Blended Families - Part I
(This is a series of articles on blended or step families. For the purposes of these articles,
the first marriage will be referred to as the original family)
Blended families have a very different terrain from original families. There are misconceptions, myths, and misunderstandings about blended families that can lead to failure. For example, the very thing that holds first marriages together – children – are what primarily take blended families apart. Being aware of these differences can lead to more realistic expectations.
So, let’s look at ways that a blended family is different:
- Stepfamilies are born out of loss (death or divorce). All family members carry pain and baggage from the past. Re-marriage begins with hope but also guilt, fear, anxiety, sadness, and probably a lack of healthy relationship skills.
- Stepparents who were not previously married are unaccustomed to family life as a spouse and parent. Stepfamilies are an “instant family.” Children are there from the outset so there is no honeymoon period for the couple. Parents may find themselves parenting teens instead of a newborn leading to confusion over roles and rules.
- Stepparents have no “history” with the stepchildren. Because of that, there is a lack of bonding that makes relating more difficult. There are no historical bonds, biological bonds, or legal bonds.
- Stepparents have immediate responsibility (often with little authority) for children they may not know well or feel attached to.
- The biological parent’s relationship with his or her children began before the relationship with the new spouse. The bonds between biological parent and child are longer and usually deeper than the bond with the stepparent.
- The stepfamily structure is more complicated than an original family. There are many more dynamics to deal with such as different parenting styles and religious observances, distance between homes, and difficult former spouses.
- The new family starts as a blank slate. Everything must be created: roles, routines, traditions, etc.
- Finances are stretched over two households, causing stress.
- In blended families, family members may not feel the same strength of boundaries surrounding sexual issues that exist in an original family. Therefore the incest boundary can be weaker.
The second article in this two-part series on Blended Families will be published later this week at www.upliftfamilies.org
Abbie Vianes, MPC, BCC, CSAPS