Are you a mother living with your children separately from their biological father and are you remarried or in another live-in relationship?
Are you a father living with or without your biological children and are you remarried or in another live-in relationship?
If you answered ‘yes’ to any of the above, you are living in a stepfamily.
Are you dating someone who is a parent? If so, you are in a step-relationship.
In fact, stepfamilies are the fastest growing category of family in the United States. Indeed, 40% of mothers and 30% of all children will live in a stepfamily sometime during their lives.
Depression, guilt, anxiety — as well as marital distress — are all common in stepfamily relationships. Conflicts of love and loyalty are frequent. Mothers face the challenge of balancing attention and affection for children with love and commitment to a new partner. Children feel the conflicts too. These often play out when house rules must be enforced and discipline is called for — ‘you are NOT my father!’ is a child’s frequent angry retort to feedback and limit-setting.
Fathers whose biological children only live part-time with them may also experience anxiety, guilt, and marital conflict when their children come to live with their new families. They may feel that spending time with their own children is precious, but their new wife and her kids regard their children as intruders and unwanted competition for attention!
The impact of the other biological parent and his or her partners adds even more complexity. There may be new or unresolved parenting or financial issues that must be addressed. Step-parents are forced to live with whatever feelings their partners have about their exes, as well as their own anger and resentment that having to deal with these ‘strangers’ stirs up.
The full array of extended family relationships — with brothers, sisters, and parents, even ex-in-laws — may add layers of even more stress, especially at holidays and life-cycle events such as weddings and funerals.
It is therefore not surprising that some 75% of stepfamilies in which a stepfather is living with a mother and her biological children may divorce within the first 3 years after they married.
As your coach, it is my role to help you and your partner develop and enhance your skills to manage these challenges. My specialty training at The Stepfamily Institute along with many years of experience helping couples and families address these issues is at your disposal.