How often have we witnessed -- or been part of -- a
situation where one parent hollers to the other, "you ALWAYS
do that and I'm sick of it!" Probably quite frequently. How
often have you seen it lead to a quiet, mature discussion of
the problem? Not very often.

For a stepparent, a conversation like that can cut like a
knife. The parent has tried to "bring it all together," to
build a strong feeling of family involving parents and
children, but once again something has gone wrong. It isn't
likely that any marriage will sail smoothly along, with
never a ripple in the smooth surface, but there are ways to
avoid or minimize the misunderstandings and the conflict. In
an interview about stepparenting that was printed in Salo
author Susan Chira said, "in reality, it's critical that you
develop a strong marriage and a strong marital bond first,
otherwise it's harder to negotiate all those other issues.
Your adult needs must be met."

Another similar view was offered by M. B. Dillon in
The Latest Frontier
, who observed that the
biological and stepparent are "the glue holding it all
together, and the glue needed to be strong and flexible."

Most parents have some time alone together before the
children arrive, but a stepparent is dropped right into a
family. Sometimes he or she will bring children to the
family, but often the stepparent has no parenting
experience. If the couple have a honeymoon, it may be the
last time they are alone together for a long time. At Strengthening
the Couple Relationship,
there is an excellent
discussion about what keeps a marriage strong. The author
points out: "When a man and a woman join together in the
mutual adventure through life, both individuals and the
marriage are subjected to fierce strains; yet, in most
cases, they give marriage only 'left-over time.'" Some of
the areas that are important for keeping a marriage alive
are Trust, Commitment, Skills, Caring, Reciprocity, Effort,
and Enrichment, and the author elaborates on what makes up
these important points. The article continues by looking at
a Marriage Enrichment Plan. The seven areas that are
described take little time and effort, but can have very
positive results.

Some of the things that parents have to discuss before they
move in together are the basics of day-to-day living. The
house rules need to be decided in advance, and it certainly
is possible that this can be done in meetings that involve
the children. Perhaps his children are used to staying up
until 10:00, whereas her children who are the same age have
an 8:00 o'clock bed time. Even worse, one parent's
biological children who are younger may have a later bed
time than the other parent's children do. Nothing will be
gained by arguing about it when everyone is living together,
but a family consultation can result in a compromise.
Ultimately, however, the parents decide what the rules are
after listening to the discussion about the points in
question. No matter what the situation, if adults present a
united position, the children are more likely to accept it.

Time alone together is vital for the parents, but, if
finances are tight, it isn't necessary for them to actually
leave home for an evening. The children need to appreciate
that their parents require time to enjoy each other and that
it doesn't mean they don't want their kids around. The

Children, Marriage, and Date Nights takes an
interesting look at the need for parents to have time
together. Although this particular article focuses on time
together at home, neither parent should feel guilty about
wanting occasional time away from the family. An occasional
adult "night out" is a special treat to look forward to.

Arguments are a part of family life, but it helps if ones
between the parent and stepparent are infrequent. Some of
the areas of disagreement can be worked out when the couple
have time alone together, and this time is vital for
strengthening the bond between them.

Author's Bio: 

Judi Chapman is the Contributing Editor for the Stepparents site
at Suite 101 (, where
there are many articles on stepparenting. She can be reached at