Have you ever asked yourself one of these questions:
- Is our blended family failing?
- Am I failing as a parent (couldn’t even keep the first marriage together, and now I can’t get this blended family to mesh)?
- Am I destined to not be able to find fulfillment and joy in marriage and family?
- Am I going to be the NEXT failed marriage/blended family statistic?
Truth is these are HARD…perhaps even stinging questions. But they’re real, and TOO real for some of us.
“Seriously.” “Seriously!” It is a word I hear come out of my mouth and the mouth of many clients in Blended Families. No one ever tells you how difficult blending children and families can be, or the amount of stress you will feel or the discord it can cause in a marriage. Most people imagine a second, or third, marriage will have highs and lows, but no one is fully prepared for the reality. Ever.
So how do we tackle these hard questions?
One answer is group therapy. Group therapy allows us to feel safe and talk about our self and our own struggles when others around us are in similar situations. It allows us to learn from other’s mistakes, successes and experiences.
The most important thing is it allows us to feel normal. It can give hope that it can work. Blending families is difficult you often can’t tell others what is going on to protect privacy, you feel your every move is watched, you feel judgement from others that your family or marriage will fail, or you are not doing it the right way. How exhausting is that?
"......you often can’t tell others what is going on to protect privacy, you feel your every move is watched, you feel judgement from others that your family or marriage will fail, or you are not doing it the right way. How exhausting is that?"
I was divorced in my early 30s, and single for almost 7 years. I am now the lucky mom of eight children, I had three “belly babies” and five babies not from my belly. My husband was a single father after his wife passed away from cancer. The day we got married the children were ages 2-15. We didn’t even have a car to get us around. One of our children is severely mentally handicapped and now lives in a group home….We understand blending a family.
Is blending a family tough? Absolutely! Are you going to fail at times blending your family? You bet! Your blending efforts at times are going to fail! ALL families fail. They’re going to fail over and over, BUT they’re also going to prove that love, patience and time can replace the hurt and pain. And you will absolutely succeed too.
Your experience is able to show others how broken things can be mended, maybe not back to the way they were, but to an even better place with the pieces put back together and made stronger than it was originally. Family is family, they all have cracks and breaks but the moments of sunshine fill those with more than we could expect or imagine.
I tried to look up statistics on blended families and it became overwhelming. What it boils down to is that about 50 percent of American families are blended, meaning the adults in the family have children from previous relationships. Oh and of course there is the other statistic us in second, third, or fourth marriages are reminded of often: the percentage rate of divorce in second marriages with kids, is it 80% or is it 65%, the myths are everywhere.
Being a spouse is difficult.
Being a parent is hard.
Being a child is brutal.
Finding balance in family life and doing your best to get it right is gut-wrenching at times and requires more patience than you could imagine.
As a therapist, I often have couples and individuals who come to therapy for help in their blended marriages and families, “If it was just the two of us, we would have no problems.” If we didn’t have to deal with the ex-wife, or ex-father, the grandparents, old friends, or with anyone!
There are three things that couples fight about or create stress in family; I like to call them “The Big Three”:
Can you imagine the stress level with four sets of in-laws?
Beginning a marriage/intimate relationship/sex without the time and independence of a first marriage with no kids?
Money problems due to child support, alimony, a lot of children to feed, vacations when you feel like there are 22 people there?
I wish I could give all blended families a map or book outlining how to make blended families work, or a list of ten things for a successful family. Sadly, I can’t because there are no two families alike, every single one has little nuances and different personalities, humans all have different levels of resiliency, abandonment issues, PTSD, self-esteem issues, trauma and deep feelings. And that is just listing a few. But this is where meeting with others treading the same trail can be so powerful.
"The most important thing is it allows us to feel NORMAL."
Recently, I asked eight blended families I know, and the wonderful world of Facebook, (remember the internet has all the answers) this question: Those in blended families- what is a topic you would like to discuss in a group session?
I was astonished with the responses. In 12 hours I had over 127 different questions, ideas, and struggles. I cried as I read it because I could relate to so many of them, and the struggle is so different for each person. We need support and kindness. (PS If you have any topics you think are affecting blended families post in comments)
The mission of the BLENDED FAMILY GROUP is to support and engage blended families in Northern Utah, give helpful and proven strategies for navigating “The Big Three” challenge to every marriage, and most importantly to let YOU know that YOU ARE NORMAL and not alone in this journey.
Learn more about our BLENDED FAMILY GROUP at Cache Valley Counseling. By clicking this link:
Heather Ballingham, ACMHC