Blended families face many more challenges to overcome than first marriage (intact) families. We’re going to talk about three of the biggest and most challenging areas. Those areas are unpacking baggage from the past (root causes) , ex-spouses and parenting conflicts.
The reason most first marriages fail is that one spouse gets selfish and indulges in satisfying their own desires. This ultimately leads to that person failing to do what is expected and required of one that is actively and intentionally trying to live up to their wedding vows. Abusive behavior, addictions and adultery are just a few examples of selfish behavior that frequently lead to divorce.
After a divorce the selfish person needs to identify these root issues and deal with them before trying to establish a new relationship. Unfortunately, the “norm” is that this person simply moves on to the next relationship without dealing with any bad roots and brings all that baggage with them. Invariably, the new spouse catches the blame for all the root causes that were never dealt with in the past.
The person left behind now also has baggage to deal with such as dealing with being a victim of abuse or betrayal. This person has to identify and accept personal responsibility for ONLY what little part they might have played in the marriage failing – even if it’s only 5%. After that, it becomes easier to forgive the selfish person, forgive yourself and then start moving on with a better idea of who you are. Your past does not need to define who you are. It’s just a footnote in your history. You do not have to “be” what you “did” (or what happened to you).
In the majority of blended families, there is an ex-spouse lurking somewhere that will often deliberately try to throw a wrench into your plans for the new marriage and family. There are always exceptions to rules, but generally speaking, most ex-spouses are not real enthused about you moving on and having that “happily ever after” life. Typically, they will often use the kids as weapons against you. They will also use the legal system to create major headaches. Many exes try to poison the kids’ minds about how terribly you mistreated them and how rotten you are. They’re all about being the victim. Returning evil for evil is never a good idea, and as difficult as it may be at times, treating the other parent of your children with respect will say much more to your children than anything. The kids are smart enough to figure out the difference in what is right and what is not. It may take some years, but good will win out over evil.
In blended families, a lot of newly married couples do great when they are alone but really struggle in coming to a place of agreement in parenting “yours, mine and ours”. The root cause of this problem is in the mindset of the parents. Most parents, having been single parents for some time, enter this new family with the idea that they “own” their kids. Most disagreements in parenting stem from the difference in opinion as to how “my kids” are to be treated. The goal here needs to be that all the kids are “our” kids and the mindset should be one of “stewardship” not ownership. Eventually, you’ll have to develop a totally different relationship with your child and kick them out of the nest. Marriage needs to be seen as a higher priority relationship than a parent/child relationship. One of the greatest things parents can do is to show their children how to do a successful marriage.