3 Things You CAN Do When Things Don't Go As Planned
Two people meet. They're attracted to each other and connecting. A beautiful new beginning, a second chance at love and a happy ending! It all sounds so wonderful…and it is!
It may be complicated…blending kids and families, but it's doable! Everyone is going to be excited for us! It'll all work out…one big happy family!
Wouldn't it be great if all our awesome expectations came true! If that euphoric, joy-filled dream of a smooth transition into stepfamily life was our reality! If everyone - kids, ex's, and extended family were able to get on board and happily accept our joyous union!
YES, it certainly would be! But that's NOT typically how it all goes when a new stepfamily is formed.
So what can we do when things don't go as planned? When kids resist and act out toward a new step parent, when the ex-spouse sabotages and extended family members are unsupportive? Then what?
When blissful expectations get crushed and frustrating realities emerge, don't get discouraged. Here's three things you can do to continue moving forward:
Let Go of Unrealistic Expectations
In an earlier post, Mike shared this: In stepfamily life, one of the primary sources of conflict and frustration is the disappointment we feel when things don't go "as planned". Most disappointment is a result of unmet expectations. We must learn to keep our expectations realistic. Stepfamily relationships are complex and there are many factors out of our control. The process of "blending" will most likely be messy and painful, so remember to adjust your expectations when things don’t go as planned. I always say: "Keep your hopes high, but your expectations in line".
Be Patient in the Process
When frustration and disappointment come along, it can feel natural for us to want to "fix it". If we can just sway that uncooperative child and make them see how great this is…if we can reason with our unreasonable ex and convince them to back off or somehow show those extended family members how wrong they are!!! But usually these efforts will lead to added frustration as we realize that we really aren't in a position to control those around us…then disappointment, and even anger, can grow.
So, rather than attempting to fix everyone else, we can choose to simply relax and be patient in the process. Research shows it takes an average of 7 years for a stepfamily to fully integrate…7 years! Of course there are many factors that influence this, including the ages of the kids, but it is clear that patience is critical. For more on healthy blending click here.
Hold On To Joy
I know, I know…it would be so nice if everything went according to plan and if everyone cooperated. We've had similar desires over the years and have faced disappointing and often painful realities as we realized just how much was out of our control. But that doesn't mean we can't enjoy what we do have! Don't let the messy blunder of "blending" steal your joy!
Continue to invest in your relationship and work to stay united as you cope with difficult circumstances. There are many things that can easily drive a wedge between step couples and negatively impact our relationship. But if we are able to wisely manage the complex dynamics between us, and those that surround us, we can experience some of that blissful happiness we hoped for. We don't have to let disappointment, frustration or painful issues keep us from enjoying each other!
It's okay if things don't always go as planned…when our reality doesn't match those lofty expectations we had in the beginning. In fact, we should expect to be challenged with disappointing realities when we embark on our journey into stepfamily life. But we can be intentional about how we handle unexpected realities. We can choose to enjoy the beautiful things we've found in each other and celebrate little victories along the way (even if we have to wait 7 years for them)!
Oh, one more thing: Don't stop learning! Continue to learn about the complexities of stepfamily dynamics and grow together as you patiently integrate and discover more about what you can do to lead your stepfamily with confidence, clarity and connection!
QUESTION: What is one unrealistic expectation you need to let go of? Leave a comment below.