The state of your marriage is the state of your blended family

Creating a satisfying marriage is not exactly easy, but it’s not impossible, either.  There are certain traits most successful couples have in common, certain skills that help cement their partnership and pave the way for a satisfying home life. As you will note, some of these attributes can be a bit more challenging for blended family partners to acquire.

Create a sense of couple-ness

Two people beginning a life together build a commitment wall that sets them apart from their families of origin. They create a mindset of standing together against the world, making their own rules, putting their loyalties and efforts into their marital relationship.

Build your blended family on a foundation of love and empathy

Successful couples learn to identify with each other and with the marriage, open to feelings of the other and sharing a vision of a future together. In happy marriages, couples talk about what is good for or harmful to the marriage, as well as what is good for each individual. A stable blended family relationship results when both partners are truly appreciative of the other, especially when it comes to taking on the responsibility of raising someone else’s child. Trying to be the best step parent you can be is something that deserves respect, gratitude, and love from your step family partner.

Become parentsIn a nuclear family, the couple can meet, fall in love, and build their connection and their romance before having children. They live together, learn about each other, develop routines and patterns, and then make decisions about when to have a family together. The shared creation of a family is an act that often bonds and fuses couples together.

Cope with crises

In any family, crises are inevitable and, generally, unanticipated. Learning to cope with crises involves

being able to realistically acknowledge and consider how the crisis is affecting everyone. That means both people must work to maintain perspective, distinguishing between their own fears of the worst case scenario and reality, rejecting the temptation to lay blame, and intervening whenever possible to avert a new crisis.

Fight fair

Every couple needs to learn safe ways for handling conflict; their relationship depends on it. First off, we need to make conflict safe. Conflict is inevitable, and setting ground rules both honors and respects the relationship itself. Successful couples create a safety zone, where strong anger cannot threaten the marriage or the relationship, where there is no name calling, insults, or screaming, and where there is no physical violence – ever. Fighting fair also means dealing with the conflict at hand, without throwing in a kitchen sink full of past complaints.

Keep love and sexual intimacy strong

Intimacy does not necessarily mean having a lot of sex, although there’s nothing wrong with that!  But it does mean making time and giving focus to this important aspect of your marital relationship.  Strong couples make it a point to do the things they like to do together, and recognize that together-time is vital to maintaining their bond.  A passionate and playful intimate connection helps a couple stay focused on each other, no matter how many outside distractions there are. Set aside a specific date night, when you can enjoy each other’s company.

Walk the walk

You have control over your relationship. If you want to be respected by your partner, be respectful. If you want to be understood, be understanding yourself, even when it is hard.  Always think about the type of relationship you want to create and be a co-creator, not a reactor. Laugh and play together. Be sensitive to the challenges your blended family presents to each other and to each other’s children. Keep in mind the person with whom you fell in love, even on days when you do not agree or are in the middle of a conflict. Become the partner you would like to be married to. Teach your kids what unconditional love looks and feels like. The results will be worth it. If you need additional assistance, contact The Blended and Step Family Resource Center.