Secrets to Staying Married in a Blended Family

Four years ago on September 23, I married a divorced man with kids.

We dated for three years before a proposal, which at the time seemed to take forever.

Now I see it was truly perfect timing.

We really got to know each other, not just my husband and I, but the kids, too. I had a good idea what I was getting into becoming a full-time step mom. And it took time for Mr. Right to eat these words from when we first started dating: “Just so you know, I’m never getting married again.”

Someone obviously had other plans.

If you’re imagining roses and butterflies sprouting, let me bring you back to reality. The statistics for blended families aren’t great – 60% of second marriages end in divorce.

That’s even more disheartening than the 40 to 50% statistic that first time married people face. I can see how it happens, too. Kids are involved, an ex is involved – suddenly the fairytale of you and me forever gets a lot more characters.

Looking back on the past four years, I see a truly healthy marriage, and I think others do, too. My mother-in-law said something that sticks with me: “Marriage isn’t that hard. You just have to like each other.”

That makes all the difference, right? When you like your spouse, it’s always fun to spend time together and make the other person and priority.

I’ll go on the record and say I don’t just love Mr. Right – I like him, too.

This month’s column is a tribute to the marriage we’ve created. We make a blended family work pretty smooth – and I think our ideas could inspire some love and romance for you, too.

Here’s some secrets on how to make being married in a blended family stick – while liking each other at the same time.

Get marriage help in good times. Not just the bad. We’ve been through the Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage DVDs and a marriage retreat through thinkmarriage.org, a local non-profit agency. Both of these did wonders for our marriage. They weren’t exactly Mr. Right’s idea, but I know he’d agree they helped us. Our marriage grew stronger and we learned strategies to avoid making mountains out of molehills. You can even sign up for counseling with Corey from the comforts of home. Keep learning and getting advice. We never know it all.

Make sex a priority. Being best friends is great, but this is more than friendship. How you make sex a priority is up to you – your relationship has it’s own intricacies. I can only promise you that when it’s truly a priority – like paying the mortgage or spending time with your kids – you’ll be less stressed, happier overall and your marriage will be stronger.

Write your own rules. Here are some rules we really try to keep. Write down your own and put them in a place you’ll be reminded, like the inside of your medicine cabinet or the back of the bedroom door.

  • Daily: Spend time alone to embrace and talk.
  • Weekly: Go on a date.
  • Monthly: Go on a mini vacation. Spend the whole day together, travel to a nearby city for one night.
  • Yearly: Go on an extended trip alone.

Don’t get too negatively wrapped up with the ex. Since we don’t always see eye to eye, I try to avoid dealing with the ex and her personal views. She’s her own parent and I can’t change that. When the kids compare us, I just remind them in a nice way that I’m going to stick with my own ideas on how a to be a good step mom.

Accept the role. In our blended family, I’m a step mom, which is different than a birth mom. Even though not everyday is a good day and not every obstacle is handled perfectly – I love the kids and my role.

Realize: to the kids, I’m the competition. I’m just one more person trying to get their Daddy’s attention. Now that I’m aware of that, I don’t always try to be included in bonding time. Sometimes I let them walk off together, just a Dad and his son or daughter. I know my turn will come, too.

Keep it nice and simple. Give each other compliments, touch a shoulder, hug, kiss, smile and wink from across the room. Steal little moments throughout the day to flirt with each other. Like this:

Mr. Right – I love you with all my heart.

Happy Anniversary.

(photo by millzero)

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