A friend called me recently because she needed to talk about a few issues she was having in her new blended family. Things were not going the way that she expected. Her step-kids were not doing certain things that she expected them to do (as far as keeping the home clean), and her husband was not responding to the situation in the manner that she expected him to respond.
Oh boy, my stomach sunk because I knew exactly how she was feeling. I also have a blended family, and things definitely did not go the way I expected them to go (and that is putting it mildly.) I didn’t expect my son to resent my husband, and I certainly didn’t expect him to resent me. And surprisingly, I did not expect that I would react to certain things in the manner that I did.
Now that we’ve been married for 9 years, I’ve learned so much about how to deal with unmet expectations in our blended family. Most of what I’ve learned has come from trial by fire … no … inferno. But, I have also learned some things from the marriage professionals that I’ve talked to, the education sessions that we’ve attended, and the books that I’ve read about blended families.
So here are 5 ways I’ve learned to deal with unmet expectations in my blended family:
1. Be Honest
Don’t kid yourself, we all have expectations, from how clean the house should be to how the kids should be disciplined. Take some time to assess your expectations. And after you’ve done that, dig deeper and find out why they are expectations. Some of your answers to this question will be: 1. Because, I think it’s supposed to be that way, or 2. because that is how I grew up. This exercise will help you to see that some of your expectations may not even be reasonable.
Tip: Throw anything that falls into the “it’s supposed to be that way” category out of the door. Your blended family is unique, and you should focus on making it work for your family as opposed to trying to make it fit into some mold that you’ve seen or read about. My daughter calls my husband daddy … my oldest son calls him Lamar. Did I envision this for my blended family? No, of course not. But it works for us.
Certified life and Relationship Expert, Stephan Labossiere states: “Being honest may not always get you the initial reaction you desire, but it can provide you with the long term results that you need”
2. Be Open
The best way to deal with unmet expectations is to talk with your spouse and your family, frequently. You’re setting your spouse and family up for failure when you don’t communicate your expectations. Put it all out on the table and work through it as a family.
I assumed my son was on board with our marriage, and I did not really have an in-depth conversation with him. He seemed happy … we all seemed happy. And we were … at first. But that just goes to show you that continuous communication is necessary. He could very well have been happy when we were dating. But the reality of living with a new person and eventually a growing family may have been a bit much for a young boy to process. He’s 21 now, but if I had to do it again … he and I would have had more mommy and son talks.
Tip: Don’t shy away from talking to your kids or spouse out of fear for what you may hear. Look at it this way, knowing their concerns empowers you because now you will be able to address them.
3. Be Willing to Compromise
The quickest way to destroy your blended family is by having the “it’s my way or the highway” attitude. Bringing two families together is going to require a lot of compromise … lots of it. Differences in opinion are bound to happen frequently. But when you are willing to work together to find solutions that work for both of you, it strengthens your marriage and family.
4. Be Ready to Learn
One of the best things that I’ve done for my family was to invest in tools that are specifically designed to help blended families. I’ve attended blended family conference/sessions, I’ve talked to blended family experts, I frequently talk to other couples that are in blended families, and I’ve read many books on the subject. All of these things have equipped me to deal with various challenges in my family. They’ve helped me to see that my unmet expectations are not the end of the world. They’ve helped me to put our problems into perspective.
Tip: Find a support group of other blended families. It helps to have the support of others that can relate to your challenges and that can give you advice on how to address them.
5. Be Patient
It could take years for your blended family to get beyond the challenges that you’re facing. I’ve been married for nine years now, and I am just feeling like we are coming out of the storm.
Marrying my husband was absolutely the best thing I could have ever done. Despite our challenges, I know that we are leaving our kids a legacy of love.