Blended Families and a Healthy Marriage Part 1
This post is based on the book, “Blending Families 18 successful stepfamilies share their secrets to growing a healthy marriage and family,” written by Jimmy Evans and Frank Martin.
Jimmy Evans is the founder and CEO of Marriage Today.
You can purchase this book on Amazon. I am an Amazon Affiliate and will receive compensation if you purchase this book with my link.
Blended families have a complexity that is difficult to know how to maneuver at times. A married couple that shares children have clear rules and boundaries. The children don’t ever try to break up their biological parents’ marriage. You don’t have to deal with your Children saying, “ you’re not my mom, ” or you’re, “not my dad.” If children give their biological parents a hard time, the parents don’t give up on the family because they have unconditional love for them. When children tell their parents, “I hate you, ” you know it’s not true, and only said out of anger. But, if this is said to a step parent then, the step parent will take this personally, and the child probably literally hates the step parent.
Trying to navigate discipline, respect, and authority can break up marriages. The biological parent tends to be more lenient and protective over the child. You, as the mother, have probably seen your child hurt by a divorce or an absent father. So you try to make up for it by making sure your child never feels hurt again. This makes you more lenient with the child. When the step parent sees the lack of authority and discipline you have, he tells you to put your foot down. But instead of letting your husband help guide your child in the right direction, you become defensive and in protective mode. You question the motives of your husband or tell him that he doesn’t understand. Instead of working together you become divided, it’s us against them. This does not sound like a recipe for a happy marriage, it sounds more like irreconcilable differences. I know I have been confused about what is right and what is wrong when dealing with raising my kids. This is why I picked up this Christian valued book about blended families. This book works as a guide when you are questioning your decisions.
I was a single mom with 2 daughters, ages 9 and 12 years old when I met my now husband. He didn’t have any kids. I fell for him real fast and we decided to move in together fast so we could spend more time together. I worked two jobs, plus I needed time with my kids. It was hard to find time to go on dates. Luckily, I was right when I followed my heart and he ended up being the man of my dreams. Now, I just needed my daughters to accept him in our lives. My youngest daughter had an open heart. She was sweet to him and made him pictures and liked to play cards with him. My oldest daughter was more closed off. She didn’t want anyone invading our space. She never wanted to accept him as an authority figure. Most conversations were “hi” and “ bye.” I anticipated over time they would become closer and she would build a friendship with him. I hoped their relationship would improve organically. I think the oldest child is usually the hardest to open up to a new spouse. They were the oldest so they are very protective of their home and used to having more control in the house. A marriage is so much more complex when there are children from a previous relationship involved.
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A person from a broken marriage often has lowered trust and higher expectations. You may have experienced betrayal and rejection in your past relationship. Some people may have even experienced physical or mental abuse in previous relationships. Your husband was supposed to love you and keep you safe but instead he betrayed your trust and let you down. This causes you to be guarded and suspicious and you’re carrying these negative emotions on to your next relationship. Now you don’t trust your judgement because you made bad choices in men before. You’re on guard, and waiting for him to make a mistake. You are extra sensitive about what he says because you are subconsciously relating it to your experience with your ex. The first step is to recognize and identify your behavior in the relationship that was a cause of your previous relationship. Identify it and let those feelings go. A marriage is based on trust. Without trust, the marriage will weaken.
Inner vows are the promises a person makes to themselves during times of turmoil. A man who was so poor as a child that he sometimes didn’t eat made a promise to himself that he would never be poor as an adult. As an adult he was stingy, not wanting to spend any money on his wife and he would hoard the money. His behavior was not because he loved her any less but because of his personal past experiences. If you recognize your inner vows you can begin to let them go.
Trust can be built with communication. Make time to go on dates. Use this time to talk about your goals and ambitions in life. Opening yourself up and sharing everything with that person brings you closer together. Your trust will build when your husband listens and respects when you confide in him. Your connections deepens as you share your deepest desires. Staying connected with good communication is important to a lasting marriage.
What are some of the trust issues you have and how can you improve it and let them go?
The Laws of marriage
Your marriage is your first priority. Marriage comes before work, before your children, before any friends or other family members. The Bible has made this law to keep a marriage strong. If the marriage is strong then the children feel safe and secure. The children may not like it at the time but you are being good role models for them and they will benefit without being aware of it.
Husbands and wives become one Genesis 2:24
You must share everything. All the finances and property have to be shared. Don’t keep secrets from each other. And, yes, even the children must be shared. It’s not “my child” or “your child” but “our child”
Hhave you followed the law of marriage? What have been your obstacles with this law?
Child role changes
Kids feel jealous and apprehensive about a new parent. It’s normal for children to feel jealous of this new person. The dynamics of the family change. A child may have had a lot of control in the house and then you get married and your husband is the man of the house with the control. Oftentimes, your spouse is your teammate but when you split up, your child becomes your teammate. You’ve both been hurt and now all you have is each other. Us against the world. The family dynamics change. The child is then used to being treated as a teammate in the family and here comes a new person taking their place. This new step-parent is now your teammate. This is painful, like a loss, to the child. But if you choose to keep treating the child as your teammate, and your new husband comes second in everything then, your husband will not feel like a husband and will probably eventually leave. You may not understand why he doesn’t understand your situation, that it was like this before he came around. He may not understand why you can’t change for him and acknowledge his place as a man of the house, as your husband. The child’s role to needs to change back to being the child of the home, so you can have a healthy marriage.
The child doesn’t want a new mommy or new daddy. Children don’t want to feel like the biological parent is being replaced. It doesn’t matter if the parent was absent or a bad parent. The child loves the mom and dad unconditionally. They love their biological parents and don’t want a new one. If there was a divorce involved then the child didn’t want the divorce in the first place and probably hoped for their parents to get back together.
How do you navigate the issue of a child rejecting the step parent? How do you communicate the role that your husband has?
Favoring the child over the husband is a common issue in blended families. The biological parent tends to favor the child over the spouse. You saw the pain that your child went through in the past. You don’t want your child to endure any more pain. So if you see something making your child unhappy you’re going to be protective. This causes divided loyalties. You take your child’s side not allowing the stepparent to have authority. When children see division, they will take advantage of it, causing more turmoil and division. The stepparent has to share authority. The biological parent would be the primary disciplinarian. But it needs to be communicated and actions need to follow through to let the children know that step dad or step mom have equal authority. Kids don’t question the love and authority of their biological parents when they are married. So your actions need to show the children that you and your husband are married and a united front that will not break.
Refusing to accept the stepparents
Blended families can be destroyed by kids who refuse to accept the new parent. This is why Prioritizing your marriage is so important in keeping a lasting marriage. The child needs to understand that no matter how much they complain or give everyone a hard time. It will not break your marriage.
You have to prioritize marriage if an adult child gives you an ultimatum. You don’t want to lose your child. But children grow up and live their own lives. Your husband will be with you forever. Pray that your child will learn to accept your vows to your husband. The family needs to come together organically. You can’t force your child to accept your husband. Hopefully, through time, your children will learn to accept this person in their life. The child will hopefully build trust over time by spending family time and holidays together. Keep the communication clear that your husband is now the man of the house, has the authority, and will be with you forever.
It should be communicated throughout the whole family explaining boundaries with the opposite sex. Everyone should be getting dressed in their own private secure space. Maybe the house used to be full of all girls and everyone was able to walk around in their underwear and get dressed with the doors open. Now there is a man and maybe young boys who have come to the environment. Everyone should be fully dressed in front of the opposite sex. They are not biological siblings and parents and this should be put into consideration as a family.
Boundaries with exes
You are married to your wonderful husband but still have to deal with your ex because of your children. It’s time to communicate with your ex about your boundaries. He needs to follow the rules put up by you and your partner. Communicate to your ex that he needs to do what is best for the children’s stability and security and be a good example for them. The court makes specific rules for the parents to follow. This is for a reason. To keep the homes at peace and create stability and consistency for the children. If he does not follow the boundaries then you can pray about the situation and continue explaining the reasons for the boundaries. Communicate to your children about boundaries. Let them know that they may have different rules at their dad’s house but they still have to follow your rules in your house. All family members need to be clear and enforce healthy boundaries.
What boundaries have you put up with your ex? How will you follow through?
It’s common to have different parenting styles. Just remember you both have the same intention, discipline is to teach right and wrong. Stay united as a team. Keep communicating but don’t discuss the differences in front of the children. Do it behind closed doors. The children need to see you like an unbreakable brick wall. If they see a crack they will continue to hammer that one spot. You and your husband can pray together to seek answers to find the right direction for disciplining your kids. If communication and prayer do not work then you can seek counseling.
Has a difference in discipline been an issue for your marriage? How have you worked on this issue?
The dynamics of a family changes as it goes through divorce, single parents, to blended families. Blended families are a blessing. You have met the man of your dreams who gives you everything you ever wanted. Then issues start coming up such as, trust issues. The family doesn’t get along with each other and your stuck choosing sides. Keeping the law of marriage a priority helps guide you in the right direction. But then, the child is unhappy and refuses to accept the step father. You stay firm with your bond in marriage and the child has to step down as a protector of the house and become the child again. Then, there is differences in discipline. You can work your issues out with commuunication, prayer, and if needed counseling. The law of marriage will give the children a feeling of safety and security.
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