I recently returned from a week long vacation with my extended family to the mountains. It was a wonderful time of relaxing and enjoying the beauty of God’s creation surrounding us.
But it wasn’t a conflict-free, trouble-free vacation. They never are, are they?
As I reflected on our trip after I returned, I couldn’t help but parallel the conflict that happened in my biological family-of-origin to that of what happens in stepfamilies. I was raised in a very stable, traditional home with three sisters and two parents who did a wonderful job (not perfect) rearing their four daughters and equipping us for life.
However, we are still four imperfect 50+-year-old women who sometimes have conflict amongst ourselves.
Does that mean our family is dysfunctional? No.
Does that mean we don’t love each other? No.
Does that indicate we need to quit going on vacation together? No.
Could it be we are simply an imperfect family seeking to do life together amidst stress, difficult circumstances, and changing dynamics? Yes!
And when those variables come into play, it’s not unusual that conflict follows. You see, our family is facing the undeniable reality that my mom’s dementia is progressing much quicker than any of us want to admit. And it’s having far-reaching effects with all of us.
Stress, difficult circumstances, changing dynamics, … and as a result, conflict.
I would venture to guess it’s no different than what’s happening in your stepfamily. What difficult circumstance are you facing? How is change affecting your family? What is the biggest stressor you’re dealing with right now? Is it creating conflict?
The good news is: conflict isn’t all bad. Conflict is an indicator that something needs to change. And it’s usually a direct result of someone speaking up in regards to something they’re unhappy about.
So, conflict in your stepfamily uncovers someone’s need to address an issue that might need to change for the benefit of the family.
Without conflict, we ignore or internalize what we’re unhappy about and it never changes. And when we internalize our issues instead of addressing them, we create other problems for ourselves that will show up later such as a volcano of anger that spews, underlying frustration with your family, an ulcer, high blood pressure, and a host of other physical issues.
What’s important with conflict is how we handle it. I’ve addressed this issue before at Tips to Help if You’re Experiencing Conflict in Your Family and Resolve Conflict as it Occurs and several other blog posts. If you struggle with resolving conflict properly, I hope you’ll take time to educate yourself on this very important topic. I wrote a complete article on it, “Fighting Fair: 12 Tips to Help You Manage Conflict and Strengthen Your Stepfamily,” for Stepmom Magazine that can be found here.
Use conflict in a healthy manner to solve problematic issues in your stepfamily. Don’t skirt around it or ignore it. Address it! (Properly please). And then bask in the beauty of resolve.
Can you share the benefits of conflict resolution you’ve experienced in your stepfamily? Id love to hear about it.