The Stepfamily Conversation

Dear Stepfamily Letter Project Community:

Jacquelyn Fletcher here. I have read through the comments and recent letters on the site and it reminds me very much of the middle stages of stepfamily development. There comes a time when everyone in the stepfamily must stand in the fire of everyone else in the family if you’re going to ever move into the later and much more peaceful stages of stepfamily life. It’s a time when stepparent says to teen stepdaughter: “This is what it’s like for me to be in this family! Sometimes it sucks!” And when stepdaughter says, “Oh yeah! Well, this is what it’s like for me to have you here and everything you do is wrong!” And when Dad says, “This is so painful for me to be in the middle and lose all this time with my kids that I don’t know what to do!” and when Mom says, “Who is this woman who suddenly has access to my kids without my say-so?!”

I have worked with stepmothers and bio parents in the middle of the struggles everyone writes so eloquently about here on our site. And what I have found over and over again both in my work and in stepfamily research is that everyone has a compelling story to tell. Every single person within a stepfamily structure could break your heart with their side of things.

I try to remember that in my work and in my own stepfamily life when I want to lash out because I’m hurt or angry or just grieving that I’m in a stepfamily at all at the same time that I’m happy I’m in one. It’s complicated. Our families are all complicated. But it’s so easy to get stuck in our own version of things.

When I read angry, hurtful letters and comments on this site I see deep pain.  I applaud your efforts to give the children in your lives, no matter how they are related or not related to you, the best version of you that you can. This is a tough road. But it’s the only road we’ve got. In a Stepmom Circles podcast I did recently with Dr. Patricia Papernow she said that the research is very clear: Children can come through divorce and remarriage. When there is conflict between bio parents and stepparents in the form of attacks and trying to get back at each other through the kids, however, that is when children’s markers of well-being go way, way down.

In a world where stepfamilies are given exactly the wrong advice when they ask for help, I am heartened by the debate that is going on here because discussions are good. Personal attacks, however, are not acceptable to me or to Erin, as she has already voiced. It has a major impact on the well-being of this community.

We are not in a fight here on this site or in our families. We are in this together no matter what side we’re on. When we see it as a fight, that’s when the kids lose. And we lose.

With much love,


~ by Jacquelyn Fletcher on June 16, 2011.

One Response to “The Stepfamily Conversation”

  1. I couldn’t agree more. Thanks for taking the time to write this as a easily viewable letter.

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