Summary: The fastest growing types of families: Blended families where two families merge together
In this series, we’ve been looking at the beginning of families recorded for us in the Book of Genesis. Today, the family structure in America is more diverse than ever before. This message is going to look at one of the fastest growing types of families: blended families. The term "blended family" is the label for the home that is putting two families together.
In a nationwide Pew Research survey, 42% of adults polled said they had at least one step-relative. Current estimates are that 40% of married couples with children in the US are blended families and approximately one-third of all weddings in America today form blended families. Blended families are not a new phenomena as many of the families in the Bible were blended families. More recently, blended families were common a century and more ago when life expectancy was lower and women often died in childbirth. Since most divorced people do tend to remarry, the blended family becomes more and more common every day. Of the one million children experiencing the divorce of their parents each year, 65% will end up in a blended family due to the remarriage of one or both biological parents. Many predict the blended family will become the predominant family structure in the United States.
Blending families is difficult but not impossible. The task of today’s message is all the more challenging because I can’t find one successful blending of families in the Bible. Abraham tried to blend Sarah and her son Isaac with Hagar and her son Ishmael whom she had with Abraham. She finally threw Hagar and Ishmael out of the house (Genesis 21). Jacob tried to blend 2 families with disastrous results (Genesis 29-38ff) his first wife Leah and her children with Leah’s sister Rachael, Jacobs second wife, and her children. Jacob’s family was eventually destroyed by jealousy, murder, rape, deceit, and favoritism. David began with first wife Michael and married as many as 28 more. His last wife was the infamous Bathsheba. Among his children we read of murder, rape, rebellion, incest, hatred, bitterness and anger (2 Samuel 8-18; 1 Kings 1-2). Solomon, one of David’s sons, wrote Proverbs which was wisdom for life which was to be passed on from one generation to another. It contain many, many impassioned pleas to have only one wife, perhaps because of his own experience! In fact at the end of his life, he advised us to “rejoice with the wife of our youth” (Proverb 5:18). Looking back, the multiple families he created were more trouble than it was worth. Having grown up in a blended family and created one of his own, experiencing all the resulting turmoil and pain, he didn't want anyone else to have to go through what he did.
The current divorce rate is over 50% of first marriages. It grows to 60% for the second marriage and 75% for the third marriage. Despite this, everyone wants "this marriage" to be their last. They want it to be healthy and strong. Marriages fail for a number of reasons and we know that despite the divorce rate, people still believe in love and marriage and most want to get remarried again. But it takes hard work and change. One man put it this way: “If I had just worked on my first marriage, I would not have gotten divorced. I'm the same guy in the second marriage that I was in the first marriage. I gave up too easily.” If a blended family fails, it usually happens in the first 2 or 3 years. Newly married couples need the most help and support immediately. Unfortunately most blended couples don’t feel the need until it is way too late.
Nevertheless, don't be discouraged. Families can be blended successfully, even though it doesn't come easily. The good news is that most remarried couples and families can beat the odds and build a successful blended family if they know how to overcome the unique barriers to marital intimacy in a blended family and if they understand a blended family’s challenges and dynamics. Those who succeed testify that the struggles were worth it!
They have extra stressors that are obstacles to a successful second marriage and blended family and many of them aren't evident until after the wedding. Many fall prey to divorce because they get blindsided by the pressures and unforeseen dynamics of stepfamily living. Stress in blended families goes up exponentially. One study found that, during the first few years after marriage, couples in blended families reported twice the level of stress than couples in first-marriages.What are the leading stressors? First is your spouse’s ex. The relationship with the ex and the continued dealings with them over finances and parenting can create stress, even if the relationship is a relatively positive one. Second is false expectations. Many couples believe that blended families are just like first-families and will come together quickly. Yet they discover that not only is their blended family very different from anything they've ever experienced before but it takes a long time for them to become a family. Many believe becoming a family will be like cooking with a microwave when in reality it’s more like cooking a roux. It takes a lot of time and effort. Just because the husband and wife love each other doesn’t mean the children will follow close behind. Third is your spouse’s child! The reality is that the step-parent cannot parent their spouse’s child. The best thing that can be developed is a good friendship. Too many blended families fail around this point. Fourth is finances because money are often shared with more than one family, your previous and your current. Fifth is that the blended family is born of loss, failure, hurt, and grief. That means people bring baggage to the family which can takes its toll. Sixth, everyone in a blended family has a previous history with ingrained living patterns and already built-in value systems. Seventh, the parent/child bond predates the married couple. A parent and children from a first marriage form a very tight system. There's little time for the new couple to bond before they are thrown into the complex role of parenting someone else’s children. Eighth, individuals often lack good conflict resolution skills. That’s a major reason why their first marriage failed and many don’t learn new skills, often blaming their former spouse for the failure. Ninth, the past affects the present. A "dead and buried past" is easily resurrected. Fears and assumptions based on previous relationships can color how partners view new relationships.