Mastering the Mysteries of Stepfamilies

The odds are not in favor of stepfamilies. Second and subsequent marriages have a higher failure rate than first marriages, estimated at 65% This is due to the added complexity of issues stepfamilies face such as loss of intimacy, fear of rejection, and unclear roles. In addition, unresolved issues from previous divorces and unrealistic expectations for the transition to stepfamily life create an environment of unhappiness, strife and added distress for the new marriage and family.

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In spite of the challenges, there is hope for a stepfamily to thrive if they follow three important guidelines.

#1) How they talk: A stepfamily can only be successful if the husband and wife are committed to learning and using respectful communication skills with each other, their children and stepchildren.

#2) How they think: Get real with the amount of time and energy it is going to take for the stepfamily relationships to gel. Also, anticipate the challenges and how they’re going to be dealt with. While the bonds within stepfamilies take a lot longer, a lot more energy, and a lot more patience then people expect, perseverance and patience is key.

#3) How they treat others: The changes are a challenge for everyone. Kids are coming and going to spend time with their parents, exes and new partners of the exes can create havoc, and everyone is getting used to new roles and relationships. Give appropriate respect to the other living (or deceased) biological parents and the extended family. Avoid ranting about the other parent in front of the kids. As much as possible, treat others as you want to be treated.

When these three changes are made, the children will feel safe, cared for by their parents and step parents and respected by their siblings and step-siblings.

Mastering the Mysteries of Stepfamilies (MMS) is a new program to help couples successfully make these changes.

MMS was created by Nancy Landrum, in collaboration with Mary Ortwein (IDEALS of Kentucky). Adapted from the popular Mastering the Mysteries of Love curriculum. MMS delivers practical instruction in the use of research-validated communication and conflict resolution skills as well as education about recommended guidelines for navigating the complexity of stepfamily dynamics. The 24 total hours of class time includes a variety of teaching methods, exercises, games and practices that keep couples engaged in the learning process. The seven sessions include topics such as, “Ten Ways to Show Understanding,” “Stepfamilies Boundaries,” and “Our Conflict Action Plan.”

Landrum is passionate about helping stepfamilies because of her personal experiences of living through the unique stresses of stepfamily life. Unfortunately for Nancy and her husband Jim, there were no programs to help them with their stepfamily. “We were completely ignorant about the dynamics of stepfamilies,” says Landrum, “and to add salt to the wound, we lacked good communication and conflict resolution skills. It was a recipe for disaster.” As with many couples in a stepfamily, conflicts began to dominate their relationship.

Eventually, they learned how to use better communication and conflict resolution skills and adjusted their expectations to fit stepfamily realities. But the process was long and agonizing for them and their children. What took them several years to find out and overcome, is now available in one power-packed program, Mastering the Mysteries of Stepfamilies.

“I feel so gratified to have a part in bringing these concepts to the stepfamily public. It is my hope that many stepfamilies will avoid the pain that we and our children experienced,” says Landrum. The challenge is to make stepfamily couples aware that solid, proven guidelines for success are available.

Related articles:

Mastering the Mysteries of Stepfamilies Success Story

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