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BellaOnline's Midlife Editor

Yours, Mine -- and Ours

Blending families is certainly not an easy thing. When children have either a new Stepmother or Stepfather, it has to be difficult - especially if that step-parent has brought children to the marriage as well. Besides getting used to their new "parent" -- there is now the blending of the two sets of children together. I know of one couple -- the man had three sons from his first marriage; the woman he was marrying had three daughters from her first marriage. The oldest son of that new husband/stepfather and oldest daughter of that new wife/stepmother wound up marrying each other a few years later, and they were still relatively young, maybe 19. In other words, the step-sister and step-brother got married to each other.

I have lost touch with that family and always wondered - since one out of every two marriages ends in divorce, what would happen if that step-sibling couple ever decided to divorce - talk about sticky situations! they would still be seeing each other at every family get together; as they would still be step-brother and step-sister, even if they were no longer married. And, if they had children together, the step-parents will always be the grandparents of the children from their marriage together. Talk about a confusion. All I can say is, I hope they are still married, and living happily ever after.

Now, with this in mind --- imagine if the parents who blended these families together to begin with, got divorced! I can't even begin to imagine how they would work that out - with their new spouses, who would then be the second set of step-parents, each half of the former step-parent who would still be the grandparents, divorced step-sister and step-brother, new spouses for them, who may have children of their own also from a previous marriage, and on and on..........and, everyone would still have to look at each other across the table at various holidays. You know that, chances are, everyone is not going to like, or get along with, everybody. You would have to be a saint. I'm sure I could sure learn something if I was a fly on the wall at some of those gatherings!

Now, let's get to the parents, or should I say step-parents. Maybe for a while, they feel the need to tiptoe around the new stepchildren not only to show the children they want them to be able to trust them and to feel they can come to them if there is a need - but also because they do not want their new spouse to think they are showing favoritism, or prejudice, towards their own children. So, you can imagine that this would make for a little bit of tension in the new household. It is quite an undertaking when you take on the responsibility of a ready-made family; meld two families and possibly even add to that extended family. It can and will at times be quite stressful, but if you are willing to devote the time and attention to nurturing those relationships, I am sure the rewards will greatly outweigh the sacrifices you make. Successful relationships require commitment.

I had enough of a problem, after my divorce, to even get my daughter to behave if I had a date coming to the house to pick me up for dinner. My daughter always instinctively knew which men in particular were "threats" to her - or, should I say, the ones she perceived to be a threat to take her Mother away. The guy always had to pass muster not only with me but with my daughter. She really liked the ones who took her out to dinner with us. My daughter had "attitude" power.

I think children have a lot more power than we possibly realize. You're probably not even considering that when you get involved with someone in a relationship and it leads to marriage - but, believe me, children can make or break a relationship. It's a good idea to include your children in activities with your potential significant other - and get their feedback on their feelings about that person the more involved you become -- let them get to know the person as you are getting to know them - and maybe even have them enjoy some activities together without you. Besides building their relationships with each other - you will hopefully avoid a lot of the jealousy or resentment that children sometimes feel when there is a (potentially) new partner in their parent's life. The children won't feel so left out or excluded, and that is a very healthy beginning for all parties involved. Respect is a key word - one of the big factors will be making sure the children respect the new step-parent's authority.

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