Committed couples can make step families work
The divorce rate for second marriages is around 70 percent. The good news is couples who get educated about step-parenting significantly reduce their likelihood of divorce.
The first step in creating a successful step family is strengthening the couple’s relationship. A committed couple is the critical core of a successful family unit. The following are four powerful ways to strengthen your relationship as a couple:
Committed couples cultivate growth
Don’t get a better spouse this time around, be a better spouse this time around.
Many people, when remarrying, look for someone who is the exact opposite of the person they married before. Howard K. Markman at the University of Denver, who has studied second marriages, said, "The motivation to do it differently is good, but many don't know exactly what to do differently.” He believes it is more important to be a better partner than find a better partner.
Jeffery Larson at Brigham Young University says, “Couples will make the same mistakes again unless they get insight about what caused the divorce and their role in the first marriage's failure." He says that many need help assessing themselves and identifying the ways they need to change. If they don’t, they are likely to fail again.
The coaches at Claritypoint Life Coaching agree that working on yourself is the key to a better marriage. Individuals who constantly strive to improve themselves, become better spouses, and improve their relationship skills create the best marriages. The coaches say, “If you want to be a strong couple … then work on being a better you.”
Work on being less selfish and more giving than you used to be. Many believe that selfishness is the biggest reason that second marriages fail. If both partners are committed to giving more than they get, they have a good chance for success.
Committed couples communicate with love
Set your opinions aside up front and ask your spouse questions about what he or she thinks and feels. Listen and validate his or her feelings by honoring their right to think and feel the way they do, even when you don’t agree.
Spend some time here so your spouse feels heard and understood. Then ask if they would be open to hearing your thoughts. Speak your truth with love and look for ways to create win-wins.
Communication experts say to be open to compromise, be mature, don’t make everything about you, be quick to apologize when you’re wrong and don’t get overly committed to being right every time. If you build a relationship of trust and communicate openly, conflicts and problems can be resolved with love.
Communication experts say communicating with love means:
- Being open to compromise
- Being mature
- Not making everything about you
- Being quick to apologize when you're wrong
- Not being overly committed to being right every time
Committed couples are a cohesive team
Successful step-family couples establish house rules and realistic consequences before issues arise. They are united on decisions and discuss disagreements in private. They are a cohesive team in front of the children, so it is clear the parents cannot be played off each other.
Couples should decide on discipline issues and what the house rules need to be together, but experts recommend letting the natural parent be the one to dish out the discipline to a child. If the natural parent isn’t present, the stepparent should remind the child of the house rules and the consequence in a very loving and calm manner. Committed couples back each other up and show the children this team won’t be divided.
Committed couples face all problems as a team. They are united against the world, against the challenges and against the conflicts, but never against each other. Even if a conflict is about one partner’s behavior, they still work it through together as a team. If you commit now not to let any challenge come between you and communicate with love, you can work through anything.
Committed couples give each other room to learn
Your spouse has never been a step parent before — at least not with your kids. You both need some time to figure the whole thing out. Love is about letting someone be imperfect and in process. It’s about being patient and not expecting them to do everything right and right away.
Smart stepparents don’t rush the process of blending. Everyone needs time to learn about each other and get used to this new way of life. Remember, everyone does the best they can with what they know. It’s just in the beginning, they don’t know very much. Give them time to learn.
There will be days you will think about being committed … to a mental hospital. Hang in there — you can do this.
Kimberly Sayer Giles is the founder and president of LDS Life Coaching and www.claritypointcoaching.com and was named one of the top 20 Advice Guru's in the country by GMA. She is a popular speaker, executive life coach and mother of seven.