A typical marriage brings two people together and allows those two individuals to mature, explore each other’s boundaries, and adapt to changes through mutual compromise.
A blended-family marriage, on the other hand, abruptly brings two families together along with ingrained loyalties, parenting styles, boundaries and rules. This new blended family must learn to cultivate and mature a relationship with not just one person, but a multitude of people who live within and outside of the household.
Furthermore, the family dynamic changes depending on visitation schedules. This tends to disrupt hierarchies, create unclear boundaries, and impact the overall satisfaction level of the family. Additional strain is placed on these new families because they are sometimes rejected by peers, neighbors, and society in general, because let’s face it, most people equate divorce to failure.
Despite the fact that nearly half of all marriages are remarriages, our society still does not recognize blended families as part of the norm.
Our Blended Family Story
Almost fifteen years ago, my wife and I created a blended family. We sold our homes, moved into a new home together, our sons changed school districts, and we disrupted visitation with our ex-spouses.
As hard as it was on my wife and I, it was much harder on our boys who were only six and eight years old at the time. Although Cheri and I were excited to be married, and the boys were excited to be brothers, we didn’t realize the impact all of this change would have on us.
Perhaps because of that, we had a tendency to focus on the negative. The “joy” of our exciting new family was overshadowed by the struggle to figure out how to function in this new family. And none of us adapted quite well to the change.
This change was wanted and self-initiated, but it was stressful. We felt bad for the suffering our boys went through being part of a blended family. Although we talked to them before we got married, they were too young to understand the impact.
As more and more stressors hit our new family, thoughts of “why us?”, “it’s not fair”, or “why can’t I get this right?” floated through our minds. Our default was to focus on the negative.
Focusing on the Negative
This negative focus reminded us of the Israelites. Moses was bringing them out of bondage to Egypt and they were constantly complaining.
When the Egyptians were bearing down on them with their backs to the Red Sea, they complained. When water and food were scarce, they complained. But each time God rescued them and provided for their safety and sustenance. You would think after God performed these miracles, they would trust Him, but that didn’t happen.
Sometimes we can feel like the Israelites. We feel like our enemies are bearing down on our family in the form of ex-spouses, or friends and schoolmates who pass judgment on us for being in a “step-family”.
The one thing that helped my wife and I out of that negative place is our relationship with Jesus. When our circumstances are changing and disrupting the norms in our life, we must turn to the immutable rock of Christ, who promises to never leave us nor forsake us.
Made Beautiful by God
God will make everything beautiful in its time and may be using those changes to mature and grow us as a Christian. Romans 8:28 tells us that “all things work together for good to those who know God.”
As Cheri and I drew closer to God in those struggles, our family started to weather those storms and bounce back more quickly. The family started to view our home as a safe haven from the attacks of others.
When Cheri or I became frustrated with our circumstances and started to complain, we realized that was not helping the stress level in our home. When we prayed alone as well as a family, when we spent more time with God and read His word, the Holy Spirit in us brought peace.
In addition to the need to be closer to God during change, adapting to change takes time, communication, patience, and lots of love. Jesus is very patient and loving while He waits for us to grow and mature. As the parent in this blended family, we need to be the image of Christ, displaying patience, understanding, and loving leadership during the change.
Eric and Cheri Winterton were married in 2005—which was a remarriage for both of them. Together, they’re the co-authors of ‘We Above Me: Understanding the Biblical Link Between Love And Needs For A Unified Marriage.’
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