Dear Aaron & Rachel,
My husband and I have a marriage that’s a ten out of ten – except for one thing: our stepchildren. When we were dating, we fell in love pretty hard. We did everything right and didn’t introduce our children to each other until we were sure we were serious. And even though our kids didn’t like it, we went ahead and got married anyway. That was only two years ago and now it seems like our marriage is a real-life Parent Trap with our kids trying to break us up. We still love each other but with all the fighting that goes on between our stepchildren and our kids’ biological parents I’m not sure if our marriage is worth it. I almost wonder if we should separate until our kids are older and try it again. I’d love some input.
Dear Parent Trapped,
So sorry that you are struggling with such difficult family dynamics. Of course, it is very common for there to be such challenges with blended families. These challenges can be worked through with the help of a talented Marriage & Family Therapist. Because your marriage is otherwise perfect, I do not think you should throw in the towel solely because of the stepchildren. You and your partner deserve to be happy. Your children need to learn that they can not always have their way in life and that there are circumstances beyond their control that they need to accept. They will benefit more from having parents who are happy and can model strength than parents who allow them to control their lives. I strongly suggest therapy that can give you all coping skills. Best of luck!
Hi Parent Trapped,
You’d be surprised how many couples sit on my couch not because they don’t get along, but because of step-family related difficulties that are affecting their marriage. In fact, I contributed some information about step-families to Huffington Post recently that I think would be a worth a read for you. It also gives some information from other professionals about why second marriages are harder than first. Seriously, give it a read. Too many people enter second marriages without enough information.
As a marriage counselor, I realize that marriage isn’t all about love, romance, and butterflies in your stomach. There are a lot of practical aspects that go along with marriage that couples need to navigate together. And step-families are no different. Even though you two may be madly in love with each other, there may be practical challenges in your step-family that just make your marriage impractical. Things like crazy custody schedules, incompatible finances due to financial obligations to exes etc, and stepchildren who try to sabotage your marriage just to name a few. Yes, these are legitimate practical reasons to end the relationship. But if your marriage is a ten out of ten otherwise then stick with it and do what you have to do in order to get the unruly children back in line. You can always change custody arrangements to fit your family better, and change up the household rules to fit better, too. Remember that step families aren’t meant to work the same way that nuclear families do so don’t force yourself (or your step-children) into trying to be like a nuclear family.
Finally, don’t forget that even though they don’t like you as a stepparent, that doesn’t mean you should just resign yourself to not being liked. As a stepparent, try to invest yourself into things your stepchildren like. Help them with their school projects, soccer games, and homework. A little bit of love and affection will go a long way.
About Rachel: Rachel Russo is a Dating, Relationship, & Image Coach who works with marriage-minded singles and couples in NYC and throughout the US. Checkout her website at RachelRusso.com
About Aaron: Aaron Anderson is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Director of The Marriage and Family Clinic in Denver, Colorado and writer for various websites on marriage and relationships.