Three Things Every Stepfamily Couple Needs
I'm always skeptical when I hear someone say that everyone needs something.
However, the more I connect with step-couples and reflect on my personal stepfamily journey I am convinced that every stepfamily needs what Kim and I call "The Three C's".
From Fearful to Hopeful
Kim and I dated for about three months before we were engaged. I fell in love with her quickly and Annika (her daughter) too. My love for the girls was mixed with some fears - okay, call it terror. I grew up in a difficult stepfamily and I was terrified to form another one.
My mom passed away when I was just over one year old, leaving Dad with me plus two step-kids of his own. I was about seven when Dad re-married and my step-mom brought along two kids from a previous marriage too.
Our stepfamily was complex and filled with dynamics that I don't have time to go into. We were dysfunctional - unfortunately not in a funny sitcom kind of way. Leaving home at 16 years old, I took along lots of anger and resentment. I didn't speak to Dad for several years.
My difficult childhood was fueling my fear of forming a new stepfamily with Kim. Call it luck or call it providence that the weekend before our wedding we had the opportunity to attend a seminar for step-couples led by stepfamily expert Ron Deal.
As Ron's presentation unfolded, my fears began to subside. Suddenly I had hope that Kim and I weren't destined to repeat my childhood. I gained three things that weekend that only in the past couple of years could I put into words. Those three things were Clarity, Confidence and Connection.
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The Three C's
Clarity - Knowing what not to do is different than knowing what to do.
Heading toward the wedding day, I knew what I didn't want for our stepfamily. That didn't help. I had no idea what I needed to do in order to lead our home toward success. I needed clarity.
One step-couple we worked with recently said, "This stuff just isn't common sense!" They're right! Many of the challenges stepfamilies experience are due to hidden dynamics - underlying issues that slowly erode hope.
Clarity restores hope. It did for me. As I got clear on the dangers and pitfalls that pretty much every stepfamily faces, I began to have hope that Kim and I could not just survive this marriage, but really thrive. I'm not the only one. We get the privilege of leading step-couples toward clarity all the time and we get to see their hope restored.
You can find a book or blog, enroll in a class, a workshop or an online course that will give you the clarity you need.
Don't let hidden dynamics erode your hope. What's the next step you need to take to gain clarity?
Confidence - An empty tool box brings no assurance.
Clarity is only the beginning. I found out that getting clear on the issues brought hope, but it didn't equip me for the challenges to come. I needed practical strategies to be confident that I was leading our home in the right direction.
Bill [not his real name] once shared with us through his tears, "I had no plan and couldn't figure out how to find one, but now I have some tools that I can use and feel confident that we can make it!" Clarity on the issues just wasn't enough for Bill and his wife - they needed to fill up their tool box with the right tools for the job.
You probably want to lead your stepfamily toward a peaceful and healthy future. Chances are, you don't feel that you have what it takes to make that happen. The truth is, just like Bill, you need to fill up your toolbox.
Look for someone who already has the success that you want to achieve in your family and find out how they did it. Connect with a coach or a mentor who can help you find the right tools.
Don't let an empty tool box kill your confidence. What can you do to start filling your tool box?
Connection - The result is what we're after.
The final "C" is not something you do; rather, it's something you get. Connection is the result we're all looking for in stepfamily life. We all start out disconnected with high hopes of coming together. The reason most step-couples reach out for help is rooted in a feeling of disconnection in their home.
When step-couples gain clarity around the hidden dynamics, then build confidence by gaining the tools they need; the result is more connection. We've seen couples find connection in their partnership and with all the step-relationships in their home simply because of their new found clarity and confidence.
Now, let's get real. Stepfamily life is tough and many of the tensions won't go away, but connection is possible even in the midst of tension. The result of connection won't happen overnight. Patience and perseverance are required. Kim and I know this from experience.
Our 17 years of leading our stepfamily have been challenging, tiring and frustrating. But every time I connect with my step-daughter who is now 22-years-old, I am reminded that all the effort was worth it.
Don't let a lack of clarity and confidence rob your stepfamily of connection. What will you do today to create the connection you're looking for?
Take a minute to answer one of the questions I asked in this post. Leave your comment below…