Once Upon a Time...We Had No Clue What We Were Getting Ourselves Into
When our stepfamily came together in 2004, we didn’t believe that we were any different than any other biological family regardless of the fact that our children were not biological siblings. Our kids were the same age, they even looked alike, and instantly bonded. We appeared to be a "normal" nuclear family on the outside and we can't count the number of times we were asked if our two youngest kids were twins.
We thought we would come together and merge our two little families so well that you’d never see the seam. All it would take was hard work, love, and discipline and we had all of that, no problem! We posted pictures of lots of smiling faces on vacations and at home. According to our social media we were the perfect, happy little family, all the while cracks in our marriage and family unit were beginning to widen and deepen from the unexpected challenges of trying to blend our families.
Common Challenges That Stepfamilies Face That Almost Crushed Us
Countless child custody modifications
Child support recalculations
Long distance relocations
Misalignment of parenting styles
SEVERE relationship strain and the blame game
We weren’t prepared for any of this and had no idea how challenging it would be to make our new family unit thrive, if we could even survive it first. After almost 15 years of marriage and having already "launched" our three oldest stepchildren, we seriously considered throwing in the towel, calling it quits, and having to accept yet another failed marriage. It was a heart wrenching time in our lives to say the least.
The Turning Point in Our Story
We came to a fork in the road and had to decide which direction to take. Some days walking away seemed like the easiest option but we finally decided, after many tears, arguments, and sleepless nights, to stand and face our challenges head on and commit to making our family dynamics and our relationship better. We knew that the best way to save our family, our marriage, and ourselves as individuals was not to run from the hardships before us but to refuse to surrender.
The first thing we needed to do to accomplish this was to heal ourselves individually. We had experienced extreme highs and utterly depressing lows while trying to blend our families over the past 15 years. We had suffered much emotionally and our relationship had been pushed to nearly the breaking point more than once. We were ‘broken’ and needed to find our way back to wholeness as individuals first so that we could come back together stronger and offer each other more loving support in all areas of our lives.
Getting Educated and Implementing Change in Our Lives
We started on the road to our healing by first getting healthy, both physically and emotionally, and made the necessary changes that were required to feel happier, more energetic, and hopeful. We became students of the blended family. We read countless books, attended seminars, and joined the discussions on stepfamily dynamics. We were determined to find answers and apply new techniques to bring harmony to our relationship and our family.
We were both committed to learning all that we could about stepfamilies and the small spark that we ignited in the process was enough to carry us through our darkest hours.
What We Learned and How It Saved Us
We learned that the #1 rule in stepfamily living is to set realistic expectations. It was so easy to swirl around in the negative emotions of not feeling understood, or having your intentions misread. Clear communication and was key to overcoming those feelings of disappointment and feeling misunderstood.
We also learned that each of us determines and contributes to the quality of the relationship. The paradox of marriage is this: “The need that offers the greatest potential for joy is also the need that offers the greatest potential for pain, the need to share our life with someone.” We had made the choice to share our lives with each other and we almost let that go. We learned that we cannot control or change another person so we had to find the courage to change ourselves and to accept whatever we could not change in each other.
We learned that whether we were related by blood or not, we were bound by love. There was no limit to the amount of love that we could give and receive from one another and we learned that the family you choose to create is precious, regardless of its makeup. We were broken but we were also blessed. We were making our way through the muddy, uphill climb and slowly we were overcoming the challenges that almost destroyed our family.
We’re now in a really great place and we’re extremely grateful we did not give up and throw in the towel. We’ve come through the storm stronger and wiser and happier. Because of all we went through and what we learned, we started a company called Stepfamily Network.