If you’re wondering when to leave a blended family, you’re not alone.
A lot of people get into blended families understanding they’re likely to face more hurdles.
The problem is: this can lead them to stay in relationships that are doomed for far too long.
That’s why I’m excited to publish this guide on navigating the potential struggles of being in a blended family.
Let’s dive right into it.
1. What Is A Blended Family?
This is a family containing two or more children, where at least one is the biological or adopted child of both adults, while another is the biological or adopted child of just one adult. By definition, this family must all live under the same roof.
Some definitions of a blended family suggest the couple have to be married, in which case at least one child would have a step-parent.
I’ll refer to the ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ in a blended family throughout the rest of this guide.
However, the advice for couples remains the same, whether or not marriage is involved.
2. What Percentage Of Blended Families End In Divorce?
There are plenty of different studies regarding the divorce rate in various parts of the world. Most of them indicate that those in a second marriage are far more likely to split. What’s more, the likelihood of divorcing is even higher when step-children are involved.
A recent study based on the U.S census bureau suggested that up to 73% of spouses with children from previous marriages end up divorcing.
3. Why Are Blended Families So Hard?
Marriage is tough as it is. The divorce rate for first marriages is believed to be between 40-50%, depending on the source. So, it’s not a walk in the park for a husband and wife with no children – and that’s just two people who need to get along.
With a blended family, there are so many extra opportunities for conflict.
- The couple need to agree on the best way to raise this new family unit;
- The children need to get along with their new step-parent;
- The children may also need to get along with their step-siblings or half-siblings;
- The exes of both partners are likely to still be involved, especially if they’re a biological parent to one of the children.
Conflict in any of these areas can add additional stress to a marriage, and this can make it far more difficult for a couple to stick together.
4. Why Blended Families Fail
When you understand the main reasons why blended families fail, you can avoid these common mistakes that lead to their demise.
So, let’s take a look at some of the biggest challenges that a blended family may face.
Who Comes First In A Blended Family?
There are no hard and fast rules for who comes first in a blended family.
This can lead to false expectations among all family members, creating frustration and conflict for everyone involved.
Blended Family Problems Jealousy
If a parent puts their spouse first, it could make a child jealous or resentful. If a parent puts their child first, the spouse could become upset.
If one child believes another is getting more attention from the adults, this could also cause jealousy and conflict.
There’s also the potential for jealousy when the other parent/ex-spouse gets involved too.
Wherever the jealousy is coming from, this could put a lot of strain on the family unit as a whole.
What Is The Step-Parent’s Role?
A couple in a blended family may often disagree on how much authority they should have over children who are not theirs.
Should the step-parent be able to discipline a child? Should they be able to make any rules at all? Should the step-parent be able to forego all responsibility for the upbringing of a step-son or step-daughter? This is a huge source of conflict among men and women in a blended family.
Even if a system of responsibility is agreed upon, there’s no guarantee the children will accept discipline or authority from anyone who isn’t their biological parent.
Relationship With The Ex
Studies suggest that a child’s mental health can be damaged by a divorce – and any subsequent remarriage that a biological parent goes through.
However, many psychologists suggest this is due to their added exposure to conflict.
Conflict between a child’s biological parents is always going to hurt them – and it’s almost inevitable once they become part of a new blended family.
The other parent might not be living with their children any more, but they’re still likely to want a say about how they’re raised.
By the same token, the members of the blended family might have something to say about what this parent does when he sees his kids.
There aren’t many amicable divorces. A toxic relationship with an ex-spouse tends to be inevitable. And it’s even more likely when you’re disagreeing on custody schedules or how your kids should be raised.
If a new spouse wants to have their say, it can get even more fiery. If the children are exposed to this, it’s going to hurt their feelings and probably impact their behavior.
5. How To Fix A Broken Blended Family
Whether you’re stuck in a conflict-fuelled blended family or you’re just getting started in a new relationship and want to avoid these difficult problems, these tips should help you transform a blended family into a big happy family.
Acknowledge The Challenge
Now you’re aware of the biggest hurdles that adults face in a blended family, you have no excuse not to make a game-plan with your partner.
Once you’ve agreed on the rules, do your best to get your kids onboard with them. Call a family meeting and talk about how your new family life is going to work.
Leave The Parenting To The Biological Parents
Most experts on parenting suggest that it’s no good for a new stepparent trying to fill the role of a biological parent.
More often that not, this just leads to;
- non-compliance and resentment from the children;
- anger and frustration from the biological parents;
- unncessary stress for the step-parent themselves;
So, no-one wins in the long-term.
It’s believed to be far more effective if the step-parent plays the role of an ally, firstly to their partner and then to their step-child.
If you’re a step-parent, it’s highly recommended for you to get on-board with your partner’s style of parenting.
Your job isn’t to change the rules their kids are used to, nor to enforce consequences for their bad behavior. It’s your role to support your partner with their parenting.
Of course, you can be someone your step-children can go to for support, but you shouldn’t take their side against your partner.
It’s also a great idea not to get into any parenting-based conflict with the ex-spouse of your partner either.
Don’t Argue In Front Of The Kids
If you do enter a discussion about how the kids should be treated, have it in private.
Do not have these discussions in front of the kids themselves. Family conflict is awful for a child’s psychological health.
Also, kids will do what they can to get their way. If they sense they can get what they want from a parental unit by ‘divide and conquer’ tactics, they will try it.
It’s better to always come across as a united team who are on the same page, even if you are struggling to agree on certain points behind the scenes.
Step-Parents Need To Build A Relationship With Step-Children
This shouldn’t be forced, but it will help to solve a lot of potential drama if a new stepparent can bond with their step-kids.
Perhaps they can find something unique to do together during one-on-one time. An activity they don’t do with anyone else.
Blended Family Counseling
If you’re struggling to adopt the tips listed above, it could pay to invest in support from a relationship counsellor. There are plenty out there with a specialized focus in the dynamics of a blended family.
These professionals will have gained plenty of experience helping out remarried couples with challenges like co-parenting, dealing with ex-partners, communication breakdowns with step-children and other related issues.
As such, these are probably the best counsellors to seek help from.
6. Why Blended Families Succeed
A blended family isn’t all doom and gloom for those involved. There are actually several benefits for the couple and the children.
If you can understand and try to focus on these, you’ve surely got an improved chance of making things work.
Here are some pros:
- A child is likely to get more attention compared to what they’d get in a single-parent household.
- A blended family will have more income than a single-parent household, meaning less stress for the biological parent and hopefully a better quality of life for the kids.
- The children get new half-siblings or step-siblings to play with.
- The children will learn how to adapt to new circumstances.
- The children will be exposed to a couple that is in love. That’s so much better than being exposed to two biological parents who hate each other.
- Two happily married parents mean happier children, even if their parents had to marry other people.
Those final two points are likely to be the most crucial. Remember, it’s family conflict that creates a lousy upbringing for children.
If you can follow the suggested steps to eliminating conflict, you’re in with a great chance of creating a healthy relationship and a successful blended family.
7. When To Leave A Blended Family
There are plenty of questions you should ask yourself before you get into relationships with a single parent.
- Are you prepared to be a significant part of their children’s life?
- Are you prepared to be part of a family where you have no authority to co-parent?
- Are you prepared to be in a relationship where your partner’s ex will always be a part of their life?
- If you have kids too, are you prepared for the sibling-related issues that might arise?
When you know what to expect from a blended family and make peace with those expectations, you’ll be less likely to wonder when to leave it.
However, there are certain scenarios where it would usually appear to be best for you to leave a blended family.
You And Your Partner Won’t Compromise
It’s crucial for you two to sit down and agree upon the rules of raising this blended family. If you can’t agree on key family issues (even with the assistance of a relationship counsellor), it’s usually best to call it a day.
Your Child Is Struggling
Most single parents will agree they should put their children’s needs ahead of their own romantic desires.
That’s not to say you should immediately bail on a blended family your child is struggling to adapt into. After all, you’re the adult with the ability to help your child adapt to new surroundings over time.
Also, parents will often need to put their own needs first to ensure their child gets a good upbringing. Even if your child seems unhappy in a blended family, you might expect it would be even worse if you were a single parent. If your own mental health takes a hit, it’s going to be harder to raise your child, especially on your own.
However, there are some scenarios where you may have to end a relationship for the sake of your child. For example, if you deem their relationships with your partner or even their step-siblings have been damaged beyond repair.
It’s Been More Than Two Years And High Conflict Remains
Most stress comes within the first two years of an extended family’s existence. That’s when everything is still new and different. That’s when the fallout of a divorce is still fresh. That’s when children are most likely to struggle to adapt.
If you can make it through the awkward first two years, things could become less stressful moving forwards.
However, if you weren’t prepared for this new family environment to begin with, there could be no saving it.
Toxic Blended Family
If your partner is being violent, emotionally abusive or adulterous, this can be turned around, especially with the help of a counsellor. However, for many people, these are solid reasons to escape a blended family and never look back.
8. How Do You Break Up A Blended Family?
If you do decide to break up a blended family, you should treat the situation with as much sensitivity as any other divorce.
The kids need to be let down gently and ensured that the break-up wasn’t their fault.
In such circumstances, a divorce coach could help you end the relationship as smoothly as possible.
9. Blended Family Facts
These statistics will help you know what to expect if you get into a blended family.
- Around 1,300 new blended families are formed every day. That’s a lot of children from previous relationships having to re-adapt to a new family.
- The nuclear family is slowly disappearing, in the United States at least. There are now more blended families in the U.S than traditional nuclear families.
- One in three Americans are blended family members; either as a spouse, stepparent or stepchild.
- Around half of American children will witness their parents split up, and half of these will witness a parent get divorced again.
- One in four children with divorced parents develop severe social or emotional problems, compared to just 10% of kids from a nuclear family.
- Americans are 14% less likely to divorce if their parents remained married.
Any More Questions About Blended Families?
Thanks for reading my guide on dealing with the struggles of a blended family. I hope it met your expectations.
If you’d like to make a point or share your perspective on introducing a new spouse to your kids, co-parenting or anything else on this topic, the good news is: you can do so in the comments below.
No matter what your personal circumstances are, it will be great to hear from you.