Step-Families...How?

              This blog focuses on the impact of change when a Blended Family is created.  A typical marriage brings two people together and allows those two individuals to mature, explore each other's boundaries and adapt to changes through mutual compromise.  A blended family marriage abruptly brings two families together along with engrained loyalties, parenting styles, boundaries and rules. This new blended family must learn to cultivate and mature a relationship with not just one person, but a multitude of people who live within and outside of the household. Furthermore, the family dynamic changes depending on visitation schedules. This tends to disrupt hierarchies, create unclear boundaries, and impact the overall satisfaction level of the family. Additional strain is placed on these new families because they are sometimes rejected by peers, neighbors, and society in general, because let’s face it, most people equate divorce to failure. Despite the fact that half of all marriages are remarriages, our society still does not recognize blended families as part of the norm.

              Almost fifteen years ago my wife and I created a blended family. We sold our homes, moved to a new home together, the boys changed school districts, and we disrupted visitation with our ex’s. As hard as it was on my wife and I, it was much harder on our boys who were only 6 and 8 years old at the time.  Although Cheri and I were excited to be married, and the boys were excited to be brothers, we didn’t realize the impact all of this change would have on us, and we had a tendency to focus on the negative.  The “joy” of our exciting new family was overshadowed by the struggle to figure out how to function in this new family, and none of us adapted quite well to the change.  It was wanted and self-initiated, but it was stressful. We felt bad for the suffering our boys went through being part of a blended family. Although we talked to them before we got married, they were too young to understand the impact.  As more and more stressors hit our new family, thoughts of “why us?”, “it's not fair”, or “why can't I get this right?” floated through our minds – we focused on the negative.

It reminded us of the Israelites. Moses was bringing them out of bondage to Egypt and they were constantly complaining. When the Egyptians were bearing down on them with their backs to the Red Sea, they complained. When water and food were scarce, they complained. But each time God rescued them and provided for their safety and sustenance. You would think after God performed these miracles, they would trust Him, but that didn't happen.

              Sometimes we can feel like the Israelites. We feel like our enemies are bearing down on our family in the form of ex's or friends/schoolmates who pass judgment on us for being in a "step-family". The one thing that helped my wife and I out of that negative place is our relationship with Jesus Christ. When our circumstances are changing and disrupting the norms in our life, we must turn to the immutable rock of Jesus Christ (Heb 3:8), who promises to never leave us nor forsake us (Heb 13:5). God will make everything beautiful in its time and may be using those changes to mature and grow us as a Christian. Romans 8:28 tell us that "... all things work together for good to those who know God..." As Cheri and I drew closer to God in those struggles, our family started to weather those storms and bounce back more quickly. The family started to view our home as a safe haven from the attacks of others. When Cheri or I became frustrated with the world and circumstances, and started to complain, we realized that was not helping the stress level in our home.  When we prayed alone as well as a family, when we spent more time with God, reading His word, the Holy Spirit in us brought peace.

              In addition to the need to be closer to God during change, adapting to change takes time, communication, patience, and love.  Lots of Love!  Jesus is very patient and loving while He waits for us to grow and mature. As the parent in this blended family, we need to be the image of Christ, displaying patience, understanding, and loving leadership during the change.