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Previous loyalties and relationship loss which predates the new marriage can play major havoc on well meant intentions in stepfamilies, along with other stressors. It is illuminating knowledge to couples at the helm of these families, that family researchers have identified the best predictor of stepfamily happiness to be the quality of the relationship that develops between the stepparent and children. 3 Like any transition, timing can be one of the most important factors in favor of healthy adjustment. The next most important factor in stepfamily adjustment, as in any family is the strength and quality of the couples' bond. These two very important variables are obviously related, as any natural parent will attest, who feels "torn" between his/her children and spouse. And any stepparent can relate the awkwardness of finding his/her place as a family member and as a parent in a maze of relationships and shared history established prior to his/her arrival.
So, the task itself is fraught with paradoxes. It is often painful and difficult for the stepparent to find a place in an already established system that grieves the loss of a person you may have never met, including being the person who children "test" to see if you are "good" enough to earn membership. It is also important to remember that one of the developmental tasks of a family is to raise and nurture its' young to adulthood in the best way possible. It is important to remember that as a stepparent, you had a choice in the situation while the children did not. As the adult your responsibility must encompass an understanding that you will be expected to be concerned and involved in caring for these children and ensuring their sense of security in traveling through this transition of adding you to their family! If the job is too big -- Don't sign up for it! Remember you are the adult and you made the choice to marry a spouse who came with children. Very often stepparents suffer from unrealistic expectations regarding the transition of blending families, resulting in feelings of helplessness and victimization.