Stepfamilies – Struggle and Triumph

Do you know what a stepfamily is?

A stepfamily is also known as a blended family or a remarried family. It happens when people who have children from a former marriage marry. If there are no children, it is simply a remarriage.

Years ago people used to hide the fact that they were a stepfamily. Children were adopted or the fact of the nature of the family was a secret. And then in the 1970s a stepfamily movement took shape and people began to discuss their existence and the problems they faced.

A Host of Adjustments

At the time the divorce rate was higher than it is today. People marrying earlier was one problem. But there were many contributing factors. There is an adjustment to a divorce or the death of a spouse which must be dealt with. Too often people moved quickly into another marriage and brought their children with them. Adjustments weren’t finished and the children had to deal with their own adjustments. They had to adjust to a new family they didn’t want.

Looking Back 

My wife and I suffered divorces at the same time and remarried in that period. Together we had custody of our children—in crisis. It was stressful, is one way to state it. And that is a simplistic statement.

Soon we sought understanding and refuge in the stepfamily movement and became national experts in the experience and its adjustment. Now we are here having been married for forty-four years this summer and our children have been on their own for a long time. There are now grandchildren. Survival was not easy.

The Struggles

Families of any kind can be stressful. Careers have to be maintaining and children have needs and grow fitfully. But a stepfamily begins in crisis. Everyone is in crisis and the threat of it tearing itself apart is clear and present. The adjustment period for the adults is between six and eight years in general. And during this period the children are working on their own adjustment. 

But there is help and understanding. The adjustment period is long but people need to understand it gets better during the period in fits and starts.

Inspiration

It was clear people needed information and understanding. Many of us wrote books to help others. My wife and I wrote a book which we later revised in another form. It is called Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership. The title is telling. Getting help is important for very many couples. But there is no reason that all the wisdom needs to come from someone else. The adults involved can understand and help construct their own helping and healing system. So, it can become a partnership. Or, of course, the couple may simply find the book sufficient and useful.

We now have an important body of knowledge and don’t have to be alone in a difficult period.

How many stepfamilies do you know? Probably more than you think.

The World Did Not End

 

A Former Client

Recently a former client contacted me. She conveyed the success she and her second husband had had in part due to the advice they had received. They handled the divorce effectively and helped the children. They just celebrated their 36th. year of marriage and are a family with six children and grandchildren. It can be done.

Difficult Times

A marriage ending in divorce is a very difficult time. It is not just for the marital partners but the children as well. 

Well over forty years ago my first marriage ended in divorce. We had two young daughters who felt deep distress. At the same time another couple was coping with a divorce involving two young sons.  As it happened we were all friends.

Moving On through Pain

By truly great good fortune the other woman and I found we were interested in a relationship, The process ended in our marriage and we brought our four children together in the new marriage. If it sounds auspicious, it was not that simple. Understandably the children were not thrilled about divorces nor a remarriage. 

The events propelled my new wife and I into a new career. I was a clinical psychologist and my wife went back to school and became a clinical social worker. We opened a practice serving stepfamilies.

The Bottom Line

Through our divorces we learned some truths. The conflict between the divorcing couples must be brought under control. The children definitely do not want a new family. They want the old one back. 

There are realities which must be built. A new marriage must survive and the children must be directed to accept a new future. The bottom line is that it can be done.

My Future

We had to bring our clinical expertise to our picture and the picture of others. We recognized some things and served hundreds of families. Generally it is the woman who calls for help. Too often she is taken into individual therapy. And with children in crisis often one of them is also taken into individual therapy.

We saw a different way forward. When the woman called she was asked to bring her new husband with her. They needed information about how to build their new marriage and how to help the children navigate the crisis. The expectation was that the new marriage could thrive in time and the children could be guided to their new future.

The Outcome 

The process tended to work quite well. We knew the adjustment period was generally five to eight years but ongoing therapy was not necessary. Guidance was. With our approach we worked with hundreds of families and the average duration of help was just eight sessions for the couple. They were given guidance and ways to handle their own crises and help the children adjust. 

My wife and I are now approaching the celebration of our 44th. year together. Our children are thriving. It can be done. 

A Book for Surviving Divorce and Remarriage

My wife and I wrote a book to help professionals and stepcouples respond to divorce and the children in crisis. Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership by Mala S. But, M.S.W. and Roger B. Burt, Ph.D. It outlines how they can work together to overcome a difficult period. We thought our approach needed to be out there because too often we saw people being put in individual therapy while management by the couple was the way forward. The book is available on Amazon in Kindle and paperback formats.

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership     

by Mala S. Burt, M.S.W. and Roger b. But, Ph.D.     

 Available on Amazon

Issues Pending

In this difficult era there are many issues pending. I just touched on divorce and remarriage and the common crises involved. Among other things n future posts I will begin to delve into our health system. Many years ago I was deeply involved in a reform movement. It ended badly but illustrates an ongoing crisis in our struggling health care system in need of reform.

Stepfamilies – Struggle and Triumph

 

Do you know what a stepfamily is?

A stepfamily is also known as a blended family or a remarried family. It happens when people who have children from a former marriage marry. If there are no children, it is simply a remarriage.

Years ago people used to hide the fact that they were a stepfamily. Children were adopted or the fact of the nature of the family was a secret. And then in the 1970s a stepfamily movement took shape and people began to discuss their existence and the problems they faced.

A Host of Adjustments

At the time the divorce rate was higher than it is today. People marrying earlier was one problem. But there were many contributing factors. There is an adjustment to a divorce or the death of a spouse which must be dealt with. Too often people moved quickly into another marriage and brought their children wth them. Adjustments weren’t finished and the children had to deal with their own adjustments. They had to adjust to a new family they didn’t want.

Looking Back

My wife and I suffered divorces at the same time and remarried in that period. Together we had custody of our children—in crisis. It was stressful, is one way to state it. And it is a simplistic statement.

Soon we sought understanding and refuge in the stepfamily movement and became national experts in the experience and its adjustment. Now we are here having been married for forty-two years this summer and our children have been on their own for a long time. There are now grandchildren. Survival was not easy.

The Struggles

Families of any kind can be stressful. Careers have to be maintaining and children have needs and grow fitfully. But a stepfamily begins in crisis. Everyone is in crisis and the threat of it tearing itself apart is clear and present. The adjustment period for the adults is between six and eight years in general. And during this period the children are working on their own adjustment.

But there is help and understanding. The adjustment period is long but people need to understand it gets better during the period in fits and starts.

Inspiration

It was clear people needed information and understanding. Many of us wrote books to help others. My wife and I wrote a book which we later revised in another form. It is called Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership. The title is telling. Getting help is important for very many couples. But there is no reason that all the wisdom needs to come from someone else. The adults involved can understand and help construct their own helping and healing system. So, it can become a partnership. Or, of course, the couple may simply find the book sufficient and useful.

We now have an important body of knowledge and don’t have to be alone in a difficult period.

How many stepfamilies do you know? Probably more than you think.

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt