How Can a Great Workout Routine Lead to Healthy Blended Family Life?
We often meet step-couples who are simply confused. They entered into blended family life excited for their "happily ever after" - but their experience so far isn't turning out the way they expected.
Most couples aren't sure what to do. They want to feel more connected as a family. They're tired of running into unexpected conflict around every corner. They've tried everything they can think of, but nothing seems to work.
Sooner or later, almost every step-couple ends up in this spot. If you're there now — I want you to know you can experience something new. If you're not there yet — I'm going to challenge you to prepare yourself to avoid the most common frustrations.
Simple: With a good workout routine
Our 14-year-old son, Jacob has decided that this summer it's time to "muscle up". He dabbled with weight lifting a little last summer, but he's taking it up a notch this year. As I've watched him develop technique and meet incremental goals, I realized that the same principles he's learning also apply to developing a healthy blended family.
Here's 3 steps to ensuring you're building your "stepfamily muscles"
1. Learning the Ropes
Our gym requires anyone under 18 to participate in two personal training sessions before they're allow to use the lifting equipment. Through the training, Jacob learned how to properly use each piece of equipment and how to lift with good form.
There are two reasons Jacob's training was important. The first was to prevent injury. The second was to give him confidence in his workout routine.
Stepfamily expert Ron Deal said, "my first advice to every step-couple is to learn as much as you can about healthy stepfamily dynamics." Ron is challenging you and me to "learn the ropes" so that we can move forward with confidence and prevent "injury" in our blended families.
2. Take the Time to Practice Good Form
The key to effective weight lifting is good form! Bad form means you're working the wrong muscles. Sure, you might be able to stack on more weight - but sacrificing form for weight can slow your progress and increases your risk of a major injury.
We see guys at the gym all the time sacrificing their form for more weight. Maybe they never learned the ropes or maybe they're just trying to impress someone. Jacob and I can easily fall into the trap of comparing the amount of weight they're lifting to what we're lifting. Sometimes we can feel like we're not getting the results we really want. But, we're learning to stop comparing and intentionally remind ourselves - good form comes first and that takes time to perfect. The heavy lifting will come later.
Step-couples need to practice good form. They've got to patiently develop their core family values. They've got to let trust in relationships build over time. They've got to practice good strategies that safeguard their partnership. They've got to work to become a parenting team.
Practicing good form in your stepfamily means you need to slow down on the front end so that when it's time to do the heavy lifting later, you're prepared. Research shows it takes an average of 7 years for a stepfamily to function well together. Keep your expectations in line, don't compare your results to another and patiently practice healthy stepfamily strategies.
3. Focus on Incremental Change
On the day I'm writing this, Jacob increased his bench press weight by 5 pounds! That doesn't sound like much, but he was proud of that increase — and I was proud of him. Building physical strength always happens by small incremental changes.
It's the same for stepfamilies.
You'll run into problems when you focus on the big changes you're hoping for rather than the process of getting there. Connecting step-relationships and learning to function together as a family is a process - not an instant change.
Once you learn the ropes and practice good form, you can start setting small goals that will incrementally move you closer to the experience you really want. Choose to do one small thing this week to reach out to your difficult step-child. Decide on one tiny change you can make in how you communicate with your Ex. Take one little step to express love and appreciation for your partner.
And after you make those incremental changes, look for the next small step you can take that will move you closer to your goals. When you focus on one small change at a time, eventually you'll look back over the months and years to realize you've managed to find your way to the big changes you were looking for.
A Little Bit of Something is Better Than Nothing at All
Jacob and I have run into some workout "roadblocks". Our schedule can get busy, our energy is sometimes low or our focus is on something else. But we're discovering how great it feels to accomplish at least a little each day. Even when we can't get in our full workout, we're finding ways to do something — because it's better than not doing anything at all.
There's probably weeks where you just don't feel like investing more into your blended family. Maybe you've got other things on your mind or your energy is drained. Whatever your roadblock is, do at least one small thing to move your family forward — it's better than not doing anything at all!
And before I sign off, here's one thing you can do today: join our Free 5-Day Blended Family Challenge. In just 10 minutes a day over the next 5 days, you can start learning the ropes of healthy blended family life. You'll practice your form with one action step every day. And you'll get to experience making incremental change. I hope we get to see you there!
QUESTION: What's one incremental change you've seen in the past month? Leave your comments below…