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by Ron L. Deal, President, Smart Stepfamilies

Is there really 438 other unrealistic expectations about living in a stepfamily? Okay, okay. So maybe I exaggerated a little. But I keep running into expectations that really set people up for disappointment and frustration (and to be honest, I’ve lost count). And this one’s a doosy!

It goes something like this: As your married partner—despite his/her/my children, despite his/her/my ex-spouse or deceased spouse, despite our previous experiences with sex, loss and financial debt, differences in spiritual values, the ongoing presence of former in-laws, differences in holiday ritual, child-rearing philosophies, and perspective on how much time to devote to his/her/my children—my life is my own. Boy does that sound funny when you see it in writing, doesn’t it. But it’s true. People constantly believe that their life, schedule, money, parenting, and the emotional climate of the home is all going to be within their power to control. Furthermore, they believe that people and dynamics that intrude on this truth should not exist. Talk about a set-up for frustration and a sense of failure—that’s it if I ever saw one!

Most recently I heard this belief from a stepparent who insisted that his wife not bring her three sons with them on a special trip she won from work. All expenses are paid, but he can’t make room for her kids to enjoy the trip, too. Guess what, sir. Your life is not your own.

I realize there is a balance here somewhere and that everyone needs to feel in control of something at some point in their life. But to the person who constantly fights the repetitive sacrifices demanded from living in a stepfamily—get over it. You’ll find yourself a much more content person if you acknowledge that many sacrifices will be required of you, some of which seem over the top, and most of which you never saw coming.

Finding this measure of acceptance will surely mean a crisis of your personal character as you struggle to “die to self” for the sake of your marriage and family. But in the end, finding acceptance will offer you lower blood pressure, less conflict, and more peace of heart.

With the Lord’s help, may you find it soon.

Ron L. Deal is Founder & President of Smart Stepfamilies™ and Director of FamilyLife Blended® for FamilyLife®. He is a bestselling author, highly sought-after speaker, and therapist specializing in marriage enrichment and blended family education. Learn more here.