By Cindy Martin, LAMFT, ASAT (2), EMDR
Just the sound of it conjures up images of being in the kitchen with a smoothie recipe. You put each ingredient in the blender: the banana, the berries, the apple, the yogurt, the skim milk. Then you turn the blender on, wait a few seconds and what comes out looks nothing like what went in! It doesn’t even have the same texture or taste of the original separate ingredients. It turned into something very different. It is much the same way with blended families. We are each very distinct individuals and yet when we come together by the marriage of two individuals who want to spend the rest of their lives together, the families that follow them are expected to gel, mold and generally become one as well! This is not an easy task.
Statistics tell us that more than half of all Americans living today either have been, currently are, or will be in a step or blended family one or more times in their lifetime. Remarriage rates have dropped while co-habitation rates have increased. I have observed that many single parents feel that re-marrying and putting two families under one roof is too hard and brings too many problems, therefore they just don’t do it. They get used to their own unique set of problems and don’t have the energy or desire to tackle anyone else’s. In these instances, I believe they are short changing themselves and their families.
Mary Pipher, a noted psychologist says that “while families are imperfect institutions, they are also our greatest source of meaning, connection and joy.” And although a single parent family is still very much a family, blending two families together successfully can double the meaning, connection and joy!
The complex structure of blended families cries out for quality integration of the relationships between individuals within each of the family units. It requires developing a skill set of valuing diversity and differing opinions, tolerance of various traditions, and acknowledgment of accepted boundaries.
Blended families need not achieve the “ideal” to become successful, but they must foster a sense of belonging, an “us against the world” mentality, where each member is supported, validated, valued and LOVED!
So go ahead and taste that concoction in the blender, you might find out that merging all the various ingredients together is actually more pleasing to the taste buds than it is to have just a banana, a berry, an apple or yogurt all by itself!