Andrea Howe and Becca Carr-Hopkins met by chance at a TMLP classroom in London. Andrea was visiting from Washington DC, and thought it would be fun to experience doing the program in a foreign country. Becca, one of 53 London TMLP participants, stood up at one point and shared about her Game in the World. In an instant, a global connection was created: both realized they were using technology to transform difficult step-family dynamics into experiences of relatedness and love. What followed was a blossoming friendship, as well as a shared commitment to make a difference for step-families all over the world. This is the story of Andrea’s project–To read about Becca’s project, check out this story on Step by Step.
Andrea’s inspiration for Families in Step came while she was Team One incoming at the TMLP weekend in Orlando, Florida, USA. For the first time in her life, she was seriously dating a man who came to the relationship with a divorce, two children, and a contentious relationship with his ex-wife. Searching for a focus for her Game In the World, she decided to create something to benefit step-families.
“While I had no experience whatsoever with these kinds of complex family dynamics as a ‘girlfriend,’ I am a step-daughter and I understand first-hand how challenging expanded family life can be,” says Andrea.
So, in September of 2007, Andrea created an amazing team that included a therapist, a divorced couple with children, and a married couple with children and step-children. Inside the possibility of generous listening and loving partnership, they rallied around one simple goal: to help members of step-families transform their communication such that family is no longer an experience of frustration, stress, and conflict, but instead an experience of love.
Andrea learned about the work of Dr. Jeff Schlichter, a Forensic and Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Family Mediator, and Collaborative Divorce Coach, and through a series of phone conversations, enrolled him in leading the project.
“We view step-families as expanded families, not broken families. And these expanded families have remarkable opportunities to help their children become exceptional adults,” says Dr. Schlichter.
By January 2008 the Families in Step web site went live (www.familiesinstep.com) and beginning April 2008, the first Step Talk call series will be piloted. Over the course of six weeks, step-family members from anywhere in the world will spend an hour a week on the phone with each other to learn valuable tips and tools from their facilitators, and also share common concerns, difficulties, solutions, and victories by communicating with members of other step-families.
Families in Step has already had an “others to others” kind of impact. “Here’s the irony of all this,” says Andrea. “Not long after the project was created, Dennis and I decided to end our romantic relationship. He never officially participated in the Families in Step project, and I haven’t yet met his children. But he and his ex-wife have completely transformed their relationship, and their children are thriving.”
Now that’s loving partnership in action, and an experience of love worth celebrating.
— Andrea Howe, Team Washington DC