I was an acting step mom for 4 1/2 yrs, although we only lived together for 2 1/2 yrs. It was like something from the movies. We saw each other 100 feet apart. From the first time our eyes and smile met, our connection was instantaneous and strong. It’s no surprise that we fell in love after only a few months.
Everything changed after we moved in together. Arguments, miscommunication, and misunderstanding were common. Still, our private times together were the best. Unable to resolve our issues, tension mounted like a snowball rolling downhill. Eventually, even our date nights ended with intense arguments.
When I found The Stepfamily Foundation, the light went off. I gained an entirely new perspective and learned that many of our problems were common in stepfamilies. It’s what I now label the psychology of stepfamily dynamics.
Unfortunately, it was too late for us! Our relationship was already over. It’s not too late for you!
I fall into the majority statistic (66%+) of blended families who don’t last. In fact, I fall into the 25% who end within 5 years.
That’s my story in a nutshell. I learned the hard way. Then I got educated. I earned the title of Certified Stepfamily Coach in April 2007. Now, my mission (and passion) is to save other step couples from the same fate as my relationship.
I learned first-hand…
- of a parent’s torn loyalties between his partner and his children
- Rules and consequences must have final authorization from the parent, who MUST implement them in order for a step parent to discipline in his absence
- how a parent (my partner) can unintentionally sabotage a relationship between his partner (me) and his kids.
- how a parent/ex-spouse (the kids’ mom) can (and will) intentionally sabotage a relationship between her kids and their acting step mom (me).
- a healthy step couple’s relationship MUST come first in order to prevent another separation. That MUST be done as a team.
After a few years of ongoing arguments that never got resolved, we saw a couples counselor who wasn’t educated in stepfamily dynamics. We didn’t even know to look for that qualification.
I don’t know that it would have made a difference, though. In addition to stepfamily issues, we faced many other unresolved problems (relationship issues). The tension at home was intense and almost constant by the time we split.
We were both willing to work on it. If the counselor had been able to help us understand and resolve the stepfamily issues, it may have been enough to also make a difference in other areas of our troubled relationship. If both of us believed it could work, and knew the tools to make it work, maybe we would be together today.
Moot point, now, but that’s why I feel so passionate about helping step parents, parents, and (step) children. I know that children in a stepfamily are more likely to have healthy relationships as adults if their parents’ remarriage lasts. Essentially, a successful remarriage can reverse the negative effects of divorce on children, according to research.
What problems did we have? It’d be easier to address what problems we didn’t have. LOL Here are a few that are common among many step parents.
- I was never more alone in my life than I was during this period. None of my family or friends had gone through anything like it. I had nobody to vent to or give me objective advice.
- We emphatically disagreed on most parenting issues. Plus, he wouldn’t keep any of the rules he made, which then left me w/o real authority.
- When I tried to implement a rule he made, I was told, “Dad doesn’t make me.”
- When I wanted his son to clean up, or if I made something for dinner he didn’t like (almost everything), he called his mom to ‘rescue’ him. I don’t know what he told her, but I doubt it was good and know it didn’t take much. My boyfriend supported that because his desire for his kids to have a good relationship with their mom was so strong.
- My boyfriend parented out of guilt, due to the many issues they saw their mom go through. She was clinically depressed for awhile to the point of being suicidal. She went out a lot to socialize and was unemployed for a long time. Plus, he had told me that he felt like a failure as a parent, husband, and Catholic.
- The children and my boyfriend all experienced torn loyalty. The kids felt disloyal to their mom if they liked me, and my boyfriend was torn between his children’s feelings and mine. If there was a discrepancy between their story and mine, he didn’t know who to believe.
- The children’s mom took advantage of opportunities to make me look bad, and then make herself look like the hero. A few times she engineered such opportunities at the expense of her son’s enjoyment. I still don’t think her son knows. She wasn’t ready for my boyfriend to move on, even though she was dating the same guy since a year before they separated. My boyfriend didn’t want to tell his kids that because he didn’t want them to think bad of her.
For additional thoughts and insights on my story, you may be interested in reading the following posts: