If as a stepparent you feel that there are three adults in the household--me, my spouse and an ex-spouse--then you may need to define your family boundaries more clearly.

Stepfamily boundaries need to be permeable so that children can move back and forth between households, stress family therapists John and Emily Visher. Yet, stepfamilies need to experience their own separateness and autonomy before there can be a comfortable relationship between parents and stepparents in the children's two households.

"Ghosts" may still live in stepfamily households, say the Vishers, because:

* You have not really gone through the sadness of saying goodbye to your past relationship and dreams.

* Your ex-spouse has not yet separated psychologically and said goodbye. Set limits on calls and personal contacts with your former spouse.

* If you asked for the divorce, you keep wanting your ex-spouse to say that he or she understands why you needed to leave and that you are a really good person. "Let go of this wish and start enjoying the love and appreciation you are receiving from your spouse, your family and others."

* If you did not wish the divorce, you keep wanting your ex-spouse to say that you are a really special person and it was his or her own problems that precipitated the divorce. "Your former partner is often the last person to look to for acceptance."