Stepfamily Reality #11 - Courtship Illusions

        Typical courtships evoke extra politeness, tolerance, and thoughtfulness, reluctance to confront honestly, and high tolerance for values conflicts and irritating behavior - specially in the beloved-partner's child/ren. Mates' and adult-child relationships often change significantly after exchanging vows. That rite instantly alters key roles: biomom's "boyfriend" turns into "stepfather;" "your daughter" becomes "my step-daughter;" "your woman-friend" is now stepmothering my granddaughter, and is my new daughter-in-law; your ex-spouse's delaying child support now affects our finances (vs. yours); "your" nerdy (or cool) son becomes "my stepbrother"; etc. Cohabiting without a commitment rite adds vagueness and confusion to these changes and stepfamily roles.

       These many instant role, relationship, and identity changes often cause new stepfamily members to (a) unconsciously alter their expectations of each other ("now you must obey me"), and/or to (b) feel confused on what to expect of themselves and each other. If co-parents (including ex mates and active co-grandparents) and kids aren't expecting these abrupt changes and many months of stepfamily confusion and conflict, they can feel stressed, self-doubtful, an-xious, frustrated, and disoriented. Co-parent awareness and knowledge can minimize these.

        Bottom line: courtship relationships and behaviors are often not a reliable guide to what will happen after re/wedding and/or co-habiting. Similarly, living together before re/wedding probably won't accurately foretell post-re/wedding harmony or strife. Expect the unexpected!