I have really come to despise the term “blended family,” and it turns out I’m in very good company. In fact the National Stepfamily Resource Center discourages the use of that word because the very term sets up an unrealistic expectation, which just further complicates an already difficult situation that at least 42% of Americans can relate to by having at least one step relative.
Sadly, couples that remarry with children have almost a 70% chance of divorcing, and the number one reason is this: fights over their children– not just because of the time and/or money they require from a parent, but often it is the whole attitude adjustment (or lack thereof) to the new family dynamics.
Venting to your partner isn’t really going to be helpful, but venting to friends actually might. If you have friends that have already been through a step-family experience, gaining their insight might ease some of the pain by normalizing the process you are going through. If you don’t want to talk about the issues in public, then there are plenty of great books on the subject, including “Stepcoupling” by Susan Wisdom and Jennifer Green, and one of my all time favorites: “Stepmonster” by Dr. Wednesday Martin, who points out that only about 20% of adult children actually feel close to their stepmother.
There are a variety of reasons why step families fail to blend, but that does not actually mean that they cannot learn to function effectively. The hardest part is just accepting that your bunch will not be anything like the Brady Bunch. But if you think about it, how can it be? If we are truly honest with ourselves, we can all agree on this very harsh reality: just as no one ever aspires to be a step mother, no child ever dreams of having a step mom.
Blood is definitely the tie that bonds, and when you don’t have, well.. what do you have? It makes sense that the parents in a step family have to make their marriage a priority. Their relationship has to be rock solid to prevent the whole house of cards from crashing down. And if there is one thing all divorced parents want to avoid more than anything else is putting their kids through yet another round of marital turmoil. So, before things get too ugly, it is imperative that stepfamilies with issues get the resources they need to establish a good foundation for working through their family conflicts.
Thankfully, there are great counselors specializing in step couples, as well as list servs and podcasts that share useful tips for second marriages with kids. Another key resource is the National Stepfamily Resource Center: www.stepfamilies.info
So, if your stepfamily doesn’t want to blend, let it go. Focus on the good things you have in life, including your partner. Apply your love and energy to those that appreciate it. Don’t let others rain on your parade– easier said than done, for sure. But I think with each passing day, you can detach a little more from that which you had envisioned, and with each new day you can go on to redefine what will be your own happily ever after.
By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.