The number of blended families compared to all families in the United States is now four out of every ten. Most of us are touched by a blended family or families in some way and the number rises every year. What that tells me is that there are a lot of couples each year that come together in marriage bringing kids and baggage from a previous marriage. It can truly be a recipe for disaster but very few of us are raising a red caution flag. The long standing theory in pre-marital counseling is this. If the couple is compatible, address their issues, commit to work hard on marriage, and truly have a deep love and acceptance of each other, they will have a really good chance of having a successful marriage. Unfortunately, the long standing theory for pre-marital counseling for a couple forming a new blended family is much the same. The problem comes with the kids. They can take this “looks perfect on paper” marriage and blow it out of the water. As much as we all love the television show The Brady Bunch, it does injustice to the realities of blended families. That doesn’t mean that we cannot have a Brady Bunch goal for our blended family, it means that for that to happen it will take a lot of work and a lot of time and there will be land mines ready to blow each step along the way.
When I counsel a couple preparing for a blended family marriage, I always ask these questions: How do you get along with each others kids? How do the kids get along? Inevitably, the answers are almost always the same: “great.” Then a few months into the blended family marriage as the couple comes back in to see me, the answers have changed. Now the kids don’t like each other and they don’t like the stepparent and the couple is barely hanging on and wondering if they have any chance at all of making it. I have seen so many couples just finally give up because the kids “won.” The other interesting thing is that I have seen “kids” from five to forty-five be the marriage wreckers.
As a culture, we have not done a very good job of helping couples prepare for a successful blended family marriage but that is going to change. At Awesome Marriage, we want to help by having resources for these families and partnering with other ministries to help and educate them. We also will continue to train mentor couples that will be available to walk through that crucial first year of a blended family marriage. It is not a quick fix because these families take time to blend but we will over time make a difference.
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