Step Coupling by Susan Wisdom

stopThis is a book I have recently read and is full of practical advice and well worth a read in my opinion.  Below is a synopsis of the book and also the views of other readers that have been extracted from  Even though I liked the book I have extracted the reviews exactly as they appear in Amazon (with spellings corrected only) and whether they rated the book High or Low. – Gillian Andale


Love may be sweeter the second time around but once the bliss of a newfound relationship wears off a little; the reality of being part of a stepfamily sets in. If you are one of the millions of remarried Americans facing the challenge of blending two existing families into one cohesive whole, you are part of a step couple—and you know all too well how hard it can be to make your marriage work in sometimes tough terrain.

Different parenting styles, finances, relationships with ex-spouses, legal matters, and even seemingly simple issues such as the kinds of chores assigned to children can chisel away at your union if you don’t always make your marriage a priority.

Stepcoupling offers advice for step couples on how to do just that—all the while strengthening their blended family with a healthy marriage. Susan Wisdom and Jennifer Green provide tips and strategies on dealing with the issues remarried couples face, with a wealth of advice from real-life step couples, such as:

  • Learning to tailor your expectations of your spouse or children and remembering that no family is perfect
  • Knowing where your boundaries are, whether involving a hostile ex-spouse or a stepchild who demands too much attention
  • Realizing that traits like flexibility, tolerance, forgiveness, and openness are especially essential in a stepfamily situation
  • Making “us” time for talking, problem-solving, weekends away, and enjoying your marriage to constantly renew and strengthen your bond as a couple

Let this invaluable remarriage manual help you make your stepcoupling the foundation of a strong, happy, and successful stepfamily.


About the Authors

SUSAN WISDOM, LPC, is a therapist who specializes in counseling divorcing adults and stepfamilies. She lives in Portland, Oregon.

JENNIFER GREEN is a freelance writer who lives in Salem, Oregon.

Both authors have been part of successful step couples for the past twenty-five years.


What Others Say?

Here are some reviews extracted from that are independent and the opinion of the reviewer.


Review One

In this straightforward book, the authors coin the term stepcoupling to mean the “ongoing process of forming and maintaining a marriage when children are involved.” We all know that we have to pay attention to our marriages to sustain our stepfamilies, and the authors tell us that our success “hinges on the willingness and ability of the partners to grapple with personal and family issues.” Then they offer help.

The entire book discusses various personal and family issues that can threaten a stepfamily marriage. Instead of a lot of hard to understand theory, you’ll find accessible advice that hits home with so many common problems. Gray boxes throughout provide questions for yourself and for discussions to have with your spouse. Autonomous questions pepper the text, and the authors follow them with practical solutions. Real stepparents, too, contribute their stories and feelings. You’ll probably see yourself in several places in these comforting pages.
The book discusses a stepparent’s expectations of herself and her family. And in the very helpful section on boundaries, the authors discuss not only physical boundaries but also boundaries on relationships, including the need to sever the ties with former spouses and how to expand your boundaries to include your stepchildren. The section on “family acrobatics” tackles the issue of finding everyone’s place in the family. You’ll also learn how to strike a balance when your styles and values on parenting, money or anything else differ from your spouse’s.
The final chapter is one step couple’s story in their words, how they’ve survived twenty-nine years to become the close family they are. You’ll find encouragement, advice and compassion in this book that truly understands stepfamilies.


Review Two

I am a clinical social worker in private therapy practice. I purchased this book three years ago to help a family with whom I was working in therapy. Since then, I have quoted the highlighted passages from my own copy numerous times in sessions, and have loaned the book out so many times that a client finally bought me a newer copy, as a gift for helping her family so much.

The best thing about this book is how it highlights the couple relationship. Blended family couples finally have support in creating the foundation for success. Many texts about blending families and helping children deal with divorce focus on how the “children should come first”, to the exclusion of what is necessary to keep the adults healthy. Children’s needs are certainly paramount, but often that belief feeds a system wherein parents are almost forced to create a triangulated situation between their biological children and their new spouse.

This book clearly explains how to avoid that triangulation, and to keep the power where it belongs: with the two adults in the home, as a team. As a structural family therapist, this book helps me to show parents what we mean when we talk about the “executive power system” in the family. In order to have healthy blended families, it is absolutely essential to have a strong parent couple in each family.

This book helps the reader with the myths and misconceptions of “step-families”, which are really better termed “blended families”. It gives good suggestions on how to deal with “the exes” — the other parents of the children in your home. It addresses the “yours, mine and ours” issues that come up when blended families add more kids to the family. It also addresses special considerations that need to be made when one parent has died. The message of hope throughout this book makes it easy to read and truly finish, especially for parents in busy families. The personal stories from parents in blended families give the reader the sense that they are not alone, and that it will get better. I highly recommend this book, for every blended family parent, and every family therapist working with blended families.


Review Three

I married a man quite a lot older than me — he had children and I did not. I had no idea the sudden impact having four stepchildren would have on me — and my marriage! Reading Stepcoupling was the first step to saving my marriage and my sanity. Susan Wisdom clearly understands all the complicated dynamics of the stepfamily — from an uncooperative ex-spouse to angry stepchildren. She offers useful discussion guides, questionnaires, exercises, and tried-and-true strategies to help partners cope with the new responsibilities and challenges. Knowing that if the step couple remains strong and presents a unified position, then all the other challenges can be resolved made all the difference. My husband read the book too and from that point on we began the process of building a strong family.


Review Four

Although there are many outstanding books on step parenting, this is the first book that focuses exclusively on step couples. With the use of excellent case examples, the authors present sound advice and strategies for dealing with the innumerable, difficult issues faced by these couples. While this is clearly a “remarriage manual”, it is more useful than most because it integrates theory in a quite readable, understandable way. For example, family of origin theory is used to demonstrate how unresolved, early life issues can further complicate stepcoupling relationships. I strongly recommend this book to those who are contemplating or currently in stepcoupling relationships, as well as counselors and therapists who see these couples in their practice.


Review Five

The authors identify the many issues that stand in the way of a couple’s happiness in blended families–intrusive ex-spouses, difficult stepchildren, a parent’s close relationship to his or her biological children, to name just a few. Wisdom and Green constantly encourage readers to nurture the “step couple” relationship in the face of these challenges, and provide practical advice about how to do it. The tone is authoritative and hopeful, and the book includes interesting anecdotes from anonymous stepfamily members. “Stepcoupling” is a very useful and well-organized book that will help stepparents and their spouses grapple with many stepfamily challenges. As a parent in a family with “his,” “hers” and “ours” kids, I personally found the book both inspiring and overwhelming. It’s an important reminder about how hard we must all work in blended families to balance everyone’s interests and needs.


Review Six

I enjoyed the real-life stories in the book. It is nice to hear what other families are going through; although I wouldn’t wish some of this mess on an enemy, it is nice to know you aren’t alone.

What I didn’t like is that is seemed to have a “learn to just live with it” attitude. No, I don’t think that children coming in and throwing their stuff all over the floor is “their way of making their mark on the house”, I think it is disrespectful to do in anyone’s home. If my step-children want to make a mark on our home, they can pick out pictures to hang on the walls or even draw pictures – I don’t see how having to step over their stuff adds their mark. I surely don’t see myself just learning to over-look such acts of disrespect for the rest of my married life.

I enjoyed the reassurance that feelings are normal – such as not immediately falling in love with someone else’s children, but I also think that if you are a rational adult, you already know you can’t love anyone’s kids the way you love your own.

Most of the arguments described in this book could have been avoided had the step-couple discussed them BEFORE getting married. This book describes a world where you were so much in love that you ran into marriage (which not many divorced people do) and when the “love bubble” affect wears off you are stuck with disputes about money and disciplining children rather than building a life together; simply unrealistic to me.

It also seems to encourage building separate families within a family – I often feel like I expect more from my children than my step-children simply because my kids are here more; however, I think striving to make every child feel as if they are in the family, not just as temporary guests, is important. I cannot change the way my step-children are being raised by their mother, but I can certainly expect each member of my family to follow the same rules in my house.

I was with my now husband for 3 years before we got married. Having kids already is very much an issue when deciding to join two families but we worked most of this stuff out before we combined our lives. We discussed our opinions about money and rules for the kids – we didn’t just follow the bright love light, that is a luxury you cannot afford when you have been divorced and you already have children.

I hoped this book would offer insight into the adult aspect of step-coupling but instead it offered a whole lot about catering to the children and letting our own desires for our family lie-in-wait until our kids get onboard. If we did that, our home and our family would never have worked itself out. A united front and being on the same page is essential.

I wouldn’t recommend this book to a step-couple who is already together; maybe a new couple could benefit more from it. I also don’t think it grasps the situation as a whole – it doesn’t touch on the stresses of ex’s and the drama that comes from that, which in my home is more of a threat than our kids!

These book reviews are provided for your information; they are the opinion of the writer or reviewer/s and are not necessarily the view of Love2Last.  The readers should take this into consideration and make their own decision whether they purchase the book or not.  If you do want to purchase this book, it is available through our L2L Bookstore

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