Marriage issues and stress in blended families
People tell me that the first two years of marriage in a blended family are the most difficult as you adjust to each other and learn how to communicate as a married couple. As if on cue, our wedding was the beginning of a new world for us. When my husband and I married, we were still in our honeymoon phase and things were just a little bit lighter. After the wedding, new marriage issues began to arise…
First, the kid’s behaviors changed with the finality of it all and the fear that they were being replaced by another person for their dad’s attention. My oldest stepdaughter struggled the most and our relationship continues to have its ups and downs.
Around this time, my relationship with the kids’ birth mother became sour as we did not see eye-to-eye and, in my opinion, she had crossed many boundaries. My husband was amazingly supportive and stood up for me during this time, but it left me struggling with anger, dislike, and annoyance at any time I had to be near her.
I could go on and on with life’s stressors. Anyone who is a living, breathing human being has them!
Stress is not great on marriage. For us, it led to communication breakdowns, anxieties, exhaustion, resentments…so many things building up. My husband and I decided to we needed to leverage our love and commitment for each other to build up our foundation before it crumbled beneath us. Since we made the decision to meaningfully work on our issues, our relationship has improved and we understand each other better. We learned and continue to work on how to come back to each other, even when things get hard.
The things we did that you can do to strengthen your marriage:
Read books together on the topics you’re dealing with.
Chris and I purchased a couple of books that really benefited us and led to great discussions. One of them that I really liked for us was, Stepcoupling by Susan Wisdom. I liked it because it covered so many topics that stepparents are ashamed of or afraid to bring up to their spouses, such as not feeling immediate love for your stepkids. Each chapter had different case studies followed by great questions to ask each other after. Here is a link if you would like to try out this book with your spouse.
Counseling is a must, must do if you have communication issues. It helps to have a mediator who is experienced at guiding couples in how to have proper discussions with each other. A good counselor will help you navigate conflicts healthily and give you the tools to do it on your own eventually. You want to find one that does not take sides and is there to serve the marriage, not the individuals. A good way to find expert therapists is by referrals from other couples who have had successful experiences, looking at reviews and bios of counselors, and just shopping around. If you and your spouse go to see a counselor and do not feel like it is a good fit, find another. Health insurance usually covers a significant chunk of counseling sessions and you can also find some really great self-pay counselors.
There really is an app for everything! In a time where everyone is married to their phones as well as their spouses, this is a perfect way to work on your marriage digitally. An app I use is called Lasting: Marriage Health App for Couples by The Knot Inc. It offers a series of courses that you can either read or listen to. They are broken up into sessions that you can access at your convenience. It also has a reminder section, reminding you to keep on top of several marriage-healthy focus areas and habits. Hey! I just got my reminder to send a text message to my spouse that will make my partner smile.
Give each other space.
If things ever get too heated, or a topic snowballs, we just go to separate rooms, go see a movie, or drive around a little bit. Sometimes, especially as a woman, we want to fix things NOW. We want to connect and talk about things until they are resolved. This is not the best thing to do until both of you are in the right mindset to do that. After each of you has had time to process and calm down, then you can either drop the subject or talk about it with a clearer head. So, don’t be afraid of space…embrace it.
Listen to understand your partner before speaking.
This is actually a tool our counselor taught us. A lot of times couples go about conflicts completely wrong. They try to first fix an issue and then connect with each other. The problem with this is that they never get past the trying to fix the issue part!
What is best is to reverse that scenario and connect first. Listen to understand each other first before speaking by letting your partner know you validate and understand their feelings. Once your partner has nothing else to say, then you can dive in with your thoughts and feelings.
The idea behind this method is that when both parties feel heard, then sometimes the issue dissolves or is no longer important. If it is still important after that, the both of you are more likely to come up with a compromise or solution in a healthy manner.
Duh, go on dates! Just because you are married does not mean you suddenly give up and stop the romance. Make it a priority to have one date night a week on the days you have your stepkids, and try to make the most of reconnecting on the days without them. This will help fortify your connection with each other and replenish your love bank. My hubby and I like to go to the movies, our favorite restaurants, and anything that involves live music such as concerts or festivals.
Just recently, a friend told us about a website called TheDatingDivas.com, which has some really cool date ideas and date night kits to purchase. Chris and I just bought a year of Sports-Themed Dates from the site. We will let you know how it goes! We purchased a date night kit from Amazon that we have already tried and love called Wine and Paint Night at Home. While we have been to a few wine and painting classes, we decided to DIY it at home! We bought a bottle of wine, made some pretty cool paintings together, and then we were in the mood to make something else pretty fun later on!
Have patience…lots and lots of patience
It takes time to form new habits and change learned reactions and behaviors. Be patient with each other on your journey to better your marriage and communication. I guarantee the both of you will mess up a lot! The only thing that matters is that you and your spouse put in the effort and your marriage first.