How to keep your relationship healthy and happy
By Jo Ball - The Stepfamily Coach
When you entered into your relationship I'm sure you didn't fall in love with the children and think 'I must live with these children and their mum/dad's not too bad either. I guess I could put up with her/him'. More likely something else happened.
Most likely you fell in love with your partner and the children were your secondary thoughts. You've entered into this family because of him or her, not them.
In the early stages, when we're falling in love we can tend to see things through rose coloured glasses. And why not? Those feelings of excitement and anticipation are wonderful and the occasional visits and an outing with the kids is easy to handle.
That stage in stepfamily life is what I call the 'getting going stage'. It's a sort of fantasy time where we feel that love will conquer all. But what happens when that 'high on love' feeling begins to fade and realities begin to hit home?
A whole host of issues then start to crop up: you notice the children are untidy; they leave the table while still eating and without asking; they don't clear up after themselves; the ex becomes a pain, circumstances change and kids stay over more often or come to live with your partner. And before you know it, you and your partner are arguing more than ever or have stopped talking altogether.
These are all typical comments within stepfamilies and they all lead to the understanding that your partner and kids come as a package deal and that you have a different view on standards to your partner.
It can be tough and often we can feel like other people (the children in particular) are fighting against our success.
If you haven't been keeping your relationship strong - fresh and alive - you can, during these times, begin to wonder what you're in it for. You might even wonder if you can or want to really stick it out. But there is good news: success can be found.
It's worth remembering that other families, where mum and dad still live together, have these challenges too. Children playing one parent off against the other, asking mum because she's softer or dad because he doesn't know the way mum likes things done whilst he's not there.
Children do bicker, they will make (and leave!) a mess and they will complain about the person who's told them to tow the line. As adults parenting these children, especially in a stepfamily we have to work together as a team. It's crucial to set standards together, to agree how you want things done at home and communicate that to everyone concerned.
It's also important to make it possible for both parent and step-parent to enforce those agreements when necessary.
One of the most important ways to prevent yourself from getting to the stage where you're wondering if you can stick it out is to nurture your relationship, keeping it strong and alive.
So here are my top 5 tips for making sure you've got plenty of emotional energy in your relationship to breeze through the tough times.
1. Have a vision. Talk with your partner about your dreams for the future. Know where you both want to go and how you'd like life to be. Have something to look forward to together.
2. Work as a co-parenting team. Agree standards, how you want things to be done around the home and how they will be enforced. Also agree on who will enforce them and how you will support each other in doing so. Make sure you communicate with everyone concerned.
3. Give each other compliments. Saying thanks and showing gratitude, especially in front of the children, leads by example. It shows how important you are to each other and that you are working as a team.
4. Book in special time alone together. Make a date to go out or just have a romantic night in. Treat this as a special event and get excited about it.
5. Remind each other regularly about what it is you love about each other. Take the time to tell your partner what you love about being with them. Show them appreciation and remember the times you make each other laugh.
Here's a bonus tip!
6. Talk through your worries, and concerns. Don't let things fester. Have lots of open conversations and communicate your needs and listen to his.
I know from my own experience how easy it is to let things slide in your relationship when there is so much going on. But it's simpler than you think to develop great habits that make for strong, happy, lasting relationships.
By implementing these tips you'll be able to sustain a healthy, happy relationship with your partner even when the situation (children/stepchildren) seems to be fighting against it.
By Jo Ball
The Stepfamily Coach
About the Author
Jo Ball runs TheStepfamilyCoach.com, offering support and guidance for step-parents and parents. For a free guide, "7 Secrets For Building A Solid Stepfamily And Succeeding As A Step-parent", including tips and ideas that you can use immediately with your stepfamily visit http://www.TheStepfamilyCoach.com and receive your copy now!
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| Some other articles by Jo Ball - The Stepfamily Coach|