Let’s face it. The reason you are a step-parent is because you are in a relationship with someone who has children. Although life can feel hectic a lot of the time, remember there is a reason you got together!
It’s really important to prioritise time together as a couple all of the time – not just in the early days when the relationship is new and exciting. Although your partner has children, an ex-partner and likely work priorities as well, the best advice we can give is to make time for each other. Your relationship is like the backbone that holds everything together. So, let’s explore some down-to-earth strategies that can help you build that rock-solid foundation.
1. Open Up Those Lines of Communication:
You’ve heard it before, but we can’t stress enough how vital open and honest communication is. In blended families, it’s even more crucial. You and your partner need a safe space to talk about your feelings, your concerns, and your expectations. Dive deep into discussions about roles, boundaries, and parenting styles. Being on the same page is key. You also need to get good at active listening. One of our guests on the podcast Susan Lancaster shared some great strategies for really listening to your partner on our episode about ‘Surviving The Holidays’
2. Make “Us” Time a Priority:
Life in a blended family can get pretty hectic, with schedules and responsibilities all over the place. It’s easy to forget about your own relationship amid the chaos. That’s why you’ve got to make time for each other. Regular date nights or shared hobbies are a big part of keeping your connection strong.
We suggest planning these in your calendar well in advance, or making recurring appointments – and make sure you protect them as if they were an important business meeting you could not shift! You also need to focus on keeping the romance alive. Make an effort to surprise your partner with small gestures, like nice text messages throughout the day or unexpected compliments.
3. Manage Conflict Constructively:
Disagreements and the odd argument are natural in any relationship. Instead of avoiding conflict, figure out a way to manage it constructively. Seek compromise, avoid blaming, and focus on finding solutions together.
Remember, the goal of resolving conflicts isn’t to “win” but to strengthen your connection as a couple and find middle ground that works for both of you. By addressing issues openly and respectfully, you can grow closer, even in the face of challenges
4. Communicate About Finances:
This is a big one. Money can be a significant source of stress in relationships – even more so in blended families. Be transparent about financial matters, set a budget together, and make financial decisions as a team. If you’re having trouble navigating this, get yourself a money coach or financial advisor to help you work through it.
You also need to get your long-term affairs in order and think about the legacy you’ll leave to those in your blended family and how that will be divided up. One of our guests Jacqui Brauman had some great advice for getting your affairs in order in our ‘Blending Legacies: Estate Planning for Blended Families’ episode.
5. Team Up on Parenting:
Blended families often bring together kids from different backgrounds and experiences. So, it’s crucial to create a unified parenting approach. If you’re in a new relationship, talk about discipline methods, rules, and what you expect from all the kids in the household.
And if you’ve been together for a while, revisit this conversation as a couple when you need to and as you move through different seasons. The kids need to understand you are a team.
6. Don’t Hesitate to Get Professional Help:
If things get tough between you (and they can!), don’t hesitate to seek professional counselling or therapy. We don’t see this as a sign of weakness but rather quite the opposite; it’s a sign of your commitment to making things work as a couple and family. Therapists can guide you through the challenges, help you communicate better, and strengthen your relationship.
What tips do you have for keeping your couple relationship strong?