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October 14th was my 8th wedding anniversary.

In second marriage years, it's really more like 15.

For any of you in second marriages (or more), you know exactly what I'm talking about.

When my husband and I married, I had 4 teenagers and he had a 5-year-old daughter.  We had a Wedding Whoop Dee Doo for 3 days in the magical hills of Boulder so that family and friends could get to know one another.  

We were sure we were going to be the poster "blended" family.

Off we went for a month long honeymoon to England, Scotland and Ireland where they were having the worst weather in written history.  It was a grand adventure of a honeymoon, but the weather should have been seen as a precursor for times to come.  When we got home, we had 5 children waiting for us at the airport and all hell broke loose.  

Nick and I had different parenting styles...my teenagers were being true teenagers and totaling cars and getting under aged drinking tickets. Nick’s daughter was young and having a tough time going back and forth between homes.  

After about 5 years of attempting to "blend" our families, my idealistic husband and I put up the white surrender flag.  We started to realize how ridiculous and unrealistic it was to expect children who had been raised in completely different family systems with parents who were alive and well, and integral parts of their lives, to become one big happy family.  

 In fact, it was downright arrogant and insensitive to our children and their other parents.

 I also realized how unhealthy the whole "blended" family concept is.  It's not like we were Osterizer Blenders and could all be thrown into a plastic pitcher and swirled around to become as one.

When my step-daughter was 10, she was not a happy camper.  We sat her down to talk about it.  Finally, after 45 minutes, she looked at me and said boldly, "You are not part of my family!  You will never be a part of my family!  I don't like you, in fact I hate you!  You are not my mother and you will never ever be a part of my family!"

My heart was pounding as she said this, but I was also relieved.  She was acknowledging the part about remarriage that many adults just don't want to see.  This is not our children's choice.  They are powerless over these merging families, and our insistence on being the Brady Brunch just wasn't working for her.

I looked at her and smiled and reassured her that none of this had been her choice and that she never had to like me or accept her as part of her family.  That all I was to her was her father's wife, nothing more and nothing less.  I told her that I was sorry she had such little power and that there were no expectations from me for her to ever change her mind or her heart.

Her little body sank in relief.  I then told her the only thing I expected in our home was kindness and courtesy.  I went upstairs to my office.  Later, when she was getting ready to leave, she came up to habitually hug me goodbye.

I put my hand up with a smile.  And I told her, "Let me teach you something woman to woman.  Don't ever hug someone you don't like.  Don't ever give yourself away like that.  And I don't want to be hugged by someone that doesn't like me.  And it's OK."

Several days later, she came back and ran up to me.  She said she was so sorry for what she had said, that she did love me but that it was all so confusing.  I hugged her back tightly and told her I understood...that it must be crazy difficult to go back and forth between homes, rules, and parents.  Our relationship changed for the better that day.

Boundaries connect.

I don't have a blended family, I have a LUMPY family.  What this means is that we have created a home where there is mutual respect, kindness and acknowledgment of the unique ways each of our children functions and lives in the family and in the world.  And the reality of that is it just doesn’t come in a nice neatly wrapped package.  The humanity of that is the true beauty of families.

Mary

www.challengingtransitions.com



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Member Comments

    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Amylou85 wrote Oct 19, 2008
    • Your account of the blended family  is too familiar for me. I have been re married for 5 years and I feel more like 35 in dog years! I have one son and he had two and then she had “one” that got blended in with the mix so it is really lumpy. At first I tried so hard to make “our” home feel like theirs, making everyone a room with their own space and I encouraged the kids to come stay and we did the “family” things. I tried to incorporate “our” traditons and make new ones,   but eventually I became discouraged. These kids and their dad had been raised completely different with much different views than me and my son. I wanted continuity and structure. Eventually, I sorta gave up and it is sad to say but to some degree we are really seperated. I continue to do with my son as we did prior to the marriage and their invited to come but usually we end up doing our own thing. They were all real homebodies and we love to go and do. For a while I stayed home do but felt that wasn’t really far to me or my son so now we go with or without them.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Mary Kelly-Williams, M.A. wrote Oct 25, 2008
    • Amylou,

      Thanks for your comment.  I think this is the most difficult part of remarriage when there are children involved.  We just can’t expect what we want the family to look like be the same goal for the children.  Yes, we can try as you did, but when you are continually getting that banging your head up against the wall feeling, it’s time to let the expectation go. I think you‘re making the right decision..you would probably just build up too much resentment if you tried to become a “homebody“, someone you‘re not.  So, the most important thing to do is to make sure you and your husband make your marriage a priority.  This is where you must spend time together, away from the kids.  Hopefully, there’s a date night in there weekly.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Feathermaye wrote Oct 25, 2008
    • Mary,

      I really appreciate the simple terms in which you described such a complicated situation.

      When my husband and I married, he had 3 children: 2 grown and on their own, and 1 young teen daughter. My son was pre-teen at the time.

      Although our 2 youngest actually managed the whole thing better than I would have hoped for, it was the 2 adult children that were the challenge. My step-son, the oldest, was in the Navy at the time and not at all appreciative of hearing about Dad’s new girlfriend. The next oldest, another daughter, flat-out ignored me the first time we met, in my apartment. She planted herself between us on the couch and turned her back to me.

      Eventually, and I believe because I gave them the space they needed to come to terms with all of it, I developed relationships with all of my step-children based on who we are, and not simply because I’m married to their dad.

      Congrats on getting past what’s probably the roughest patch. Good luck on the rest of it, too!



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Cheryl Guy wrote Oct 25, 2008
    • Wow! I feel so lucky after reading this! When my husband and I first got together, his son was 3 and mine 9. My husband has always had custody of his son and he probably can’t even remember a time in his life when I wasn’t in the picture. He has always called me Mom. My son blended into the transition very smoothly also. The kids fought like brothers when they were younger but now they are 9 & 15 and have such separate lives so there is nothing really for them to fight about. My husband gets along with my son’s father and vice versa. I’m glad that your situation is working itself out.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Denise Alleyne-Hill wrote Oct 25, 2008
    • Wow...I am thankful that we are an exception to the rule..Our ‘blended’ family did blend, instantly...When John and I got together, his sons were 10 and 5 (now 13 and 8, almost 9).. My daughters were 17, 9 and 5 (now 20, 12 and 8, almost 9)

      When we were dating we didn’t introduce the children to each other until we knew where we were heading in the relationship. With that clear, we began to plan activities as a family..John and the boys would spend the weekends with us and when they were out of school for holidays, they were with us. John had been a single dad to his oldest son since he was 2 years old (a part of the reason why I admire him so much) and his youngest son did and still does, go back and forth between parents.

      I think what helped us is that each of us filled a need in the children. My girls father lives out of state and he really isn’t a good father figure for them. He is a part of their lives though and they do spend time with him and his wife and her son.  

      My girls saw John as someone who played games with them, joked with them, and hugged them all the time, something their father didn’t do even when we were all in the same house together.

      For my son, I became the mother that he’d always dreamed of, always wanted. Our other little boy has a mother, but he accepted me so readily and calls me mommy too. He told me the first time that he called me mom and I kind of cringed, “You‘re going to be my mommy one day, so you’d better get used to me calling you that“.  

      When we planned our wedding, we made sure to include our children and their respective parents, where we could. The children were our bridesmaids, flowergirls etc.(see our photos)Our Pastor had us all bind our hands together and prayed for the entire family.  

      Neither John or I have ever had to deal with one of the children telling us who they are or are not to us, we really do ‘blend‘. John is so funny, that he provides ‘comic relief’ but he’s also a strict disciplinarian. I’m the softee of the bunch, but that also works for us. I was a little too soft on my girls and he was a little too hard on the boys. Now we have learned to ‘blend’ that too and found, ‘our compromise‘.

      Now that we have the little one together..Yes we really do call ourselves the ‘Multi-cultural Brady Bunch‘. We‘re by no means perfect, but so far, we‘re doing pretty good.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Amylou85 wrote Oct 26, 2008
    • Looking back, I sorta think you should just let things “emerge” as they are going too. Sometimes, we go in with these expectations that really aren’t realistic and I think then  we end up just being disapointed. I really don’t know from week to week, who is spending the night or who I need to fix dinner for but its not that big a deal anymore. At first, I fretted over this but now I just take it day by day! I think with me it might have been a bit of a Control issue and I put lots of uneccessary stress on myself!



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Mary Kelly-Williams, M.A. wrote Oct 27, 2008
    • feathermaye:  Thanks for your comments.  You present a very important and valuable tool when helping our stepchildren adjust to us and their lives with us.  That is SPACE.  Giving others the organic and natural space they need is very powerful and respectful.  

      luvin40:  There are indeed true “blended” families and your story is one example of this.  Yes, you are fortunate and it sounds like you handled things very well.  Your children are most blessed.  Thanks for sharing.

      soulful40:  After reading your comment, it’s clear that you and your husband did an amazing job with TIMING.  TIming is critical for children to be able to organically integrate new changes and family members into their lives.  We did a similar thing by including our children in the wedding and making commitments not only to each other but to them.  You and your husband should indeed be very proud of yourselves!  

      amylou85:  You are again bringing up the important point that this is an ORGANIC process and one that cannot be rushed and prodded.  Children smell this kind of pushing and usually resist.  There’s always something to learn isn’t there and having a combined lumpy family always brings lots of challenges and new things to see.  Thanks for your comment.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Denise Alleyne-Hill wrote Oct 27, 2008
    • Thanks Mary...we are proud of ourselves, but most of all we are blessed and thankful and neither of those are taken for granted!



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Jean Walter wrote Oct 28, 2008
    • I wish I had this site available to me 11 years ago!! When my husband and I married my children were 16,13 and 6. His were 6 and 8! After a year of marriage I became pregnant with “Twins” Talk about trying to blend!!
      My husband had high hopes of making us a well rounded family! We tried to do everything together to act like the “normal” family!  The pressures were too much and having a resentful ex didn’t help matters with his young children and the visitation.  The in and out of court for the first 5 years of our marriage was enough in itself. It played havoc in our lives and we played in to it way too much!! If there is one thing I have learned through it all, it was that I never tried to replace my step-children’s mom.  They learned to love me for who I was and what I brought to the family!  They have always had great respect for me and now that they are 18 and 20 we are best of friends!! It is important to maintain one’s feelings in presence of the children, as hard as it can be.  They are so impressionable and they are the ones that are hurt the most in the end!!



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Mary Kelly-Williams, M.A. wrote Oct 28, 2008
    • Jeanie913:  You are spot on.  Children are the true victims here.  As adults, we can always learn new coping skills and techniques to help us through.  I’m also glad you brought up the resentful ex.  This is not talked about enough.  X’s can cause havoc, so when you remarry, you are definitely getting one big “interesting” package.  

      Jeanie—you are one wise woman.

      Mary



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