It is not surprising that many blended families don’t make it and end up in yet another divorce. Relationships are difficult in general but harder when there are children and challenging exes. These factors add new tension to family dynamics. There are many reasons why these families fail. Here are three that I feel can be overcome.
First, in all relationships, communication causes difficulty. But more so in a blended family, where many players bring their unique communication styles. So try this: Suspend the previous way you did things, and be open to a new method. What worked before might not work in the new family.
Stepchildren may be used to communicating one way and now need to see a different way. The best advice here is to ask the children questions: “What was it like in your previous family? How did your parents communicate with you?” Now a question for you: Are you willing to see their perspective? Then listen and learn how your stepchildren engaged with their previous family. Although their experience is different from yours, their answers can provide information vital to effective communication.
Second, you may have exes to work with. They are parents too, trying to raise their children. Decide what your boundaries are. The communication between the stepchildren’s parents and you is about the needs of the children. That’s it. Decide on a path of communication. Clear agendas for discussions will enforce healthy boundaries. Stepchildren need to see clear communications of all the players in the blended family.
Third, how do you view money?
I mention finances as a possible cause for failure. This one can get tricky. Money issues are the cause of many failed relationships in general. Differences in the way people view money and their relationship with it have been a long time cause of conflict. In a blended family, it rears its ugly head even more. Deciding how to spend the family income on the blended kids can be like learning how to juggle flaming torches. The key here is: Always tell the truth about finances to your spouse. Go over each item on the agenda of family finances and clarify who does what and when. Talk about how you spend money on your kids. What worked for you might need to be tweaked with the addition of stepchildren. A new budget may need to be implemented. Have regularly scheduled meetings between the two of you so that there is a time set aside to resolve a problem, should one arise. Most importantly is consistency.
This is just a starting point and more detail on why blended families fail can be found in my new book, Blended Families, Recipes for Success. I leave you with this; It is all up to both of you to join as friends and partners with the same goal to make your new blended family a value-added one.