When people remarry, one or both spouses often have children from a prior marriage. Having stepchildren can present some real challenges when it comes to blending the family into a cohesive unit. Not only do you have to learn to live with your new spouse and stepchild, but the child’s other biological parent also has a say in the upbringing of the child in your new family. It’s like having 3 parents instead of two.
Marital difficulties can arise in this situation for a number of reasons.
- Stepchildren feel anger towards the stepparent
- Biological parent is always overruling your decisions
- New spouse does not back up your decisions concerning the child and always lets biological parent rule the situation
- More than one stepchild in the family causes friction
- New baby is resented
- Stepchildren cause problems in the family
- Interactions with former spouse are unpleasant
This are just a few of the problems that can arise when reforming a new family that involves children from a prior marriage. Unlike the Brady Bunch, a stepfamily doesn’t always meld together with just minor frictions. Instead the stepfamily can experience heartbreaking problems that directly impact the remarriage.
When a blended family has serious problems, it is no surprise the marriage itself can experience problems. If you are constantly arguing about former spouses and how to raise the stepchildren, the frequent anger and negative emotions are going to affect your relationship with your new spouse. It can be very damaging to a marriage when a spouse feels as if they hold a second class status in the new family. This usually happens when the new spouse is always overruling your decisions and supporting the ex-partner instead.
Additionally in many remarriages, a new baby is often introduced into the family. Now the stepchild feels as if he or she is not a real member of the family. It takes a lot of love and communication to prevent these kinds of issues from arising, but often people discover there’s a problem only when the marriage begins to suffer.
When blending a stepfamily, it’s critical that realistic expectations be set. You can’t expect a stepchild to instantly love you just because you married their mom or dad. But you can expect your new spouse to insist on the stepchild showing the respect due you. Much of this process involves communication just like most other problems in a marriage.
Keeping Communication Open:
Quiet frustration or outright loud arguing can be equally damaging to a marriage. Neither approach is a good one because they represent poor communication practices. You should not be a martyr and suffer in silence, and you should not let discussions about the stepchildren or the ex-spouse turn into unproductive arguing.
You need to talk to your spouse about the roles each will play as a stepparent. As a new parent to a stepchild, you will play an important part in the child’s life. But you also have to balance your role with the rights of the child’s biological parent. You also have to come to agreement with your new spouse about issues concerning disciplining, the role of the primary parent, what plans to make to build a strong new family, and how to handle certain situations such as visitations with biological parents.
It is unfortunate that one of the main reasons people divorce in second marriages is because of issues concerning stepchildren. Children in any family can have an enormous impact on a marital relationship. When the children are difficult, the primary parent troublesome, or your new spouse is unsupportive, your marriage can quickly get into trouble.
The key to developing a well blended step family is to take the time to nurture the new relationships while also communicating frequently with your spouse. You are not always going to get your way because that is unrealistic. But as long as you and your spouse can come to agreement on major issues, you can stop divorce from impacting yet another family.
Many stepfamilies decide they need help with molding the new family into a happy unit. A stepfamily can take advantage of counseling sessions to keep communication lines open. There are also classes that can be taken which discuss the special issues related to stepfamilies. You don’t have to despair that your marriage is doomed because the children won’t cooperate, or your new spouse is unsupportive. You can develop a parenting plan together, build a loving relationship over time with the stepchild, and prevent those problems which can lead to divorce.