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This is one of a series of lesson-7 articles
on howtoevolve a
stepfamily. The "/" in re/marriage and re/divorce
notes that it may be a stepparent's first union. "Co-parents" means both
bioparents, or any of the
three or more stepparents and bioparents co-managing a multi-home
This article hilights (a) the "instant-love" expectation in
many new stepfamilies, (b) the primary causes of this error, and (c) options
for reducing these causes over time. Before continuing,
say out loud why you're reading this
article. What do you need?
article assumes you're familiar with....
the intro to this nonprofit Web site and the
Typical stepfamilies differ from
intact biofamilies in over
60 ways. Most stepfamily members aren't aware of these differences.
Adults and kids long
for their stepfamily to feel and act "normal" - i.e. like an idealized
Among dozens of
(unrealistic expectations) this unawareness causes, one of the most
stressful is "we new (step)family
members should love each other (like
healthy biofamily members)." This is specially true for stepparents and
stepkids, stepsiblings, and
kids and stepgrandparents.
As new-stepfamily members
merge their several biofamilies over some years, an implacable reality
step-kin's real feelings for each other range from
indifference to friendship (liking) - but rarely become (biofamily) love.
When stepfamily adults and kids feel they're "supposed to" love each other
and they don't, they can feel blame, self-doubt, guilt, anxiety,
confusion, resentment, and hurt.
adults and supporters don't know how to
discuss this problem openly, and/or feel unsafe doing so, these normal
feelings promote dishonesty (pretense) and double messages - like saying or writing "I
love you" when you really don't.
This "instant love" myth can stress
if a bioparent expects their new mate to love their stepchild/ren and
feel and act like a bioparent. The reverse problem occurs when a stepparent
or other relative criticizes a bioparent for not urging their child to love their
new relatives. Stepsiblings can feel confused and stressed if they're told -
or assume - they should love each other. Each of these
situations causes stressful relationship
"instant love" myth is causing significant problems in your
stepfamily, what are the
underlying causes, and what options do your adults have to resolve them?
As a veteran stepfamily researcher and therapist, I propose that this "instant
love" stressor is a symptom of up to
five primary problems:
One or more
adults - including grandparents and in-laws - have inherited significant
or ignore this or don't know what to do about it. This is a common root of most
significant stepfamily role and relationship
One of six common wounds is
realitydistortion, which can manifest as expecting a
stepfamily to feel and behave like an idealized intact biofamily ("so we
all should love each other.")
YouTube video explores
reality distortion. The video mentions eight lessons in this
self-improvement Web site - I've simplified that to seven.
Identify which of your adults is expecting "instant love," and use Lesson 1
for psychological wounds. Then consider these options for relating to them.
Another widespread core problem is...
2) One or more adults or kidsare denying
or ignoring their
identity as a normal stepfamily, and they don't (want to) know
what that identity
means. One result: They mistakenly expect their
family roles and relationships to feel and act like
those in an intact biofamily.
They may deny their
denial or minimize it
("OK, so we're a stepfamily - so what?"). A common reason for
this is semi-conscious shame - believing "I'm in an inferior,
abnormal type of family." Stepfamily-identity-denial and ignorance
breeds many problems, not just the "instant love" myth. This
article provides options for
correcting this problem.
3) Even if stepfamily adultsagree "We are a stepfamily,"
they and their supporters may not know what's normal in a typical stepfamily
- i.e. they're applying biofamily norms and expectations to their
alien new roles
and relationships, and they don't know that.
test for this unawareness, study and discuss these stepfamily
facts and Q&A items and
these common myths and realities. If
your adults, kids, and supporters
truly accept your stepfamily identity and norms
and still expect "instant love," several other core problems
may need to be resolved. A common one is that...
4) one or more adults or
kids haven't grieved their major
family-adjustment losses. Typical stepfamily members
each need to identify and grieve major
losses (broken bonds) from...
parent death or divorce, and their family
splitting into several homes; and...
parental re/marriage, cohabiting, and biofamily
before they can accept their stepfamily identity and form stable new bonds with
Psychological wounds and ignorance of stepfamily
realities and "good-grief"
basics hinder healthy
mourning. Lesson 3 suggests practical ways
home and stepfamily.
Another possible core problem promoting the "instant love" myth is...
time-sense is distorted (unrealistic). For various reasons, adults
or kids may
feel "We've all been together in this home or family long enough,
so you/we should love each other by now." Reflect on this:
how long does it take for genuine adult-child love to bloom? How
long to grow true, stable respect between two people?
Most stepfamily researchers
propose that it usually takes four or more yearsafter re/marriage for typical stepfamily members to know, accept, and trust each
other. That may or may not include respect and liking.
Learning and accepting this time span is part of adopting realistic stepfamily
expectations. If someone in your home or
stepfamily is exceptionally impatient (needy) for
step-relatives to love eachother, they're probably wounded and
unaware. See #1 above.
We just overviewed five common problems that can promote
expectations among new stepfamily members and their supporters. Usually several of these
are present and reinforce each other, until they're reduced.
So what can stepfamily adults do about these problems?
To convert unrealistic expectations - including "instant love" - into stepfamily
realities, adults need to...
check themselves and each other for
psychological wounds, and commit to reducing them over time
help each other - specially kids -
many losses, so everyone can...
accept their identity as a normal stepfamily,
learn what that identity
help each other grow realistic expectations; and...
their several biofamilies over some years,
seeking to grow friendship and
respect, not love;
and adults can...
Ask key people in their stepfamily to read
and discuss this article, and to study Lesson 7for everyone's
How do you feel about these options? Are you motivated to discuss and try
A stressful misconception that
some stepfamily members and supporters carry is that new-stepfamily members -
stepkids, and stepsiblings - are supposed to "love" each other
like (idealized) biofamily members. When this doesn't happen, adults and
kids can pretend love they don't feel and feel confused, self-critical,
clinical experience, this
article offers five primary reasons why new-stepfamily members may expect to
love each other (and have other illusions), and suggests practical options
toward accepting stepfamily realities.
Pause, breathe, and recall why you read this article. Did you get what
you needed? If so, what do you need now? If not - what
do you need? Who's answering these questions - your wise resident
true Self, or