Q & A: Expectations

Dr. Bill Nodrick 04 June 2008

 

Question: 

Should we be expected to automatically love our partner's child?  How should we handle that pressure we put on ourselves; or that we may feel from our spouses?  Should we compare the love we feel for our own children to the love we feel for our stepchildren?

Answer:

Expectations are often problematic because they tend to be: a) unstated or b) unrealistic. Neither case is likely to work well.
 
Unstated Expectations:
Dealing with expectations requires discussing them. The couple needs to spend the time stating their expectations--especially of each other. It's difficult, if not impossible to know if you are succeeding, or how to go about doing what you need to do, if you are not clear on the expectations that are in place.
 
Unrealistic Expectations:
It is unrealistic to expect to love your partner's kids in the same way you love your own. "Blood IS thicker than water". It is also unrealistic to think that because you love your partner, their children will love you, and vice-versa. You may come to love your partner's kids a great deal, BUT it will probably be in a different way than you love your own kids AND it will require having a history of meaningful experiences together.
 
Couples starting a stepfamily often cling to their (unrealistic) expectations. Perhaps they do so out of a need to prove they are a "good person, a good parent and a good partner", and/or a need to make the family function as they feel it should -- so they will be successful (this time). These folks typically need to hear that they don't need to "lower" their expectations; but they may need to have "different" (i.e., more realistic) ones.
 

What to Do:

Talking with your partner, talking to other stepfamily members, reading about stepfamilies, taking courses on stepfamilies, or getting stepfamily counselling are all useful ways to come to appreciate what is and isn't realistic.

 

We hope that helps.
 
Regards,

 

All rights reserved. The reproduction, use, distribution or storage or of this work, in whole or in part, by any and all means, without the express written permission of the author, is strictly prohibited.

 

Stepfamily Foundation of Alberta