Stepfamilies are unique
A happy stepfamily Many people enter new relationships as stepfamilies with the same expectations they entered their first marriage.

They expect that the family will function just like a first marriage family.

They expect everyone to get along quickly and the stepfamily to integrate quickly. The reality may be quite different and it pays to understand and deal with the complexities of stepfamilies


Stepfamiles are unique in several ways

  • The bond between the parent and the biological child existed before the marriage
  • The spouse gets an instant family upon marriage, rather than slowly through childbirth.
  • Often one of the child's biological parent lives elsewhere
  • The children may have visitation and move between homes
  • The ex-spouse will often be involved in co-parenting with one of the spouses in the new relationship
  • Some or even all of the new family members have already experienced loss through divorce or death.

Functional Stepfamilies

Functional stepfamiles take time to build and the first few years can be quite turbulent. Emotional closeness and love among all the member of the new family may be unrealistic. New routines have to become established and each spouse needs to manage their relationship with the non-biological stepchildren.

Usually there is no legal relationship between the spouse and non-biological child and the other biological parent, the former partner, may still be involved. Handling that co-parenting relationship with the ex while dealing with the commitments of a new stepfamily can be very challenging. Healthy boundaries have to be established to keep a healthy marriage while still keeping a low conflict co-parenting arrangement.

Happy blended family

Stepfamily Finances are Complex

Finances become complex also with commitments to child support, alimony and other expenses. Financial issues can create stress that can really affect the new relationship. Careful planning and shared realistic financial expectations are essential.

Good negotiating skills are key to building a functional stepfamily. Understanding that everyone will have to compromise is also fundemental. One or both spouses have past failed relationships and so may need to improve on their relationship skills to help the new marriage survive.

Support for Blended Families

Stepparents and stepfamilies do not receive the same support and positive image that first marriages do. This can be seen in fairytales, popular literature and society.

The children's behavior has a strong influence on the marital relationship in stepfamilies. Adolescent children can have a more difficult time adjusting to stepfamilies than younger children.

In summary, many married couples are dealing with the dynamics and unique challenges of stepfamilies. The complexity of the multiple relationships at the start of the new marriage impact its quality and stability. Strong negotiating skills and realistic expectations are essential for success.