Not the Brady Bunch
For the most part, stepfamilies don't look like the Brady Bunch. Not only is the lack of "Alice" a big factor, but the family dynamics are unlike any other.
Does any of this sound like you?
- You feel like an outsider in your home.
- You have a great relationship with your partner when you're alone, but not when the kids or ex-spouse is around.
- You don't feel understood or appreciated.
- You rarely feel relaxed at home with your step kids.
Emotional Baggage Delays Your Stepfamily Development
One contributing factor to stepfamily strife is “Emotional Baggage,” as noted by Elizabeth Einstein, MA/LMFT.
Even under the best of circumstances—after using mediation, counseling, or collaborative law to create a "healthy divorce," starting a new stepfamily is challenging. Unfinished business from your past relationships—including your families—gets in the way of a fresh start. Changes are hard to manage at first. Including new roles, rules, diverse discipline styles, loyalty issues and children moving between two households. When children respond by withdrawing, rebelling, or experiencing serious loyalty conflicts, additional pressure compounds the new relationship.
When a remarried couple brings "emotional baggage" to the newly-formed family, moving ahead becomes difficult. This may include unresolved hostility between former partners, grief, angry and confused children, unrealistic expectations, trauma from the previous families and more.
This is especially true when addictive personalities remarry without having examined their relationship patterns. A remarriage might start before, or during recovery. As the recovery process evolves, family dynamics change, and the shifts may affect newly developing relationships. Remarried adults need to understand which issues belong to Stepfamily Living, and which reflect the recovery process or unresolved addiction.
None of us ever completely get rid of all our "baggage." It's part of our lifelong growth process. In order to get a head start on creating a successful stepfamily, it's wise to examine our relationships and communication patterns. Then, before remarriage, do what it takes to work to improve them. Clear communication and skill-building are the most effective ways to strengthen a stepfamily—especially at the start.
Your Family's Future is our First Priority