How To Deal With Blended Family Issues
I caught a post on my Facebook news feed today raising the question of dealing with blended family issues. I would like to say that we are one of the few lucky ones who don't have any issues being a blended family. But the truth is the opposite. We DO have issues. Most blended families have issues, whether we like to admit it or not. From feeling like you are living in the ex's shadow, to children not accepting you, to family still refusing to accept the fact that you have moved on with someone else..., all of us who have a blended family are facing those issues on a daily basis. What matters most is HOW we deal with those issues.
The most important piece of advice I can offer is:"Let sleeping dogs lie."
What happened in the past, belongs in the past, and there is no sense in worrying whether or not you can live up to the ex. Your partner left their ex for a reason, and they are with you NOW. Focus on the NOW, and half the battle is won.
Don't force yourself on the children
Do not force your children or your partner's children to call you mommy/daddy because you feel that's how it should be. Let them reach that decision by themselves. They are having a hard time adjusting too, and when they feel ready, they will start using those names. Pressuring them into something only creates un-necessary frustration.
Accept and treat all the children as YOUR children
Frank and I have both been married before. We both have children from previous marriage, as well as one of our own. From day one we agreed that we are going to treat all children equally, and not make any differences between them. If we buy for one, we buy for the other two. If one of them did something wrong, and we cannot determine which one did it, all three of them get punished. We don't label them "yours", "mine", and "ours". All three of them are OUR children. I accept his son and see him as my own, and he accepts my son and sees him as his own.
Sooner or later, you are going to find yourself dealing with parenting differences. Your exes, and possibly their new partners might not have the same ideas on how certain situations should be handled. This is a constant battle with my ex husband and me. It has been a battle in our marriage and it continues after the divorce. Examples include but are not limited to:
- buying a toy/candy/video game every time you go to the store
- handling schoolwork/homework (not doing homework is how to handle it)
- dealing with lice (apparently, leaving the lice alone and not treating it is the way to do it)
- diet issues (Frank's ex does NOT eat vegetables...at all, in any shape or form, therefore Cameron refuses to eat vegetables as well)
- allowing video games that are not age appropriate (Cameron was only 5 when he was allowed to play Devil May Cry, as well as watch horror movies along the lines of Saw; my ex allowed our 9 year old son to play GTA San Andreas)
Talking about those issues, if it can be done in a peaceful, somewhat amicable way is the way to go. When talking doesn't work, you basically can't do much except start over every time. However, it is important to stress that neither parent is wrong, but to explain calmly that some things are going to be done differently. Make it fun, rather than trying to assert authority. And whatever you do, do NOT try to make the other side look back. It will only come back to bite you in the rear.
Dealing with family
I have been lucky enough not having to deal with this situation. My family accepted my second marriage without too much fuss, and his side of the family openly said I was a better match than his ex. I know however, that some couples with blended family are facing that issue. Sometimes, the family does not accept the second marriage, especially if the reason for the divorce wasn't a major one and it ended amicably. You might feel like you have to prove yourself all the time. It's even worse, if your partner is reluctant to help you and confront their family about it. Having an honest, open discussion with your partner should be your number one priority. Explain to them how you feel, what bothers you, and tell them you need their support/help. From there on out, it is up to your partner to acknowledge your feelings and be by your side. Bear in mind that they might also need your support to confront their family about the issue, and equally, you need to be by their side. Both parties should know they can count on their partner when going gets tough.
Having a blended family is not always sunshine and roses. It can come with its own set of difficulties and situations you might not expect or know how to deal with. Running away from those issues however, won't solve problems. In order to make the situation work, a lot of work, and mutual understanding/compromise is needed. I would say it takes twice the effort than an ordinary marriage. Showing your partner you support them, and have their back is essential.