Second marriages that involve children demand more preparation than first marriages. Not only do you want to be happy in your new marriage, but you also want your children to be happy. For those reasons, there are many topics that need to be discussed and issues that have to be agreed on before blending your […]
There is no shortage of challenges awaiting those of us who have gone through divorce and still refuse to give up on love. If, like me, you are fortunate enough to find the love of your dreams, an entirely new set of challenges probably awaits you. If you and/or your beloved already have children, you will have to figure out how, when, and perhaps even if you can blend your new partner into your existing family.
Can we Really Expect Love to Conquer All When Blending Families?
When Juli’s and my love was unexpectedly revealed four years ago, we found ourselves in a new world of ease and opportunity. Old assumptions and restrictions were replaced with limitless possibilities that required us to reconsider nearly every aspect of our lives. Our anticipated timetables for entering into new, committed relationships no longer made sense within the context of this love.
We were sure that we were meant to be together – NOW. We felt certain that, just as we had mysteriously attracted each other, we would call forth the circumstances and conditions necessary to create and share one home for our singular love.
But not so fast… the seemingly limitless power of our love was no match for the on-the-ground realities of what it would take to blend our children and our households into a stable, supportive, and emotionally healthy whole.
While our love created a universe all our own, Juli and I also shared universes with our children, who could not be expected to grasp (let alone welcome) this new love and this new person who had so powerfully and unexpectedly swooped into their parent’s life.
Being apart from each other was unthinkable and at times almost unbearable, but any time we tried to accelerate the process of integration, we only seemed to generate more resentment and resistance. We loved each other and we loved our children, and we could not jam them all together into the cohesive whole we so desperately desired.
Great Beginnings, Happy Endings
Four years later, Juli, her children, and I are sharing a home as a family and enjoy a life filled with laughter and connectivity (my own daughter is still finding her place in our family and in the world). My stepdaughter, who sobbed uncontrollably when Juli told her about me because she didn’t want to share her mother’s love, now bounds into my office as soon as she gets home from school, eager to commune, connect, and commingle our experiences of the day.
My stepson affectionately calls me “Troll,” hounds me daily to take him to play basketball and matches me set for set with weights at the gym. And my beloved wife revels in the family she always wanted — and now has — as we have spread and shared our love beyond ourselves to those we love the most.
Lessons Learned When Blending Families
Love is always accompanied by its share of mysteries, and we can never hope to know all of the factors that contributed to my successful integration into Juli’s family. But we can share and learn from each other’s experiences. To that end, I would offer these three keys to our success that Juli and I have identified:
- Confidence in our commitment
- The contagion of our love
- Unyielding patience
I will be discussing each of these success factors in upcoming blogs beginning with confidence in our commitment. I invite you to share these posts with any of your friends who may be facing this often daunting challenge of bringing new love into existing family structures. And remember, you are in this situation because you have an “embarrassment of riches,” an abundance of love for both partner and children. And this love wants nothing more than to express itself in fullness and unity within a single happy household.
Second marriages that involve children demand more preparation than first marriages. Not only do you want to be happy in your new marriage, but you also want your children to be happy. For those reasons, there are many topics that need to be discussed and issues that have to be agreed on.
Blank Topics The Two Of You Should Talk About Before Blending Your Family:
1. Define what you each bring to the table that will have a positive influence on each other’s children.
There are reasons you fell in love with this person and, if you are a parent, some of those reasons were because you thought, he was a good parent. Encourage each other to use those parenting skills in a way that positively impacts your children.
2. Define how each parent will be able to promote healthy bonding with the children.
This can be done in numerous ways. You may feel it is important that each parent spend alone time with the other’s children in order to promote a strong bond. In the end, it’s about doing things that help your children build trust in this new person in their lives.
3. Define how you will each support the other in your roles as step-parent.
Children, especially our own are great at manipulating. Discuss and come up with solutions for having each other’s backs in front of the children.
4. Define what needs to be done to promote a happy and healthy home environment for the children.
We all know that children flourish in conflict-free homes. Discuss how you will handle arguments or disagreements with each other. And, there is the issue of who the children will be surrounded by in their home. If Uncle Harry is a belligerent drunk, he probably needs to be kept at arm’s length and not allowed past the front door.
Also, being able to provide each child with a space of their own for sleeping, hanging with friends and getting away from the rest of the family when they need a break is imperative.
5. Define steps that need to be taken by both parents that promote a show of respect toward a step-child.
You should love your step-children as an extension of your new spouse. Healthy love means treating the step-children with the same, kindness, concern, consideration and respect you will your new spouse. For children to flourish they need to feel cared about!
6. Define what steps will be taken to resolve conflict in the blended family.
Once you’ve decided on a way to resolve conflict, discuss it with the children. Children can be cruel, especially towards one another. Let them know there are clear boundaries and the repercussions of any unacceptable behaviors.
7. Share expectations you both have as your role of step-parent.
It’s important to discuss this before marriage but, it may take time after the marriage for roles to be firmly established. What role each parent will play in the blended family will depend largely on that parent’s lifestyle. If the step-mom works her role will differ drastically from that of the step-mom who doesn’t work.
8. Make a list of the steps you both need to take that will nurture your relationship and your marriage.
If it wasn’t for the relationship you two have there wouldn’t be a blended family. Nurturing the bond between the two of you promotes a healthier blended family. Stay connected, don’t lose each other in the stress of everyday life and, above all, make time for time alone together.
9. Make strict guidelines when it comes to the discipline of the children and what role each parent will play.
Your home needs to have well thought out boundaries when it comes to what behavior is and isn’t acceptable. And, as a step-parent, you need to be careful to avoid the improper discipline of a step-child. It’s my opinion that the best way to keep down conflict over child discipline is to let each parent be in charge of disciplining their own child.
My mother used to say, wait until your father gets home, young lady.” She was passing the buck to him and letting herself off the hook. Not a good practice when dealing with the family of origin discipline. Probably the best practice when dealing with discipline in a blended family.
What are your next steps? Putting into action the decisions you’ve made!