Step families are many things, but easy is not one of them. As a daughter of a stepfather and a mother who is remarried with a stepfather raising my two sons, the experience is visceral, old and new simultaneously, emotional, confusing, rewarding, painful and rich.
When a stepparent takes on the responsibility for children, all known patterns are altered and rearranged. In the best of circumstances, these alterations are, authentically, for the best. Hopefully a lot of changes are being made in the name of moving on and moving forward. Perhaps a relationship that was unhealthy is being replaced by one that is. Perhaps a natural parent passed away and the step parent is the only parent a child has every known.
In any case, a stepparent has all the responsibility and none of the blood, which can work well and can be difficult on so many levels.
In order to fully appreciate the challenges of stepparenting, consider the full -time nature of the job of taking care of children and then consider that there may be another parent in the picture. Consider that all things may need to be renegotiated, discussions may be in the thousands, points of view and opinions may vary to such a degree that neither biological parent nor stepparent understand how to find common ground.
Add an adult relationship and the tender feelings of the children to that boiling stew and you will find yourself in an inescapable morass of hurt feelings, misunderstandings, crazy paranoia and ridiculous amounts of regret.
The good news is that if you love each other enough and work hard enough, pulling through can be the most rewarding experience in your life not only for the parents and step parents involved but for the children without a doubt.
The beauty of working hard to make a step family work is that it can be the most fulfilling, rewarding and uplifting experience in the world, and worth every 14-hour discussion you could ever have.
Aimee Boyle lives and works in CT. She is a regular contributor to EmpowHER.