Are You a Stepfamily Statistic?

27 03 2012

A big thank you to everyone for your comments on my last post. The 99 percent study was done by E. Mavis Hetherington, a big-wig in the stepfamily research scene. It was a SMALL sample of people, which is problematic, and as one commenter said, statistics are incredibly hard to get a handle on. I am always one to advocate that we are not the statistics we read about! I am also one to always be realistic about what we’re facing so that we can incorporate success measures into our families and lives on purpose. YOU are not a statistic. You are a human being living with a unique set of personalities that may or may not follow what others have done.

But…why wouldn’t you learn the tools you need to give yourself the best chance you can? Why wouldn’t you learn how to communicate better or learn how to deal with conflict with your spouse or learn what the unique dynamics of a stepfamily are? Then you will be ready for success!

In my book I cited the statistics. And my book has been voted the most hopeful and optimistic of all the books for stepmothers that are out there. You need to know the truth so you can decide if you will be one of the percentage that fails or one of the percentage that thrives. There are MANY successful stepfamilies out there. Will your family be one of them? That is entirely up to you and your partner.

Best wishes,

Jacque

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4 responses

28 03 2012
Carrie

When we were first married, and I thought I’d never be able to make it, my husband said, “Remember, he will not be 9 years old forever.” Wow… sounds simple but it really helped. And now he’s 24 years old and my husband and I have a beautiful relationship.

28 03 2012
Gloria Lintermans

As a step and bio Mom, I know that it is not uncommon for tension, compromise, and confusion to rule when the role of parent is shared between a step and biological parent. Some people still feel that stepparents aren’t “real” parents, but our culture has no norms to suggest how they are different. And the less our roles are defined, the more unhappy we are as both parents and stepparents.

Another role ambiguity is that society seems to expect acquired parents and children to instantly love each other in much the same way as biological parents and their children do. In reality, however, this is often just not so. A stepparent might feel a tremendous amount of guilt about his or her lack of positive feelings (or even the presence of negative feelings) toward the spouse’s children. Discipline might be a constant source of family conflict: You might, for example, think your ex-spouse isn’t being strict enough, when in fact, most stepfathers and stepmothers think the real parent is not being strict enough.

As a stepparent, you might feel like an unbiased observer with a grudge because you’re an outsider and the very thing that’s making you “unbiased” is something you resent, biology. Stepchildren, as well, often don’t react to their parent’s new spouse as though he or she were the “real” parent. The irony of expecting instant “real” parent-child love is further complicated by the fact that stepparents are not generally expected to be “equal” in discipline or otherwise controlling their stepchildren.

Another reason for a difficult stepparent-child relationship might be that your child does not want this marriage to work, and so, acts out with hostility. Commonly children harbor fantasies that their biological parents will reunite. If children had reservations about or strongly disapproved of your divorce, they may sabotage your new relationships in the hope that you will get back together. Children who want their natural parents to remarry may feel that sabotaging the new relationship will get them back together. Stepchildren can prove hostile adversaries, and this is especially true for adolescents.

Although all stepchildren and stepparents are to some degree uncomfortable with some aspect of their new family role, certain difficulties are more likely to affect stepmothers, and others are more common to stepfathers. Conflicting expectations of a stepmother’s role make it especially hard. As a stepparent, your best shot at happiness is to ignore the myths and negative images and to work to stay optimistic.

As a stepmother, yes, your work is cut out for you. In fact, the role of stepmother is thought by some clinicians to be more difficult than that of stepfather. One important reason is that stepmother families, more than stepfather families, may be born of difficult custody battles and/or have a history of particularly troubled family relations.

Society also seems, on the one hand, to expect romantic, almost mythical loving relationships between stepmothers and children while, at the same time, portraying stepmothers as cruel, vain, selfish, competitive, and even abusive (Snow White, Cinderella, and Hansel and Gretel are just a few bedtime stories we are all familiar with). Stepmothers are also often accused of giving preferential treatment to their own children. As a result, a stepmother must be much better than just okay before she is considered acceptable. No matter how skillful and patient you are, all your actions are suspect. Is it any wonder that stepmothers tend to be more stressed, anxious, and depressed than other mothers and also more stressed than stepfathers?

Some researchers have found that stepmothers behave more negatively toward stepchildren than do stepfathers, and children in stepmother families seem to do less well in terms of their behavior. In fact, the relationship between stepmother and stepdaughter is often the most difficult. Yet, other studies indicate that stepmothers can have a positive impact on stepchildren. Because stepmothers are much more likely to play an active part in the lives of children than stepfathers, perhaps there is simply more to go wrong.

Still, some step-mothering situations can make this role especially complicated — such as a part-time or weekend stepmother if you are married to a non-custodial father who sees his children regularly. You may try with all your heart to establish a loving relationship with your husband’s children, only to be openly rejected, or you may feel left out of part of his life because of his relationship with his children. In addition, a part-time stepmother can feel left out by her husband’s relationship with his ex-wife; for example, non-custodial fathers need to spend time communicating with their ex-wives about their children’s school problems, orthodontia, illnesses, and even household maintenance and repairs.

Yet, well-run by knowledgeable, confidant stepfamily adult teams (not simply couples), this modern version of an ancient family form can provide the warmth, comfort, inspiration, support, security—and often (not always) the love—that adults and kids long for.

Gloria Lintermans is the author of THE SECRETS TO STEPFAMILY SUCCESS: Revolutionary Tools to Create a Blended Family of Support and Respect (Llumina Press).

17 04 2012
Jim bob

I am curious to some insight on my situations. My husband and I have been together for six years now and we are both step parents to eachothers children and have a child together. We are going through a difficult time due to some visitation changes of his child (my step) and the bio mother is having an extremely difficult time dealing with the whole concept of a split family now that we have moved to the same town as her. (we recently built a home 3 hours from where we lived to be closer to his child). I grew up in a split family so i am very familiar of dealing with this type of situation. I treat all children in the home equal. I sometimes probably treat my step daughter better than my own. Not on purpose but do to her personality being more common with myself. The bio mother is constantly attacking myself because she is so intimidated by my relationship with her daughter. It has got to the point that unfortunately what is being said on the other side is getting to my stepdaughter and she is becoming very distance from our family. Its coming to the point that the stepdaughter feels she should only be around when dad is home because that is her perpose of her visit. Its no longer to visit stepmum, sister (which they have an unbelievable great relations) step brother and brother. The biomom gives our stepdaughter reason to want to be home with her instead of coming with us for our visitations. Such as (aunty’s coming to visit today or you can have a friend sleep over tonight).

It is very difficult to deal with the back and forth and my stepdaughter only being 10 does not understand what her mother is doing. Unfortunately this is a typical situation of split homes but how does a stepmother deal with this when I have always treated my stepdaughter like my own. It is frustrating that I get upset that my stepdaughte is responding so negatively and not making the right choices to its equal for both families. No parent in this situation is better than the other except for the fact that we believe in being equal and the other is all about her own feelings.

12 05 2012
Jennifer Worrell

A typical marriage is tough enough, but when you throw in all the drama associated with stepfamilies, it can be nearly impossible to cope. Stepmom’s have a rough place in the drama–it’s awful to be the scapegoat for things you had nothing to do with. Love your site, by the way!

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