While remarried couples can face difficulties due to their past, bringing children into the mix adds another layer of challenges that the couple must overcome. Blending families are fast becoming the norm in our society and each one is unique. According to the US Bureau of Census, 1,300 new stepfamilies are formed every day with over 75% of divorcees remarrying within 10 years of their divorce, resulting in over 50% of U.S. families being formed by remarriage or re-coupling.
Unlike the traditional family where the rules, finances, and extended family members are consistent, bringing more than one family together becomes a melting pot of traditions, expectations and outside forces. These couples often have a time of initial optimism followed by moments of – “what did I get myself into?”. A Boston University psychologist found in one study that if they had to do it again, over 75% of remarried woman would not marry a man with children. That is huge! Why would it be that a seemingly happy couple decides to marry, enjoys a time period of coupling, but then somehow gets to the point where most would not choose the same position if they had to do it over again? Why is the statistic for divorce of remarried couples hovering around 60%? I do not believe that it has to do with the couple themselves, but instead with the tools the couple is lacking.
Could it be that while blended families are becoming the norm in our society that we still do not offer the correct amount of support and information to them in order to succeed in their unique challenges? A survey by the Stepfamily Foundation found that 75% of stepfamilies do not feel that they have adequate access to resources for blended families. They don’t know where to go and they are not prepared for the challenges they face.
When the couple in a remarriage is struggling, their children do as well. They lack consistency between homes, struggle with forming bonds with the new stepparents and stepsiblings, and can harbor feelings of guilt and responsibility when one or both parents are struggling with their own or their ex-spouse’s remarriage.
The couple who rides away into the sunset after their wedding day does not ride alone. They bring children, ex spouses, financial burdens, different parenting techniques, and daily routines that cannot be discredited and circumstances that need to be addressed. Too often when planning a wedding, the couple can overlook the need to discuss how their parenting philosophies or custody arrangements will impact their new relationship. They may not address the tension or baggage that resides from an ex or previous relationship. The newlyweds walk into the marriage at a disadvantage because they are preparing for it like they prepared for a first marriage, when they instead need to prepare for what it really is – a remarriage. It is a very different path of preparation and carries the need for more planning, more discussion, and more understanding.
Understanding the problems stepfamilies face and navigating the road of custody schedules, ex’s, and changing dynamics, in addition to the normal stressors of marriage and children can be difficult. I hope that The Mixing Bowl can help to not only shed light on the normal challenges in a blended family, but also offer some real-life practical advice on how to get past the hurdles and strengthen your marriage.