After separation, people are entitled to and do move forward with their life. In my view, there is a difference between ‘moving forward’ and ‘getting on with it’ or ‘getting over it’ (being the separation). In this blog, I will comment on my own experience and a friend’s experience in managing the ups and downs of a blended family.
“It’s not for the faint hearted” said one friend. When asked about internet dating, she said, “it’s a numbers game”. Another friend said when asked if he would like to comment on his experience of a blended family, “Geez that could be biased”.
There is no timeframe for moving forward. For some people, new relationships can occur relatively quickly and for others, it may take years and there is no rhyme nor reason for that. There are also others that do not re-partner and that’s okay too. In this era of internet dating, new partners are found via dating apps. Gone are the days, it seems, that we meet someone new at a bar – what was known as the ‘old fashioned way’. Irrespective of how new relationships are formed, one of the important elements of a new relationship is how it is introduced to our children. When is a new partner introduced? As the relationship develops, when is the right time to ‘blend’ the families?
When asked these questions by my clients, the answer is invariably the same every time, ‘it depends on the nature of your relationship, the age of your children, their needs and readiness to cope with another change’. Certainly, a week or month after separation may not be deemed child focussed. Each family is different.
When the families come together as one, how can we make it work for the adults and the children?
There was a period of 3 years from the date my new relationship started to when we blended our households. Our two families ‘hung out’, holidayed together, and had sleep overs. It allowed the relationship between the children to develop and importantly, the relationship between the new adult and other children to develop. A significant issue for us was to ensure that there was quality time between each of us as parents and our respective children. When the time came for the two households to come together, the relationship between the 5 of us was strong enough for the blended family to succeed. Our home was one of love.
When I spoke to a friend about his experience as a blended family and why it didn’t work, he said “there wasn’t enough effort put into the planning and execution of it”. They came together as one after 12 months of dating. When I asked what he would change, he said, “more open communication between all parties, the adults and the children”. They had a blended family of three, 2 girls and a boy in their teenage years. Two of the children had polar opposite personalities and the other child “gets on with everyone”. The difficulties were personality based between the children and a child and one adult. My friend said if he had his time again, he would engage in relationship counselling prior to moving in. I recall he said to me, “once the horse has bolted, it’s hard to put it back in the stable”.
Another friend had difficulties with the ex-wife. This is a common issue and one where there is no right or wrong answer on how to manage it. Sometimes the circumstances of a separation has a lot to do with ‘ex’s’ getting on. The manipulation of a parent over a child can also lead to the unhappiness of a blended family. An adult can be hurt and can struggle to manage the ex’s new relationship, but to taint a child’s view and prevent them from having the love a blended family can give, is in my view, selfish.
A child can never have too many people in their life who love them.