Blended Love: Smooth relationships for blended families

The wicked stepmother… We have the fairy tales to thank for stories where stepmothers (and stepsisters) are viewed in a negative light. But with the increased number of divorces and single parents who marry again, 6 out of 10 remarriages usually have children from previous marriages or relationships. Also, according to Pew Research Center, in 2011, there are 13% of adults who are stepparents in a blended family.

Marriage (or the blending of two individuals) is hard enough to manage.  Imagine the situation if you try to blend two families with various members having different personalities. It’s only a matter of time before there will be clashes between a stepparent and child and between stepsiblings. There may be feelings of disappointment or frustration when the “new” family does not seem to gel the way one wants it to. It may be challenging, but living (and loving) together in harmony as one happy family can be done.

When You Say “I do” the second time around

When you are planning on marrying someone who has children from a previous relationship, you must remember that you are marrying into a family. You are not just binding yourself to your future spouse, but to his or her children as well. In the same way, if you have children from a previous relationship, your future spouse is also “marrying” your children. You must seriously consider whether getting married is the option that you, as a couple, are willing to take. The difficult fact is that when a couple decides to get married, it is by their own choice. The children may not feel that they are given a choice in the matter.

If you have been previously married and divorced, children (and you yourself) may have emotional baggage about the previous marriage. Your children may still be mourning the loss of that family and may be wary of having a “new daddy” in place when all they want is their daddy. Stepping into a situation like this takes patience and love. Forming a blended family successfully will also take time.

You will need to set up the foundations even before the marriage. You will also need to develop a good relationship with the children, especially if these children are in their teens.  It will also be a challenge to expect these children to accept you and your authority as a parental figure.

Here are some issues that need to be addressed in a blended family:

–          Decisions that will have an impact on the whole family – where to live, how each one is to relate with the others and so on.

–          Jealousy (especially if there are children resulting from the “new” relationship)

–          Feelings of not belonging

–          Grief due to the loss of the previous family relationship

–          Confusion, especially over the new identity as a family

–          Resistance to the stepparent or stepsiblings. “Why should I listen to you? You’re not my mother?” This can be a possible response and must be addressed in a positive manner.

–          Relationships with members of the extended family. How do you deal with ex-wives or ex-husbands, as well as a “new” set of grandparents, uncles and aunts and cousins?

–          Implementing rules and discipline in the home.

How Family Therapy Can Help

Prior to marriage, it will be helpful to seek family counseling in Utah. This is a great way to start right and begin the journey through the maze of conflicting and negative emotions into building a home where everyone feels he belongs and is loved.

Couples’ pre-marriage counseling will help the future husband and wife to:

–          Discuss expectations with regards to important matters such as disciplining children, handling money, religion, celebrating holidays and other issues that relate with the family.

–          Discuss feelings regarding the previous failed marriage. Each individual can get help to dispose of emotional baggage that he or she may have been carrying as a result of a previous marriage.

–          Help you build a plan for the blended family. You can discuss how you will structure the blended family in such a way that every member feels that he or she is part of it.

Starting Right

Here are some tips as you plan for your blended family, even before your marriage:

–          Don’t make too many changes all at once. The children may still be adjusting to the loss of the previous family structure. If you are recently divorced, it is wise to wait for a year or two before you remarry.

–          Exercise patience and not force your way in. It will take time to build trust and acceptance. Stepsiblings will not instantly love each other. Stepchildren may not immediate see you as someone with the authority over them. Give the children time to ease into the new family.

–          Have realistic expectations. From the start, accept the fact that the “new” family will not fit the traditional pattern with traditional roles. Also, don’t immediately conclude that fights amongst stepsiblings are due to the blended family.

–          Find ways for the blended family to enjoy each other’s company. Take as many opportunities for all members to experience “life” together. For instance, invite your fiancé’s children to spend the night in your house or go on a camping trip together.

–          Be united as a couple. The issues that face a blended family may drive the spouses apart. It is important to remain committed to nurturing and strengthening your relationship. Make sure that you spend quality time together so that you stay united as you face the challenges in your blended family. This is particularly important if your children try to issue an ultimatum that you choose between them and your fiancé.

–          Provide stepchildren with their own space. When building your new home together, give each stepchild his own space, even when new siblings have to share a room. Give each child the freedom to decorate his or her own space.

–          Encourage open communication. Foster open communications where you are just there to listen to what your child feels about the prospective blended family.

–          Include them in the wedding ceremony. There are unity ceremonies which you can include in the wedding ceremony to make your children feel part of the union. For instance, in a sand ceremony, children from previous relationship can have an integral part in the program, where the officiating minister explains how each member has something to bring into the relationship.

–          Set limits and rules that members are expected to follow. Although children, especially teens, may chafe at boundaries set for them, limits and boundaries are actually a positive signal for the children. It shows that you love and care enough for them to want to spend time and attention in their development and discipline. However, you must also be realistic in that you can’t expect to be the enforcer of the rules as the stepparent. Let your spouse do the enforcing during the first few months when you come together as a blended family.

–          Get the help of a family therapist. An experienced Utah  family therapist will help, especially during the initial years of the blended family. If you are looking for a licensed marriage and family therapist in Provo, Utah, don’t hesitate to contact Dr. Triston Morgan. Dr. Morgan is an experienced therapist who is licensed to practice in the state of Utah. He has been instrumental in helping individuals, couples and families go through the challenges they face and emerge as stronger, better persons.


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