Unrealistic expectations often cause misunderstandings, miscommunication, and much confusion in any relationship. In stepfamilies it is a core issue that at times, when not addressed, can even lead to divorce. Clarifying your verbal and non-verbal expectations with your spouse will help you understand what you do and do not agree upon. Setting realistic, mutual, obtainable goals will help develop cohesiveness for your family and increase your emotional intimacy. Here are some examples of common unrealistic expectations that are shared by many stepfamilies:
- Instant love.
Biological parents expect for instant love to occur between their children and their new (or soon-to-be) spouse. They assume that because they are in love with who they consider to be a fabulous person, their children will feel the same and the spouse will immediately love their adorable children. Love may never develop between a stepparent and stepchildren. A realistic expectation would be for the stepparent to be very patient and focus on developing a courteous relationship, getting to know one another slowly, and emphasizing mutual respect . If love grows between stepparents and stepchildren, it will be an added bonus to their relationship.
- Operating like a biological family.
Many people have the notion that only biological families are ‘real families.’ When they remarry, they attempt to make their stepfamily function like a nuclear family. The children are encouraged to pretend that their stepparent is their biological parent; refusal to do so is frowned upon. Please, understand and accept that a stepfamily is a ‘real family’ too—just different from, not worse than, a biological family.
- Stepparents are wicked.
There is still a great deal of doubt held by many in our society as to how good of intentions stepparents have towards their stepchildren. From fairy tales like Cinderella and Snow white to the notion that only people with blood connection ‘really’ love one another, children get conflicting messages regarding whether they should trust their stepparents or be wary of them.