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Thursday, February 3, 2011

Stepfamily Trap: "It's My Way or the Highway"

"The divorce was final today," my husband's co-worker said to him. "We tried to work things out but we could never agree on the parenting of our kids."

My husband related the conversation to me of a stepfather he worked with who had been married less than five years. Both husband and wife brought children to the marriage and argued constantly about how to parent each other's child. There was never any unity or give and take between  the couple; it was always "my way or the highway." Unfortunately, the highway won out.

In his book, The Smart Stepfamily, stepfamily authority Ron Deal says one of the key barriers to marital oneness in stepfamilies that contributes to the higher divorce rate is parent-child allegiance. When a husband or wife chooses to regularly side with his/her child over his/her spouse, it sets the marriage up to fail.

Deal says, "When push comes to shove, the allegiance (or loyalty) between parents and children often wins out over the marriage unless the couple can form a unified position of leadership. If they cannot govern the family as a team, the household is headed for anger, jealousy, and unacceptance. Unity within the couple's relationship bridges the emotional gap between the stepparent and stepchildren and positions both adults to lead the family." 

"If a biological parent is not willing to build such a bridge with the stepparent, the stepchildren will receive an unhealthy amount of power in the home," Deal says. "All they have to do is cry "unfair" and their parent protects them from the "mean, nasty" stepparent. This almost always results in marital tension, conflict, resentment, and isolation."

Unity within the couple relationship must be a priority for a step-couple. It doesn't happen naturally or overnight, but it can happen with intentional effort and constant awareness. Successful stepparenting happens when a couple takes a unified approach to parenting.

Are you and your spouse on the same team in your parenting efforts?

Related Posts:

Does Your Mirror Reflect the Fruit of the Spirit?

Making Stepparenting Choices that Count

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At February 3, 2011 at 1:44 PM , Blogger James Davenport said...

I think married couples need to remember this as well. My wife and I have 5 children, and I have another from a previous marriage. We have always worked to ensure we were on the same page when it came to parenting. And if there is a disagreement, we work it out before making a decision.

James Davenport

At February 4, 2011 at 2:43 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great points Gayla! Working together as a unified front is the only way it works. My partner and I learned the hard way.

At February 5, 2011 at 8:26 PM , Blogger Step Parenting with Grace said...


Thank you for your comment. You're right - whether we're parenting in a blended or biological family, we need to be on the same page with our spouse.


Thank you for your encouraging comments. Hope all is well with you.


At February 8, 2011 at 2:34 PM , Blogger Alycia Morales said...

I found "The Smart Stepmom" by Ron Deal and Dr. Laura Petherbridge to be a fantastic resource for stepmoms. Dads could get a lot from it, too.
I can testify to the difficulty of having differences of opinion on how to raise the stepchildren. I always start with, "The first five years of marriage were hell." But my husband and I made it through, and now we use our experiences in marriage and parenting to minister to others.
How did I, the stepmom, survive the "siding with my son syndrome?" I gave it to God, remembering He blessed me with a stepson for a reason. Whether it was for me to grow closer to Jesus or for him to glean from my resources, I know from experience God knows what He's doing! Even when I don't.
If only Ron had started his ministry ten years ago...I'd have had more support from those around me. But God is good and we've survived through it. My stepson is now in college, almost 21, and we all have a fantastic relationship with one another.


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