings,
help you to decide
My clinical experience and other researchers suggest that
bioparents who consistently put their kids' needs
their primary relationship (other than emergencies) are at the highest risk of
Q25) Are there any
helpful guides for planning our wedding and honeymoon?
weddings and honeymoons are
much more emotionally,
logistically, and financially complex than first nuptials. They need more
planning, discussion, negotiation, and
with more people.
to help you all make the best short and long-range decisions are...
If you know any stepfamily mates, ask about their wedding experiences and
Q26) I love the person I'm
dating, and I'm not crazy about one (or more) of
their kids. Is that
likely to improve if we
dislike, disrespect, or distrust one or more potential stepkids,
or you sense they don't like or feel comfortable with you, those feelings will shrink
over time or they won't. Because there are so many variables, I know of no
reliable way to predict which will happen, or when.
For more perspective, use this
right-stepchild evaluation worksheet.
Option - identify who is "not crazy" about your potential
stepchild - your
or some other personality
If the latter, that's a bigger potential stressor than making friends with
your partner's child. See this
series of Lesson-1
articles on "parts work" for options. Also,
get clear on who your
partner will support if you have a conflict with his or her child. If s/he
favors the child,
Typical minor stepkids need to...
Kids who haven't filled these and other
family-adjustment needs can often seem
hostile or indifferent to a new stepparent
and/or to potential stepsiblings or relatives. Time, patience, stepfamily awareness,
and shared experiences may
or may not reduce or convert these to
genuine acceptance and friendship (vs.
Potential stepkids often feel stressed by - and cause - major
When these force choices, most
minor and adult children will side with a bioparent vs. a potential or legal
stepparent, despite the latter being warm, friendly, trustworthy, and
empathic. Logic, shoulds, and
musts are of little use here.
Another problem you may experience is that one or more potential stepkids (a) are
painful reminders that...
you'll never be your partner's first love, and that
must accept your partner's ongoing co-parenting relationship with his or her
ex mate/s and prior kids.
You may resent your partner giving
more priority to a biochild than to you "too often."
you may dislike what
your stepchild stands for, not the child.
You may also have "bad chemistry" - i.e. one-way or mutual
dislike. This may mute with time,
shared experiences, learning and accepting stepfamily realities, and grieving progress. Stepkids' "other
bioparent" and key relatives' acceptances and attitudes are usually major
See these stepparent-stepchild
for more perspective and options.
Q27) My partner and I
disagree on trying to conceive one or more
("ours") kids. How concerned should I be about this?
You two have a
which will probably
change if you commit to
each other. One or both of you will
have to compromise, vs. the popular alternative of denying or minimizing this
conflict. This may eventually become a major relationship and stepfamily stressor.
and honestly discuss
this article for more
perspective on evolving an effective way to manage inevitable values
choose a long-range
perspective. and a
to illuminate your
work at forming realistic stepfamily
expectations in making your
conception or adoption decisions.
Q28) Other people tell us
we'll be forming a
stepfamily if we
re/marry, but my partner and/or I don't see it that way. Who's right?
If either of you partners is the single parent of a minor or grown
biological or adopted child, you
are a psychological (vs.
here is for you to unearth the
you're reluctant to accept that
and what it
Q29) I feel my partner and I
ought to wait and learn more about what we're getting into, and
s/he's pushing to re/marry soon.
What should we do?
You have important
conflicts. I suspect your real
discomforts spring from whether you both...
whether you each...
genuinely value your and your
partner's needs and priorities
are helping each other use
as co-equal partners, vs. opponents.
more perspective, read and discuss (a) this summary of five common
stepfamily hazards, (b) these courtship
overview, and (d) this
Consider investing in my unique,
Stepfamily Courtship (Xlibris.com, 2003), which integrates key
articles in this Web site.
Q30) My partner is
(and/or I am)
prior marriages and/or divorces. Is that normal and OK?
The "discomfort" is real - and is a
symptom of the primary problem. The uncomfortable partner probably
has significant psychological
Often divorce-related embarrassment comes from feeling that - no
matter how justified - ending your marriage is a personal failure, and other
people and/or God will scorn and reject you for breaking your vows.
(broken bonds) may compound this.
These clues indicate that a well-meaning false self is probably controlling
at least the "uncomfortable" one, or maybe
tend to automatically choose each other as partners repeatedly, despite
painful outcomes. Use this
to make an initial assessment.
After all they've been
through, I feel strongly my children
should come first if we re/marry. My partner seems ambivalent or opposed
to that. What should we do?
common surface reasons for stepfamily
the stepparent losing hope
s/he'll ever feel
their mate, and feeling increasingly hurt, resentful, frustrated,
regretful (what have I done?), and despair; and/or...
the bioparent wearying of the anxiety,
guilt, and resentment of
having to choose
between their kids' needs, their new partner's needs, their own
and stressful, and will
force bioparents to demonstrate (vs. declare) their true relationship
Read and discuss this challenging long-term
Q32) My partner
isn't interested in learning
about stepfamilies. Should I insist?
No. Insisting, whining, pleading, and/or nagging will create a
toxic "be spontaneous!"
which will probably
increase your problems. A better solution
check to see if your
If not, work patiently at
delay any courtship decisions.
learn and apply these
learn to use respectful
assertions with your partner (e.g. "When you show no interest in
learning about stepfamilies, I feel _____, and I need _____.");
assess whether your partner (a) understands
what a stepfamily
(b) accepts that by co-committing to each other, you'll form (or join) a
If your partner balks or evades these,
it's likely s/he is controlled
If so - and s/he is unwilling to
for psychological wounds - ask yourself why you want to commit to a
and his/her relatives. Avoiding this question or rationalizing it may
and underlying wounds and
Is re/marriage with
a childless partner more stressful than with a single parent?
Maybe, depending on many
factors. A stepparent who is also a bioparent can usually empathize with
his/her partner about child-related issues better than a stepparent who has
never conceived or nurtured a child. This can be an asset in managing
On the other hand, when both mates are bioparents and stepparents (a
"blended" stepfamily), there are more kids, ex mates, and relatives to
juggle, more complicated visitation logistics, and more chances for
and loyalty conflicts and relationship
All of these can combine to significantly stress mate's primary relationship.
Q34) Overall, what are the
main suggestions to help us make wise
U.S. re/divorce estimates imply that
millions of U.S. stepfamily
couples commit to the wrong
for the wrong
on why, I propose that these
provide the answer.
If so, the best way to make three
sure each of you is governed by your wise true Self (Lesson 1); and
accept that you're considering forming
or joining a
and that these hazards
will apply to you, your relatives, and your descendents. Then...
patiently study, discuss, and apply
before you swap vows!
Options: Read and discuss the
Stepfamily Courtship (Xlibris.com, 2003)
together. Whether you exchange vows or not, each of you working on
for inherited psychological
(build effective communication
will significantly improve your and your kids' lives.
you're a single parent, note that these recommendations will apply to you
and anyone you date seriously...