According to Webster, blending is “fitting or relating harmoniously, to have no perceptible separation.” Applying that concept to the blended family led me to believe that our two family units would be able to relate harmoniously and not feel fragmented.
Webster’s definition may have worked for blending milk, fruit, and ice cream into a milk shake, but we soon found that blending families was much more difficult. The children were not as amicable. The parents are not as lenient with the spouse’s child as with their own, and ex-spouses often threw a glitch into plans.
Bringing two families together doesn’t necessarily result in a sweet strawberry shake. Sometimes the results are more like vinegar and oil. The two don’t naturally mix. They have to be shaken up often to combine the flavors into a palatable experience. As I speak with many blended families, I continue to hear the same old laments.
“My husband (wife) doesn’t love my child.” “Your child doesn’t respect me.” “Is it OK to buy new jeans for my child when his father hasn’t sent the child-support check?” “Why can’t my stepchild accept me?” “You’re not my mom (or dad). I don’t have to listen to you.” “I have more chores than your son does. Just because he doesn’t live here all the time doesn’t make that fair.” “I’m blamed for everything.” “She gets away with everything.”
The statements are numerous as the individuals. Most family members discover early on that harmony isn’t doled out in as abundant a measure as competition and conflict.
If this sounds familiar to you, know that you’re in the majority of families who are starting over after divorce and re-marriage. All family members are building a new lifestyle not necessarily as comfortable to them as the one they left behind. Our new spouse may not be a welcome addition to our children. They weren’t shopping for another dad or brothers and sisters. Compatibility of family personalities often seems an elusive dream for blended families. It’s, without a doubt, a difficult task—a labor of love requiring a great deal of perseverance to develop the family feeling we as marriage partners expect to achieve.
[Keep in mind that] awkward beginnings are common for blended families. Reality brings us a complicated sense of family from the start. Immediately each member of the family has emotional, physical, and momentary needs that won’t wait.
It takes a far greater measure of deliberate love choices to build a blended family unit than an original first-time family. The new home front is engulfed in a climate of uncertainty. We feel certain we can unite to our spouse. But what about uniting to our stepchildren? What about our stepchildren uniting with each other and with their stepparent? In most first-time families individuals take it as a given that they’re loved, even in times of conflict, simply because there’s a genetic connection. So there isn’t nearly as much work to be done to make everyone feel loved. They already do.
That’s not so for the blended family. As competitive natures surface, the fact that we’re not equally related by blood brings out irritation and choosing sides. It’s a “your family, my family thing” trying to coexist under one roof.
Sometimes tension occurs because a parent treats his own children with a different set of standards and portion of love than he allows his stepchildren. So emotional wounding can begin early on. Favoritism doesn’t go unnoticed. There is validity—and sad truth—to the story of Cinderella and the unloving step-mother and stepsisters. Life wasn’t fair for Cinderella. She got all the yucky chores, verbal abuse, and tattered clothing, while her stepsisters were pampered.
Today may stepchildren live out a Cinderella lifestyle as a result of remarriage. This places incredible stress on the unity of the marriage relationship. It’s also a poor example of becoming love-related in a blended home. Rather than expressing love, these parents are closing their hearts to some family members. Yet God gave us the ability to stretch our hearts to meet each child’s need for love.
Marital love blossoms when we open our hearts and become sensitive to the parental heart of our spouse. Remarried’s don’t just marry a partner, but a parent. Love allows parenting roles to be appropriately enacted within the family. A confident spouse accepts that he or she may not be as successful as his or her partner in certain parent-child discussions.
Love intuitively knows when to back off, not feeling threatened, and let our mate deal with a particular problem. Then we receive additional blessings. We gain a greater admiration from our mate, a probable resolution to the problem, new respect from a child, and a new depth of intimacy in our marital relationship.
Even those family members who do their best to be unlovable will most often respond, in time, when touched by love. This can be challenging, but also rewarding to the family unit.
Sometimes old, hurtful ways and hidden fears and pain thwart the unity we desire in our marriage. My husband and I found ourselves seeing past cycles repeat themselves. Sometimes we thought abut the “D” word—again. We were in the throes of cyclical dysfunction. Why did Charlie’s anger flare up so easily? Why did I experience so many instances of self-pity and desire to escape? And why weren’t we able to confront the issues of daily living without fear of rejection?
What was it that brought us to have the lifestyles we each possessed? Why were we so different? What were the driving forces behind our emotional responses? There had to be more to this madness than just the strain of a blended family.
We found the boldness to begin charting our individual histories. By digging deep we found an unusual appreciation for who we were as people. None of us chooses the family we were born into or where we will spend our childhood. We must attribute those circumstances to the decision of the Lord. Courage to look back came when we recognized God played a significant role not only in the past but also in the present.
We asked God to search our hearts, expose hurtful ways, and uncover hidden fears and pain. Through Bible study, we again found David to be our model of a God-centered man. He was a king—and a sinner—and a man after God’s own hear! He sinned big-time just like we had. But after adultery, deceit, and even murder, David knew he needed to seek the Maker of his soul. He was intensely burdened. His peace was gone. He asked God to search his heart and to clean him up.
King David wrote:
“Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place. Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:6-10).
Our desire was to be clean like David. We wanted to be honest with God and honestly know who we were. So we came to the Lord, sought His forgiveness, and began applying His grace. In the end we discovered the same peace and restoration David did. God’s desire was to give us a new beginning. Assurance of God’s forgiveness readied us to face the challenges of our life together. If God Almighty, the most Supreme Authority ever to exist, has chosen to set us free, we are free indeed.
This article was gleaned from the book, Blended Families: Creating Harmony as You Build a New Home Life, written by Maxine Marsolini, published by Moody Press. This book is filled with hope and solid answers for those needing help in blending their families. The author, Maxine Marsolini, uses personal examples from her life and from others to address those areas of conflict common to divorce and remarriage and outlines practical solutions to help your family grow stronger—and your loved ones closer—through the inevitable challenges ahead.
— ALSO —
There are many different myths and expectations that stepfamilies have to face in their lives together. The following article, written by Gil and Brenda Stuart, exposes them. To learn about them, please click onto the following Crosswalk.com article to read:
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