address of this article is
This article is for single parents and partners who are
considering long-term commitment. If you and
your beloved have no prior kids, go here.
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This is one of a series of Lesson-7 articles
on howtoevolve a
high-nurturance stepfamily. The "/" in re/marriage and re/divorce
notes that it may be a stepparent's first union. "Co-parents" means both
biological parents, or any of the
three or more stepparents and bioparents co-managing a multi-home
video previews key parts of this article: The video mentions eight lessons
in this self-improvement Web site - I've reduced that to seven.
Millions of average stepfamily
couples re/divorce psychologically or legally despite their
maturity, love, and
earnest commitment vows. Few (none?) of them know about these widespread
or expect to re/divorce. Divorce begins by making unwise courtship
(commitment) choices. Lessons 1-7
here can help loved-dazed couples choose the right
to commit to, for the right
at the right
36 years clinical study, this
worksheet summarizes 21
common danger signs that courting couples with prior kids should heed
to avoid making unwise commitment choices.
Choose an undistracted place and time and an open mind to get the most from
this checklist. Then see if your
true Self is
you. If not, well-meaning "false selves" may distort your responses. I suggest each mate fill out this worksheet separately to avoid
biasing each other. Then compare and discuss your results. As you do this,
notice your emotions - they're reliable pointers to what you
Stepfamily-courtship Danger Signs
The more of these 21 things that seem true about you and/or your partner,
the more likely you'll make up to three unwise courtship commitment
choices. Each danger sign suggests one or
both of you may be psychologically
wounded and unaware.
Circle "me," "you," or both of you if a sign applies. No circles
means "this danger sign doesn't apply to either of us."
+ unrecognized or denied wounds are the two main causes of
One or both
of us have not used
Lesson 1 to honestly
assess for psychological
denying or ignoring our findings.
(True / False)
3) One or both of us, and/or an ex-mate, has many of these
traits in their family tree.
traits often indicate psychologically-wounded, unaware ancestors who
passed these on
to their descendents. (Me / You / ex mate)
4) One or both of us
"pass" this quiz on stepfamily
knowledge. Unawareness is one five epidemic re/marital
5) One or both of us has persistent thoughts like "Donít
commit / to these people / now!" If you often have thoughts like
these and/or significant relationship doubts or worries when you let
your mind get quiet, something is wrong.If you ignore such
thoughts or avoid quiet meditations (a sign of a disabled true Self), you
risk years of significant future personal and stepfamily stress. (Me /
get quietand invite
your inner voice to tell you specifically why itís warning you. Try
without editing for logic or "common sense."
Pay attention to your hunches,
intuitions, "senses" and inner voices - your
personality subselves are trying to tell you something!
or both of us feels
urgency or desperation to commit and/or cohabit, . A related warning symptom is believing "I canít live or be happy without
you!" Such intense feelings and needs are a bright
red light. They may be symptoms of
(relationship addiction). (Me / You)
Danger sign 7) Seriously
discussing relationship commitment within (roughly) 18 months since you met
or since any prior primary-partner breakup. Stop
and explore - perhaps with
professional help - which of your personality subselves is giving you this urgency.
Expect to find needy
and their dedicated
subselves. (Me / You)
For more perspective and long-term safety, do at least
8) If you and/or your
partner say or think "My kids come first with me,"STOP all re/marriage
discussions! (Me / You)
surface reason for our tragic U.S. re/divorce
epidemic is bitter, disillusioned stepparents saying "I got too
tired of coming in second (or fifth) with my mate and feeling this wouldn't
If you doubt that...
re/married bioparents mustoften choose between their new mate and their biokids (or ex mate, or
relatives), and that...
More warning signs of unwise stepfamily-courtship decisions...
hostility and/or conflicts with one
or both of us over
and/or child visitations, custody, and financial support. If a
stepchild's other bioparent is often angry, combative, uncooperative,
dishonest, disrespectful, explosive, or secretive, s/he's probably
wounded and unaware - not bad. (Me / You)
Your children's living or dead
"other parent/s" will be full
until they or your children die. Accept the validity of stepfamily
author Joy Connolly's book: "I Married a Family."
My clinical experience since 1981 suggests that chronic conflict between
divorcing bioparents - including
legal battles - comes from some mix of these
relationship barriers. Do
not expect that if you or they re/marry, the "other parent"
will become more rational and cooperative!
11) We partners have
not honestly discussed if we should conceive children together or not. Childless
stepparents may assume their mate will want to have one or more babies with
them only to find out after re/marriage that isn't true.(Me
One or both of us expects that
our partner, a child, a parent, an ex mate, or a relative will
change significantly-unpleasant traits "somehow" after you re/marry
and/or cohabit. (Me / You)
They probably wonít,
no matter how loving, patient, pious, and
reasonable you are. If theyíre not going to change, do you still want you
and any dependent kids to commit "ítil death us do part"?
Danger 13) One or both of us and/or your kids have experienced many recent major life changes or traumas (e.g.
in the last 4-6 months).
Examples: firings or new jobs; changing homes, schools, or
churches; separations and/or
sudden financial losses or gains; deaths or major health impairments;
pregnancies and births; graduations or flunk-outs; legal suits or
judgments; natural disasters; bankruptcy; home break-ins or muggings; rape
or murder; and sudden family-membership-shifts; Ö(Me / You)
Events like these may cause disorienting
emotional/spiritual bonds) which require time, support, and solitude to
well. When many losses occur in a short time, their immediate and secondary
impacts can distort adultsí and kidsí thinking, and hinder forming new bonds
- specially if they are
This seems to be the current (global?) norm.
to recent major personal and family changes and losses is n
ot a good
to make courtship commitments! Invest in your future by taking
many months to sort everything out, grieve well,
(Lesson 3) and rebalance your
lives first. Help each other keep a long-range view!
Another courtship danger sign in either mate or an ex mate, child, or
If you or your partner believe
anyone in your stepfamily-to-be is or was addicted,
yellow light. Addictions are clear signs of major
and trauma, and psychologically-wounded ancestors. Hitting personal
and a demonstrated commitment to a
12-step addiction-control program are essential first steps in
management. See this for more
Danger 15) Chronically
ill, depressed, and/or "acting-out"
minor or adult children. (Me / You)
Do you and/or
your beloved partner have one or more kids with traits
serious academic or social school problems, including few or no friends,
or preferring "toxic" or troubled (wounded) friends;
Repeated trouble with truancy, gangs, cults, and/or the law;
Non-experimental drug use, or clear chemical dependence, including fats
and/or writing or talking about suicide;
Preoccupation with fantasy, death, violence, sex, and/or the occult;
and/or sleep, digestive, or eating problems like anorexia, bulimia, and
These are often high-alert symptoms of prior
and kids. Ongoing or escalating symptoms like these are courtship red
lights.Stop any plans to form or join a stepfamily until you find the
real causes for these symptoms, and the
person/s make clear progress towards reducing them.
stresses will probably make things
17) One or both of us
you, your partner,
and/or any prospective
co-parenting partners often need to
or withhold key truths ("lying by omission"),
defer any re/wedding plans!
(Me / You)
18) One or both of us has
past or present romantic or sexualaffairs.
(Me / You)
delays, denials, and/or avoidances.
If you or your partner
consistently avoid serious, intimate discussions and conflicts on any
topic in this worksheet,
avoiders - and people who "always want to have fun!" or "focus on the
bright side!" -
something or someone. Their ruling subselves are likely to
that these dominate your relationshipís growth and evolution.
avoidances and denials to watch for...
"Stepparenting is basically
no different than bioparenting."
"This [wounds + unawareness]
cycle is no threat to us and our kids.
"We can and should
handle our own problems (vs. using
qualified outside help)"
"A familyís just a family. Stepfamilies
all that different. Our life experience as
grown adults, spouses and veteran parents is enough!" I / we do not need to study
whatís normal and
in a stepfamily now"
"Weíve all courted /
lived together for ___ months without
big problems, so eventual re/divorce? Not
"Thereís no point in learning
about psychological wounds.
Thatís just psycho-babble and a waste of
time. The past is done, over, finito - donít you get it?";
(Flashing red light!)
These common stepfamily misconceptions
promote unrealistic (biofamily) expectations, conflict, and potential
re/divorce. For more myths (and realities), see
this article after you finish here.
20) One or both of us says proudly "We never fight!"This may signal
that you two are avoiding inevitable disagreements, and don't know how to
problem-solve effectively a teammates. (Me / You)
last common stepfamily-courtship warning sign is...
21) Choosing to cohabit
before - or instead of - formal marriage. This can mean reluctance to really commit
- which is often a sign of psychological wounds like distrust and fear. For perspective, see this summary of a 2005
suggesting that unmarried families break up more often than married ones.
Pause and notice what you're feeling and thinking.
36 years' clinical
research with over 1,000 average divorcing and stepfamily adults, I
propose that these 21 traits reliably predict serious stepfamily
relationship / maritalstress.
The more of these traits that apply to a courting couple, the higher the odds of
major future stress, heartache, and loss.
in the bliss of new romantic love will often
deny, minimize, or rationalize (distort) these warning signs. In America, over half of them eventually
re/divorce psychologically or legally.
Minor kids depend on their courting
bioparent to heed these warnings! For their sakes and yours,
work hard together over
many months doing these self-improvement
committing you and your kids to stepfamily life!