How to Move Beyond Blind Spots to Accept Your 'New Normal'

How to Move Beyond Blind Spots to Accept Your 'New Normal'

If you've been part of a 'blending' family for any length of time you've probably already discovered that you started out with a few Blind Spots. 

Maybe there's some things you weren't expecting that caught you by surprise.  And it's possible that you aren't sure how to move beyond those unrealistic expectations and accept your 'new normal'. 

This is common for people living in stepfamily dynamics, and guess what…

You aren't alone!

What's your Blind Spot?

We recently asked our Facebook followers this question:  "What 'Blind Spots' or unrealistic expectations did you have going into stepfamily life?"  We received various answers  - and their unexpected realities are painful!  Here are some of your responses:

  • That being good to your step-kids would be good enough for them to see through the lies and jealousy of their mother.

  • That my husband's Ex would love having a bonus mom for her children.  Not the case.

  • That both parents would actually put the child first.

  • The conflict is very eye opening.  My parents were married 48 years and I didn't witness high conflict. 

Stuck in the Middle - Who Knew?

One of the first things that I was blindsided with in our stepfamily journey, was feeling stuck in the middle!  I really thought It would be easy to make my daughter Annika happy and Mike happy at the same time.  I really didn't foresee that they'd have separate agendas and different opinions about…well, almost everything!

And I was the one stuck in the middle, desperately trying to keep everyone happy.  If I agreed with my new husband, then Annika felt slighted.  If I sided with her, then Mike would get upset. 

For the most part, my 'new normal' was that every time I made a decision, someone was going to complain about it.  This was a place I never thought I'd be — feeling exhausted and defeated as the perpetual 'bad guy' in my own family!  Little did I know that I was a 'Stuck Insider'!

I eventually realized that I needed to examine my expectations and learn how to live with my 'new normal'.  But this was a process that took time, effort and energy.

Avoidance vs Acceptance

Disappointment is a peculiar emotion.  It can quickly alert you to a blind spot and let you know that something about your original expectations were misguided.  For most of us, this can be somewhat uncomfortable…because we like to believe that our expectations are realistic and right on track. 

When that isn't the case, it often leaves us feeling confused, let down or even upset with ourselves for being so naive.  At that point, you have a choice to make…

You can stuff your disappointment, avoid the issue and deny your discomfort OR you can get real with reality.  These two options have something in common — they both require energy and effort. 

Where these two options differ is that avoidance is a dead end.  You can only deny reality for so long until it eventually explodes into deeper levels of dysfunction and pain. 

Acceptance on the other hand, leads to healthy awareness that opens up new possibilities for unity - and an opportunity to develop more realistic expectations!

Moving Beyond Your Blind Spots

The process of facing painful disappointment and moving beyond blind spots will take some hard work and courage.  But the benefits far outweigh the alternative of avoidance, which will eventually lead to resentment, anger, bitterness and possibly even the collapse of your stepfamily.

Here are three steps you can take today to move toward acceptance and embrace healthier ways to cope with unexpected realities in your stepfamily:

Step 1:  Get Real with Reality

All too often we connect with people living in a stepfamily who are striving to change things that are beyond their control to change.  They desperately want to "fix" what's wrong and somehow get everything to match up with their original expectations. 

But the reality is that within these complex dynamics, relational harmony is harder than it looks - and there are no quick fixes.  You cannot force anyone to love, accept or appreciate you.  You cannot change history or the impact of past relational strife and biological ties.  You cannot transform the attitudes and behaviors of an Ex.   

You must let go of the things you simply can't control.

But at the same time, there are some healthy things you CAN do.  You can gain insight around how to positively influence and impact your dynamics.  It's going to take time, patience and intentional efforts to gain trust and build relational bonds. 

But over time you can make a difference.  It may never be exactly what you initially hoped for, but some things will eventually turn around and might just be amazing in the end!

You can get 'real with your reality' by letting go of control and holding onto hope!


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Step 2:  Take On Your 'New Normal'

Rather than railing against your realities, choose to respond to your 'New Normal' with a different perspective.  This starts with uncovering the truth and moving out of avoidance. 

Open up and honestly communicate with your spouse about your disappointments.  Stay focused on your own experience and don't expect your partner to fix things.  Be willing to listen and understand their viewpoint.  And don't forget to learn everything you can about what your kids may be experiencing as they adjust to stepfamily life.

It's normal for everyone in a stepfamily to have very different perspectives, so give each other lots of empathy and avoid playing the blame game.

Once everything is out in the open, work together and find the help you need to move forward.  Read a book, take a class or engage in specific coaching around healthy stepfamily dynamics. 

In stepfamily life, UNITY is key!  Get on the same team and explore what you can do to minimize the negative impact of your challenging dynamics.

Step 3: Identify Common Complexities

Often it can be liberating just knowing that your issues are normal!  Understanding how common stepfamily dynamics work and what to expect can give you renewed confidence.  You can work through the challenges…even if you're still feeling disappointed and frustrated with how things are going right now. 

When Mike and I learned about the common complexities around "Stuck Insiders" and "Stuck Outsiders" from stepfamily expert Patricia Papernow, we were blown away! 

Suddenly we weren't crazy and our situation wasn't hopeless…we were just like other step-couples struggling to work through those painful issues we all face.  And…when we learned a strategy to minimize this issue, everything changed for us!

Keep Moving Forward

Practice makes perfect, and this process is no exception.  Practice these three steps until you notice the disappointment that has come with those Blind Spots starting to fade.  And as that happens, you can begin replacing unrealistic expectations with some new ones that are more realistic! 

For some, this might be a simple adjustment to your expectations to keep moving forward.  Or maybe you need to work with a coach or counselor to move beyond old resentments, anger or to grieve the things that might never be. 

Either way, it's time to move beyond the Blind Spots.  Learn to let go of control, hold onto hope and practice these three steps.  Diligence, commitment and patience will move you to a place where your 'new normal' is a reality you can live with!

QUESTION:  What 'Blind Spots' or unrealistic expectations did you have going into stepfamily life?  Leave a comment below…

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