Q: I remarried about four years ago, and initially everything seemed to be going well between my son and his stepfather. But since my son reached puberty, conflict has developed into open hostility between them. How do I choose between these two men in my life?
Jim: What you're describing is fairly common in stepfamilies. We all know that conflict often erupts between a child and parents when adolescence arrives. Toss in divided loyalties and confused roles, and the process becomes much more complicated in stepfamilies.
First off, avoid thinking in terms of "choosing" between your husband and your son. Rather than framing this as an "either-or" situation, I suggest you approach it as a "both-and." Don't take sides. Instead, try to rise above the conflict and help each party see things from the other's perspective.
Meanwhile, there's another important principle to keep in mind. In every stepfamily situation, the husband and wife need to make their marriage a priority. If you allow parenting conflicts to pull you apart, it won't just hurt your relationship with each other. It's also the worst thing you can do for your kids.
So make up your minds as parents to act as a unified team. Sit down with your son and let him know exactly what you expect of him. Discuss the rules he'll be expected to follow and agree on the consequences he'll face if he breaks those rules. Remember that as the biological parent, you should be taking the lead when it comes to discipline. If you're always assuming the role of the "good cop," you're forcing your husband to play the "bad cop." That arrangement is sure to drive a permanent wedge between him and your son.
If you have further questions, our counselors at Focus on the Family would be happy to help. Don't hesitate to call them at (800) A-FAMILY (800-232-6459), or visit FocusOnTheFamily.com.
Q: I just recently got married, and now I'm finding that I don't get along with my husband's friends. In fact, I'm not sure I even like them at all. What can I do?
Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: When a person marries, they don't just gain a spouse, they inherit that person's entire social network of friends. And that can sometimes create a challenging (or even awkward) situation.
The question to ask is: Why do you not like your husband's friends? Is it a case of "the guys" acting irresponsibly or doing things you can't condone? Worse yet, does your husband sometimes get pulled into that behavior as well? If so, then you have a legitimate concern, and your husband should take responsibility for bringing resolution to that disagreement. It may require him to make some tough decisions about whether these friendships are worth maintaining. Of course, this is the kind of issue that can easily erupt into conflict between a couple. If you find that happening, be sure to speak to a counselor.
On the other hand, what if you simply have different tastes and interests than your husband's friends? In that case, it's up to you to do the hard work of getting to know them and finding some common ground on which to build a relationship. That may be a real struggle at first. But if you think of it as a way to strengthen your relationship with your husband, you'll find it easier to be patient with his friends. And if they're married themselves, definitely try to build friendships with their wives. Who knows? Maybe you'll even learn to enjoy and embrace them all one day.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.
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