I am all for blending subsequent marriages. There are many positives to be gained. Of course, sometimes it is just not possible. For example, your husband or wife may have kids from a past marriage who are unwilling or unable to accept the new family members. Their reasons (both valid and invalid) are too long to list. Are you in that situation? Is there any solution? The answer: Don’t blend.
Yes. That is correct. Just don’t do it. Here is why.
Conflict is never a good thing in any relationship. Trying to resolve an emotional and complex problem often brings even more conflict. Issues left over from a former relationship are probably the most frequent causes of divorce in second marriages. If trying to blend two families is causing hurt, anger, and emotional distance, why insist on trying to make it work? Just because it is the ideal thing to do is not a good answer. Just because the counselors said to do it is not a good answer. And I am a counselor! Just because one spouse or partner wants a blended family is still not a good answer.
Blending a family is so challenging that it requires everyone to be on the same page: the husband and wife; the kids; and the previous parents. A lot of people have to work together amicably. Some older couples are being confronted by their adult children, who may be wondering what changes there may be in inheritance. Perhaps the adult children will approach with caution any relationship with the new spouse. Couples with young children must recognize that their ex-spouses still may want to be very involved with their children. They may want to be involved in most of the everyday activities. Co-parenting can get tricky.
I have not seen many success stories in creating harmoniously blended families, but there are some for sure. If you are not one of them, keep reading. Here are some options to make it work.
1. You and your spouse decide that creating a blended family is not practical. In this case, be together in a way that works for the two of you. Obligations to children will still have to be met, but perhaps it is not the new spouse’s job to cooperate, help, give advice, or otherwise have input.
2. Agree to be a silent participant in whatever holidays or festivities might come up that require spending time with exes or children. He goes to his family, and you go to yours. Or enjoy time to yourself. You can guarantee that your life will be happier and richer if you use some of this time to maintain friendships or “chosen family.” A less stressed spouse makes for a happier marriage.
3. Share holidays with each other on a date you specify, just the two of you. Make your time together special. Create your own traditions. Remember that sometimes, the kindest thing you can do is make a boundary and stick to it. Holidays can be spent in creative ways. Sometimes other people’s needs or agendas are beyond your control. That doesn’t make you a bad person, and it doesn’t have to ruin your relationship.
4. Nothing is set in stone. A graceful withdrawal can set the stage for bitterness or blame to subside. Maybe there will eventually be some curiosity about you. A time might come when maturing children realize you are not going to vanish, and you are an important part of their parent’s life. They may realize that you bring assets instead of liabilities. It doesn’t hurt to wait and see.
I hope these ideas will help those of you who perhaps feel that you have hit an immovable obstacle to creating happiness for your families. Blended structures are on the cutting edge of social change. So it’s not up to any single individual to force a way through to harmony. Accept that you sometimes won’t be all-powerful or all-knowing. Loving people from a distance is sometimes the wisest course. What solutions have you found that work well in these kinds of families?