I don’t know about you, but from what I’ve heard and seen around me, marriage is hard! Well, it’s not all bad — sure it has its downs but it also has its up. Now imagine these dynamics of marriage then add stepchildren, ex-spouses, in-laws and all the obstacles of modern-day life. I know — it’s almost as if blended family marriages are destined to fail. Even though the odds might seem as if they are against married couples in blended families, there is still hope. Besides, nothing good ever came easy, right? Here are some tips that married couples in blended families can use to stay happy and fulfilled:
Prioritize your marriage
Like everyone else, you and your partner need to work on your marriage. Just because you have a house full of kids doesn’t mean you ignore each other’s needs. Go out for dates occasionally, spend quality time together. These are some of the foundations of any happy marriage. Don’t let kids and a busy blended family be the reason your marriage fails.
Don’t hog your spouse
Because it’s a fairly new relationship, you will be tempted to want to have your spouse all to yourself. However, you need to realize that your spouse is also a parent and his kids need him. Therefore, you should allow your step kids to spend time with their father alone and uninterrupted without you feeling resentful or left out.
Don’t take it personally
In other words, you need to have thick skin while maintaining sensitivity to the kids’ emotions in a blended family marriage. No one promised a picnic in a blended family. That goes for dealing with the ex as well. If you are put out each time the kids compare you to their “real” mom or each time your spouse talks to or texts his ex, you need to check yourself. Keeping this unnecessary stress out of your marriage is key.
Set and communicate boundaries early
R-E-S-P-E-C-T. This applies to your spouse, all children (bio and step), ex-spouses, and in-laws. There may be a period of time at first when you feel like an outsider to the happenings in your own home. Respect goes both ways. Respectfully make known what your boundaries are: what is and isn’t okay with you. This goes for issues big and small.
Don’t make your spouse choose
Never argue with your spouse in front of the kids about a discussion they are having or a decision that is being made. Employ a code word or have a prior agreement that “we will talk about it later” and then have a separate, private discussion. Putting your spouse in the middle of you and his children, where he feels like he must choose, is terrible for both him and the kids.
Don’t be a doormat
Being a step-parent, you will be tempted to go silent instead of disciplining your step kids. Do this for long enough and you’ll soon build up so much resentment and bitterness that is not only damaging to the family unit but also to your marriage. One tip you can use is to set rules early on and have your spouse (the bio parent) enforce them and discipline if necessary so that you aren’t branded the evil step-parent.
Blended family marriages are extremely challenging. Things will get harder before they finally become good. However, it’s important to always remember that nothing good in life will come easy because good things take time. Therefore, take things a day at a time and put it in the work because at the end of the day, it will almost always work out!