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Coping with Step-Family Dynamics

Coping with Step-Family Dynamics

Coping with Step-Family Dynamics

Recognize the Challenges and Sacrifices Of Marrying Someone With Kids Before You Do

Advice Seeker :
Dear April Masini,

My sister recently married her boyfriend after a two-year relationship. Her husband's pre-teen son also lives with them. Before marriage, she had an OK relationship with her step-son but now, she feels the step-son takes priority over her in their household. She's unhappy because she had to adjust her work schedule to fit her step-son's lifestyle and her husband isn't making things easier either. She now blames her husband and step-son for ruining her lifestyle. I don't want my sister to start entertaining the idea of a divorce over such a small matter but I don't know how to explain this to her. Do you have any advice for how I can tell her that marriage is all about compromise?

Sincerely,  Sad for Sis


April Masini's Advice :

Dear Sad for Sis,

It’s no wonder divorce rates for second and third marriages are so much higher than for first marriages — they’re harder! Especially when there are step-families involved. So many people and dynamics come into play, it’s no wonder these families need guidance and support.

The biggest problem we, as Americans, have in marriage and divorce is accepting our own roles in the relationships. Mother Teresa doesn’t marry Hitler. No adult is a victim in marriage without accepting that role, and the no one is “forced” to change a work schedule to accommodate a step-son’s needs. This isn’t slavery time.

Accepting her own mistakes will and adjusting for them, will help this woman not put the blame on her husband and step-son for her having changed her schedule and her life. If she truly wants to make this work, then she needs to understand why she married this man with his son, and what it is she is getting from the relationship.

When she accepts these things — and it’s going to be much tougher work than it sounds on the surface, to do — then she can release her anger and her blaming, and finally make the best of it.

Bonding with stepchildren is not an overnight or a one year process. It takes years, and it involves the child’s other parents, too.


Unhappiness in a marriage doesn’t happen overnight. It happens because two people make deals with each other that are the wrong deals. Correct them, and shoot for peace and then happiness.