healthy blended family

Remarriages have a discouraging track record. Blended families have more than the usual set of challenges. But that doesn’t mean your blended family won’t thrive! Regardless of what brought you to this point, God’s restoration and employing some wisdom means a healthy blended family is possible.

My marriage created a blended family. My husband had been married before, and had two grown sons. They and their families welcomed me openly. But even with that best-of-all-possible circumstances there were challenges. Al’s sons and their families and I are still close even after Al’s death, and I believe that’s evidence of a significant amount of health in our blended family.

With remarriage (as with any marriage) you can only choose for you. You can’t control the vote (or behavior or feelings or attitude) of your ex, your current spouse, any children involved, or any other family members.

But by embracing the choices you do have, you can experience how powerful your vote can be. Here are some things I learned about growing a healthy blended family.

  1. You’re Marrying the Whole Family

The only place marriage works is in first place, second only to one’s relationship with God, and before kids, career, or anything or anyone else. But when you and/or your spouse has been married before there are more people involved, such as previous children, ex-spouse(s), or other extended family. You are marrying into a situation that’s messy.

If you can’t embrace the whole lot of them, don’t create a blended family! That doesn’t mean you like them, approve of what they do, or would choose to spend time with them on your own. But your life will absolutely include them in some way. You are getting a package deal; you don’t get to pick and choose.

While this is true in first marriages, it’s even truer in blended families. One or both of you has a more complicated history than first marriages experience. Instead of grumbling or getting upset about the rain, you may need to pull out an umbrella. Learn to simply say, “Yup, I’m getting wet. It’s raining.”

  1. Don’t Try to Fix “Them”

Get over yourself enough to realize you are not the magic solution to issues that may have been going on in your new spouse’s family for years, or decades. And your new spouse is not the magic solution to issues in your own previous life or family. If there are children involved, remember you can never replace that child’s mother or father, though you may, in time, become a loving indispensable part of that child’s life.

Your spouse and/or the other people affected have much more history than with a first marriage, a history you were not a part of. You and any children you have also have a history this new spouse was not involved in. Don’t pretend you have answers, or expect magic answers from your new spouse.

Your posture should be one of curiosity and grace. Seek to understand. Communicating with your spouse – about everything – will help you understand. If there are battles to pick, pick wisely. There are many things that aren’t worth fighting about.

  1. Find the Gratitude

Your blended family will never be the same as a first marriage. Accept that. Don’t try to re-create something from the past, or a first marriage you wish you had had. But that does not mean your family now will not be beautiful. Things will be different now, but different is not necessarily bad.

Own your emotions as your own; no one else can make you feel left out, angry, upset, frustrated, or anything else. When your feelings get stirred up, pause and own them. And then look for the gratitude.

I’ve found opportunities to be grateful for hearing about experiences in my family’s life that I was never a part of, for grandchildren’s hugs I wouldn’t otherwise be able to feel, and for ways my own heart has enlarged. You can find your own things to be grateful for if you look for them.

  1. Take the Long View

Your re-marriage, while hopefully a great blessing to the two of you, may feel like another loss to everyone else involved. They didn’t get a choice. It will take time – a number of years – before your blended family feels like a family.

Love, trust, feeling comfortable with new relationships and new roles – those are things that develop slowly over time. Be willing to invest consistently over the long term. Stay curious. Keep seeking understanding.

More than anything else, maintain a posture of invitation. You cannot control anyone else’s vote, but you can continually seek to make your heart, your home, and the totality of who you are safe and inviting. When children or other family members feel safe and invited they will have the opportunity to move closer.

The skills needed in any marriage are important in a blended family as well. But I hope these specific things I learned can help you in building your own healthy blended family.

Your Turn: In your own remarriage or blended family, which of these points has been the most challenging for you? Can you see where you can step things up? Leave a comment below.

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