- evolve and enjoy a high-nurturance stepfamily
Is This the Right Time To
to Stepfamily Re/marriage?
Many couples re/marry too
By Peter K. Gerlach, MSW
NSRC Expert Council
The Web address of this
If you're courting and neither of you is a parent, use this
Clicking links below will open a full window or an informational popup, so
please turn off your browser's popup
blocker or allow popups from this nonprofit, ad-free Web site. If your
This is one of three Lesson-7
worksheets designed to help courting couples make wise commit-ment choices for
themselves and their dependent kids.
worksheets exist because sociologists esti-mate more U.S. stepfamily unions fail
legally or psychologically (~60%+) than first marriages (50%+).
The "/" in re/marriage and re/divorce
notes that it may be a stepparent's first union. "Co-parents" means any of the
related stepparents and bioparents co-managing a multi-home nuclear
This worksheet assumes you're familiar with...
intro to this nonprofit
Web site, and the premises
Q&A, and this quiz
example of a real
This worksheet focuses on couples picking the right
commit to forming or joining a step-family.
Use the worksheet to assess...
stepchild readiness, and...
related co-parents are to nurture as a
If you sense that making wise
stepfamily-commitment choices is complex - you're
right. So is psychological and legal
who is about to fill out this worksheet - your
or some other
If the latter, expect
Read this page and follow any links of
interest. Most are popups. Then print the work-sheet, and allocate at least 30" of undistracted
of open-minded curiosity, and "this is a win-win-win investment of my time
for me and my present and future child/ren (if any)." If you don't
these, a protective
probably controls you.
Diagram who comprises your
- i.e. all people living regularly in each of your minor and adult
children's homes. The adults in each minor child's home/s are your
biasing your answers, each of you mates do this worksheet alone.
Then compare and discuss your results together.
conclusions until you both have completed this and the two related
your thoughts and feelings as you fill out
this worksheet. The process of
filling it out can be just as
instructive as your answers!
Star or hilight items that you want to learn
more about. Asterisked (*) items below are unique to typical
If you hedge your answers here, you're potentially hurting yourself, your partner, and
Recall: most stepfamily partnerships fail long term,
romance-dazed courting partners make up to three
Is This The Right Time to Form or Join a
Personal Readiness Factors
has lived alone as an adult (i.e. without roommates, live-in lovers, kids, or
kin) for at least two years. Living alone promotes healthy
discovery of one's
life purpose, self-confidence, and starting
is clearly independent enough, psychologically and financially, from
parents, siblings, and relatives. This includes having
had enough time to clearly grieve _ any dead early caregivers, relatives, prime
friends, partners, and _ any aborted, miscarried, and/or dead children. Men
need to grieve too!
|3) S/He has had time to
whether s/he has significant psychological
_ s/he is clearly self-motivated
to do that within the next month.
|4) If s/he does
identify as a
s/he can now _ clearly name the specific
inner wounds s/he needs to reduce, and
_ has clearly begun
implementing a Self-motivated, viable,
plan to do so.
|5) S/He has had a stable set of friends,
acquaintances, and supporters for at least 18 months, vs. being socially isolated.
|6) S/He now seems consistently
and stable enough,
psychologi-cally, physically, and mentally.
|7) S/He has evolved a
idea about what her/his main mission or life-purpose is now, and is
pursuing it; or s/he is now actively seeking to clarify that.
|8) S/He can clearly
describe _ the
that s/he wants this
relationship to fill, and _ the key
ingredients of a high-nurturance
_ has been financially stable
for at least 18 months, and has _ has no major debts now; or
_ s/he is working a clearly
effective, self-motivated plan to eliminate ma-jor debts. S/He is
_ clearly able to financially support herself/himself and any depen-dent kid/s adequately, now.
|10) If s/he probably or surely has
to a substance (including nico-tine,
caffeine, sugar, fat, and/or starches), an activity (e.g. workaholism), a person
(e.g. codependence), or an emotional state (e.g. rage or excitement), s/he
_ has clearly dis-solved
_ is obviously working steadily at a high-priority, Self-motivated
|11) S/He consistently high self-esteem: i.e. s/he believes that her
or his personal feel-ings, needs, opinions, dignity,
and rights are
just as important as those of other key adults
regularly practices _
with kids and adults (ref. Lesson 2)
S/He is _ well
along in studying Lessons
_ can accurately an-swer most of the items in these
S/He clearly accepts _ our
(or equiva-lent term),
_ what that identity
_ that both living parents of each of
our minor and grown children are equal co-parenting
in our stepfamily.
can now clearly describe _ what an interpersonal
is, and _ has an effective strategy for identifying and resolving such conflicts in our
|16*) S/He can now clearly describe
_ what a stepfamily
is and _ why it can be
significantly divisive and stressful, and _ s/he has
evolved an effective strategy for identifying and resolving such conflicts in our
home and stepfamily.
17) S/He can now clearly describe
_ what a
is and _
why it can be
significantly divisive and stressful; and _ s/he has an effective strategy for preven-ting, identifying, and
- triangles in and between our co-parenting homes.
|18*) S/He is clear and
unambivalent now on who would be included as legitimate
if w choose to co-commit,
including all co-parenting ex mates.
|19*) S/He can _
name at least 20 of the ~70 structural and
dynamic ways that average stepfamilies differ from typical intact
biofamilies; and _ s/he is well along in converting any personal
stepfamily myths into realistic
|20*) S/He _ can clearly
name most of the 30+ special adjustment
that average minor stepchildren must fill, _ has
tailored that list to fit each of the
minor kids in our prospective multi-home stepfamily, and _ has begun to co-evolve and implement a
via-ble plan to help each dependent child
satisfy their unique set of needs.
known all her/his
prospective minor and/or grown stepchildren for at least 18 months (more
is better), and _ has had many (say ~20+) chances to spend group or alone time with them
in a variety of settings to "get a feel for" each of them (and vice versa).
At least 30 months have passed
since her/his marital separation (vs. legal
divorce) or since their mates death and burial.
More is better.
|23*) S/He can now
_ describe factually why they divorced
_ without excessively
bla-ming either partner.
|24*) S/He is clearly
_ well along in grieving significant divorce or death
relationships, dreams, rituals, securities, belongings, and identity; and is
_ clearly get-ting on
with life in a
|25*) S/He has clearly made
significant progress toward admitting,
forgiving, and healing pre-divorce and post-divorce
her/his ex and their relatives.
|26*) S/He has clearly
about "failing" and/or hurting or depriving biochild/ren
and kin because of their biofamilys breakup and related events.
- stretch, breathe, and
notice your thoughts and emotions. Did your true Self fill out this part of
the worksheet, or ''someone else''? Consider journaling about this
experience now to increase your awareness.
Is This The Right
Time to Form or Join a
Couple Readiness Factors
Even if each of you partners
are personally ready to commit to a stepfamily union, you may not be ready
to do so as a couple, This next section of the worksheet offers a way for
you to assess this. Check each item you feel accurately describes the two of
you now. Numbering continues from above.
We've had enough time together to discuss and agree on...…
- how high does our relationship rank?
how we'll spot and resolve
conflicts and relationship
to live together: a new home, or one of ours?
_ specifically what we want to accomplish in our prospective stepfamily over time - i.e.
what our shared
_ what our home and family
_ whether to
conceive children together, and - if
"yes," approximately when to do so.
of any stepchild/ren.
And as a couple, we've had adequate time to...
__ 32*) identify
and resolve any major values differences on...
_ child discipline values and practices,
_ normal and special
child visitations and holidays,
_ child-custody agreements,
child-support details - i.e. our co-parents' respective financial obligations
for each dependent child;
_ religious and
beliefs and worship practices;
_ relations with
_ co-parenting ex mates and _ key relatives;
_ any significant conflicts or
confusions over first and last names;
_ resolving major debts or legal
matters either of us currently has or expects.
_ how we'll handle bills and checking
accounts - who pays for what?,
_ any pre-nuptial financial contract/s
_ retirement and estate plans (wills and trusts);
_ life and medical insurance coverages; and...
_ legal debt and asset-ownership
titles - e.g. property mortgages, vehicle and real estate
titles, retirement and savings accounts,
notes and loans, credit-card debts...; .
Even if you mates and partners are prepared to commit to stepfamily
life, one or more stepkids may not be ready. How can you assess
Over time, all minor kids must master a group of developmental tasks to
gain successful adult independence. Minor and grown kids whose parents
divorce or die - and remarry - also have two or three sets of adjustment
tasks to master to maintain wholistically-healthy growth. Stepkids
need their several co-parents to know about all three or four sets of
tasks and how to help with them - as a team.
If minor kids are behind in their normal developmental tasks and
aren't getting informed, gui-dance on mastering their mix
of tasks, they're apt to cause
"significant problems" at home, at school, and between
their co-parenting homes.
gauge a stepchild's readiness for parental remarriage and stepfamily
membership, courting co-parents need to (a) understand stepfamily basics
(Lesson 7 here), and (b) assess the child's status on these three or
The more "behind" a child is with these tasks, the less
prepared s/he'll be to adapt to confusing new stepfamily roles like
stepdaughter (son), stepgrandson (daughter), and step-sibling.
Difficulty with these roles will stress newlyweds and other family
__ 33*) Before committing, each of you mates study and rank
the status of each minor and
grown child with...
Use these to help evaluate each child:
When you're done evaluating a minor or grown child, rank her or
him as _ seriously behind, _ moderately behind, _ acceptable progress
for their age and gender, or _ ahead of normal expectations. Then
add your ranking for each child to the other parts of this right-time
worksheet Because this asses-sment must be subjective, consider asking
other family adults to help you judge each child's ranking.
perspective, any time a stepchild "acts out" before ort after adult
commitment, that may indicate s/he is overwhelmed by the mix of these
simultaneous tasks, and needs informed co-parenting help.
The last group of commitment-timing factors is...
Typical nuclear stepfamilies have
related bioparents and stepparents. Each adult has unique ideas and
values about how to raise a child effectively. The degree of harmony or
conflict among co-parents on who's responsible for what with each
stepchild can significantly affect family relations - specially
This last part of the right-time worksheet provides a way to assess how
likely co-parenting harmony will be in your potential stepfamily.
Numbering continues from above.
Each co-parent in our
pre-commitment stepfamily has clearly had enough
whether s/he needs to
significant psychological wounds (Lesson 1). In my exper-
since 1979, most stepfamily co-parents are
__ 35*) recover well enough from any prior
__ 36*) agree without
ambivalence that we are co-parenting partners with a common
__ 37*) agree on...
_ the traits of a
high-nurturance family (Lesson
_ our collective
as a normal multi-home
in our stepfamily,
_ what "effective
parenting" and _ "effective child
_ how to
communicate effectively with
each of us will call
each other (e.g. "I'm Jason's 'stepfather' and Rena's 'new
husband', and Jason's my 'stepson', and Natalie's 'stepbrother'.
My Mom is Jason's 'step- grandmother', and... (etc.)";
_ any legal parenting agreements,
and child custody, visitations, child-support, and holi-
co-parents have had enough time to...
__ 38) discuss
if and how the lethal [wounds + unawareness]
affects us, and what to do if it does.
begin evolving a clear-enough shared idea of...
_ how to
and stabilize our several biofamilies over time; and...
for what co-parenting
tasks with each of our minor
_ how to evolve a
stepfamily together (Lesson 3), and...
major co-parenting and other
among us effectively
co-parents are well along with evolving....
_ 40*) emotional + financial + inter-home stability
after any divorce, child-related, or other post-
divorce legal suits among us.
+ + +
||The 19 asterisked items above document how many more right-time factors there
are for courting stepfamily couples to consider compared to first-marriage
Each couple will have unique factors like these four groups that
will shape whether it's the right time for them to commit to
stepfamily life. The number of factors here demonstrates the complexity
of this commitment decision.
| Even if you've each met the right
the right co-parents, the right stepkids, and you want to re/marry for the right reasons - if you
and your partner can't honestly each check many of these right
launch or join your complex stepfamily too soon.
Pause, breathe, and recall why you read this worksheet. Did you get what
you needed? If so, what do you need now? If not - what
Is there anyone you want to
discuss these ideas with?
Who's answering these
questions - your wise resident
If you haven't done them yet, now fill out and discuss these related
Lesson-7 worksheets: choose the right people to
commit to, for the right reasons. Keep
studying and discussing
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April 30, 2013