I am passionate about the education, enlightenment and the empowerment of marriage and family life, especially the more complex and sensitive situations like step and blended marriage and families. It is very close to my heart, because it is part of my story, both past and present. It is also my calling and purpose in the career I have chosen as a marriage counselor.
I made the decision to marry my husband and his 2 sons, which were ages 6 and 8, now they are almost 18 and 20. I married this man, knowing some of the challenges we would face. I was raised by a step-father, so I wasn’t completely clueless. My experience actually gave me the courage to make this life-long choice. My step-father was a good example and husband to my mother. His example inspired me to seek out a man that would honor and cherish me in marriage.
I believe the marital relationship is critical to being able to have a healthy step or blended family. And I believe these families can thrive. This relationship anchors the whole family. Husbands must know their role and responsibilities to their family and execute this with power (not abusive power), authority, and a whole lot of love. If he is the biological father and primary parent, he has to be the one that builds the bridge between the 2 families (by the way it helps to see the ex-spouse as family). The man has the role of protector and defender. The 2 important issues that he defends are matters of money and welfare of the children. He should be handling the communication with his ex on these issues, to protect his wife of any threat or harm. For the man that is reading this, it’s as if you were going into battle or defending your home from an intruder. My role as his wife and step-mother has been more of a supporting role. We communicate about the issues and make decisions together. My purpose with his children (now our children) has been to love, influence, at times be the grief counselor, peacemaker, connector of all the relationships and cheerleader of all that they do.
My husband and I have not been perfect at our roles, but I think we have been successful overall at fulfilling our intentions. The fruit of our labor is starting to appear. Our sons are developing into young men of character and making good choices. Children really do thrive in a home where the marriage is healthy and husband and wife live out their defined roles. Our family, including the biological family members on both sides have been able to celebrate birthdays, baptisms, graduations, and other gatherings together and maintain unity. The boys know they have a lot of family between 3 families that love, value, and support them.
The roles may look a little different if mom is the biological and primary parent of the family. It can be more challenging, because she is acting more in the head role when this is the husband’s role. There are great resources to help families understand these role differences and the integration processes. Check out www.smartstepfamilies.com or find a professional counselor that specializes in step/blended families to give you the tools.