But this time, you’re not just joining your life to your partner’s, and riding into an Oakland sunset.
You’ve got kids with minds, emotions, and loyalties of their own to weigh before you say “I do.”
Statistics show that 60 percent of blended families endure divorce a second time.
Not in your house. You’re willing to do whatever it takes. (chest bump!*)
What does it take?
Preliminary counseling. It’s vital for addressing the needs of the life ahead.
Premarital counseling is wise preparation for a wealth of challenges you may or may not recognize. Consider the issues your blended family may face:
- Adjusting home base: Blending your families usually means significant change for everyone. The security of home may be disrupted as schools, neighborhoods, and proximity to loved ones shifts.
- Child push-back: Your kids may not be as happy about your union as you are.
- Putting rules and discipline into practice: Setting and enforcing family expectations amid the emotional upheaval, adjusted living arrangements, new sibling relationships, and a host of practical matters is extremely challenging.
- Navigating child/ stepparent interaction: Relationship bonding happens as trust develops over time and will be impacted by perceptions of fairness, consideration, and respect for each other.
- Setting boundaries regarding people connected to previous relationships: Limits for extended family and friends connected to past marriages or relationships will be necessary to protect your new blended unit and marriage.
- Negotiating interactions with your exes: Divorce agreements and co-parenting can present significant challenges to your marital and blended family relationships, on a regular basis.
Premarital counseling helps set the scene for healthy bonding, communication and conflict resolution in the following ways:
- Counseling provides time and space to reflect and get real about your pasts. Any “old business” and unproductive relationship patterns should be examined and settled before committing to each other.
- Counseling offers a forum to verbally lay out family matters like money, discipline, faith, and relationship boundaries. With the guidance of a counselor, you can deal with discrepancies in expectation, and discuss how ground rules will be communicated to your blended family members, extended family, and former partners or co-parents.
- Counseling allows you and your partner dedicated opportunities to focus on your relationship needs. Together you can work to strengthen and develop your bond, both inside and outside of your new blended family.
Premarital counseling provides a variety of ongoing benefits that help smooth the way for a healthy, happy future for your blended family:
- Healthy adaptation. Learning to recognize, and anticipate, the differences in your viewpoints and preferences as a couple will help you better prepare for, and manage, problems in your larger family unit.
- Productive communication habits. Counseling fosters helpful, supportive communication that helps manage emotions and conflict, while still honoring your bond — a skill that will need to be employed repeatedly, as you settle into your new normal.
- Incompatibility issues. Though it may be hard to do, it is crucial that you allow a counselor to help you examine the whole relationship, especially areas of incompatibility. Facing your relationship realities before committing to marriage is vital. Counseling can objectively help you work through hard issues, to help determine where you stand.
Premarital counseling is an investment in your life together, the wedding gift that gives for a lifetime. Let it help you make love last, and build a new set of connections that enhance and enrich the relationships you bring along with you. By securing your bond and purpose early, you’ll be less likely to fracture when your blended family is tested.