Marriage and Step Families:   My Stepchildren Are Stressing My Marriage!

by Sally R. Connolly,  LMFT and John E. Turner,  LMFT

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Living in a step family can be dangerous to a marriage.

It is not easy to rear children. Each child is different and requires thoughtful work and planning for the best way to teach and discipline. It may be hard when you are married to your child’s parent. It can be many times harder when you are not married to your child’s parent … and you are married to someone else!

  In all marriages, there are disagreements. (While some couples may say that they never disagree, that does not mean that they like and agree with everything that their spouse does, they may just not talk about it.) Money, sex, children and in-laws are the top 4 but we could name the top 25 pretty easily.

All perpetual issues are heightened in a step family.

Differences in parenting may also be one of those perpetual issues that couples argue
over. When the children are the birth children of your spouse, it is often easier to believe that you both have the same goal in mind. When the other parent is a step parent, however, that is often not so easy. Stepchildren make it much more complicated.
It is too easy to let the parenting disagreements bleed over into the fabric of the marital relationship, especially in a step family.   When someone that you care about criticizes your child or your success as a parent, good feelings erode and, over time, can erode good feelings about each other and about the marriage.
Nurturing a marriage is hard as well when there are children around. Life is just busier and time together is often hard to get. When some of those children are stepchildren and may actually resent you being a part of their family, it is hard to find quality time as a couple.

High quality time (it’s not always possible to have high quantity) is crucial to maintain a healthy and viable marriage. It is paramount to keeping the love alive, especially in a step family.

Being a stepchild is hard as well.

  Finances are more complicated. Couples have maintenance and child support as well as feelings about what other parents are doing … or not doing. So many decisions have to be made in a marriage with stepchildren and it is often hard to do it without emotion.

There are “insiders” and “outsiders” in a step family. Because of this, a lot of maturity, patience, self-confidence and

grit are required in order to get through the feeling of exclusion, let go of hurt and resentment and keep the positive thinking and behaving alive.

Click here to discover 10 strategies to protect your marriage in a step family.