We have all been affected by a blended family, in some way or another. There are over 300 million people in America according to a 2012 census, with over 59 million married couples according to a 2014 survey (Statista, web). According to DivorceSource.com, there are roughly 2.4 million couples married every year and approximately 1.2 million divorces every year, resulting in about 50 percent of marriages ending in divorce.
Ask anyone you know and they have probably been affected, in some way, by divorce. When divorced, widowed, or single men and/or women marry or remarry, they often bring children from a previous marriage with them into the new relationship. Many times, this creates issues all by itself.
There are many different scenarios this can result in. For example, a divorced man remarries a woman with children from a previous marriage, a divorced woman remarries a man with children from a previous marriage, a widow remarries someone with children, or two previously divorced individuals remarry and they both have children from previous relationships. Maybe you are familiar with one or more of these. I am.
At the age of about six-year-old, my parents divorced. Several years later, both parents remarried someone different, with one bringing two other children into the mix. I can remember the first time meeting the man my mom remarried and thought, “Who is this person and why are they here?” Likewise, I remember the first time I met the woman my dad remarried. There were no issues between any of us. We were very blessed in this fact. I can tell you, as a child, I wanted to know what was going on. I wanted to know the who, what, when, where, and why. It is important to communicate with our children, this may put them at ease or help them transition.
There are obviously too many issues for me to cover in a blog post, or ten. As with any meshing of people, there are issues of trust, unity, communication, and cohesion. How can we better unite blended families?
Time: It takes time. You will not likely experience a perfect uniting of two families overnight. It will take time. I cannot tell you whether it will take days, weeks, months, or years. It may be a situation where you should consider seeking counseling or therapy. It is easy for adults to focus on the relationships among the adults and the children take a backseat priority. If you are experiencing a transition similar to these I have described, and you have children, remember the children involved. Your decisions should be made with them in mind, first.
Communication: No one person communicates the same way as the next, nor do people receive communication the same. I have learned this through every relationship I have ever had in my life. None of my siblings by birth or marriage had any type of communication issues between each other, however, the communication lies often between the other adults and between the adults and children. Communication between the spouse and former spouse is critical to raising healthy children. If this is not possible, seek counseling.
Unity: Again, this takes time. Often the external conflict of any family is what draws then closer to each other. This may be the case for your family. We were blessed in the fact we meshed right away. Cohesion in a relationship comes with time, when love and respect have been given unconditionally, and when communication and trust exist.
Respect: There must be both love and respect between all parties in a family. This may seem distant at first. Respect can be demanded in certain circumstances (basic training, work, football, sports, etc) but in each family it is a give and take. In order to receive love we must give love unconditionally first, in order to receive respect, we must give respect.
Consistency and Stability: This is for children. Children need consistency and stability in their lives. Does seeing a parent every other weekend mean there is no consistency? I do not believe so. I believe this would apply if the parents are always arguing over who will “keep” the child. Children may want to know where mommy or daddy are at. I remember when my wife and I separated, the one’s who were hurt the most, in my opinion, were the children. It is often easier, in our minds, to bail on a relationship when it gets difficult. If you are a parent, the consequences and challenges of divorce and blending families is 10x more challenging. Whatever you do, give your children consistency and stability.
There are a myriad of issues beyond these four I have mentioned. The bottom line is this: Communication among the adults is critical. There may be issues of conflict among the two families of former spouses and this is common. We should not attempt to “replace” the spouse who is not present nor should we attempt to keep children from their parents. I would say this: Don’t allow communication with children to take a backseat.
This is certainly not meant to be therapy by blogging. If your situation dictates such, seek professional help. I am not a doctor, therapist, counselor, or expert. This is written strictly from life experience. I would love to hear what issues you have dealt with, positive or negative. Email me [email protected] if you would like to share!
This article originally appeared on Adam Davis.co
Photo credit: Flickr/ Sami Taipale