Co-Parenting as a Blended Family
Our story and journey to becoming the family we dreamed of being.
Why We Are Sharing Our Story of Co-Parenting as a Blended Family
You have probably heard possible stressful or horror stories about blended families, and fewer stories about blended families that worked. That is why we want to share what worked for the four of us in our family. Now, we’re not saying everyday everyone felt “warm and fuzzy” about each other – most of the times, we did. Though, we had our moments and worked them through.
Definition of a blended family
A married or unmarried couple living together where one or both partners have at least one child or children from a previous relationship. All the configurations of blended families have similarities as well as distinct differences.
Some of the similarities can be found in statistics
We turned to the Step Family Research Foundation for answers and their report from the 1990 US Bureau of Census. According to other articles, the Bureau of Census no longer provides statistics on marriage, divorce and remarriage so these stats are from their earlier report. We do believe this data is helpful to stimulate thinking about what blended families are facing. The link to the entire article is at the end of this article:
The US Census stated there will be more stepfamilies than original families by the year 2000. 50% of the 60 million children under the age of 13 are currently living with one biological parent and that partner’s current spouse or partner
Our family is included in that 50% of children 13 years old and younger living a part of that census report. One or more of the children live with one biological parent [Jesse] and his spouse [me]
We don’t have statistics on the success of blended families, but we can share our success in how we learned how to get along and build a loving and caring life together through the “Ups and Downs” of growing individually and as a family. Paul and Brian also have a story about their experience in our family which we would love to share in the future.
From our professional experience as licensed and certified psychotherapists and counselors we were keenly aware that couples and their families have the opportunity to navigate through specific stages of personal growth and development
Our blended family experience began with pretty much like the “Romantic Love Stage” of an adult “Love Relationship”. Our Romantic stage began when Jesse shared with his two young sons that we were going to get married. Both Paul and Brian expressed their excitement about our union and to becoming a family of four. Paul and Brian wanted us to get married. They wanted me to be their stepmother and demonstrated it in a variety of ways. We really wanted to be a family; and, at that time, the boys’ biological mother was still living in Michigan.
This stage, as a family, included a lot of good times and a lot of fun. The minister who married us also included them in sharing vows as a family. We were all looking forward to working together to build something healthy and something that was a good “win” for all of us. We are clear that all blended families that do not begin that way.
It was a time in our lives where Jesse and I had vigorously enrolled in personal, professional and spiritual growth training, classes, workshops, and certifications. So, both of us were “knee deep” in discovering how to be better people and more effective professionals in relationship building at home and work.
Then, we got married and moved in together as a family. That is when things began to change. This is because all four of us had a different vision of what living together looked and felt.
That is when the Power Struggle began and challenges surfaced. Things got tough at times; and, there was conflict and communication broke down. The three of us were looking for Jesse to take our side when things when wrong. He was in the middle more often than he wanted to be.
However, Jesse stepped up and took the lead in the family to make sure the four of us and along and to make sure each family member – including him – got what they needed to feel a sense of belonging and to make our family work. And, with his leadership and firm intention for us to keep our vows made as a family on the May 27th, working together is what we did.
That led to the Growth and Development Stage for co-creating a safe conversational environment for building a solid foundation for a strong bond and relationship, based on mutual values of expressing love, support, appreciations, and respect for each other, while having fun together.
How did we learn to live together and get along as a family that was also blended? Here’s the “secret sauce” that kept us on track.
We used what we learned from all those personal, professional and growth training to develop a family vision, purpose and vision to make sure that everybody’s individuality was honored and supported. We also had a vision, purpose, and mission.
- We co-created a safe conversational environment to talk and listen to each other with respect, as we figured out how to live together on a daily basis under one roof.
- We figured out how we were going to live together under one roof; because we know that one of the things that’s most difficult to do is living with someone under the same roof who has a different personality and needs. This difficulty may (sometimes) include a different way of looking at the world, and a different way of getting things.
- The person who had the biggest challenge was me, because I was single after my divorce and was accustomed to living by myself with my own rules, my own way of keeping the house together, my own way of having meals and making life work. So, I had to adjust to three people who were accustomed to living together and being together and functioning in a very specific kind of way. And so, again, thanks to Jesse, he figured out how we could make that work.
- We honored that we were (and still are) entirely different individuals with four different personalities, and (often times) different ways of looking at the world and situations. We also had different needs for being together and for living our lives.
- One of the essential ways of making it work was family meetings, which fulfilled the purpose of getting to know each other, to share what was going on with each other, and to ask how to support each other.
- Family meetings worked, and we continue to have them today with both Paul and Brian being adults and living their own.
Main tools that we recommend for making blended families work:
- Get to know each other by talking to each other versus at each other and listening deeply;
- Cultivate a sense of belonging in the blended family unit;
- Start family meetings to provide a formal way of talking to each other;
- Create an informal way of talking to each other (on a day to day basis); and,
- Work together toward having respect for each other, which is important (When we had disagreements, the bigger goal was to work it out respectfully and kindly. It doesn’t mean that things didn’t get heated at times, because they did. However, we figured out how to talk, using dialogue as our primary tool).
Email us for a free copy of our “Support Meeting Format” at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We would love to hear your thoughts and comments!
To your relationship success,
Jesse and Melva
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