Positively Paula

The Seven-Year Mark: Don't Expect to Itch or Blend

Thursday, August 12, 2010
I'm sure you are familiar with the infamous term, "seven-year itch," known to be a hazard to marriage in the seventh year. For those who are remarried, the seven-year mark often takes on an entirely different meaning. Instead of feeling angst about the seven-year mark, I had been looking forward to it. I had been reading for a long time that some experts believe that seven years is the amount of time it takes for a stepfamily to successfully blend. There were many moments when I, anticipating easier times, couldn't wait for my seventh anniversary.

Now the realist in me knew that I wasn't going to wake up the first morning of my eighth year of remarriage and from then on experience a state of full-time bliss. And, for the most part, our stepfamily relationships were going much more smoothly in our seventh year than they were in our first year. But, I must admit that I've had some challenging days where I felt down because our stepfamily relationships weren't going as well as I thought they should be by a certain time.

According to Dr. Patricia Papernow, a psychologist who specializes in issues in stepfamilies, remarried couples, and post-divorce parenting and author of Becoming a Stepfamily: Patterns of Development in Remarried Families, the process of stepfamilies coming together can take from four to 12 years. Hearing that makes me feel better on the days when we still have some sticky issues. But, as our stepfamily counselor has pointed out to me many times, I need to stop setting expectations like this. (Yes, Chuck, it's finally sinking in.)

Setting up an expectation about how many years it takes to successfully blend is a double-edged sword. It can be a good thing because it can provide you hope and a sense that it takes many stepfamilies years to come together. Just don't let yourself feel bad if you still have the same challenges after the anniversaries pass. And, know that some stepfamilies never fully come together. 

A Shared Vision: The Stepfamily Summit

Monday, August 02, 2010

Today I had the sincere pleasure of speaking again with Christy Borgeld, the
founder of National Stepfamily Day. I have gotten to know Christy, a wonderfully caring and dedicated woman who has worked tirelessly at a grass roots level to support stepfamilies throughout the nation for the last 14 years, through the wonderful virtual world of Facebook, Twitter, and e-mail.  While we have never met personally, we hit it off immediately, and speaking with her always sparks ideas. You see, we share a common passion; namely, to support stepfamilies; and, we both want to provide great resources and information to blended families and stepfamilies. And, we know we aren't the only ones with this passion for this topic.

We are very familiar with the dismal statistic that out of the nearly 1300 stepfamilies that are forming daily, approximately 65% end in divorce. And, we aren't the only ones who want to help make stepfamilies successful. We agree that there are many people, starting with stepmoms, stepdads, stepfamily coaches, counselors,  family law attorneys, psychologists, social workers, academic researchers, educators, government officials, and whole non-profit organizations who are working long days (and many into the night) to help stepfamilies thrive.

Christy and I shared a vision today; i.e., a national Stepfamily Summit, so to speak, comprised of great and passionate thinkers, problem solvers, master minds, advocates, etc. in the stepfamily realm. Our goal: to raise awareness about stepfamily-related issues, brainstorm problems, and identify solutions.

For years there has been a lot of talk about stovepiped organizations in the Intelligence Community, and that this situation possibly leads to intelligence failures which ultimately harm our national security. Collaboration is key. As is money. Few would disagree. You may be asking yourself: how on earth can the success of stepfamilies be as important as national security?

I daresay that there are probably more than a few people, whose marriage and stepfamily are literally falling apart right now, that emotionally feel their situation is just as important as world peace. Losing a marriage can be one of the most horrible experiences in a person's life and the effects on our nation's children is another great concern. For those of you who aren't in a stepfamily, did you know that in 2003, divorce cost the nation approximately $33.3 billion? (See "On ReMarriage: Marriage Training a Good Investment," The Washington Times, June 14, 2009) I, myself, was shocked when I learned about the effects on taxpayers.

As Christy and I ended our call, we once again commented that's it great to have ideas, but even better to execute them. So, today I'm taking the first step and throwing out a vision to the world. Contact me if you'd like to become part of a Stepfamily Summit. It may take years, but I'd like to see everyone with a passion for enabling successful stepfamilies collaborate like never before.

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