Continued from p. 1...
Q23) 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
developmental and family-adjustment
respectfully to their
questions and reactions, and respond factually and clearly; and...
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
Q24) 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...
Q25) 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.
Q26) 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 (vs. biofamily)
expectations in making your
conception or adoption decisions.
Q27) 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
Q28) 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
(priority) 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
(c) this overview, and (d) this
Consider investing in my unique,
Stepfamily Courtship (Xlibris.com, 2003), which integrates key
Web-articles in this Web site.
Q29) 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
Q31) My partner
isn't interested in learning
about stepfamilies. Should I insist?
No. Insisting, whining, catastrophizing, 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
and delay any courtship decisions. Otherwise...
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.
Q33) Overall, what are the
main suggestions to help us make wise
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 and your descendents.
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
(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...