Step family success can be defined is numerous ways. There's a lot of confusion about what makes a "good" step family. It's important to think about this because there will be times when you become frustrated with your family and not feel comfortable with the way everyone is getting along. This may lead you to look at the family as a whole and think "it's just not working." Today, let's look at one of the key elements of success for any step family. This element may not happen right at the sunset of your family, but it should be a goal you're working toward right from the beginning.
Not everyone has to like each other but they do need to treat one another with respect.
It may come as a shock to think that not everyone in your family is going to like each other. That just seems contradictory to what a family is supposed to be, does not it? Remember there are significant differences between your family and a nuclear family made up of mom, dad and their children. In a nuclear family the kids are born into the family and never experienced any other family before. In a step family this is not the case. Kids may feel like they're 'stuck' with these new people and may not be over enthusiastic about it.
What deteriorates a step family more quickly than anything though is when frustration, about being in this new family, is turned out into acts of disrespect. These actions will erode any possibility for closer relationships to develop. As a parent, it is your job to lay this foundation early with your children. Real early. The expectation of respect rather than "like" should be stated before the first meeting between your kids and your partner. Continuing that expectation through all interactions with your partner and into your marriage is essential to developing a positive relationship between step kids and their new step parents.
The requirement of respect is NOT just referring to the kids' behavior towards the adults, however. Step parents need to show respect towards their step children as well. Beside just the general level of respect that should be shown towards any other person, step parents need to respect the kids' need for space to get to know them. Respect for the time it takes kids to make a decision about how they feel about their step parent should be honored as well.
Respect should be given not just based on age, but based on the fact that you are all family members now. The reason I emphasize respect rather than liking is important. Liking someone is a feeling. We have little control over our feelings. They just happen or they do not. We certainly can not force a feeling on another person. Respect is different. It is an action. We have complete control over our actions. We either choose to act respectful or we do not. This key difference is why it's perfectly acceptable to place the expectation of respect toward one another in your step family.