Lamar and I are shooting our 5th documentary film and the topic is Blended Families. This topic is near and dear to our hearts because we have a blended family. I had two children from a previous relationship when Lamar and I met, and then we had two more kids after we got married. And what we’ve found out is that our family structure is not so un-common as 1/3 of all Americans find themselves in some type of step-family relationship – step-parent, step-child, or step-sibling.
But since blended families are so prevalent, how come everyone is so surprised by the challenges that they face after getting married? And when I say everyone….I am including myself in that. In interviewing the couples for our film, I heard terms like “blind-sided” “sucker punched” and “unprepared” for problems that surfaced after wedding day. And unfortunately, most families are not able to survive with over 60% of re-marriages ending in divorce. And if the re-marriage involves children, then the likelihood of divorce increases.
I was at a marriage conference a few weeks back, and Dr. Gary Chapman- marriage guru and author of The Five Love Languages, gave us 3 factors that lead to re-divorce:
- Factor #1 – The Children – not realizing how the kids are adjusting…..and the inability to be empathetic with the kids. To be honest, if I had to do it all again, I would have talked with my kids more before getting married…rather than assume. I assumed that things were “hunky dory” because everyone got along while Lamar and I were dating. But dating and being married and living together are very different things. And talking to your kids first about their feelings and about what is going to happen in the blended family will help to start you off in the right direction. And don’t be afraid to hear from your kids that they don’t want you to get married. If anything, you should be glad that your kids are sharing their true feelings because now you will be able to address their concerns.
- Factor #2 – The Finances – bringing financial wounds with you into your new marriage. Without realizing it, you could be bringing your financial baggage with you into your new marriage. Perhaps you are not so trusting because you were burned in your past relationship. Perhaps you and your spouse are already two established individuals and you are having problems merging your two lives. Whatever the financial issues are, you and your spouse need to work on a system that is right for your new family structure. What worked for us is that we became one….what’s mine is your and what’s yours is mine. We put everything together and we took if from there.
- Factor #3 – The Ex – you have to do in divorce what you could not do in marriage. If kids are involved, then you have to learn to work together for the sake of the kids – i.e. co-parent. When you are able to co-parent with your ex, the kids feel secure, they have consistency and stability in their lives, and you provide them with a great example to follow. But when you are not able to co-parent, the divisiveness will cause stress on the kids and on your new marriage.
Dr. Chapman said something else that was very profound:
“…you don’t have to run into every tree in the jungle…you can go around them..”
So while you know that there will be problems (trees) in your new blended family life, you can prepare yourself to deal with them. Do some research and get the help and resources that you will need to for your new family. And if you don’t do that…then least you can do is…communicate…communicate…communicate with your spouse and with your kids. And please know that, your new blended family can and will be a blessing to you and your kids if you are willing to put in the work.
If you are in a blended family, please share with us tips or resources that you have used to help your family overcome challenges.
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