Strengthening Your Stepfamily: Part 5

Every family has it’s own unique culture. Family cultures include a set of belief systems that include aspects such as: how to spend money, how to spend time, what acceptable behaviors are and family traditions and rituals. When a stepfamily unites, they face the challenge of merging these cultures (Papernow, 2013).

From my work with step-couples, this is one aspect that they tend to have a difficult time recognizing.

Most step-couples want to create a family and environment that feels like home. But what feels like home to one part of the family, may not feel like home to the other.  These differences must be navigated.

Patricia Papernow, EdD (2013), suggests that it is helpful for step-couples to break down the culture into three areas to find a middle ground.

These three areas include:

  1. Everyday activities and routines, such as meals, daily schedules, and checking in.
  2. Holidays and special events, such as weddings and graduations.
  3. Activities rooted in ethnicity or religion, such as spiritual practices and extended family activities.

Focusing on these three specific areas can be very helpful to the step-couple in incorporating the old with the new. Healthy compromise is often going to be the key.

If stepfamily members believe they must give up what is important to them, the result is likely going to be resentment.

Stepfamilies are comprised of the “Yours, Mine, and Ours.” It’s very important to intentionally include the important aspects of the Yours and Mine when creating the Ours. Healthy compromise involves listening and understanding and being open to making mistakes. It takes time for the members of a stepfamily to get to know one another. Allow room for error and realize that it’s a natural part of stepfamily formation.



Written By: Jackie Dunagan, LAMFT


Papernow, P. L. (2013). Surviving and thriving in stepfamily relationships: what works and what doesn’t. New York: Routledge.