The worst mistake a blended family can make is to put the children first. I wrote a previous blog post about why the primacy of the marital relationship must be maintained when children are born into their family of origin – typically a first marriage. The reasons included
- Parental responsibility to model a healthy husband/wife relationship to their children.
- When children realize they rank higher in importance than their father, they learn to manipulate Mom and marginalize Dad.
- When children usurp a husband’s place in the priority of importance, affections, and attention, the marital relationship loses.
The marital relationship, in a subsequent marriage including children, must be primary for the exact same reasons and then some.
Divorce is tough on kids. As someone who experienced it as a child and also witnessed my own children suffer through their parent’s divorce, I know.Don’t buy our culture’s hype that divorce is no big deal for kids because most of their friends' parents are divorced too. Click To TweetDon’t buy our culture’s hype that divorce is no big deal for kids because most of their friends’ parents are divorced too. That is stone cold comfort to a kid. But the reality is that second marriages, statistically, have a higher divorce rate than first marriages.
You don’t want them to repeat the trauma of losing people they’ve shared a home with and grown close to. But in order to prevent that, you’ll have to inoculate your kids with some very tough words if you want to beat the statistics. Nobody says inoculations don’t hurt a bit themselves.
THE TOUGHEST WORDS YOU’LL EVER SAY
My second husband and I each brought 3 children to our marriage. He had three girls, ages 5, 7, and 9. I had two boys and a girl, ages 7, 10, and 12. The week we returned from our honeymoon, I sat my kiddos on the couch and said this to them:
“Gary is my husband now. And although he is my second husband, he is not second-best. So I will give him all the love and respect you would have expected me to give your father because I am still responsible to show you what a wife should be. Know then, if you ever try to drive a wedge between us or make me choose between Gary and you – you will not be happy with the outcome. Do you understand?”
They did understand. And none of them ever played that card. They respected our marriage and, 21 years later, still respect it.
Was it hard to say those words? Absolutely! My heart was broken for them over what they’d already been through. But I was determined none of us would repeat that trauma. Giving Gary his proper place meant putting the kids in theirs. And whether they knew it at the time or not, the tough words put something solid under their feet. We saw them flourish.
We’ve seen other blended couples, who refused to say the hard things to their kids, fracture.
A CAUTIONARY TALE
One newly-married blended couple, who came to a blended couples class Gary and I led at our church, was adamant they would never say to their kids what I said to mine. The husband was, anyway. He felt guilty about the break-up of his first marriage and considered himself noble when he proclaimed loudly and proudly: “I had my kids first, they’ll come first! I promised them that. Mona knew it when she married me!” Mona, by the way, never said a word on the subject.
They made the worst mistake a blended family can make. Sadly, but not surprisingly, their marriage didn’t last a year.Truth be told, every marriage, blended or not, survives by the grace of God. But if you’re not willing or strong enough to say the hard words in a blended family that assures everyone their appropriate role, just don’t get married. Get a dog instead.