So you’ve decided to blend your families. The process of blending families is a complicated and emotional endeavor. Much has been written about the dynamics and struggles of merging families upon re-marriage. Therefore, this short article focuses only on the importance of building the couple bond throughout the turbulence of blending a family.
1. Set and enforce clear boundaries for your marriage
Set boundaries for your marriage; honor them and be consistent. Boundaries provide protection and guidance concerning how a couple behaves, how you interact with one another, as well as with people outside of the marriage. Boundaries a couple may set for their marriage may include things such as:
- Keeping sensitive and intimate information about their spouse confidential (ex. We do not discuss marital complaints with family members or ex-spouses)
- Taking responsibility for their individual feelings and not requiring their spouse to feel the same as they do about everything
- Behaving in a way that respects their spouse, and also shows self-respect (ex. Name calling is not used during arguments).
I cannot stress enough how important this is. Lack of boundaries in a marriage can be disastrous. If you are uncertain of the state of boundaries in your relationship, give me a call; I’d love to work with you.
2. Recognize that your relationship with your spouse is different from the relationship with the children
While it is important to meet the needs of the children in the family, strengthening the couple bond is essential. The relationship with your children is to love, nurture, instruct, discipline, groom and hand them over to the world as valuable contributors someday. The relationship with your spouse is for the two of you. It is to love and nurture, to enjoy and value the person they have become, accomplish goals together, and share dreams. The couple relationship is the sharing of personal satisfaction and enjoyment between two adults. Companionship and support, both emotional and physical, are key in this relationship.
3. Date Your Spouse
The practice of dating is something that falls by the wayside after saying “I do”. When blending a family, dating your spouse becomes even more important. It is an important part of establishing your identity as a married couple, not just parents or step-parents. It also establishes a culture in your new family, that demonstrates that the marriage relationship is important. Dating your spouse provides an opportunity for your children and stepchildren to witness positive marital behavior. This practice also gives you and your spouse an opportunity to strengthen and maintain your connection. You will need one another’s support while blending the family.
4. Be careful when receiving “well-meaning” advice
Friends and family are full of ‘well meaning’ and unsolicited advice. This advice can sometimes backfire and become meddling, which is intrusive and damaging. You may even, unintentionally, cause your relationship to become the topic of gossip within your social circle, resulting in more stress on your marriage. When seeking advice concerning your marriage within a blended family, speak with someone who will give you constructive and objective advice, while keeping your personal information private. If there is no one in your life who can provide this for you, please meet with a licensed counselor. Your relationship is worth it.
5. Check in often with your spouse. Communicate!
Be careful not to allow offenses to go unaddressed and unresolved. Communication can act as a cleanser in a relationship. You can build a resilient marriage through healthy, ongoing communication.
When blending a family, difficulties will happen; expect them and plan ahead when you can. Before the wedding, communicate about finances, discipline, household duties, living arrangements, etc.
6. Give yourselves credit for the things you are doing well
Identify your strengths as a couple and give yourselves a pat on the back for the things do well. If you work hard to make time for one another or to improve the way you communicate with your spouse, give yourself credit for these things. But don’t stop there. Continue to learn new skills that will increase the bond you have with your spouse.
7. Seek professional help if things become too cloudy
Sometimes we are too involved in our own situation to see things clearly. Meeting with a licensed counselor can help by providing an unbiased view of your situation. A counselor can help you and your spouse discover tools to strengthen your bond, while merging your families.