Ron L. Deal & Laura Petherbridge
This deleted chapter from the book The Smart Stepmom offers practical advice for keeping romance alive in your marriage. Be sure to read each installment.
“We missed out on the ‘honeymoon period,’ including the bonding that occurs before children,” Josie shared. “I feel like I was robbed of being romanced and ‘wined and dined.’ On our wedding day we left the chapel for the reception and low and behold there were five of us in the car; my husband and I in the front seat, and my daughter and his two daughters in the back. Instant family. For some strange reason I didn't see that coming. Silly me, I thought we'd actually be able to drive alone! The first few months of the marriage I had irregular breathing and heart palpitations due to anxiety. I was overwhelmed with the instant family and the lack of time together as husband and wife. My husband was hurt because he thought I wasn't happy. I did think through the new family dynamic, but I didn't anticipate it would affect me to the degree that it did. It was a sea of emotions that I didn't see coming.”
The added stress experienced by stepfamilies can crush a woman’s fairy tale dream. Dana shares, “Every girl secretly dreams of a handsome prince who is consumed with undying love for her. I just knew mine would sweep me off my feet. He showed up all right. But he was carrying three children and an ex-wife following close behind.” After a brief pause she added, “What kind of fantasy is that?” When a family experiences disappointment or continuous stress marital intimacy also suffers.
This is not to say that a stepfamily marriage will be void of romance and passion. Like all marriages, couples in stepfamilies must make an effort to keep the romance alive and growing beyond the initial chemistry that first brought the couple together. Sustaining love requires commitment and dedication. Intoxicating stares or passionate sex doesn’t remain unless the couple works at it. I’ve (Ron) long thought that the reason fairy-tales end with the wedding is because the author didn’t know how to write the rest of the love story. Accomplishing “happily ever after” is more difficult than a storybook implies.
If that isn’t enough, the stepmom has an added challenge. We never see Sleeping Beauty dealing with a husband who feels guilty for leaving his kids behind. One woman shares,” I couldn’t believe my ears. After the wedding my husband expressed how badly he felt about leaving his three kids so we could honeymoon on a Caribbean cruise. He said it didn’t seem fair that they were missing out on such a wonderful vacation. I cried. That’s when I knew this was going to be much more complicated than I realized.”
If you want a healthy marriage it’s essential to learn how and when to dance and dine.
Time for Romance
During courtship couples naturally find time to dance. After the wedding, couples can easily fall off the dance floor.
Have you ever noticed that a dating couple cherishes the time they have together? They anxiously await precious moments when they can enjoy each others company. Couples instinctively know that building a connection with someone requires talking, listening, exploring, and enjoying each other. Dating is often purposeful, goal oriented, and fun. In contrast, marriage is often invaded by the demands of children and tasks. Add complacency to the mix and the relationship can become dull and aimless, resulting in partners who take each other for granted.
One mark of a healthy relationship is the ability to overcome marital lethargy by energizing the relationship with consistent doses of fun. When the human body becomes sedentary, the person will gain weight. If a marriage becomes dormant, it’s likely to shrink. Feeding the relationship with enjoyable activities and nurturing time together as a couple provides fertile ground for the marriage to thrive.
Erin shares how she and her husband maintain intimacy. “We make a point to hold hands, hug, kiss and just be close. For us just knowing the other is nearby helps to relieve stress. We carve out time to spend together, making the spouse a priority. Our friendship helps us to refrain from neglecting the relationship. It’s important to like each other, as well as love each other.
Next: Part 2 Activate Your Fun Factor here...
Ron L. Deal is President of Smart Stepfamilies and co-author with Laura Petherbridge, a divorce recovery expert and women’s speaker, of The Smart Stepmom: Practical Steps to Help You Thrive! Visit www.SmartStepfamilies.com and www.TheSmartStepmom.com.