Sometimes it can feel like a stepfamily is going in circles. Parents struggle to establish boundaries. Boundaries between the newly married couple and the kids; boundaries between the couple and the ex. Dad feels that stress of keeping his bride happy and yet maintaining relationships with his kids. Stepmom gets a crash course in “outsider” status. Learning that you are the outsider in your own house is definitely not fun. So, I did some reading.
One of my favorite stepfamily books is Becoming A Stepfamily by Patricia L. Papernow (2003 Gestalt Press). Papernow goes over the “Stepfamily Cycle.” Believe it or not, as messy as it all may seem, there are actually developmental tasks that stepfamilies try to accomplish in each stage. Reducing power struggles, figuring out roles, establishing those boundaries, letting go of fantasies about how a stepfamily should be, recognizing the sense of loss that stepfamily members can feel, stepmom finding her place in the family, making changes, forging relationships. This was great news to me. These difficult processes were important and needed to happen. And it wasn’t a linear process. We would go forward, and backward and forward again. And the best news of all: this expert said that the process normally took anywhere from 4-7 years on average. We weren’t weird or abnormal…this is what a stepfamily is supposed to go through.
As awkward or painful as it feels at times, I remind myself that these growing pains are relatively “normal” (if there is such as thing as a “normal” family) for 4-7 years. And for as tough as it’s been, I can honestly say that for our family things have evened out in our 4th year. Year four feels so much more peaceful than year one. Things are falling into place.
Today I am thankful that I’m learning to be comfortable in the discomfort.
Philippians 4:19 (MSG): “You can be sure that God will take care of everything you need…”
What are you thankful for today?