FOUR REASONS Why Being a Step-Mom (or Dad) is Hard!

Reason #1: THE STEP-CHILD

You did not conceive, give birth to or delight in the birth of this child.  You did not nurse him or walk with him when he had colic.  You did not see her first smile or gaze with wonder into her eyes.  You didn’t rejoice when he turned learned to crawl.  You didn’t laugh when she said her first word.

For a birth parent there are a million moments with this child that are like invisible threads winding these two hearts together.

You enter this child’s life after age four, or eight, or twelve years of these moments that you have missed.

You are beginning to build a relationship when this child already is tightly bound to his birth mother and father.  No matter what difficult dynamics may be between them, this child is deeply, genetically and emotionally loyal to the two who gave her life.

Reason #2: THE FATHER

He’s a great guy or you wouldn’t have fallen in love with him.  You believe you can help him heal from the trauma of divorce or the loss of his former wife.

What you don’t immediately see is that he feels sorry that his kids have suffered trauma, too.  He couldn’t protect them from the loss of their mother.  Or he left their mother because he was unhappy or the situation was intolerable.  He believes, whether it’s true or not, that he’s contributed to a deep wound in his kids.  He wants to make all other parts of their lives as easy and conflict free as possible to make up for the pain they have felt or are experiencing.

So, he wears rose colored glasses when it comes to his kids.  He sometimes excuses behavior you think needs correction.  He doesn’t seem to notice when they leave their stuff all over the house, or eat candy before dinner, or are rude to you.

And he resents it when you suggest his kids may need more dependable structure in their lives.  After all, what do you know?  You didn’t live through the events that brought them to this place.  You don’t understand that Susie is especially sensitive and must be treated with kid gloves.  Or that Bobbie is just acting out his confusion and only needs time to adjust.

Reason #3: THE MOTHER

You are, in many ways, acting the role of the mother.  You may fix meals, drive to school, do the laundry, and attend sports events,  ad nauseam.  But you do not enjoy the loyalty or the affection of these children.  That belongs to their real mother.

And she may be jealous of sharing her time and authority with you.  She may still be reacting to the pain of her dream family splitting apart whether or not it was her choice.  She may see you in competition with her for her children’s affection.  She may want to punish the former spouse by changing custody plans at the last minute, or taking him back to court for more money.  She might even tell lies about him…and you… to the children!  She may try to engage you in the drama.

And your beloved may be so sick of dealing with her that he is relieved when you take over the communication with her…meaning you are drawing her fire more than him.

Having an adult, mature relationship with an Ex where the needs of the children are put ahead of the convenience of the parents (and step-parent) is an ideal situation.  It even occasionally happens that way.  And sometimes relationships with an Ex that start out crazy gradually become more sane.  (Watch the videos recommended below to see how one father learned to handle his “crazy Ex.”)

But sanity seems to be the rare exception when it comes to broken marriages and custody of children.

Reason #4: YOU, THE STEP-MOTHER

Yes, you too, may be contributing to the issues.  Often you, the “new wife,” believe you can rescue this wonderful man.  You are the salve that will heal his wounded heart.   You will provide the love and stability that these hurting children need.  You will love them all back to health and happiness.  You will be the catalyst for a more positive future.

And then you begin to resent how unappreciative they all are!  You are being taken advantage of and feel used.  You chafe at the lack of authority you have to make decisions and follow through with needed discipline.  You can’t understand why your beloved doesn’t see that Bobby needs firm boundaries, or that Susie shouldn’t get her own way just because she’s throwing another tantrum.

Can’t he see that he’s ruining his precious children?  Doesn’t he understand that you’re giving advice because you care about what kind of adults they will grow up to be?

THERE IS HOPE FOR STEP-FAMILIES

Unrealistic expectations are at the core of so many step-family choices that add to the chaos and pain rather than relieving it.  You cannot force a new, fragile step-family into the happy, well-adjusted family that most imagine being a part of when they marry.

And yet there are proven guidelines that help the unique dynamics of a step-family work more smoothly.  I said “more smoothly” because step-family life is very rarely smooth.  It is multiple times more difficult to navigate around the issues and personalities in a step-family than to deal with the normal ups and downs in a first marriage with shared birth children.

Visit this page on my website to listen to interviews of several real-life step-couples who have successfully dealt with all of these issues.  Hearing their stories is far more effective and powerful than if I were to give you a list of guidelines in this article. Their experience is inspiring and their solutions are practical and duplicatable! 

  • Hear Jeremy and Lisa’s story and the valuable lessons they’ve learned.
  • Listen to James and Kim share some things they did impressively well.
  • And you must hear how establishing a few house rules made a big difference to Sherman and Alexa.

http://nancylandrum.com/stepping-twogether

Jeremy and Lisa’s Stepfamily Story

Jeremy and Lisa are former coaching clients.  The stresses of stepfamily living had brought out the worst in their communication methods.  They diligently learned and practiced better communication and conflict management skills.  In addition, over time, they adopted better strategies for managing their children and a difficult relationship with an Ex.

This month you’ll be hearing more about the upcoming Stepping TwoGether course that is launching on March 23rd.  Go to the Stepping TwoGether page at www.nancylandrum.com to listen to Jeremy and Lisa’s inspiring story.

And my personal thanks to Jeremy and Lisa for so generously and vulnerably sharing their stepfamily experience!

Is Love “Lovelier the Second Time Around”?

I’d like to ask Frank Sinatra, who’s crooning voice made this lyric popular, “Then why is the divorce rate much higher for second and subsequent marriages?”

Our culture is still trapped in the unrealistic assumption that stepfamilies are no different than a first family.  That belief is a weak, untrue foundation on which to try to start building a strong marriage and family.

It’s a shock when you thought you had another chance at love.  A chance to do it right this time.  A chance to heal, not only for yourself but for your children.  After escaping one nightmare, you didn’t expect to find yourself in the midst of another.

The truth is second marriages never start out the same as the first one. To begin, for many, the honeymoon is very brief.   Most are immediately thrown into the turmoil of resentful kids, new, unknown relationships, crazy Exes who refuse to co-parent with respect, leftover “issues” from the previous relationship, sometimes crippling financial demands and legal battles.

How can a new marriage and children be nurtured and grow in this toxic atmosphere?  It IS possible, but it requires two things that most second marriages don’t get in time to save them and their children from painful mistakes:

  1. Education about the unique dynamics of new stepfamilies and the strategies that get them successfully through those first few fragile years, (and beyond) and
  2. Good, effective communication skills: speaking with respect, listening with understanding, conversations that lead to agreement, and ways of handling anger when you want to take your frustrations out on any creature unfortunate enough to be in your immediate force-field.

The average length of time for a stepfamily to stabilize is 5-7 years.  I spoke with former clients this week who have finally reached the stepfamily honeymoon stage.  They’ve been married for six years.  She said the first year was “hell.”  He said, “1000% of the stress came from my crazy Ex.  She’s still crazy, but we’re handling it better.”  Their kids are doing well considering the chaos in their Mom’s home.  And this couple knows they are giving their kids the example of a stable, respectful, loving marriage and home life that will inform their belief that a loving, lasting marriage is possible.

I’ve been there.  My husband Jim and I survived the catastrophe caused by our poor communication and anger management skills.  We finally adopted a sane stepfamily strategy that stopped the constant fighting.  We found a coach that taught us how to talk to each other…say what we needed to say…but  say it without attacking each other.  She taught us how to vent our anger safely in a journal, or by hitting a bucket of balls, or pulling weeds in the garden so that we could then have a sane conversation about our “issue.”  We learned how to share our feelings rather than our opinions.  We developed empathy for each other’s difficult roles which made resolving “the issue” much more possible.

You can learn the skills and stepfamily strategies that work for most.  The communication and anger management skills can be learned by my online program called the Millionaire Marriage Club.  It’s relatively painless.  All you need is a computer and 30 minute blocks of time combined with your determination to exchange what isn’t working for what will work.  Go to my website, www.nancylandrum.com, to learn about the Millionaire Marriage Club.

In a few short weeks I’m launching a live, online pilot class called Stepping TwoGether: Building a Strong Stepfamily.  This class teaches the strategies for successful parenting and step-parenting as well as the importance of making your marriage a high priority.  Or you can click the link below to read about our story…the ugly first years, followed by sixteen years of honeymoon before Jim passed on.  You may glean some lessons from reading about what we learned.

If you’d like to speak with me and discuss how I may help, click on this link to choose a convenient time for a brief phone appointment with me:  https://meetme.com/SpeakWithNancy

P.S.  You may find some issues familiar to you in this free download: The Landrum Stepfamily Story.

Nancy Landrum has been teaching relationship skills to couples for twenty-five years.  Her signature book, How to Stay Married & Love It! Solving the Puzzle of a SoulMate Marriage, is lauded by both professionals and clients. See other resources on her website, www.nancylandrum.com