Friday, October 5, 2012

Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!

Few TV shows typify the 1970s better than The Brady Bunch, the now classic series from producer Sherwood Schwartz, which embedded irremovably into our childhood memories phrases like, "Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!" and "Mom always said not to play ball in the house."

I must admit that as a boy I all but idolized oldest sibling Greg, wanting to be as groovy and cool as he was -- which, in retrospect, was just plain silly since Greg was (Oh, how should I put this gently?) a dork!

The Brady Bunch, of course, like Schwartz's other classic show, Gilligan's Island, was never really meant to come anywhere remotely close to reality. After all, in real life seven people can't actually survive on a desert island with little more than a radio and some coconuts, can they? Similarly, as in the case of The Brady Bunch, the dynamics of real step families seldom work as smoothly as they did on the show.

A recent article in the New York Times, entitled When Branches Tangle in a Stepfamily Tree, suggests that dealing with step relatives can be a huge stressor for many people, raising troubling questions like, "Do you invite your ex-stepsister to your wedding? How long should you continue texting your ex-stepson if he doesn't text back?" And "What, if anything, do you call your ex-step-grandmother?"

The article cites research indicating that 42 percent of us have step relatives -- the result of divorces and remarriages -- and discusses the ways in which that can be problematic. In my practice, I find clients are often surprised to learn that not only do 50 percent of first marriages end in divorce, but that 70 percent of second marriages also result in divorce, often due to issues related to bringing children into a second marriage. While these are most certainly issues that couples can and do work through, they cause stress and discord, nonetheless. The bottom line: step family issues can get complicated and often be difficult to deal with.

Do you have step relatives? And what are some of the issues and challenges you've faced? Or maybe this isn't an issue for you -- you and yours simply function as one big, happy family -- square dancing in the living room, vacationing in the Grand Canyon, and enjoying cookouts in your AstroTurf backyard!

Say more about that...

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