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Ask Yourself

* Is living in a Blended Family or a Stepfamily “more than you bargained for?”

* Does step parenting feel like the most challenging and thankless job of all?

* Is the tension and conflict taking its toll on your relationships

* Are you becoming worried about your children and their well-being?

* Are you constantly arguing with your partner about the kids, discipline and parenting in general?

• Is your ex or your partner's ex causing real problems in your blended family and in your relationship

• Are you at the end of your rope and need some answers NOW

* Are you considering entering into a Blended Family or Stepfamily and want to be prepared?

Step Wars Life in Adult Stepfamilies


Step Institute

STEP WARS – Life in an Adult Stepfamily

A Book Review of STEPWARS – Overcoming the Perils and Making Peace in Adult Stepfamilies By Grace Gabe, M.D., and Jean Lipman-Blumen, PH.D.

Did someone say - "making peace in adult stepfamilies"? Easier said than done of course – that’s why it’s called step WARS. What I love about STEP WARS is that it covers the full spectrum of life in adult stepfamilies, from everything you might expect to everything that you couldn’t possibly anticipate. Once again, the dynamics of stepfamilies are at their most powerful and toxic when they’re what we least expect and I think the trap that many parents fall into is EXPECTING that their kids are going to be nothing but happy for them once they find that special someone later in life. Besides, they’ve already spent the better part of their adult life sacrificing for their children – who could possibly begrudge them happiness in the latter years of life, or even in the middle years? Well, adult stepchildren that’s who. And there are some surprising and some remarkably understandable reasons why, when we really look at it. But once again, as needs conflict, we find that there are no black and white or simple solutions. It’s a matter of different people seeing things from different vantage points, and feeling their individual losses in a very powerful way. Before we can find the solutions, we must begin by seeking understanding of what is happening for everyone involved.

Two things that adult stepchildren are giving up when a parent re-partners include:

1. Their preferred view of the future and family – mom and dad, now grandma and grandpa, at home together just waiting for a visit with the grandchildren. They didn’t want or expect to find strangers in this place – ie. stepparents - that they will barely have the time to get to know because they are adults now and times together are limited to visits and phone calls.

2. It may seem petty and materialistic, but one of the big concerns of adult children in stepfamilies is their inheritance. Who will share in it? Will they lose out? Who does mom or dad care about more and how does this get reflected in how they share the wealth or don’t share the wealth? How do things stand to change now that a parent has a new partner, and potentially new stepchildren, or heaven forbid, new children of their own if they decide to have children together. It’s all a bit much to take in but one thing is for sure, adult children are having to deal with this today on a fairly regular basis and it doesn’t happen without disappointment, bewilderment, frustration, anger, anxiety and conflict.

And then there is the reality of the adults who are re-partnering. Some have waited until their children are grown to re-partner while others are attempting to move beyond a more recent loss in their life – divorce or death. Either way, they have experienced a major loss and when they find a new and suitable partner, most report feeling so fortunate to have another chance at love and life. The last thing they expect is that not everyone will share their joy and excitement.

Studies show that women in the stepmother role, put a great deal of pressure on themselves to make the new family and relationships work. Perhaps this is because women in general are more focused on relationships and have always felt that somehow this is their territory and responsibility. It could also be attributed to the pervasiveness of the wicked stepmother stereotype. Stepmothers of all ages, seem to come into their new families with the idea that they must do everything in their power to prove that they are not wicked but actually have everyone’s best interests at heart and will do whatever it takes to bring the family together. Can you spell BURNOUT? For stepfathers, there is an absence of similar negative stereotypes on the grand scale so they typically don’t have the same burden to prove themselves in addition to the fact that the majority of people don’t expect men to be the relationships builders and or fence menders when things don’t go as well as planned. What is common for partners who bring children into the mix, is a feeling of being caught in the middle between their children and new partner plus their children if they have any, especially when the adult children are less than thrilled about the union in the first place. These can be very unsettling and frustrating times for new partners who are simply and yet unrealistically expecting everyone to be as happy for them, as they are for themselves.

There is a tremendous need for Gabe and Lipman-Blumen’s book StepWars. It takes an analytical and fair look at each person’s role and position in adult stepfamilies and what is at stake for them that creates the conflict, misunderstandings and pain that ultimately occurs. This is a book that tackles the tough questions that everyone in adult stepfamilies is asking. With chapter titles like The Wedding: Here Comes the Bride, Here Comes the Complexity. and My Inheritance: Great Expectations Gone with the Wind you can count on hearing the honest truth about what real people are experiencing in stepfamilies on a daily basis and what the experts are saying are ways of addressing these issues and working towards understanding and resolution.

One of the most important points made in this book, which I believe to be a challenge to all members of adult stepfamilies is that we have definite choices about how we want to conduct ourselves and whether we want to be part of the resolution or the perpetration of the conflict. With some new understanding of where everyone is coming from, and some realistic expectations about what life can be like in an adult stepfamily, my hope is that more families will be able to embrace the new realities of their family life regardless of the stage that they are at. Step Wars will be an important book in making this happen and in promoting tolerance and acceptance which is essential in all families. I highly recommend it to anyone who finds themselves in an adult stepfamily – parent, stepparent, child or grandchild. It is a must read!





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