L-O-V-E that thing we want to have, that lasts a lifetime. Well, if you are part of a stepcouple you already know that it doesn’t last a lifetime. And if this is your second or even third time down the aisle, you want to make darn sure this one will be the last. But, also the best. How do you ensure your stepcouple success? Is there some magic involved? Maybe a little bit of it. Here are some tips I call the Magic 7
1) Focus on the positives
Think of your relationship as a garden. Sure, you want to pluck the weeds, but you also need to plant the flowers and fertilize your garden. Focussing on all the things going wrong eclipses the good stuff, the small stuff and that is the stuff that matters. Make sure the positives outweigh the negatives. Successful relationship guru John Gottman said the ratio of positive interactions is 5:1.
2) Think highly of your partner
Think the best of them, give them the benefit of the doubt, believe in them. And tell them you have faith in them. What’s your frame of reference for their behaviour? Are you constantly criticizing or are you building them up? We all make mistakes. Nobody’s perfect. But, when you are on the same team, team members support each other, encourage each other, bring their best and expect the other to bring their best. In other words, they bring out the best in each other.
3) Speak highly of them to others
Sometimes our friends and family only hear our complaints about our spouses or the mistakes they make. But, if that is ALL they hear, then they will likely think that your spouse is a total jerk. Your friends and family will be on your side. All you wanted to do was vent? That’s ok, as long as your vent is to let go of the negative to elevate yourself and come back to your partner with a clearer perspective, head and heart. And your friends and family need to hear about the time he went outside in the freezing cold to brush the snow off your car or the time she took your sick mom to the doctor when you were out of town.
4) Have a piece of humble pie
See their perspective too. You aren’t the only one who thinks they are right. You should frame this through the lens of do you want to be happy or do you want to be right? Keep in mind, everybody’s point of view is valid. And asking yourself “am I also contributing to the problem?” is a good question to ask. Maybe your perspective of the problem can shift and the problem won’t be as big of a deal. In other words, let go of your fixed position.
5) Have high standards for their behaviour and yours
If you wouldn’t say nasty things to your boss or co-workers, why would you be nasty to your beloved? Being mean and nasty should not be meant for your partner. EVER. Bambi’s Thumper said it best: “If you can’t say anything nice don’t say anything at all.” But don’t accept it from them either. Keep yourself and your partner accountable for bad behaviour.
6) Learn to repair and say you are sorry
Further to the high standards, it’s important to own your mistakes. If you hold grudges, then there is no room for making amends. And learn how to say sorry in a way that your partner will hear it. Don’t know what I mean? Check out the book by Gary Chapman called “When Sorry Isn’t Enough”.
7) Let it go
Tallying the bad never gets you ahead. In anything. Again, if you are looking for the bad, that is all you will see. Are you looking for how often they leave dirty socks in the bathroom? Then you will surely find evidence. Is this petty record keeping really worth how it chips away at the foundation of your relationship? Choose to let it go.
Finally, I want to leave on a great quote from Mr. Rogers:
“Knowing that we can be loved exactly as we are gives us all the best opportunity for growing into the healthiest of people.”
And might I add, the healthiest of relationships. I hope that these steps are helpful in making your last one… last.
Ali Wilks has a BA in Psychology and an MSc in Human Ecology specializing in Family Studies. She is also a certified stepfamily coach and the owner and founder of Step by Step Mom – a stepfamily/stepmom coaching business. Her other job is with Children’s Services, since 1998, in Edmonton, Alberta. She is currently a trainer on Edmonton’s Caregiver Training Unit teaching classes on building skills, providing advocacy and support for foster, kinship and adoptive parents. These classes include building the essential skills in raising nonbiological children from the foster care system who present with special needs. Ali is a stepmother of 3 adult children (with a couple of grandkids too) and the birth mother of 2 beautiful girls.