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Diane L. Danois, J.D. Headshot

Doin' the 2-Step When Your Stepkids Are Ruining Your Marriage

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Most parents will admit that their darling, little angels have, at one point or another, caused a riff in their relationship. Raising children, whether as single parents, as dual parents or as a co-parenting team of several adults, can be challenging and stressful. Raising step children adds a particular twist to the interrelationships because of the very nature of those relationships. There are all sorts of "rules" and suggested guidelines to follow out there, but there's no steadfast right way to do it. The best rule is to do the very best you can raising all of your children, and to recognize that you won't always get it right.

However, there are a few guidelines that apply specifically to stepparents, who may be struggling with keeping their new marriages intact, while living with and loving their new step children. As a stepmom of three (tweens and teens), I've had my share of ups and downs. My marriage has experienced the joys of "for better" and the perils of "for worse," and our union has become stronger for both. When faced with turmoil within your family, think about the following steps to prevent the conflict from having a negative impact on your relationship with your spouse.

Step One:
Take a step back: Remove yourself from the equation. Does the conflict still exist? Is a resolution possible without your intervention? If you are not the center of the problem, don't insert yourself to be part of the solution.

Step Two:
Take a step forward : Tell your spouse how you feel about the particular situation, but be cautious not to be hostile or unfairly critical of the child. Explain your frustrations or concerns as they relate to the family dynamic as a whole, recognizing that you are now part of that family unit too.

Step Three:
Take a sidestep to the left: To the left to the left. Put all of your caring, all of your efforts, all of your frustrations in a box to the left, and close the lid. You've given it your best, and sometimes it's best for everyone to give up and walk away. There is no defeat in admitting defeat or that you weren't as effective or can't be as effective as you'd like to be in certain circumstances. Even if you had the best intentions and your heart was in the right place, sometimes going left is right.

Step Four:
Take a sidestep to the right: Though this author has written extensively on co-parenting and stepparenting, the truth is that there's no right or wrong. Whether you choose left or right, you will often be wrong. Taking a sidestep to the right simply means that your actions are based on what you feel is best for the situation at that particular moment in time. Be prepared for making mistakes, and for stepping back to square one.

Step Five:
Repeat steps one through four

Remember: if you've stepped into the fray, step out of the way and let the bio parents step in and step up, so that you can focus on preserving your own relationships and happiness.