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This is one of a series of
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 bioparents, or any of the
related stepparents and bioparents co-managing a multi-home
This article assumes you're familiar with...
intro to this
nonprofit Web site, and the
This YouTube video previews some of what you'll read in this article:
Millions of U.S.
stepfamily re/marriages eventually break up legally or
psychologically. One of five
reasons for this is unawareness
of stepfamily realities and other vital topics. This causes unrealistic
stepfamily expectations (myths), which promote significant stress. Individual
stepfamily myths may be
minor, but their combined impact promotes unwise commitment choices, escalating
low family nurturance,
and eventual re/divorce.
This article identifies60 common stepfamily myths and
the corresponding realities, based on
36 years' research and
clinical experience with over 1,000 typical stepfamily members.
- On a scale of 1 (I
have many unrealistic expectations about our stepfamily)
to 10 (all my
expectations are totally realistic),
I'm a ___. We'll revisit
this at the end of the article.
"This may be true for some stepfamilies, but
skim this - we don't need to do every
that's probably a protective false self. To sense what those
subselves fear or need, ask yourself "If
this (reality) is true, what would it mean to me?" Try using this
dig-down technique to
get a clear answer.
Choose an undistracted time
and place, and the
open-minded curiosity of a student.
Ifyou, your mate, or
other key people (who?) believe an item below, check the appropriate box.
If you're not sure, use "?" Star or hilight any specially important items.
Note your thoughts and feelings as you fill this out - they're as useful as
your answers. Option: journal or tape record
your reactions as you go.
see an unclear term, consult these
Mentally answer each item,
and then click on the
item number to see a popup with the typical reality.
Ask other stepfamily members to fill out this worksheet, and then
Consider making these myths and realities topics for several
family meetings. Your kids need to know what to expect too!
Stepfamily expectation Who
1) A stepfamily forms only after the death
of a bioparent (vs. divorce), and the re/ marriage of the surviving bioparent.
2) If their kids are all grown, bioparents
who re/marry do not form a stepfamily.
bioparents whose children are grown and independent bypass most of the major stepfamily
problems that co-parents of minor kids have.
4) The parents and kids in a normal
stepfamily live in one home.
5) Stepfamilies are pretty much the same as
intact first-marriage (bio)families.
6) Most of my ideas and values about
co-managing my former household ought to work well enough in this new family.
7) My and my partner's prior
family experience, our love, and our common sense, make studying stepfamilies unnecessary.
we run into any major stepfamily problems, our relatives and friends will empathize with and support us.
psychological and spiritual health
(nurturance level) of my and my new mate's childhoods, and that of our ex-mates, has little to do with our re/marital
and stepfamily success now. The past is past!
11) Our courtship
experiences together are a pretty reliable guide as to how we'll all get along
after we exchange vows.
12) Moving in together and/or re/wedding
creates a new family, and we'll all feel like one soon after we do these.
13) Though my child/ren
and I have
lived as an absent-parent family for a while, we can include my new partner (and her
or his kids, if
any) in our home, habits, and lives easily enough (or vice versa).
14) I won't have to put my new partner
or my child/ren "first" in our new family. I can love and support them
15) I'd be wrong to
expect or ask my mate to choose
between me and my step-child/ren too often.
16) When I have a conflict with my
partner's kid/s or ex mate, my partner should want to side with me, without
guilt or resentment.
17) In a healthy stepfamily,
and stepsiblings should love each other. If they don't, somebody's "bad" or
children and mine will soon work out their differences, and will all get along fine.
19) My stepchild/ren will want my affection and
support. They and my partner will appreciate my co-parenting efforts, and will naturally tell me
20) Our re/marriage
and/or cohabiting automatically
gives me the responsibility and the authority to discipline my
21) A responsible stepparent should share in
setting and enforcing stepchild-discipline limits and consequences right away.
22) Stepparents and bioparents should treat all their minor and grown children equally:
Favoritism is wrong!
23) All our bio and step relatives should
treat our bio and step kids equallyat special events and family occasions.
24) Stepparents and bioparents
(co-parents) should always be fair.
25) Co-managing our money and assets will not pose
our stepfamily or re/marriage any unusual problems.
26) My mate and I should have no major marital or family conflicts over
adjusting our wills and estate plans after we
27) Even without adopting their stepkid/s, re/marriage
gives stepparents most of the same legal co-parenting rights, obligations, and
status as the living biological parents.
28) No minor child in our stepfamily will ever
change residence to live with their other bioparent.
29) Our re/wedding
and moving in together shouldn't cause any of our stepfamily members any
30) Adults and kids grieve naturally enough,
so we adults don't have to pay special attention to mourning in our new
ExpectationWho believes this?
31) As mature
adults, my partner and I know how to communicate and problem-solve well
enough now, and we're teaching our kids to do these well enough.
32) It's unnecessary - or may even
- for divorced parents to explain clearly why they divorced to their (old-enough)
often don't "turn out" as well as biochildren.
34) Minor stepkids have pretty much the same
growing-up tasks that kids in "regular" (intact biological) families have.
35) I should and can keep everyone in
our new home happy. I (or we) must make "it" (pre-stepfamily pain
and loss) up to the child/ren.
36) Stepparenting is basically the same as
37) Stepparents aren't
"as good" as
38) Typical stepfamilies are
inferior to intact biofamilies.
39) There's no chance that anyone in our
stepfamily will ever be romantically attracted to, or sexually active with, each other,
except adult mates.
40) I'll never resent my partner spending time
alone with their biochild/ren, and they'll never resent me spending reasonable
time alone with my kid/s.
41) It's OK to require minor stepkids to call
a stepparent "Mom/my" or "Dad/dy," even if they
don't want to.
42) Members of typical stepfamilies (like
ours) have no special or unusual reasons to feel guilty or embarrassed.
43) My (and/or your) kids' other bioparent is
not a full member of our stepfamily, and never will be! Neither are any of
his (her) new or future partner/s, stepkids, or their relatives.
44) My (and/or your) ex spouse will ( always
/ surely / never ) send the proper child support, on time.
45) My (and/or your) ex spouse will ( always
/ surely / never ) use the child support we send "right."
Expectation Who believes this?
46) My (and/or your)
kids' other parent will ( surely / never ) re/marry.
47) My (and/or your)
kids' other parent will ( surely / never ) have a new child.
(and/or your) kids; other parent will ( surely / never ) move close by (or
49) My (and/or your)
kids; other parent will ( surely / never ) cover the child/ren with their
medical, dental, and/or life insurance.
50) My (and/or your)
kids; other parent will ( surely / never ) sue for (or give up) child
51) My (or your) co-parenting ex
mate or their relatives would never (or surely) interfere if you or I wanted
to adopt our stepchild/ren.
52) My or your stepchild/ren
would be happy and excitedif I or you wanted to legally adopt them.
53) My new mate will ( surely /
never ) want to have a baby with me though s/he has prior kids.
54) Our other
stepfamily members will support and welcome our having an "ours" child,
if we choose to.
55) Having an "ours" child
together would surelystrengthen our (or any average) re/marriage and
56) Most local clergy, school
personnel, and mental-health professionals are reliable-enough sources of re/marriage and
stepfamily help, support, and advice.
57) Most U.S. communities have effectivesupport groups and provide informededucation for stepfamily co-parents and/or
58) Because typical stepfamily
co-parents are mature marital and child-raising veterans, typical
succeed more often than first unions.
59) I'll never commit to an
unsuitable or dysfunctional marriage partner or family situation (again)!
60) My mate and Iwill never re/divorce.Our love, commitment, dreams, and experience (wisdom) will see us and
the kids through any problems!
Pause and reflect. Are there other major
expectations you have that are shaping your vision of how your re/marriage,
home, kids, kin, and stepfamily "should" be? Does your partner have any others?
What are they - specifically?
My professional stepfamily research since 1979 suggests that
each of these 60 expectations is often !
Because there are almost
100 structural kinds of stepfamily, yours probably has some
- Re-rate your stepfamily wisdom now.
On a scale of 1 (I
have many unrealistic expectations about our stepfamily)
to 10 (my
expectations are totally realistic),
I'm a ___. Has your
rating changed since you started this worksheet?
This worksheet summarizes 60 common misconceptions that lay people and
family professionals have about typical
stepfamilies. These myths combine to promote significant frustration,
disappointment, and conflict, unless adults replace them with
realistic expectations.Lesson 7 in this non-profit Web site will help you form realistic expectations.
Option - ask other adults in your stepfamily to study Lesson 7 and then use this worksheet with an open
mind. Then discuss your results together and
help kids and family supporters change their stepfamily myths into realistic