Myths about Stepfamilies
Dr. Marshall, who himself lives happily in a stepfamily, believes that the key to surviving the situation is to be realistic. "You have to get rid of any preconceived notions about what a family ought to be," he explains. "Instead, say, 'what kind of family are we going to be?' You must be very flexible and willing to adapt. You never know how close a relationship might become
This doesn't mean your stepchildren won't eventually grow to love you, or that your children won't learn to love your new spouse. But remember that a stepfamily is composed of two different families from separate backgrounds. "A frequent problem is when people want the stepfamily to blend straight away," observes Dr. Marshall. "You have to respect the old family, because the relationships between the natural parent and his or her children are very close. They need time to be the old family as well as the new."
And Messinger points out, "Often, the partners are at different stages of their lives, and have different attitudes toward child-rearing. Too many couples believe in the myth of the 'instant family,' or 'instant love.' It will take time for them to feel like a family. It requires a lot of planning in advance to avoid disappointment."
So don't expect to become the Brady Bunch. "Families don't blend," says Dr. Engel. "They combine, they expand, but they don't blend." So you should figure out what your (or your new partner's) role is, rather than making assumptions.