Blended Families: How to Ease the Process

Last weekend, I was invited to teach a Spouse Academy at the Pasco County Sheriff's Department in Land O Lakes, Florida, where the topic of blended families came up afterward. 

As we know, law enforcement marriages have the highest divorce rate of all professions.  If an LE couple ads to an already strained marriage the stresses of a blended family, it's definitely a recipe for disaster.  Is there hope?  Can it work?  The answer is YES! 

Let's look at a few suggestions to improve the odds....

1.  God first.  You know with me, the answer is always going to be God first.  I can't stress enough the truth behind this statement.  Any situation no matter how bad, can be re-routed towards the good if God is the glue holding you together as a couple.  It sounds too easy, but try it for yourself.  I think you will see some amazing changes if both of you are pursuing a relationship with Him together.

2.  Give it time.  Blending two heavily-baggaged families can be a daunting task.  Don't rush things.  The kids may not warm up to you right away and that's okay.  Give it time.  If you continue to show love and support for them on a daily basis, eventually, they will respond in a positive way, but it may take a long while to see the fruit of your actions.  Their first loyalty will usually go to their biological mom or dad (unless there was abuse/abandonment), but that doesn't mean you won't rate a close second in time.

3.  Be wary of outside forces on your marriage.  If the former spouses are still involved in their children's lives, then you will find times when you are battling scheduling conflicts and heightened emotions.   See it for what it is.  Make sure that the two of you have open communication about things going on within your family dynamics.  Definitely be aware of each others past, but don't dwell there.  The two of you need to now focus on each other and the future you have together ahead.

4.  Teach and expect respect.  Though your children (yours and his/hers) may not immediately warm up to one another, teach them to respect one another as well as both you and your spouse.  Anything less should not be tolerated.  However, remember that respect can only be given if the same is shown to them.  If you love them and treat them with respect, their response should follow with a little parental nudging.  

5.  Develop household rituals.  With kids being shifted from one parental home to the other, often the rules are muddied between the two.  Establish household rituals that your children understand go on daily whether they are there or not.  This promotes security.  Things such as setting the table for dinner or picking up the toys at a certain time each day.  The more "normal" things they can be accustomed to, the easier the transition.

6.  Be on the same page.  You and your spouse must be on the same page in discipline, expectations, etc.  Make sure the two of you plan ahead of time for situations to arise, and do not allow the kiddos to play one parent against the other.  Mark 3:25 says, "If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand."  Make sure your house is on the same playing field at all times.

7.  Never bad mouth the ex.  It's hard, isn't it?  Former spouses can say and do things that are hurtful, vengeful and just plain mean, but that is no excuse to bad mouth them before your children.  Despite the ex-spouse's actions, his or her children have a parental bond with him or her.  When you talk bad about him or her, it only hurts the child and drives a wedge between the two of you.  Make sure that any conversation concerning the ex is done out of earshot of the kids.  

I hope that these suggestions will help in some way.  Even though I personally have never had to deal with the dynamics of a subsequent marriage, I have witnessed first-hand the marriages of my siblings, my own child, and good friends who went through many of these situations.  I am reminded what God was talking about when He said in Malachi 2:16, "I hate divorce."  It's ugly and can cause a hurtful ripple effect on many around it, but even so, He can bring healing and a renewed desire and commitment to making marriage the rewarding blessing it was designed to be.

Blessings to you,