In more than thirty years of counseling with blended families, I’ve learned that not every family is successful at “blending”—especially when it comes to the priorities of the marriage and children.
An intact nuclear family starts with a marriage and then adds children to the mix. But in a blended family, the children are there at the beginning; they pre-date the marriage. This brings a much different dynamic to the table. In these situations, I believe kids need to be included in the dating and selection process of a mate. Without empowering the children beyond their capacity, blended family relationships simply work much better if the children feel as though they are part of the courtship experience. This is even more important when they have had a difficult time with the separation of their biological parents.
One of our employees at MarriageToday has a blended family. Before proposing, our employee’s new husband-to-be approached her teenage son and asked for his mother’s hand in marriage. It was a humbling experience for this man, but he was wise to do it. The son said, “Yes,” and from that point forward he was totally at peace with the relationship—because he had been given partial ownership of it. His role in the relationship had been respected.
After the wedding, it is crucial that the relationship between husband and wife in a blended marriage become a top priority – even a higher priority than the children. Why? Because strong families aren’t built around children – they are built upon strong marriages. In order for any marriage to be strong you have to prioritize it, work on it, continue to pursue each other, and meet each other’s needs. This is just as true in a blended marriage as in a first marriage.
Obviously, I’m not saying you should neglect your children. They are very important – but they are not as important as your marriage. If you neglect your marriage for the sake of your children, your marriage will suffer. And when your marriage suffers, so do your children.
In most cases, people in a blended family have experienced divorce. That means your children have already witnessed a failed marriage. As their role model, you need to show them a successful marriage—not another failed one. Think of it this way: raising kids is a temporary assignment in life. Your children will leave home one day. They will grow up and “graduate” from your care but your marriage should last for a lifetime.
Spouses who neglect their marriage for their children are in for a lot of heartache. When the children grow up and leave home, those spouses only have a shell of a marriage remaining. Their children will not have had a successful marriage to emulate when they get married. Not only will your marriage suffer but marriages in the next generation will suffer.
Yes, your children are precious and important. Of course, they deserve your love and attention. But make sure you are balancing your care of them with care for your marriage. By giving your spouse the attention they deserve, you are teaching your children to respect them (their new parent) also. By working hard at your marriage, you model success for them and prepare them for the future. That’s a deeper, long-lasting kind of love.
Blended families are a challenge, but I have seen blended-family marriages thrive when the husband and wife keep marriage a priority and respect their children. Building something that extends far beyond the childrearing years gives your children a foundation to build upon for themselves.
I hope these thoughts are encouraging to you. May you know the peace of Christ in your home, your marriage, and your family.