As with any marriage, a remarried couple needs to determine how their relationship is best managed. Each couple has their own strengths and weaknesses and they must find the rhythm of how to work together.
Here are a few foundational tips to starting off on the right track:
Tip #1: Find what works for you
Thinking of it like having a new baby – you will receive a ton of unsolicited advice as soon as your relationship is birthed. Some of it will be well intended and some of it won’t be, but either way you need to move to the beat of your own drum. No one knows the ins and outs of your relationship and the private details of your family. For some blended families, it’s best to have clear lines drawn in the sand for responsibilities and daily tasks. For example, you may each take care of getting your own children off to school. You may keep your finances separate or you may decide that certain events will not include the step-parent. For other marriages, life will be more interlaced, to include the interactions and parenting of children, finances, and all family decisions. There are no right or wrong answers – whatever works best for your family is the path to follow regardless of what you may read or hear from outside forces.
The trick is finding the balance for your family. This will take a lot of discussion, patience, and forgiveness. When you are first starting and structuring your family there will be misunderstandings, times of hurt feelings, and mistakes made. That is to be expected and can be moved past as long as both individuals are coming from a place of respect. A favorite motto in our house is: Assume Positive Intent. Your spouse wants what is best for you and your family, and keeping that in mind can be very beneficial during this stage of your relationship.
Tip #2: Put your spouse first
Your families have come together due to the love and the relationship that has grown between the two of you. Unless you’ve had children together, the common element in your new family is the two of you. You may not have years of family interactions and the birth of children to seal that connection, but you do have the promises and commitments you have made to one another. That does not make your relationship an afterthought or less important, but it does make it something that needs special attention.
If your relationship is not a priority, it will fall apart. That is the cold, hard truth. And if your relationship falls apart, the family you are working to build will dissolve. Your children will be put through another breakup or divorce and you will have to move ahead with another layer of complexity to your past. You will find yourself moving into the next relationship also needing to learn that your spouse has to be your priority. You and your spouse have to be a team and you have to back each other up on a daily basis. This doesn’t mean that you will never argue or disagree, but it does mean that you have to protect the bond that started your family in the first place. You have to be able to carve out time every day to listen and connect.
Tip #3: Recognize when you need help
With the added complexity of your blended family, there will be even more challenges than with a traditional family and marriage. Understand that it is normal to have struggles and it is normal to have days of disappointment and bouts of arguments. But you need to be able to admit when it is something deeper. There is no shame in saying that your marriage needs a boost and there are resources out there to help. Ignoring an issue will not resolve it and you and your spouse deserve the peace that comes with resolution, and your children deserve a calm and stable home. Figure out what your marriage needs to thrive and take those first steps. You will never regret working harder or learning better tools for your everyday life.
Understanding that there will be ups and downs is important in any marriage and imperative in remarriages. Taking the time to communicate and talk through your doubts and fears is necessary when identifying the best way to manage your home and new family. Be prepared to spoon out large amounts of forgiveness and remember that you each are doing the best that you can.