Commencing a step-partnership gives us a wonderful chance at renewed happiness. Whether we’ve lost our former spouse to divorce or to death, finding a new ‘love’ opens doors that are designed to lead to joy, satisfaction and lasting contentment. Unlike first time partnerships step-relationships, however, present a number of challenges that require special management. We not only have to manage relating with our partner but also with his or her children. Bringing children of our own into the new relationship brings even greater relationship management challenges.
During the time I spend some years ago in training helping professionals in Singapore, I had the great pleasure of meeting a number of beautiful step-couples. One of these lovely couples shared some powerful points on how to effectively manage different step-relationships. They graciously gave me permission to pass them on to you. In order to condense their information I have taken the liberty to change their points into a number of DON’T’s and DO’s.
MANAGING THE COUPLE’S RELATIONSHIP:
MAINTAIN A STRONG COUPLE’S BOND
DON’T argue in front of the children as this will:
§ Force them to take sides,
§ stir up contention among siblings, and
§ encourage manipulation.
DO ensure that you present a united front at all times.
REMOVE PSYCHOLOGICAL BARRIERS
Some people in stepfamily situations find that the word “step” presents a psychological barrier to their relationships.
DON’T use the word ‘step’ if this is true for you.
DO find a different word that describes your step-relationships and feels more acceptable to your stepchildren and/or to you.
CHOOSE EMPOWERING FRIENDSHIPS
You may have people in your life who don’t understand the challenges, complexities and joys of step-parenthood.
DON’T allow yourself to be affected by these people’s thinking or comments. Do not listen to those who have nothing constructive to say.
DO turn to the right people for help. The right people are those who are supportive and are neither critical nor cynical. Your focus and energy need to be on your stepfamily.
USE EFFECTIVE MANAGEMENT SKILLS
As your parental instincts won’t work the same way with your stepchildren as they do with your own flesh and blood, it is not useful to rely on them in dealing with stepfamily challenges and concerns, so…
DON’T depend on your parental instinct when confronted by a step-challenge.
DO learn and use effective management skills. They will be a more reliable help during difficult times.
CHALLENGE YOUR EXPECTATIONS
Expectations can be a help or a hindrance. As we don’t have any real role models in the stepfamily arena, the expectations we may have of our partner, stepchildren and/or of ourselves may quite unrealistic.
DON’T make the mistake of assuming that your partner is aware of your expectations unless you have actually discussed them with him or her.
DO be sure to share your expectations, hopes and dreams with your spouse and be open to recognising any areas in which they may be unrealistic and may need to change.
AGREE ON PARENTING STYLE
DON’T just automatically use the parenting style you employ with your own children as this may be inappropriate to your step-situation.
DO agree with your spouse on the most appropriate parenting style. This will be the style with which you both feel comfortable.
© Sonja Ridden (2006)
Stay tuned for Part 2 of MANAGING STEP-RELATIONSHIPS - MANAGING YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR STEPCHILDREN