Blended Family Marriages - After the "I Do's"
The dating was exciting. The wedding was perfect … but you didn’t expect the “one big happy family” to not be so happy!
Welcome to blended family life.
Many times we go into the next marriage thinking it would be much like the first marriage, except, you really are in love with this new person and you get along with them perfectly. So, you jump in feet first not realizing you are going to hit some of the same “walls” you hit in the first marriage.
Then, you realize there are some invisible boundaries already in place … “this is the way we do holidays;” “these are my kids, and only I discipline them;” etc. Well, you have just entered the blended family twilight zone and you are going to need a bit of help.
There are some basic rules about joining together and creating the “His, Hers and Ours” home. I’d like to share a few of these rules from the “road rash” I have received along my blended family journey. Hopefully it will save you from some painful skid marks along the way!
1. Don’t expect to be each other’s priority for a while.
Husbands and wives are to prioritize each other, but the blended family is different. It can take years before you can have a heated argument and choose to work with each other instead of choosing to take your kids and leave. It is a protective mechanism, so don’t get your knickers bunched up. It is important to talk about the reality of this – and how in the future, when push comes to shove – you will be able stand up for each other. In the meantime, show respect and kindness. Learn from your partner and listen to them. Create opportunities to brainstorm ideas on making your marriage and family function better. Believe me, it takes time, but the wait is so worth it!
2. In the beginning, let each bio parent discipline their own children.
Here is the catch though, decide to talk through the situation - and the consequence - with your spouse, and then deliver the consequence to the child together. This helps present a unified front. In the beginning of my marriage, when we needed to “discipline” Dan’s kids, Dan and I would privately discuss the situation. I would have my own ideas about how the child should be disciplined, but Dan was the bio parent and his word was final. I didn’t always agree with him. But I respected him. Years down the road, he was appreciative for my respect, and also told me that he should have listened to my ideas more!
3. Create new traditions.
Our first Christmas was difficult. Dan and his kids had their Christmas décor and ornaments and we had ours. Everything was a struggle. Their Christmas tree topper was a hand-made angel representing a child who died shortly after birth. Our Angel tree topper was purchased after my first husband died. So whose do you use? Well, I got smart the second year. As a family, we purchased and made new ornaments and décor. New traditions. I also made a special place for both of the tree toppers from the past. The past shouldn’t be forgotten… but as a reminder to not forget the sweet moments in life.
4. Have weekly family meetings.
This was an opportunity to talk about the week, share upcoming events, and also to “lay down the law” of our new, combined family. We also encouraged the kids to speak up and discuss their grievances with the way things were going. After Dan and I listened carefully, we sometimes changed our minds about curfews or other rules. Many times we didn’t, but the point is we hopefully made each child feel heard.
5. Have mandatory family fun nights.
Somehow “mandatory” doesn’t feel like it fits in with “fun!” We had to incorporate this into our blended family. It seemed there was always something going on where we could not all be together. At first, there was much resistance and groaning. We persevered, though, and eventually we had the kids wanting to invite their friends to come join us for the evening. We took turns planning the evenings so everyone got to participate. We had movie nights, game nights and even hide-and-go-seek nights. The point was to all be there and to all participate. It was so simple and yet an important family building tool that brought much laughter and great memories.
You have a new life together. Don’t try to operate it under “old regimes.” This is a new day and a new adventure. Go do some blending!
Written by Kristie Carpenter
Women’s author, speaker, and mentor, Kristie Carpenter, aka The Blended Family Mom, has been a blended family/step mom since 2004; her blended family currently includes four children and four grandchildren. Kristie has authored two books ("The Blended Family Mom"& "Blended Mom Moments"), and is passionate about encouraging women in blended families. When she is not writing or mentoring/coaching, you can probably find Kristie building something with power tools, or planning her next landscape project. Kristie and her husband, Dan, are also co-founders of Carpenters for Christ, a non-profit, marriage and family coaching ministry. You can find The Blended Family Mom on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter & via her website at theblendedfamilymom.com.