When you entered into your relationship I’m sure you didn’t first fall in love with the children and think ‘I must live with these children. I love them! Oh and the dad’s not too bad either. I guess I could put up with him’. More likely something else happened.
More likely you fell in love with your partner and the children were your secondary thoughts. You’ve entered into this family because of him or her, not them.
Is that fair?
In the early stages many stepparents look at the situation with the children as occasional visits and an outing here and there. They’re in what I call the ‘getting going stage’. It’s a sort of fantasy time that many of us go through.
But what happens when that ‘high on love’ feeling begins to fade?
It doesn’t take long for a new stepparent to work things out. It’s simple. He’s a package deal. The realities of calls from the children’s mother, school events and keeping everyone happy during summer holidays soon hits home. And that leaves you with a question.
Who am I in this relationship for?
You’re in this relationship because you fell in love. You’re in this relationship for your partner. But now there’s something new to face. The children are there to stay.
And what does that mean exactly?
It means they’re going to be around. It means you might feel pushed out or neglected at times. Weekends, Christmas, Easter, birthdays and those summer breaks, these are the moments you can often find yourself wondering about the complications, the headaches, the bickering between kids, your role, and that biggy: do I really fit in here?
If you haven’t been keeping your relationship strong – fresh and alive – you can, during these times, begin to wonder what you’re in it for. You might even wonder if you can or want to really stick it out.
But it doesn’t need to be that way. Indeed, for lots of stepparents it isn’t. Being a stepparent can be very rewarding and enjoyable. If the stepfamily functions well you get time with your partner when they’re with their other parent. You get to enjoy your part in the kid’s adventures. You get to see these young people grow and develop and become adaptable, flexible, confident and compassionate men and women.
One of the most important ways to prevent yourself from getting to the stage where you’re wondering if you can stick it out is to nurture your relationship, keeping it strong and alive.
So here are my top 5 tips for making sure you’ve got plenty of emotional energy in your relationship to breeze through the tough times.
1. Have a vision. Talk with your partner about your joint vision and dreams for the future. Know where you both want to go and how you’d like life to be.
2. Make plans for the future, whether it be for the next 3 months or 3 years. Have something to look forward to together. A common goal.
3. Give each other compliments spontaneously, especially in front of the children. This shows them how important you are to each other.
4. Book in special time alone together. Make a date to go out or just have a romantic night in. Treat this as a special event and get excited about it.
5. Remind each other regularly about what it is you love about each other. What you appreciate and are grateful for.
Here’s a bonus tip!
6. Talk through your worries, and concerns. Don’t let things fester. Have lots of open conversations and communicate your needs and listen to his.
You’ll be glad you did!
The Stepfamily Coach