“I finally met the man of my dreams … this new marriage will be wonderful!”
“His kids are great … it won’t be a problem to step in and be a step parent!!”
“Parenting stepchildren is no different than parenting my own kids.”
Did you ever make any of these statements, or think any of these thoughts? Did you find them to be totally true in your new blended family?
When I met my husband, Dan, he was pretty much everything that I wanted in a man and in my next marriage. Yes, I am an open and affectionate woman – any kid would love me; after all, I was a first-grade teacher! And parenting another man’s children … no problem!
The reality of all this is that these are myths. What I hope to do in this blog is to share with you how we overcame these myths in our blended family. If we can do it, so can you!
When I met Dan, I knew how to be a wife; I knew how to be a mom. The problem is that I didn’t know how to be the fourth wife to a man with two children. I didn’t know how to be a mom to two children who had watched their dad cycle through three failed marriages.
MYTH #1: I finally met the man of my dreams … this new marriage will be wonderful!
Let’s start out by facing facts … the statistics are against you. The percentage of second and third marriages (and fourth – for my husband), are against you. You might as well go be a nun … your chances of success are better than trying to make another marriage work! I’m a rebel though, therefore I have chosen to go against the odds and be married again. That being said, I will also tell you that I don’t believe in “instant” soul mates. I believe that a soul mate is developed over time – through blood, sweat and tears, diligence, compassion, determination and an attitude of “divorce is not an option.”
When you walk into a relationship and can understand the other person’s childhood, their struggles, their fears, and you walk in compassion and respect them for what they have been through, then you might have a fairly decent chance at staying together and happily ever after.
Next, I believe you need to know what this whole marriage “thingy” is about. It is to serve your mate. Yep, I said it. In this day and age of instant gratification and what will entertain me next, we have forgotten what it feels like to go pick up someone’s dirty underwear and just put it in the laundry basket … without chewing their heads off for dropping it three inches from the laundry basket! We tend to walk in a cloud of entitlement – “what can you do for me today?” Marriage is an attitude of “what can I do for you today?”
Once we figure out the servant heart part, there is a chance that communication between our mates just might open up. This can be a tricky, scary place, though, so tread lightly. Again, we tend to speak to people as if they owe us something. Get real. The only thing we can do is talk to others in a way that we would want them to talk to us (sound familiar?). In fact, I had a pet peeve with my hubby the other day. Instead of yelling at him at the time it happened, I waited until I could share my emotions responsibly with him, letting him know how his actions made me want to come out of my skin and twist his head off. The point is, I shared respectfully and honestly. He listened and actually could see my point and told me that this would be something he changed. Wow, this stuff really works!
So I have only talked about two areas of marriage that are death traps … yet they can change your marriage. So many times we let our attitudes, opinions and entitlements get in the way of happiness – yes, the Disney princess kind of happiness!
MYTH #2: His kids are great … it won’t be a problem to step in and be a step parent!!
The reality of this myth is that no matter how good his kids are, how much you love them, and how much you think they love you, they are still his kids … and the children of another woman. So … you are already dealing with double the dynamics, double the relationships, and, likely, triple the drama. Factor in your kids (if you have any), your ex (if there is one), his parents, his ex’s parents, your parents, your ex’s parents, and you can see how this can spiral out of control very quickly.
The secret to overcoming this myth lies in longevity and consistency. Dan had to balance one of my children, my son, who was thrilled to have an earthly father again; and my daughter, who pretty much stonewalled him for nearly two years, with his own children’s wants and wishes. I, on the other hand, had to learn to interact with his daughter, who was a mom herself (one child, and pregnant with a second), and his son, who regularly reminded me that I was “not his mother.” Dan remained consistent with both of my children, showing them unconditional love and acceptance, and letting them know he wasn’t going anywhere. I, through time (and some counseling), learned how to set boundaries, establish authority in my home, softened my heart, and learned to build healthy bonds with Dan’s kids in a way that worked for both of us.
Ultimately, it comes down to your willingness to be compassionate (wow – this works in all types of situations!), respectful, and then making a decision/choice to hang in there and hang tough. This will not be a “lazy river cruise,” but more like that spinning roller coaster ride! I believe the key to this whole process with exes, steps, bios and whoever else is along, is to all get together and decide strategies. Be kind to each other, understand that there will be territorial issues for a while, and agree to ultimately do what’s best for each other and the children.
MYTH #3: Parenting stepchildren is no different than parenting my own kids.
This is perhaps one of the most difficult issues blended families face when they first come together. Dan and I were not on the same page in this area when we first married. So I could have thrown a fit and called him names … instead, after Dan and I had talked privately, we would go talk with our kids about an issue. I went with Dan, and sat beside him. I didn’t have to agree. I just needed to show his kids/my kids that I was on Dan’s team. As time progressed, our parenting styles seemed to mesh – I found ways he parented that I liked and worked, and he found the same in some of my parenting/disciplining styles. Don’t expect things to be perfect at first. In fact, again, breathe and know that this will take patience and care and lots of love. And remember, you don’t automatically inherit the right to parent each other’s kids when you get married. You have to earn that right. Work it out together and enjoy the ride!
I have often heard it said that the definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results. Why not try something different in your blended family … starting today? Take a walk on the wild side! Be nice. Have a servant attitude. Be respectful. The world has enough negative and greed. Why not become a rebel yourself and dispel a few myths?!?