Remarriage has its share of challenges, especially if there are children involved. The first is how to make a relationship work and keep it working. Marriage is complicated enough, but blending families from previous marriages adds an unbelievable amount of complexity. The key to making it work and staying together is to make sure your relationship with your new spouse is rock solid. But how do you do that?
You both want this marriage to last a lifetime, but experience has shown you how fragile marriage can be. The love you feel for each other makes it easier to blend in the new parental roles that will need to come into play now that you’re officially a family. But for most people, once the honeymoon phase is over and the kids become part of daily life, it can get quite overwhelming. Figuring out how to make a relationship work in the midst of family issues is no easy task. But prioritizing and maintaining a healthy relationship with your new spouse is key.
The Challenges of a Blended Family
Bringing two families together is always going to be a challenge. There’s a lot of history, family traditions, paradigms and expectations that will differ for both sides. A first marriage has lots of blind spots. If that’s the case, then remarrying with children from one or both sides can be like sailing through a hurricane — stressful and unpredictable. The better you get at navigating that storm earlier on, the easier it’ll be to remain a strong, loving family.
Most newlyweds are starting from scratch. But in your case, things are different, more dynamic. Rather than starting with a blank page, your story already has multiple characters involved. The children, the relatives, the ex and the new love of your life. Depending on your perception, this could be an opportunity to create something epic or a constant battlefield. And it can be challenging to figure out how to make a relationship work amid these challenges.
How to Make a Relationship Work in 8 Easy Steps
Long before the “moving in” takes place you ought to start preparing for the new changes. Change is inevitable. Planning ahead ensures you have the right structures in place to support each other — not just with the new love of your life, but with the children as well. You need to know how to make a relationship work with multiple people now, and that requires thinking ahead.
Whether you’re both coming into this marriage with offspring or just one of you, it’s vital the children feel involved as much as possible. They must feel valued and loved. You must give them ample time to get used to the idea and work through the necessary emotions. Having a plan can help.
Create a shared list of core values with your spouse
As your families merge into one, be sure to establish a plan and support structure that supports everyone. Create a list of shared values that address things such as your priorities in life, discipline, ground rules and so on. This will enable you to form agreements that align with both of you. And it will help you build a strong foundation as a couple as well as parents.
Expectations and agreements
Sure, you won’t be able to plan for every specific situation, obstacle, or hurdle. But it’s at least worth taking the time even before moving in together to set the right expectations and form agreements.
Set clear ground rules that align with your core values as a couple. Establish them for the entire family unit. The two of you must agree on how you will prioritize each other. And you must also decide on how to deal with conflict about or between the children as well as their biological parents.
Give it time
If you’re wondering how to make a relationship work with every member of the family, the truth is, it’s not always possible. At least not right away. Just because you and your spouse are madly in love and can’t wait to wake up every morning next to each other doesn’t mean everyone else is game. In fact, this could be a tough truth to swallow, but it must be said. You won’t be able to forge a bond with everyone in the family overnight.
Whether or not you’re coming into the marriage with children, these are two separate families trying to merge into a single unit. It takes time, patience and effort on your part.
A study conducted by the Pew Research Center shows how dramatically the landscape of marriage is shifting. According to recent findings, 40 percent of new marriages in America include at least one person who was previously married. In 20 percent of new marriages, both spouses have been in a marriage at least once. Knowing that remarriage is on the rise, trust that you have what it takes to make your relationship work.
Deliberately foster unity
The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry says it can take up to two years for blended families to meld. But you can start and empower this natural evolution of promoting oneness by developing your own ways of dealing with problems. Your spouse’s former family did it one way. Your former family did things differently. Now figure out ways for your new, blended family to do these same things that are unique to you.
Find ways to alleviate pain, quarrels, and stress around the house. As best you can, practice patience and find small ways of rewarding the behavior of oneness and unity among the children. Be more proactive in your role as co-parent and partner. And be sure to apply the following suggestions to ensure your marriage continues to thrive.
Communication is key
If you want to know how to make a relationship work, communication is often the answer. Communication problems for newlyweds and blended families are one of the most prevalent issues. The thing you want to prioritize is effectively communicating with your spouse. Don’t make assumptions.
Without proper communication, molehills will quickly escalate into huge mountains. If you want your marriage and family to thrive and stay strong, practice effective communication.
Practice “Wabi-Sabi” love
Arielle Ford authored a book called Wabi-Sabi Love: Finding Perfect Love in Imperfect Relationships. In the book, she explains an ancient Japanese art form that finds beauty and perfection in imperfection. This can be a valuable perception to hold especially as you transition from the honeymoon phase into daily marriage life.
Your new dynamic family will have its fair share of bumps and obstacles. Some days it will feel like a neverending storm. All relationships do. But when you learn to practice loving the imperfections in yourself and your partner, a strong, lasting marriage is the inevitable result.
Begin your own inner work
The more you “know thyself” as the ancients have taught us, the more joyful any relationship will become. Your new partner and family need you to be a strong source of support, encouragement and a grounding figure. Your prior experience and gathered wisdom would help you handle relationships, conflicts, and disagreements better. But if making this relationship work matters to you, it’s time to take it a step further and do what most people avoid: Work on yourself.
Mastering your emotions, shifting habits that aren’t serving you anymore and increasing your awareness will expand and elevate you. It will make you attractive to your spouse and develop a heightened level of empathy for your new family. The more you develop and master your inner world, the richer your outer relationships become.
Practice self-love daily
Many of the issues you’ll have will only be symptomatic. The real cause will often be something hidden deep within you. Self-compassion and self-care are usually tossed out the window as responsibilities increase. But I want to encourage you to do the opposite.
By practicing self-care and showing yourself love daily, you learn to extend love toward yourself. And you cultivate feelings of self-worth, resilience, strength, and compassion. It’s not about being selfish. Contrary to popular belief, making your emotional and spiritual nourishment a priority deepens your ability to care for others and broadens your capacity to love. And nothing is more crucial to making your relationship work than maintaining true love in your marriages
Deepak Chopra, a world-renowned spiritual teacher, is a huge advocate of prioritizing self-care and self-love. According to him, it’s about taking time to rekindle the relationship with the true self. And learning how to play different roles without diving yourself within. In a Forbes interview, he said, “improving your sense of self-worth or managing anger, or learning how to feel gratitude requires a shift in how you relate to yourself.”
There are many ways to practice self-love daily, and some of them can just take a few minutes. Be sure to create and customize your own self-care routine and stick to it. Being at your best will make you a better partner, lover, parent and step-parent so don’t skip over this.
How to Make a Relationship Work… Again
Getting another chance at true love is a dream come true. Where a blended family is involved, making your true love last requires effort, patience and a strong foundation in your marriage. While it is tough to find the right balance and make your new families become one, the rewards far outweigh the obstacles.
Make sure you set clear expectations and help the children feel involved and valued during the transition. Always prioritize your relationship with your partner and find “quality time” to keep the love fires burning. Carry the same vision and support each other especially when things get tough. Implement the tips above, and you’ll be able to maintain a strong and healthy marriage as you raise your special family.
Now we’d love to hear from you. Do you have any tips on how to make a relationship work?