Having remarried during the past year I and my wife find ourselves in what is now called a blended family. We both have adult children from previous marriages. I have one daughter and she has two daughters and a son with disabilities. Regardless of what television suggests this doesn’t always create the Brady Bunch. Though challenging at times, I would still do it all over again. But without doubt blended families are not for the weak of heart.
When a lot of couples get married after a divorce or the death of their spouse it’s usually an exciting time for them. They feel as though everyone should be happy for them and welcome the new person in to their life.
Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Adult stepchildren are sometimes very open to their parent’s new marriage, as we were lucky to have in ours, but in other cases, there are hard feelings that result in difficulties. I am thankful that my daughter has accepted my new wife completely and she has a good relationship with her. I attribute this to the fact that she loves me and she wants me to be happy. She can see how kind my wife is and she appreciates her. I’m grateful that she has never been disrespectful, suspicious or unkind to her. In return her children have been kind and respectful of me as well.
However, there are a few things that need to be kept in mind if you are entering a relationship with a person who has grown children:
No step-family situation is going to be easy at first, no matter the age of the step-children. The fact that they are adults doesn’t mean that they will be able to accept this new person in their parent’s life easily.
Don’t take the stepchildren’s reactions personally. The negative actions and feelings of stepchildren toward the new spouse are often because of fear and anxiety. Adult children tend to feel protective of their parents. They may fear that the new spouse will hurt their parent, or “take them for all their worth”, or that the new spouse will take their parent from them. These fears are legitimate although most often not based on reality.
Newly blended families take time to merge, especially with conflicting rules and well worn patterns of life change.
For those who are entering in to a relationship with someone who has grown children, I suggest:
Don’t expect it to be easy or pretty in the beginning.
Realize that most of the difficulty has nothing to do with you.
Be yourself and don’t try to be what you think they want you to be or what you “should” be.
Bite your tongue when you feel like lashing out.
Realize that your spouse is caught in the middle. They love you and they love their children.
Encourage your spouse to communicate regularly with her children and give her time alone with them they need her to be “Mom” (or Dad) even though they are grown.
Realize that you’ve done all you can and have no control over if they will receive your gestures or how they will respond.
Set boundaries when necessary if you feel that your goodness is being abused.
We were lucky in that all our kids, as a parent they’re always your kids no matter how old they are, were supportive and as happy about our joining as we were. There were bumps along the way just as any marriage but we and they are both learning to accept new ideas and ways of doing things.
Now if I could just get that one certain girl to pick up those Styrofoam cups when finished with them my life would be complete.