Packing along the “baggage” of our past is something we all bring to our marriages…Dad and Sue were no exception. The stresses of stepfamily life seemed to somehow magnify the wounds of the past leaving us trapped in dysfunction. This was the early ‘80s and the availability of help for navigating stepfamily dynamics wasn't readily available.
On My Own
Early adolescence and my teen years were fearful and lonely. As a result, I left home at the age of 16 and spent my time chasing thrills with virtually no accountability.
At the age of 24, life caught up with me…I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Disease, a form of blood cancer and quickly realized that I was not invincible. During my months of chemotherapy and radiation treatment, I began to turn inward…to examine my life. I received counseling and started facing those fears of the past…I finally had some hope.
It was during that season when I met Kim…for many months, we were simply friends. She had been divorced and had a little girl named Annika. In the late summer of 2000 it was like a switch was flipped in my heart, and I realized that I was falling deeply in love with Kim, yet I was fearful of creating a stepfamily. My love for Kim and Annika overruled this fear and we were married in March of 2001.
The weekend before our wedding a conference about practical tools for success in stepfamily life was being offered where we live. With the wedding only a week away, our schedule was chaotic but we decided to attend anyway…it was one of the best decisions we have ever made!
That weekend taught us to approach the success of our family with a success strategy. It prompted us to lead stepfamily classes and groups to help others who needed help like us. Personally, it helped me understand why my "stepfamily of origin" struggled in so many ways. While it did not excuse the reality of our dysfunction, it started a new journey of empathy and forgiveness toward Dad and Sue.
Getting Help…Giving Help
Since our wedding, Kim and I have wrestled through many tough seasons. From day to day struggles of disciplining, allegiances and jealousies to major challenges of a 3-year legal battle with Kim's ex and several years of Annika in rebellion. We have added two more kids to the family, struggled with financial stress, grappled through marital strife and faced our own wounds of the past. Through these seasons we have sought help from mentors, counselors and coaches and in turn have worked to help others. Through both receiving and giving help we continue to learn and grow; discovering hope, stability and love in our dynamic stepfamily life.
These are just some of the things we have learned along the way:
How to set our expectations appropriately for each other and our children
How to effectively build relationship within complicated dynamics
Negotiating discipline and reward strategies
Understanding the losses that stepfamily life brings to children
Navigating the feelings of loneliness and being "stuck" that both adults and children can experience
What Can You Do?
You are not alone in your stepfamily journey! My understanding of stepfamily life as a stepchild and stepparent combined with my experience and training as a Life Coach have uniquely qualified me to help navigate the unexpected twists of stepfamily life that you are facing right now.
Kim and I can partner with stepfamily couples to help...
- Evaluate current successes and stress points
- Build a vision for their desired future
- Create an action plan to get there!
If you're ready to take a next step toward successful stepfamily life, click below to get started!