How many times have you heard of empty nesters, be they divorced or widowed, falling in love and marrying and thinking to yourself, “how wonderful and how perfect?” After raising a family, it’s now their chance to experience the happily-ever-after relationship, where they can focus exclusively on each other and nurture their marriage without having to deal with raising each other’s kids.
Younger single parents who remarry face the common blended family stressors of co-parenting responsibilities, transitioning kids, dual family budgets, step-sibling rivalry, and ex-spouse conflicts, all of which dilute the energy of the adult relationship, and leave little chance for the couple to focus on each other.
In fact, most step family literature is concentrated on younger step families because it’s assumed older second families avoid the normal blended family challenges and are perfectly poised to focus on each other and enjoy healthy extended blended family relationships that only add to their combined happiness. It sounds too good to be true, and usually, it is.
In their groundbreaking book, Step Wars, Grace Gabe, M.D. and Jean Lipman-Blumen, Ph.D. detail the interesting and unique dynamics of the adult step family. After analyzing in-depth interviews and focus groups among a representative cross section of remarried parents and their adult children, the authors have written the definitive book about the real story of step families and adult children.
Grace and Jean have identified five common anger issues, called the Five Furies, that surprisingly, both the parental couple and adult children share. Although these widespread fears and concerns are important factors in stepparent relationships, there are differing viewpoints about who causes the problems.
1. Fear of Abandonment and Isolation. The fear of losing a relationship that depends on for emotional and/or financial support.
2. Fidelity to Family. Worry about changes in loyalty, especially when members of the original family worry that the parent will lose his or her old loyalty after remarriage, when stepchildren feel the new spouse’s children have too much influence, or when either spouse feels there is too much loyalty to the old family.
3. Favoritism. Worry about who is number one in each family and whose wishes are given top priority.
4. Finances. Fear among adult children that they may lose money or property that they were hoping to receive, and for parents, the notion that their adult children are more concerned about their inheritance than about the parent.
5. Focus on Self to the Exclusion of Others. Anger that a parent or an adult child is concerned only about her or himself and no longer cares about others.
Step Wars contains a plethora of real and identifiable relationship examples that set forth the major problems between adult stepchildren, their parents and stepparents, and provides practical and encouraging advice and strategies for parents and adult children both.