I’ve noticed a common theme among step couples I’m working with lately: marital issues compound stepfamily problems. In other words, if you’re struggling with basic marriage challenges, it will spill over into your stepfamily.
Here’s an example: let’s say you and your spouse don’t do conflict well. Maybe you say things you know you shouldn’t in a heightened sense of emotion. It’s likely you will say things about your stepchild that you can’t take back that will fester a wound with your spouse. Now a marital issue has become a stepfamily issue.
Or perhaps you struggle with managing your finances properly. You didn’t have to keep track of it that closely when it just involved you, but now money is tighter and you and your spouse constantly argue over the child support payment. A marital problem has become a stepfamily issue.
My point is this: stepfamily challenges are real. It takes a lot of effort to cope with ex-spouses, parent children that aren’t yours, parent children that are yours, manage a job and a household and a dozen other commitments, and maintain a thriving marriage.
So please nurture your marriage. Don’t expect it to function on auto-pilot and keep cruisin’. It won’t. It will crater. And your children will endure another loss.
We all emerge from our childhood of origin with strengths and weaknesses. In stepfamily life, your weaknesses can destroy your marriage. A weak marriage simply can’t stand up against the challenges. Look in the mirror and determine what you need to change to become a better marital partner.
Do you need to temper your anger? Do you need to practice patience? Do you need to be more intentional with your speech or your listening habits? Do you need to persevere through your challenges?
Ask your spouse. Or listen to what they’re already telling you. What needs to change to create a healthier, stronger marriage?
I didn’t have to ask my spouse. He’s been telling me for years some things that I haven’t listened to well. Then my sister recently told me the same thing. Ouch!
I love the passage in Galatians 5:22-23 that talks about the fruit of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.” Relationships naturally become more harmonious as we polish our rough exterior and exhibit more fruit in our lives.
It’s easy to blame all our stepfamily problems on the kids. But the truth is, if we look closer at ourselves, we’re contributing to the problems with our less-than-perfect attitudes, habits, and weaknesses.
If you stay married long enough, which I hope you will, the kids will leave home. Your marriage will be all that’s left so why not work out the kinks in your marriage NOW? I promise it will benefit your stepfamily in the process.
Healthy marriages create healthy stepfamily relationships. Does your marriage need a tune-up?
How have you created more harmony in your marriage or your stepfamily? Will you share it with us?
If you’re stuck in marital disharmony, I hope you’ll consider professional counseling or check out my coaching page. Don’t give up on your stepfamily until you’ve worked through your marriage challenges. It might be the difference that turns your stepfamily around.
Photo by David Castillo Dominici