Disappointed? Here's Why
Disappointment is a part of life. Sometimes we're disappointed in our work, in our relationships...sometimes we're disappointed in ourselves. I hear about disappointment from stepfamily couples all the time.
- "I didn't think it would be this hard..."
- "I thought his kids would at least be nice to me..."
- "I was expecting the kids to adapt quicker than this..."
The answer to minimizing disappointment in our stepfamily life...well, really any area of life is rooted in our expectations. When I listen to the struggles step-couples face, they often share about what they thought stepfamily life was going to be like and can't figure out why it hasn't ended up that way. When we set up expectations, then don't experience what we expected - we're disappointed. The opposite is true as well - no expectation...no disappointment.
Worst Christmas Ever
The first Christmas after we were married, I was so excited. Annika was 6 years old for our first Christmas as a stepfamily and since I didn't bring any kids into our marriage, this was going to be my first Christmas as a "dad"! I couldn't wait! I remember Annika setting out the Christmas cookies for Santa to eat and her anticipation and we put her to bed. I knew all the things that would be waiting for her under the tree the next morning and was expecting a picture perfect family Christmas the next morning.
We did have a great morning diving into presents, listening to Christmas music and generally having a great time. Kim had a tradition in her family of fixing waffles with strawberries and whipped cream on Christmas morning. We decided to keep that tradition going, so after a while...off we went to make breakfast.
Then it hit...the fit to end all fits. For a reason that we will never know, our sweet little 6-year-old girl who had just gotten everything she could want for Christmas stood defiantly in the middle of the kitchen refusing to take part in our carefully planned family breakfast. By the time the fit was over Annika had stormed off to her bedroom, Kim was in tears at the kitchen table and it seemed that Christmas had come to a screeching halt.
This was a major disappointment for me. I was stunned and had absolutely no idea how to respond. I was disappointed in Annika - I expected a different reaction from her in that moment. I was disappointed in Kim - I expected that she was going to be able to handle Annika's outburst and resolve the issue. I was disappointed in myself - I couldn't fix it...I was the new husband...the new father...wasn't it my job to fix it? These expectations were unrealistic at that point in our journey.
Examine Your Expectations
I could share so many stories of disappointment that we have experienced over the years in our stepfamily. In most cases, I could point to an unrealistic expectation that was at the root of the disappointments. I would argue that in stepfamily life, one of the primary sources of conflict and frustration is the disappointment we feel when things don't go "as planned".
No one dreams about how their stepfamily life will be someday be full of packed calendars, screaming kids and arguments with Ex's. We head into stepfamily life because we love our new partner. We go in because we expect our new partner to help us raise the kids. We dive in expecting to experience peace and stability...quickly. But that simply isn't the reality of most stepfamilies.
Let's Get Realistic
Stepfamilies are complex, emotional and relational. Research shows that it takes the average stepfamily 7 years to effectively integrate. That's an expectation we all need to get in line. If you're stuck in disappointment too often, take a look at your expectations. Be honest with yourself and identify those expectations that you know will just never become a reality. Then figure out what expectations are more realistic.
The reality is you'll never rid your stepfamily life of disappointments. But, you can minimize disappointment by unloading unrealistic expectations.
What disappointments have you been experiencing in your stepfamily life lately? Can you identify the expectation that is linked to that disappointment?
QUESTION: What unrealistic expectations did you have as you headed into stepfamily life? OR What unrealistic expectation do you have now that you might need to let go of? Leave a comment below:
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