I will be talking with Michelle and Dr Peek about the complex and often intense challenges of becoming a stepfamily , and how to meet them, based on my book, Surviving and Thriving in Stepfamily Relationships: What Works and What Doesn't .
I started this journey more than 3 decades ago in my first marriage. My first husband had two daughters who were 5 and 9 when I met them. Like most people in the early years of a stepfamily, "blending" was not our daily experience!
A few years later, I needed a dissertation topic. Things were changing in my stepfamily, mostly for the better. My stepdaughters were certainly getting older, but it was more than that. I wrote my dissertation on normal stages of development in stepfamilies. That became my first book, Becoming a Stepfamily.
I got hooked! I am now entering my fourth decade of learning about the unique dynamics of these relationships, working with people in stepfamilies, and teaching. After I finished Becoming a Stepfamily, I promised myself I would never ever write another book,. However, two decades later, we know so much more about what works, and what doesn't, to create a thriving stepfamily. There is also a huge amount of well-meaning but very misleading advice out there. And so I found myself writing another book.
I wrote this book to provide accurate, up-to-date information about stepfamily relationships to both people in stepfamilies and for those who want to help. Surviving and Thriving integrates my own decades of clinical practice, with the rich trove of research we now have, with the stories of stepfamilies of all ages and shapes and colors.
The feedback has made the long four-year slog worth it. I have heard from clinicians, clergy, and lawyers, and from parents, stepparents, grandparents, ex-wives with recoupled ex-husbands, and adult children who grew up in a stepfamily. I am glad to have the chance to share what we now know with your audience.
A note of reality: I am now almost 18 years into my second marriage. I have three adult, now- married stepchildren, and 6 stepgrandchildren. I have a daughter who is 30. She was 12 when she met my husband. For the first 3 weeks my daughter and my husband were thrilled with each other. For the next four years, they could barely be in the same room with each other. In year four, things began turning. They could not be closer now. A few years ago, they did a legal adult adoption. If you had told me in year 3.5 that my daughter and my husband would ever be this close, I would have said to you, "I am a nationally recognized expert on stepfamilies. You are out of your mind!" Now I would say, with patience and wisdom, you never know what can happen.