Living in a Step-Family Without Getting Stepped on: The Blended Family Myth

No marriage ceremony or wishful thinking makes a new family.

Let’s get this one out the way first: Stepparents must move slowly and be sensitive to the feelings of all members of the blended family.

It is a fact of life; if you decide to marry a parent with children, there are some things you have to accept as a reality.

Myth: When we get married, we will be an instant family.

Reality: No marriage ceremony or wishful thinking makes a new family. Indeed, it is the beginning of a long journey which may or may not end in a feeling of family.

Why is this?

There is no sense of belonging here, no shared history, no shared identities, no shared memories, not even a shared photo or two. You merely start as a bunch of people sharing the same abode with an adult couple sharing some chemistry and a bed.

The longer your new family existed as a single family, the more secure it has become as a family. This could make your presence even less welcome for the children involved.

Rather, what you have is two distinct families hoping to blend or merge. Or one family and you–pretty much a total stranger who is sharing a bed with mom or dad and hoping to get a foot in the door of family life.

Don’t expect to set any rules when you move into your new family. Your stepchildren come from a very different world and probably have different values. If you, a new stepparent, plan to rebuild the family structure and values system, you are on shaky ground with both your stepchildren and new your spouse.

Rules and expectations about each family member’s responsibilities must be discussed and negotiated. Stepparents must move slowly and be sensitive to everyone’s feelings.

Your family will not happen overnight.

Love in not instantaneous either. It takes two to three years for best friends to form. It takes that long for affection to blossom into love.

Sometimes when this does not happen, stepparents feel they are doing something wrong. That is not true. You just can’t rush love, affection, bonding, and a feeling of family.

Also remember that bonds are rarely as strong in stepfamilies as they are in nuclear families. And in some cases, love and affection never reach a stepfamily at all.

If you are prepared for the realities rather than expecting the myths, you can allow a stepfamily to build slowly without undue disappointment on your part.

Portions of the above article came from “Living in a Step-Family Without Getting Stepped on” by Kevin Leman.

Although Leman’s book is out-of-print, you can find it through libraries and you can pick it up through Amazon.

Kevin Leman, Ph.D. Living in a StepFamily Without Getting Stepped On

Kevin Leman is a big believer that your birth order in a family greatly determines your personality and even your life. Now he carries that theory one step further into an excellent book for stepfamilies where children’s previous birth orders get turned topsy-turvy. The only child finds herself a middle child in a blended family while the baby in a family for years is promoted to middle child by the birth of his new sibling. Good reading for stepparents determined to learn everything possible to make their new families work.

Leman has written many books on birth order, child rearing, discipline, and relationships. His vast knowledge about children, families and relationships carries over into all of his writings.

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