Blended Families – The Fairy Tale vs Reality

One of the primary dilemmas facing the beginnings of many blended families is trying to function as a family before the adults and children have had time to decide how that will occur.

Kevin Leman, Ph.D., in his book “Living in a Stepfamily Without Getting Stepped On: Helping Your Child Survive the Birth Order Blender” writes, “Despite the odds against them, despite the bruising and shattering divorce (and sometimes more than one), people remain intrepid eternal optimists who try marriage again. In America alone, over thirteen hundred new blended families form every day. And most of the men and women who take the plunge naively expect that this time their marriage and family life will work because they won’t make the same mistakes. This time they have found Mr. Right or Mrs. Wonderful, and they will live harmoniously blended ever after.”

Do they? Of course not. They get hit in the face with the reality of forming relationships.

Evolving Relationships in a Blended Family

Leman continues, “One of the major reasons that expectations get dashed on the rocks of reality is ‘the kids.'”

Bear in mind that Leman wrote this book in 1994. Statistics report the number of blended families are growing each year, not shrinking. In fact, the blended family has become the most common form of family. So common that sociologists predict the “normal” family of the twenty-first century will have a mixture of children by different marriages.

One of the primary dilemmas facing the beginnings of many blended families is trying to function as a family before the adults and children have had time to decide how that will occur.

Nuclear/biological/natural (whatever you choose to call them) families grow up over time. Decisions are made one at a time and naturally evolve into something else. In a blended family, everything from holidays to bedtime to daily routines must be decided at once.

Different family histories, traditions, memories, and sometimes even different cultures must be taken into account. The status quo must be challenged once again.

Blended Families Mean Big Emotions and a Time for Guilt

This is a time fraught with myths and lacking in reality. It is a time of chemistry, rushing hormones, lust, and high expectations. In short, it is a time of great emotions and little rationale for many family members.

It is also a time of guilt.

In her book “Divorce and New Beginnings: A Complete Guide to Recovery, Solo Parenting, Co-Parenting and Stepfamilies“, Genevieve Clapp, Ph.D. writes, “Guilt is not an uncommon feeling in divorcing parents. Most parents want to do well by their kids and experience anxiety about the repercussions their divorce may have.”

In spite of the excitement of remarriage, guilt about the kids is often felt again:

  • Especially when they are unhappy at a time you are so happy.
  • Especially when you cannot make an initial connection with your new spouse’s kids. (What am I doing wrong here?)
  • Especially when you can not blend the children of two nuclear families.
  • Especially when you want to focus your attention on your spouse. Your children may feel you have no time for them.
  • Especially when you knew this would be such a happy and rewarding time for you and your kids. After all, you are bringing them back into a “Brady Bunch” family, aren’t you?
  • Especially when you realize that blending two families is not the fairy tale you thought it would be.
  • And so on. We are reasonably sure you can add your own “especially” to our list.

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