Monday, May 31, 2010

The Different Stages Of Stepfamily Life

Second families follow a different life cycle from first families.

First family’s life cycles are relatively uncomplicated. The couple marries, have children and follow a fairly predictable path. For second families this life cycle is very different in that they connect at a point at which at least one of the couple already has one or more children and that they begin their lives together with the baggage that has accumulated as a result. This means that they usually go through the following 5 stages:

Stage 1 - Fantasy stage

This is the stage of blissful ignorance of stepfamily complexities and stresses. During this stage the couple firmly believes their love is strong enough to carry them through any difficulties.

Stage 2 – Transition stage

This is the stage where the couple realise that stepfamily living is filled with more complications and challenges than they had anticipated and at which recognition dawns that love isn’t quite enough to build a successful stepfamily.

Stage 3 – Conflict stage

This is the stage of chaos and pain. The couple feels overwhelmed by their many challenges and they tend to blame each other for their various difficulties. Their initial confidence has been eroded and replaced by a feeling of helpless frustration. It often is this stage at which one or both of the couple decide to seek outside help and at which the decision will be made to split up or to do whatever it takes to make their relationship work.

Stage 4 – Action stage

This is the stage at which the couple has regained hope that their relationship can survive. They are willing to challenge and discard unrealistic expectations, are keen to gain helpful information and are ready to make the necessary changes. All of this helps them to feel more in control.

Stage 5 – Resolution stage

This is the stage at which the stepfamily has developed its own identity. At this point stepfamily members have achieved connectedness, have created some shared history and have developed familiarity.

What can you do?

The best thing you can do is to accept that you will go through the above stages and to familiarise yourself with the challenges each stage holds in store for you and your partner. Be aware that these stages do not necessarily follow a linear route and may be revisited any number of times before you arrive at the resolution stage. Be open to change. Be willing to learn. Be tolerant, patient and remind yourself that nothing that’s worthwhile is easy.

This is an excerpt from Sonja's Step By Step Booklet Repartnered With Kids? For more info and purchasing details, click here: Repartnered With Kids.

1 comment:

Life of a Stepmama said...

It is so important to stay patient. I think the hardest part for me is that I didn't have any children of my own, my husband and I plan to have our own someday but having to adjust to a 3yr old stepson was difficult. Add a bipolar mother and you get the picture. The one thing I have learned from this is patience, I used to get upset about every little thing. I feel now I am better at not sweating the small stuff and letting my husband deal with most. I am not the mother and cannot control how the son's parents (my husband and ex-girlfriend) parent him. I can be there to support my husband and my stepson and love them for who they are. Sure times can get tough but at least I know what to expect most days!