These days the blended family unit is becoming more and more commonplace. Thankfully, step parents and new blended family partners are finding support for stepfamily challenges on various websites. Too often in the past, step parents and their new spouses had to rely on notions of normalcy assigned to a nuclear family when trying to gauge how well they were doing; too often, these narrow assessments had them coming up short and feeling like failures! These days, blended family partners are learning that comparing a blended family to a nuclear family is like comparing apples to refrigerators.
Losses in the blended family
To begin with, blended family remarriages generally come about as a result of loss. The parties involved – new spouses, his children, her children, and ex-spouses – have all experienced the loss of nuclear family. This loss of familiarity, of love, of security, of belonging, and of normalcy, often leaves parents feeling like they have let their children, and themselves, down. The losses generally leave children with feelings of instability, wondering what will happen to them, and what they did wrong to deserve the unhappiness.
Gains in your step family
Divorced or widowed parents who find someone with whom they want to share their life are indeed fortunate. Grasping the opportunity to begin again, falling in love, making plans for a future together, and life seems fun and exciting again, and full of possibilities. A blended family partner marrying for the first time, with no children of their own, accepts their new instant family as a bonus. Whatever blended family combination a remarriage generates, parents and step parents view it as a great advantage for the kids; the parenting of children – face it – is difficult to do alone.
Even if your kids know, and genuinely like, your new partner, they may not be exactly thrilled when you tell them you are planning to remarry. This may surprise you, but if you look at your new happiness through their uneasy eyes, it is more understandable. The nuclear family they were born into is defunct. They no longer live in what felt like a normal home; permanence no longer exists for them; your remarriage may only reinforce their feelings of being left behind.
Surprises for all in the blended family
New blended family partners are generally surprised at how long it is taking for their step family to develop into a new unit. They are genuinely surprised to learn their new spouse does not find their kids as cute and loveable as they do, and are disappointed they have not instantly fallen in love with their own step kids. New step parents are dismayed to discover they are not immediately accepted and loved by the kids, either. The greatest surprise many new step parents experience is that no one, including their new spouse or their new step kids, seems to appreciate the effort they are making.
Remarriages are difficult
No wonder the second marriage blended family success rate is so low. The relationship is wrought with a history of loss, failure, unmet expectations, and disappointment. To make matters more alarming, when a second marriage blended family dissolves, the idea many step family kids already had, that marriage is not permanent, that a home is never stable and that you cannot trust the people you love, gets reinforced!
The good news is that a problem recognized is halfway to being solved. Smart blended family spouses are prepared to help their partner rid themselves of baggage they carry from earlier relationships. They sympathize and understand when their kids have a hard time accepting the new step family dynamic.
They realize that whatever kind of loving relationship they form with step kids is okay; it does not have to look and feel like the relationship they have with their bio kids. The good news is that your blended family will not, cannot, and should not try to look and feel like something it isn’t. Celebrate your blended family for what it is: loving, caring, and supportive, and a new version of happy. Anything else is apples and refrigerators.