All families struggle at times to be happy, but blended families often have bigger obstacles to face than others. For instance, the quality of the relationship between the stepparent and the stepchildren has a big impact on the level of happiness in a blended family. Loyalty issues with the biological children and knowing how to discipline also add major complications.
To meet these challenges well, a husband and wife must make their relationship to each other the top priority ( Genesis 2:24 ). All efforts toward a happy home are useless if you don't consider your spouse's feelings and make decisions together. A spouse whose feelings are ignored will begin to feel neglected, insecure, and unloved, which creates unhappiness. It's important for spouses to discuss everything and make decisions only after they have come to an agreement.
It takes a lot of time to build loving relationships in a blended family. Emotional bonds don't happen overnight, and it's unrealistic to think that a stepparent and a stepchild will automatically hit it off. Sometimes that happens, but more often than not, it takes years to develop a more normal parent-child attachment. Be patient when it comes to developing close relationships with your stepchildren ( Proverbs 19:11; Colossians 3:12 ). Also be realistic enough to recognize that sometimes the kind of affection you long for never develops. Nevertheless, stepparents need to respect and accept their spouse's children, not seek to force an immediate close relationship. That respect and acceptance often turns out to be the foundation of the relationship you desire.
As your husband or wife gets to know your children, they will begin to see things in them that you may have overlooked. Be open to your spouse's judgment about your children. You may feel threatened to hear something negative about them, but listening to your spouse shows respect. Valuing these insights indicates that you respect your spouse's important role in the family. Honoring his or her opinion may even help solve some of the discipline or relationship problems you may have with your children. It's natural to feel protective; but those protective feelings could lead you to reject valuable observations, which can in turn lead to heated disagreements over the children ( 2 Timothy 2:22-26 ). When that protective instinct is turned on, admit it to your spouse and talk about it. If you are open about your feelings, you can develop deeper trust and intimacy with your spouse ( 1 Corinthians 13:6; Ephesians 4:15; James 5:16 ). Remember that it's not you against your spouse; it's you and your spouse, together, trying to find the best way to raise the children that God has given you (Proverbs 1:8).
Both the natural parent and stepparent are responsible for the guidance of the children ( Proverbs 13:24; 23:13; Ephesians 6:1,4 ). If you love your children (or stepchildren) you will lead and train them. Neglecting to help prepare them for life is a failure to love. Biological parents, in their own way, need to make it known to their kids that the stepparent has equal authority so that there is a strong united front. It's vitally important for the kids to know that there is agreement between you, and that each of you has the same authority over them.
Blended families have just as much hope for happiness through good relationships as traditional families. They need to recognize that their unique situation has unique challenges, and that those challenges are best met when they have built a strong, God-honoring marriage.
by Allison Stevens