"10 Steps To Supporting Your Partner" is a five part series that I wrote some time ago. It was inspired by the things I learnt from the discussions that took place during my Stepmother Support Group meetings as well as from the ounselling sessions I've had with many step-couples over the years. Although it is equally important for both partners in a stepfamily scenario, It is primarily aimed at informing the partner who has brought his or her children into the relationship. For simplicity's sake I refer to this person as HE and the stepparent as SHE. I trust that it will inspire much discussion between you and your partner and help you both to make your step-parenting journey a much happier and more satisfying one.
In order to find a definition of the word SUPPORT I consulted the Concise Oxford Dictionary, which states the following:
*Carry (part of) weight * hold up * keep from falling or sinking * enable to last out * keep from failing * give strength to * encourage * endure * tolerate * supply with the necessary * provide for * lend assistance or countenance to * back up *
further * take secondary part to * speak in favour of * assist by one’s presence…
Now let’s focus on some of these words and see how they relate to a stepmum's experience.
Step 1 - CARRY (part of) THE WEIGHT
As you are a biological parent who has experienced the loss of your former partner either due to death or separation /divorce, you are clearly no stranger to carrying a heavy burden. Having found another partner I imagine that you are not only hoping to find another chance at love, contentment and harmony, but also that your new partner is someone with whom you wish to share the burden you have been carrying on your own. This is a natural desire, which is totally appropriate unless, in your relief, you simply dropped the whole burden squarely on your partner’s shoulders. This hopefully isn't true for you but the fact is that some people do precisely that!
A healthy relationship makes it possible to SHARE whatever BURDEN you carry. But remember that sharing is a two-way street. It is just as important that YOU share your partner’s burdens, as it is that THEY share yours. In order to succeed at burden sharing, you can do the following:
* Regularly check with your partner whether she feels overwhelmed. How about once a week?!
* If she does feel overwhelmed or overburdened, find out what is causing her to feel this way and put your heads together to find suitable ways of relieving her of the overload.
* Take responsibility for your children and ensure that they behave in a respectful manner towards your partner. This will go a long way towards her feeling positive about them.
* Be there for your partner:
- Physically – she absolutely needs to know that she can count on you, no matter what.
- Relationally - spend as much quality time as possible with her. Togethertime is essential to building a strong, happy and resilient relationship.
- Emotionally – carefully listen to and validate your partner’s needs (even if they are not the same as yours and even if you don't really understand them) and be sure to meet as many of them as humanly possible.
Be sure to return next week for our next step. See you then!