Lesson 7 of 7  - evolve a high-nurturance stepfamily

Worksheet: Are We Committing
 for the Right Reasons?

Many couples fool themselves

By Peter K. Gerlach, MSW

Member, NSRC Expert Council

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    The Web address of this article is https://sfhelp.org/sf/date/reasons.htm

    Updated  09/06//2015

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      This is one of a series of Lesson-7 articles on how to evolve a high-nurturance (functional) stepfamily. The "/" in re/marriage and re/divorce notes that it may be a stepparent's first union. "Co-parents" means both biological parents, or any of the three or more stepparents and bioparents co-managing a multi-home nuclear stepfamily.

        This is one four worksheets for courting couples with kids from prior unions. If neither of you have prior kids, use this worksheet. The worksheets exist because over half of American couples (re)divorce legally or psychologically. Psychologically wounded, unaware, needy couples choose the wrong people to commit to, at the wrong time, for the wrong reasons.  This is specially true in stepfamily situations.

        This worksheet assumes you're familiar with these:

  • the intro to this nonprofit Web site and the premises underlying it

  • self-improvement Lessons 1 thru 6

  • stepfamily basics, Q&A, and quiz

  • 16 common stepfamily-courtship danger signs,  and...

  • this example of a real stepfamily

       This worksheet offers a place to thoughtfully assess your and your partner’s conscious motives (needs) for considering stepfamily co-commitment. Unconscious motives, which often stem from unmet childhood needs, may be even more important. For thought-provoking ideas on the unconscious reasons we pick our partner/s - over and over - see "Keeping the Love You Find" by veteran pastoral counselor Dr. Harville Hendrix.

        My clinical and personal experience with hundreds of troubled stepfamily couples suggests that there are wise reasons to commit, and unwise (stress-promoting) reasons. The ultimate judges here are you, your partner, and your dependents! Stepfamily commitment is one of the most complex, life-affecting decisions you'll ever make. Widespread U.S. re/divorce implacably implies that love alone is NOT enough in choosing to form or join a stepfamily...


Decide if your true Self is about to use this worksheet. If it isn't, you risk a well-meaning false self skewing your answers. One of five universal courtship hazards is one or both partners having a disabled true Self.

Allocate 30" or so of undistracted time for this learning exercise, and adopt the unbiased curiosity of a student. Expect to learn something interesting and useful.

Print and study this worksheet to see if these commitment motives make sense to you. If an item doesn’t, edit it so that it fits better;

Stay aware that all behavior - including committment to a primary partner - is powered by the primal urge to reduce discomforts (needs) and increase satisfactions. So "being needy" is normal, healthy, and unavoidable, not weak!

Meditate, and write a "P" or "1" in the "Me" brackets (  ) for each item below that feels like a primary reason you are considering commitment to your prospective stepfamily members.

        Put an "S" or "2" for secondary reasons. If you’re unsure about any item, put "?". Take time to meditate thoroughly on each item. Rushing through this assessment suggests a false-self's impatience, and is not in your long-term best interest!

If you change your mind on earlier entries, reflect on why you're seeing things differently.

Consider jotting down or tape-recording key thoughts, feelings, and awarenesses as you proceed. The process of filling out these wise-choice worksheets is as instructive as your answers.

After you’ve explored your reasons for committing, re-do the worksheet by thoughtfully guesstimating the "P" and "S" reasons [  ] of your partner.

    "Scoring" is described at the end. Peeking there will raise the chance you'll skew your answers and reduce the value of this worksheet.


Rank-order all your reasons (1st, 2nd, 3rd,…); and/or...

Star or hilight any items that seem extra important, and note why after you finish.

Coach yourself to avoid answering what you should, and answer what is. Otherwise you’ll mislead yourself, and put you and any dependents at risk of stepfamily unhappiness and re/divorce trauma. This is a chance to learn about yourselves!

Ask your partner to fill out a copy of this worksheet alone, vs. shoulder to shoulder. Then  discuss your results thoroughly as fellow explorers. Reluctance or ambivalence to do this, or feeling significant anxiety about it, strongly suggests your true Self is disabled.

Are we committing for the right reasons?

        I want to commit to this person to...

Me / You

(  )  [  ]   1) finally feel normal; and stop feeling socially awkward as a single adult in a couples’ world.

(  )  [  ]   2) expand and enhance my life’s daily experiences by sharing them with a trusted, emotionally healthy, beloved partner.

(  )  [  ]   3) reduce my fear of growing old alone.

(  )  [  ]   4) conceive and/or nurture one or more kids together "before it’s too late."

(  )  [  ]   5) live with a beloved adult who steadily makes me feel special and primary: i.e. (usually) sees me as the most prized and important person in their life.

(  )  [  ]   6) have another adult help me daily with my home, finances, chores, and/or with my dependent kid/s.

(  )  [  ]   7) feel more secure / less anxious - i.e. safer.

(  )  [  ]   8) often feel heard, deeply understood, and accepted by a beloved and respected adult partner.

(  )  [  ]   9) gain the approval or acceptance of someone really important to me (other than my partner);
              (Who? __________________________ )

(  )  [  ]  10) rescue an appealing, deserving, or wounded adult and/or child/ren.

        ...and I want to commit to this person to...

Me / You

(  )  [  ]  11) live with a beloved adult I can freely give to and be received by.

(  )  [  ]  12) live with an adult who consistently respects and validates me, and helps me feel good about my Self.

(  )  [  ]  13) (a) become more promotable at work, and/or to (b) become more acceptable to my kin, friends, neighbors, and/or my church community.

(  )  [  ]  14) live with an adult I can often feel sexually desired by, excited by, and satisfied with, without guilt, shame, or anxiety.

    (  )  [  ]  15) prove _____________________________ to somebody. (who? ____________________)

    (  )  [  ]  16) often feel really known, appreciated, and enjoyed, by a beloved live-in adult.

    (  )  [  ]  17) avoid feeling old and unattractive, and to demonstrate my vigor and appeal.

    (  )  [  ]  18) live with an interesting adult companion who often stimulates me intellectually, emotionally, spiritually, and physically, and expands my world.

    (  )  [  ]  19) finally become "whole" and balanced.

    (  )  [  ]  20) fulfill God’s plan for me.

            ...and I want to commit to this person to...

    Me / You

    (  )  [  ]  21)  end my boredom and have an exciting adventure!

    (  )  [  ]  22)  live with a loving adult who (often) wants to comfort, accept, and support me when I’m worried, scared, discouraged, confused, or ashamed.

    (  )  [  ]  23)  live with an adult who steadily wants to encourage me to grow freely as a unique person with special, valuable abilities, and to help them do the same.

    (  )  [  ]  24)  feel consistently needed by, and useful and impactful (important) to, a beloved, special adult I live with.

    (  )  [  ]  25)  "instantly" gain the family I (and/or you) have always needed and longed for.

    (  )  [  ]  26)  get revenge on someone who has really wounded and mistreated me, you, or a key loved-one.

    (  )  [  ]  27)  finally end or avoid the stressful singles / dating scene.

    (  )  [  ]  28)  finally end my (your) loneliness.

    (  )  [  ]  29) avoid the emptiness and hassle of living alone.

    (  )  [  ]  30) gain the resources to move away from here (or to ________________ ).

            ...and I want to commit to this person to...

    Me / You

    (  )  [  ]  31) lower or end my (your) major financial or emotional anxieties or fears.

    (  )  [  ]  32) avoid God’s wrath, and end my (your) shame from living sinfully.

    (  )  [  ]  33) "do the right thing" because of our unplanned child conception.

    (  )  [  ]  34) get a parent, child, ex mate, or other key person off my (your) back.

    (  )  [  ]  35) give a deprived child two loving co-parents and a nurturing home.

    (  )  [  ]  36) give a needy minor child a(nother) good adult role-model.

    (  )  [  ]  37) move into a better / safer home and/or neighborhood.

    (  )  [  ]  38) end courtship commuting and phone-calling expense and hassles.

    (  )  [  ]  39) end the frustration from our approach-avoid relationship for good.

    (  )  [  ]  40) make up for all the pain I’ve (you’ve) endured.

    (  )  [  ]  41) relieve my kid/s (and/or others) from worrying about me.

    (  )  [  ]  42) (any other reasons for committing to your mate...)

+ + +

      Breathe well, and note your feelings and thoughts now without judgment. Pay special attention to sources of discomfort or "numbness": they're key signposts... Consider journaling about what's going on inside you now. Option: review your results at a later time to see if your answers change. Did you know of all these possible conscious and unconscious needs ("motivations") that shape the choice to commit or re/marry?

      Use this worksheet to raise your awareness, not as an absolute reference. Tailor it as needed to best fit you and your situation. These Lesson-7 wise-choice worksheets are not meant to replace your common sense or your getting qualified professional help where appropriate.

Right now, I feel ....

and I need to....

"Scoring" This Worksheet

        Premise: each reason above which includes italicized phrases is often an unwise reason to commit. Review where you put your "P"s or "1"s, and where you guesstimated your partner’s "P's," and note any pattern that emerges: Note also that these are all conscious reasons you're considering spousal commitment. There are probably other reasons you're not yet aware of.

Of all ___ items that I marked as "P" or "1" for me, ___ had no italics. Divide the second number by the first, and multiply by 100. Enter the result below:

I estimate that __ % of my conscious primary reasons for committing to this person and form a multi-home stepfamily now favor long-term partnership and stepfamily success.

Of all the ____ items I marked as "P" (or "1") for my partner, ___ had no italics. Divide the second number by the first, and multiply by 100. Enter the result below:

I estimate that ____ % of my partner’s conscious primary reasons for committing to me and form or join a multi-home stepfamily now favor long-term partnership and stepfamily success.

       If either of you have 50% or more italicized "P" or "1" commitment reasons, seriously reconsider why you want to commit to the other person and form or join a complex, high-risk multi-home stepfamily now. You and your partner are probably each enduring false-self wounds and are in normal protective denial of that.

        If so, without a period of true (vs. pseudo) personal wound-recovery before pledging your commitments, you and any dependent kids are likely to re/divorce psychologically or legally. Recall Dr. Hendrix’s seasoned opinion that the main reasons we exchange commitment vows are unconscious.

      If that’s true, then the items you just "scored" may not be the real reasons you’re drawn to each other. The key is whether your true Self filled out the worksheet or "someone else" did. To guard against probable re/divorce, I urge you two to study and discuss this free online course..

 Next - explore these other courtship worksheets if you haven't yet: ...

        After discussing these four worksheets, if you partners decide you're ready enough, set the date, and celebrate!  When you come back from your honeymoon (if any), keep working together at this self-improvement course for long-term success.

+ + +

        Pause, breathe, and recall why you read this worksheet. Did you get what you needed? If so, what do you need now? If not - what do you need? Is there anyone you want to discuss these ideas with? Who's answering these questions - your wise resident true Self, or '''someone else''?

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