Communication in your blended family

As blended family managers, leaders, and parents, you have so many responsibilities and goals. Sometimes it is hard to know where your attention is most needed. This question, though, has an easy answer. Your prime directive is to make a success of your marriage. Without it, you stand to lose – and your children do, too – the nurturing and stable home environment you all want and need.  A strong marital relationship provides the confidence, support, and most importantly, the relationship model your entire step family needs to grow together in a caring and mutually supportive family unit.

Taking care of business

Give your marriage the attention it needs, deserves, and thrives on. You never hear a recently divorced person say their marriage failed because their spouse was such a good communicator. The lack of useful communication between couples is often a major reason for break up.  If one or the other is not talking, or ignoring the other, you have a major problem in your relationship. Your marriage deserves better, and so does your entire step family. Make it a point to spend quality time together, to talk, to celebrate your relationship, to remember why you fell in love, to make plans for your future together. Go out together, without the kids, on a regular basis. Sure, the kids need you at home. But, even more, they need you to be in a stable and supportive relationship so you can help them cope with the relationships in their lives.

Conflict is standard fare for the blended family

Many people are simply uncomfortable with conflict, and try to avoid it at all costs. This may sound fairly agreeable, wishing to avoid unhappy feelings, harsh words, or blame, but if you and your blended family partner cannot feel comfortable talking things out, how are you going to manage your blended family? You need to be able to talk through and find solutions for issues your biological kids and step kids are having, and problems you and your spouse experience as step parents. The fact is, the blended family home is highly susceptible to conflicts that can undermine your best efforts to build a place of peace and contentment for you and your children. If you do not feel comfortable with conflict, you should make its acquaintance soon.

Four precursors of marital problems

Your marital relationship is vital to the survival of your blended family. How are you doing? Here are some indicators that poor communication skills are dragging you and your relationship down.

  • Personal attacks. Instead of asking for what you want, you criticize the other as a person whenever you are disappointed with their performance or behavior.
  • Defensiveness. In response to being questioned or criticized, you counter attack to avoid taking responsibility for the issue. When arguing, you bring up unrelated issues that give you leverage or resurrect old arguments that take focus away from you.
  • Contempt.  Name calling and treating one another as flawed or inferior show a disregard and disrespect for one another that can be hard to overcome.
  • Stonewalling.  Shutting down or withdrawing emotionally and physically from the relationship are clear signs that your marriage is in trouble.

If any of these indicators seem to fit you and your step family partner, seek counseling as soon as possible to avert an impending disaster. Your blended family is counting on the two of you to make things work. Good luck with your blended family. It takes work but is worth the effort. If you need additional assistance, contact The Blended and Step Family Resource Center for coaching.