Dr. Tarra Bates-Duford
Relationships & Blended Families
Initiating, engaging, and sustaining a relationship in and of itself can be very difficult to manage for many couples. However, when you add children and families to the mix of dating and relationship, things can become even more complicated. When couples come together with children from previous relationships, there is a sort of blending of the families that needs to occur. This meshing and or "blending" of the families creates another layer to the existing families, another step is created, a stepfamily is formed. One would assume single parent families who may share many similarities and understanding of the needs and joys of parenting would blend seamlessly, however this is rarely the case. Change and adjustment can be difficult for all parties involved. However, this is especially the case for children, as they often struggle with adjusting to and accepting change. In response to the change in the dynamics of the family conflict, anger, sadness, and resistance can ensue.
Couples that are contemplating or have decided to marry are usually filled with joy and optimism about their future together, however couples with children from previous relationships need to understand children may not share those feelings or sentiments. Children may even feel despair and or pessimistic about the future and their new place within the family. Premature excessive change can overwhelm children, leading to anger, resentment, frustration, and feelings of powerlessness. Couples should really weigh both the pros and cons of remarriage before agreeing or setting a date to remarry. By really discussing what lies ahead, likelihood of rushing into a new marriage is reduced. Love does not build overnight, as with children relationships do not expect for children to get along and love each other just because their parents do. Also do not expect to fall in love with your partner’s children overnight, this takes time as well.
Pat & Kelly
Pat & Kelly have been in a relationship for one year before Pat proposes to Kelly. Both Pat & Kelly were married previously, Pat has 3 children, Kelly has 2. Initially when the couple dated the children got along famously, they played together, went on family trips together, etc. Anticipating the joy their children would feel when they learned their parents would be getting married, Pat & Kelly rush to tell them the good news. Unfortunately, the responses from the children was not what the couple expected. The children verbally conveyed to their parents they did not want them to marry, and felt they needed to wait. There was now a line drawn, Pat’s children isolating themselves from Kelly’s children, and vice versa. Both Pat & Kelly cannot understand the shift in their children’s behavior, i.e., why they appeared to genuinely like each other but now appeared as if they hated each other and even their parents. The building resentment between the children is now causing stress in Pat & Kelly’s relationship. Was there something the couple could have done in preparation for their marriage? Could they have done anything differently with regards to preparing their children for the transition into a blended family?
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