3 Things I Wish I Knew About Blending Families
*Please note: the intention of this blog is to share wisdom from experience, rather than to state a biblical approach to marriage, divorce, and remarriage.
The day arrived! I was excitedly apprehensive about the date that I was about to go on with a man I didn’t know or at least barely knew. Little did I know that night that this man would eventually become my husband and that I would be gaining two more sons, another daughter, and a granddaughter along with my two sons and daughter. You could say that we might be the modern-day Brady Bunch family.
You see, two years prior, I had gone through a painful divorce that left me a bit unsure of what I wanted for the next decade of my life. I was a single mom, raising three kids while holding down two jobs. One full-time, that took me most weeks to every corner of this grand county. The other was teaching part-time figure skating lessons to young children at a local ice rink just down the road from where I lived. I was a busy gal with a full life.
I knew God had a plan for my future, and all I remember praying was, “God, you know the desires of my heart, and you know me intimately and what I need. If it is your will, please bring the right man that you have designed for my kids and me.” To be candid, it was a bit more elaborate than that, and I wasn’t sure what God’s will was for me.
Our wedding day was a crisp, beautiful fall day, and all 8 of us dressed up in our finest attire for the “big” day. Bruce would become my husband, and the dream of being one big happy family was finally beginning, or so I thought so. Sure, Bruce and I talked about finances, raising the kids, and all the usual things you discuss before marriage. We took some good advice from a friend and decided to sell our homes and buy one together, including the kids in that purchase. That way, everyone could have a space of their own. We felt terrific about being set up to have a great blended family.
Then came the reality. It wasn’t very long before the issues surfaced and the arguments started flying. What was happening to this dream family? Did we make a mistake? Was this not God’s plan for us? Doubts began to creep in, and my dream of this one big happy family started to crumble. How did I get this so wrong?
Again, seeking God in many hours of prayer, I realized we hadn’t set ourselves up for success like I thought we had. I asked God to help me find a way to make this all work and what I needed to change. It wasn’t too long after I ran across some outstanding research on blended families. So my curious mind started a deep dive into finding out how to have a successful blended family. I ran across an author who specialized in Blended Families and started reading as much content as I could from him. The book, which I highly recommend, The Smart Stepfamily by Ron Deal, gave me incredible insight into precisely what Bruce and I needed to do.
What were the things I wish I had known?
1️⃣ It takes an average of 7 years to blend a family thoroughly. Biological parents and children always have a stronger bond than stepparents and stepchildren. It doesn’t mean that stepfamilies can’t be close; it implies, as Ron Deal states (page 88),
“they just don’t “blend” in the sense of becoming one fluid family smoothie.”
I realized that having a blended family doesn’t mean that we all jump in simultaneously with the same enthusiasm or expectation. I needed to look at our family like a crockpot. We all cook at different rates and under low heat. Being the primary cook in the house most of my life, I could relate to the crockpot analogy. As much as I want that roast, potatoes, and carrots to get done fast, it has to cook on low heat and for a long time. I can’t add the carrots and potatoes simultaneously as I do the meat, or they would all turn to mush. So it is with a blended family. Everyone cooks at their rate, and it takes a long time. An average of seven years!
2️⃣ Raising step kids is not the same as raising your biological kids. I am not their biological mom; therefore, my approach needed to be different. I liken it to the “babysitter approach.”
Remember when you were a kid, and your parents would go out for the evening and leave you with your favorite (or maybe not so favorite) babysitter? It was always a highlight for me until it was time for bed. My parents gave the babysitter strict instructions on bedtime procedures. Of course, my little brother and I would always try to renegotiate those rules, in which the babysitter said, “if you don’t follow what your parents told me to do for bedtime, then I will need to tell them when they get home.” That was usually enough to motivate my brother and me to comply and follow the bedtime rules.
So, it is with your stepchildren. When Bruce would leave me in charge of taking care of his kids, he would give me instructions, repeat those to the boys and then tell me to report back to him when he got home. Had we known this small little tip, it would have saved us numerous arguments with each other and the kids.
3️⃣ Prioritize your relationship. Even though I knew that our relationship should be a top priority, I didn’t realize how important it would be in a second marriage. I know putting God first and your spouse second is a Godly principle, and Matthew 19: 4–6 states this so perfectly.
He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”
It’s so easy in a blended family to put your biological children first over your spouse and their needs, but if we read God’s word and what Jesus states in Matthew 14, that is not what he intended. It doesn’t mean that I ignored my children and their needs but instead had a balanced approach in both relationships. Having that hierarchy of relationships is so vital to the health of our marriage and family.
So, here we are eight years later, and do we finally have it all together? Nope, it is still messy at times, but we have managed to get to where we feel like a family. Second marriages are a lot of work but setting yourself up with the right expectations before you get married will hopefully save you some of the challenges that I went through.