Stepfamily Reality #13 - Inclusion

        Recall the difference between being accepted as a full member of some group, and being a guest or outsider (non-member). Here acceptance and inclusion mean "all other members of the group (a) know who I am, (b) want to include me in group activities, and (c) genuinely care about my needs, feelings, and opinions, as I care about theirs." Partial or mixed inclusion happens when some family members include a new person, and others don't (rejection).

        Significantly-wounded, unaware, needy partners often underestimate the difficulty of trying to get all members of a new nuclear stepfamily to fully accept each other. This is specially likely if any adult or child in the existing biofamily - including ex mates, minor and adult children, and close relatives - isn't well along on grieving their many family losses. Most stepfamily analysts suggest that it can take four or more years after re/wedding (vs. cohabiting) to achieve stable-enough mutual inclusion. For perspective, acceptance spans 16 categories of things, not just "ac-cepting a stepparent (the person)" or "stepsiblings liking each other"!

        The most sensitive inclusion arena is between a new stepparent, each stepchild, and her or his "other bioparent," if living. If the stepparent has kids, they need to accept their new stepparent and each stepsibling and "close" step-relative. Bottom line: in most cases, expect full mutual inclusion to be a multi-year process after any nuptials, after overcoming many significant values and loyalty conflicts and relationship triangles. Typically, full inclusion after co-habiting without re/marriage is even more complex. The most difficult inclusion scenario is new co-parenting partners cohabiting before one or both are legally and psychologically divorced