Guest Author - Meghann Hodges
Blended Families face a wide variety of challenges, from resentment of a new parent figure to difficulty sharing attention and space with new siblings. Whether the uniting parents are heterosexual or homosexual, most blended families face the common difficulties of merging two households. While most aspire to have that “Brady Bunch” sense of togetherness, the reality of the situation doesn’t quite hit home until the problems have become unmanageable.
Love will conquer all…however nice this sentiment may be it is the first unrealistic expectation that many couples place on their relationship before making the decision to move in together. The unfortunate actuality is that love does not conquer all. It is very important to discuss and work out some of the concerns you have with your relationship, before combining your family. Remember that love is not a Band-Aid that will patch up your issues; it is just a foundation to build on.
The blended family will immediately love each other…a wonderful notion, but no matter how much one person may want the other to love and respect them, it is not something that will happen overnight. It takes time to develop relationships, especially with children. Don’t be surprised if the dynamic of the relationships between step- parent and step- child, brother/sister and step- brother/sister, or even parent and parent, are a bit tense at first. Accepting and understanding the emotional adjustment that everyone is going through, along with communication and support, are good first steps in developing a family that is united and loving.
Your partner will see your side, and support you and your decisions involving the children…although this is what we generally expect from a partner in life, it is not always as easy to apply to real life situations. Parenting styles may be different, children may play one parent against the other, and opinions can turn in to huge arguments. It is imperative to remain united in front of the children, if an agreement can’t be made at the time, discuss the problem in private. You and your partner set the example of what the kids can expect out of their new life arrangements, and seeing a partnership divided opens the door for them to attain control of the household.
Your partner will want to function as a team…is sadly not always the case. The involvement of your partner with your children, or even their own, may end at basic interaction. It is not uncommon that one parent takes on more of the care for the children, which can often lead to frustration and resentment towards the un-participating parent by both their partner and the children involved. The role that you will each play is something that should be addressed when deciding if merging your family is the right thing.
The children will be okay with having a parent in a same sex relationship. Children’s feelings about their mom or dad being a lesbian, gay, or bisexual are often overlooked. This is especially true of parents with younger children who grow up knowing it as “normal”. While younger kids may not fully understand the social complexities of same-sex relationships, be aware that outside opinions will influence how your children view themselves and their families. Kids particularly gain negative feelings about same-sex relationships around puberty, during this time they become concerned with their own sexuality and may become more worried about what their peers might think or say.
Making the decision to get married, or commit yourself to a person you love can be an amazing beginning to a great life for you and your family. The expectations put on parents and children when families come together can be detrimental to the success or failure of the relationships involved. If the expectations are unrealistic, then the outcome might not be as great as you’d hoped. Set an example for the kids and show them that you are using honesty, communication, and respect to build and unite your family on the foundation of your love.