Seek patterns of blended family success

It is difficult to build and maintain a blended family, and over 60 percent of step family marriages do not last. Reasons for the widespread failure are tragically similar. Generally, what it boils down to is being unprepared for the complexities, challenges, and frustrations of step family life. There is hope, though, for blended family success, and you can find it by emulating step families that are making it. When we follow patterns of success, we are more likely to achieve success.

Predictable blended family issues

There may, presumably, be a lucky few blended family partners who fall into a relationship with no conflicts. But disputes over parenting styles, money, parental and step parental responsibilities, relationship and behavioral boundaries, family rituals and holidays, to name a few, abound.  Step child insolence and acting out often result in discipline and loyalty struggles.  Custody, visitation, financial support, and even jealousy between the ex-spouse and step parent, can present an ongoing struggle, as can step sibling rivalries. Daily conflict is a hard fact of life for a step family. For bio parents and for step parents, feelings of being misunderstood, disrespected, ignored, or unsupported at home can make coping with a hostile ex-spouse even harder. And if you add never-ending legal actions over child custody and support to the mix, it is easy to understand why so many blended family partners find themselves at a loss!

Blended family advice

Websites offering blended family advice teem with informative articles, blogs that support and inspire, and hundreds of other resources for the blended family.  Results of step family studies help us to learn what kinds of strategies work and which are less successful, and they serve as encouragement for struggling step parents and harried blended family spouses.  These resources offer us reliable patterns of success for the modern blended family.

Patterns of success for blended families

As hard as it is to make broad statements that lay the framework for a successful blended family, studies suggest successful blended families have quite a bit in common. Blended family advice articles and blogs come from step parents and step family spouses who have been there, done that, and learned much.  Here some of their suggestions.

  •  Get blended family advice; read, attend seminars, join support groups, do what you can to learn about blended family life.
  • Acknowledge and mourn losses. Everyone in your blended family has experienced losses which lead to your remarriage, and need an opportunity to grieve and talk about them.
  • Have realistic expectations.  Instant love and adjustment is not realistic; it is okay not to love your step children. Your blended family will neither look nor feel like your first family. The stages of step family development must be traversed; there are no short-cuts. It can take years for all members of your blended family to feel loved and included.
  • Put your marriage first, because children benefit from the model of a happy relationship. View your time alone as a necessity. Present a united front to the children; never disagree in front of them, but negotiate and make decisions in private. 
  • Form satisfactory step relationships. Step parents who see their role as sort of a close family friend are usually the most satisfied, leaving parenting to their spouse. Loyalty conflicts are common; keep expectations realistic and practical.
  • Develop new traditions and rituals for your blended family. Make holiday celebrations easy for children who must move from home to home. Respect the need children may have to hold on to meaningful traditions from their previous lives.
  • Get support from someone who can provide sympathetic understanding of the intense feelings involved in early step family living, and offer some help on what to do next. This support could come from your church, a step family support group, or from a professional trained in step family issues.

How quickly and easily you move through blended family development stages is directly related to the support you and your spouse give each other, especially during your first few years. Couples who are able to listen and empathize early on about jealousies, insecurities, and confusion, and understand the intense pull biological parents feel toward their own children usually have fewer deeply held fantasies and more realistic expectations.   If you need more assistance, contact The Blended and Step Family Resource Center.