From Shaken to Stirred: Blending Families With Style, Part 1
Blending families is no picnic. Merging two families together, with different traditions, personalities, and parenting styles presents difficult challenges. Is it any wonder that 70 percent of remarriages involving children dissolve within the first five and a half years?
Blended families are not rare. Forty-three percent of all marriages in the US today are a second or third marriage. People who decide to blend their families in a remarriage often face unexpected complications. If you compare remarriages to settings on a blender, you will likely encounter some shredding, mincing, and chopping before achieving “smoothie” status. And the process may take many years. The opportunities for ministering to blended families are ripe.
Following are some tips to blending with style:
1. Bask in the love of God. People who decide to blend their families sometimes have several strikes against them. They may feel like second-class citizens because of their divorces and they may feel embarrassed or ashamed of their past. Or, they may feel abandoned, heartbroken and distrustful. These things can wreak havoc on self-esteem, confidence and hope for a stable future. During the early stages of the remarriage, it is important for marriage partners to remember that God loves them, no matter what, and that He will take their brokenness and make them whole again. The apostle Paul said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9)
2. Cherish your marriage. There are so many ways that marriages can fail. In blended families it is especially crucial to be on the same team and not let others (extended family, children and friends) come between you. Jesus said, “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate” (Matt. 19:5-6). Married couples should protect each other by speaking well of the other person at all times. They need to appreciate effort. Couples need to expect goodwill instead of imagining that the other person has it “out for him”. They need to give the other person the benefit of the doubt by not making mountains out of molehills. The bottom line is that couples should put each other first.
3. Plan time together. If there are children in the picture, remarriages begin a step behind traditional marriages. There is no honeymoon period where couples can focus solely on each other. This should not be a hindrance. Couples can still seek to improve their marriage by establishing regular date nights and other times for conversation, planning, and communication. It is also important to have daily “couch time”. This is normally 15-30 minutes of uninterrupted time where couples communicate about their days, their plans, and the latest family news. During this time, it is critical that children do not disrupt the conversation, since it usually happens in an open space of the home. It needs to be clearly understood that this is “our time” together. Research has shown that children who learn to respect this time develop a greater sense of strength for their parents’ marriage, thus leading to a higher sense of security in the home.
What else can couples in blended families do to strengthen their marriages?