Marriage

The Worst Mistake A Blended Family Can Make

the worst mistake a blended family can make

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. 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 pace 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.

blended family

  • sam

    Interesting insights, very well written and thought out. Thank you for writing!

    • Alexandra T Armstrong

      Thanks, Sam!

  • Coming from someone with divorced parents, I think you are right on the money. My parents divorced when I was young, and both eventually re-married. Now my step parents treated me just like their own children, and I was made aware that the husband/wife role is important. They have to stand together in order to raise good children.

    • Alexandra T Armstrong

      Thanks for commenting, Coffee Mom! ☕️

  • Claire

    You make valid points and I see how they could work in some situations. My parents divorced before I turned one and my mother remarried when I was two and my father when I was ten. Although I never had step siblings, just step parents. My parents never said anything like this to me and I believe all four of my parents always put the children first, always even my step parents – I think if my parents said this to me I wouldn’t have taken it well. We were raised to be respectful of everyone and we expected respect from others- including step parents. Both marriages are doing just fine today. Just wanted to give a different perspective and point out every single situation is different and what works for one doesn’t work for everyone!

    • Alexandra T Armstrong

      Claire, thank you for sharing your story. I chuckled when you said you wouldn’t have taken it well. I can’t imagine the child that would! I had pre-adolescent boys who expected to be the “man” of the house when their father left. I could see trouble brewing and nipped it in the bud. 😉 You’re right, every situation is different. Appreciated your commenting.

  • This seems like good sense to me. My husband has been married previously and I have 2 stepchildren, I don’t think I personally felt the need for him to make any statement like that as they lived with their Mum and he got to see them so rarely because their Mum moved them further away that I was quite happy for them to take centre stage when they were here, things might of been different if I had had children or if they were able to stay with us more often.
    Lianne | Makes, Bakes and Decor

    • Alexandra T Armstrong

      I think your instincts are right, Lianne. It wouldn’t be necessary if a parent sees their children “rarely” because the kids aren’t around enough to put real pressure on the marriage. Your comment does highlight that blended families come with lots of variables. Thanks for your input!

  • Stephenie – Blended Life Happy Wife

    I think there are definitely some families who wouldn’t say what you said, but you have to be true to what works for your family. for my family I don’t think it would. That is what makes us all unique and individual. For my blended family it has worked differently but I can appreciate what works for your family. I recently attended a step-parenting class and they were trying to tell me how my family should be run and I too felt what they were saying wasn’t what would work for my family. I’m glad you have found what works well and that your blended family is strong for it. Thank you for sharing this post in the #allformamas link party. There is always someone out there living in similar situations looking to find what works and you have outlined it nicely to help them. I will pin this and tweet it as well.