Many blended family marriages fall prey to divorce because they are unprepared for how difficult the pressures of stepfamily living can be. When you are in love it is easy to believe that lessons learned from your first marriage are enough to show you how to have a happy and successful remarriage; if you are already a parent, you assume that figuring out how to be a good step parent will be relatively easy. Neither assumption is generally true, and happily ever after never comes easily.
Reality strikes in the step family
The reality for which many blended family couples are unprepared is that stepfamilies are not very much like first families. The process of building a family generally allows time alone for the couple to enjoy being together, discovering each other, before the children begin to arrive. Memories, rituals, belief systems, habits, rules and methods become established with the passage of time and as the family grows together. A step family skips all that, and step family members are thrown into a mix of established expectations that are often conflicting and confusing.
Be prepared in your remarriage
Smart blended family couples, however, see the potential for problems and do not get blindsided by assumptions promoted by Brady Bunch reruns on TV. They study the qualities of successful blended families, and work at their marriages. They overcome misguided suppositions with frequent reality checks and they – and their children – do just fine. They go online for help. BlendedFamilyAdvice.com and other blogs and articles offer suggestions, hints and personal experiences that can be of immense help. Rather than waiting for a problem to arise, savvy blended family couples and step parents have done their homework and are prepared for the challenges.
Be active, not reactive parents and step parents
Prepared parents and step parents know that children in a step family can often feel threatened by the relationships a parent has with the new spouse and step kids; they often feel left out when step siblings enter the picture. Parents understand that sharing space, time and affection may be difficult, and make an effort to mitigate fears and jealousies around the new spouse and step siblings by spending quality time alone with their children. Parents understand that step siblings may not automatically and instantly love each other; they do not expect their step kids to immediately accept or love them, either.
Unconditional loving kindness and a caring attitude help perceptive parents show bio and step kids alike that there is enough time and enough stability for them all to grow together as a happy blended family. Another important tool used by successful step family couples is a clear and concise set of household rules and expectations.
Blended family house rules
Knowing and understanding house rules not only makes it easier for kids to know what is expected of them, it makes it easier for the blended family couple to address parenting and other family issues. How the rules are formulated and set into place can set the stage for family, and couple, communications. If mutual respect and considerate demeanor are set out as compulsory and non-negotiable traits expected from each blended family member, conflicts are less likely to escalate into fights. Conflict is a fact of life in most families from time to time, and blended family rules can lessen its distressing effects.
Whether spousal conflict is brought about by parenting or step parenting issues, financial, health or marital issues, mindful blended family couples know that good communication is their best chance to maintain a strong relationship. They also feel secure their relationship can experience disagreement, and understand that dealing with conflict is rarely successful while emotions run high. Often, waiting until morning coffee to talk things over is a useful way to settle disagreements. Successful blended family couples are committed to dealing with conflict without being disagreeable.
Happily ever after is a little more difficult to achieve in a blended family, but it is possible, with planning, commitment, effort, and understanding. The unique challenges presented by a step family dynamic are not insurmountable, they are simply challenges.