After being married for 27 years, I found myself divorced. Although the relationship was complicated and full of conflict, I still struggled with a deep sense of failure, heartbreak, loneliness, and shame. My three grown children saw the situation from completely different angles. My two daughters asked, “Mom, why did you stay with dad so long?” and my son said, “Mom, thank you for staying with dad so long and keeping our family together.” I gave them all the same answer . . . I stayed so long because I took my covenant before God, our family and friends very seriously.
My divorce shook the foundations of my values. I was launched on a journey to toward a closer walk with God and a deeper theology. It took five years of stumbling and falling before I felt like I had my feet back underneath me. Then I met and married my second husband.
I have been married for three years now and like many other families, ours is a blended one. Together we have five children, four in-laws, ten grandchildren and two more grandchildren on the way—what fun! With the challenges of that many relationships, our heart capacity had to be stretched, our expectations adjusted and new traditions established.
The blending process has not been easy. And we have all struggled with the fear of being displaced, rejected, or left out. My daughters struggled to accept my ex-husband’s new wife and my son struggled to accept my new husband. My self-concept had to grow to make room for my new role as a step-mother and step-grandmother, but God put it in my heart to love and accept my husband’s family. I chose to be called “Nana Beth” to his grandkids to avoid taking the already established title of “grandma.” One day my husband’s young grandson with a confused look on his face asked me who my mother was. All I could say was, “Well, she’s another grandmother in your family.”
When I moved in with my current husband it meant so much to me when he said, “Fix up the house any way you like it.” We also wanted to make sure that all the children felt welcome when they came to visit. This meant giving equal space for family photos and baby pictures.
Although our children were grown when we remarried, I was careful to allow my husband to address any areas of conflict with his own children. I reinforced my hope for a quality relationship with each child and grandchild in the blended family. I wanted them to experience security, identity, and belonging in our newly blended family. My husband and I continue to communicate about what we can and cannot do for our children. In the same spirit, we allow our children to schedule time for us to see the grandchildren. This took some adjustment, but it is a necessary step to prevent imposition on other family systems in our busy culture.
We wait on God every day to renew our strength and restore unity in ourselves and our family.
Out of brokenness, we have found reconciliation and renewed sense of harmony for the next generation. If you are part of a blended family, I encourage you to rebuild the relational brick and mortar wherever walls have been torn down by strife and fear. One day you will see that your family values, traditions, dreams, and relationship have been firmly established.
Author: Beth Holloway, MA LPCA for Miller Counseling Services, PC
Beth Holloway, MA, LPCA is a Licensed Professional Counselor Associate and has more than 12 years’ experience in the mental health field. She has recently joined the Miller Counseling Services team and specializes in counseling individuals and couples who have experienced all types of losses including abuse, domestic strife, and trauma. She enjoys leading group therapy classes in the areas of Divorce Recovery, Spiritual Enrichment, Couples and Parent/Child Relationships, Grief Processing and Depression Recovery. Beth has had the privilege of traveling all over the United States and to more than 10 foreign countries and has been enriched by learning about people from diverse cultures and ethnic groups.