The Near Impossible Task of Blending a Family
Written By: Mark Smith
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I have NEVER worked with a family that blended their family wisely or well. They come to me after a great deal of damage has already been done. I have observed a clear lack of fear of or respect for the enormity of the task of blending families. There is a strong image of how wonderful and easy that it will be...you guessed it, The Brady Bunch. Any couple who believe that the wonder and intensity of their love will be more than powerful enough to overcome any obstacles in blending their families together are in for a shockingly rude awakening. It is HARD WORK. It takes time. It takes planning. It takes two adults who are highly motivated, open hearted, open minded, non-defensive, accountable, teachable, humble, aware, flexible and forgiving. The problem with blending a family never resides with the kids. It is always about the architects of the family structure.
Let me just name a few of the beginning necessary wise and healthy ingredients required for a successful process of smoothly blending a family...
#1 Nobody should be in a hurry!!!!!!!!!!! Rome can not be built in a day or a week or in six months. The biggest and most common mistake that couples make is that they rush the process. They are what I call 'Enmeshed' - too close too fast. They are instantly and desperately in love and they cluelessly expect for everyone around them including their children to get on board. They are stoned on love but the kids aren't.
#2 Therapy is a must!!!!!!!!! I know that I'm going nuts with the exclaimation points here, but I can't stress this enough. Would a basketball team show up for a NCAA game without a coach? The team would be lost without a unifying direction. Would a person accused of a crime show up in court without a lawyer? If they did they are going to jail! The task is way too difficult to not have a skilled coach. The old saying that if someone represents themselves in court then they have a fool for a client fits here. I know this sounds harsh but any couple seeking to blend a family while acting as their own therapists have a couple of fools for clients. You have your fair share of blind spots. You are too close to the forest to see the trees. You will need all the help that you can get.
#3 Be prepared to do some couple work! Blended family projects fail becasue of the unresolved issues of mom and dad. The fish stinks from the head down. The first task in facilitating a healthy blended family project is to have both adults deeply examine their family of origin issues, their previous marriages, their issues with their children and to gain clear insight as to why they have such a strong attraction to each other. What is that attraction rooted in? What family of origin patterns are being reinacted. What wounds are being re-opened? If you don't know the answers to those questions then you should be terrified! You should run, not walk to the nearest expert on blended family issues.
#4 Don't dictate how soon the blending work should take "But the kids need to be under one roof in four months because school will be starting". To move under one roof due to other time pressure issues would be just like moving into a home that you are building when it is only half done. That is really insane. If half the dry wall isn't up and the lights aren't wired and the flooring isn't down it will sure be difficult, uncomfortable and awkward to have all of your stuff in the way. Wait until the house is built to move in. Wait until the family is built before you try to pass yourselves off as a functioning family.
#5 It is better to hurt some now then to hurt a great deal later Knowing the truth about yourselves hurts. An ounce of prevention is truly worth a pound of cure. Unwisely blended families blow up eventually. They blow marriages up beyond repair. They are ticking time bombs. Dig in now. Examine your blind spots. Anticipate issues. Come up with a plan. Have the kids 'date' the new members of the family as in take it slow and have everyone really get to know each other. Don't have any big surprises. Be careful. Have your eyes open. What you are trying to build is too precious to destroy it with haste.
I'm just scratching the surface here folks. I'll write more on this next time. Thoughts?