There are certain tasks that every stepfamily must accomplish in order to fully blend. You could say they are developmental processes that are necessary in order for a family to not only become stable but also to grow and to flourish. 
One example is the process of Past Recovery.  Every remarried spouse comes into this marriage with a past that most likely includes tremendous losses.  Either your previous mate died or the marriage failed and obviously if the marriage failed there is a whole host of other losses that could exist.  If you haven’t made significant strides in recovering from these losses, they will stress your current relationship and most probably your children.  This takes a great deal of both internal and external resources.

Another example of a necessary developmental process (ndp) is the need for Role Development. In a remarried family there are roles that are brand new to everyone.  Your role as a stepfather or stepmother or stepchild has not even been well defined by the so called family experts.  For decades, research has gone into helping stepfamilies define their new roles and well, it has been challenging.  It’s complex because every new family is way different from every other newly remarried family.  Families are like fingerprints—every family is unique therefore whatever is in the various knowledge basins cannot be equally applied to every stepfamily.  This is why it is a necessary developmental process—and an important one at that.  For as long as a stepfather’s role is either undefined or poorly defined, there will be a great deal of resources needed to compensate for this. The same is true for moms and kids.

I think it is somewhat like a set of obligations—say financial obligations. When you are first remarried, you have a great deal of new obligations (ndp’s).  You are probably over-obligated.  When you are so over obligated, every last bit of available resources is directed to these obligations with very little leftover for regular life processes like connecting and growing together.  If you pay them down, the stress will ease and you will have more and more resources (time, money, emotions, cognitive, relational) available for the good and desired stuff (time together, feeling good about each other, thinking life is stable and secure).

When someone goes to see a financial advisor, a good advisor will help this person have an intentional plan to effectively deal with the many obligations where at some point in the near or more distant future they can experience the freedom from these excessive obligations.  It might go like this: if I pay off my minivan, I will have an extra $500 per month to divert to other needs or simply to not be burdened with.  When I pay off the minivan AND pay off my two visa’s and my mastercard, I will have suddenly $2000 each month that will no longer burden me and definitely give me freedom to consider a future that is less stressful and/or have more resources to focus on a good life today and the future.

When a stepfamily identifies these necessary developmental processes, creates an intentional plan to pay them down or in this case master them, it opens up so many resources to focus on in the here and now and tomorrow so they can actually blend and be healthy together.  Come back next week for some helpful ideas to help you identify and master some of these ndp's.