Are You Struggling To Navigate Your Relationship With Your Step Family?

  • Do you and your spouse feel like you’re not on the same page about how to integrate your families?
  • Are you having a tough time connecting with your spouse’s children and getting them to like you?
  • Have your own children been struggling to adjust to this new chapter of your lives together?

As much as you and your new partner love each other, the process of blending your families may have brought about a number of unforeseen challenges. Maybe you feel left out of decisions that your spouse is making in regard to their children or their ex. Perhaps you feel frustrated about having to parent their kids in addition to your own. Or maybe you’ve been trying hard to “win over” your spouse’s children, but they seem cold or ambivalent toward you.

Deep down, you probably wish there was someone you could talk to who understood what it’s like to navigate living with blended families. 

Your Life May Feel Like A Constant Barrage Of “He Said, She Said” Dynamics

Perhaps your spouse spends a lot of time talking to their ex, and it’s starting to drive you crazy. Or maybe you’re experiencing problems with your own ex and it’s affecting your new marriage. Sometimes, your life might seem like a never-ending barrage of “he said, she said” dynamics between spouses and ex-spouses. Your partner says one thing, their ex says another, and your ex says another. 

On top of all that, your children may be confused about whose household rules to follow. This has probably increased the tension between you, your spouses, and the two ex-spouses. 

Navigating life with a step family is messy, yet with the right help and support, it can be infinitely rewarding. As a therapist who specializes in providing blended family counseling for couples, I believe I can help you and your partner strengthen your relationship and improve communication between all family members as a result. And as someone who came from a blended family myself, I’m confident that I can relate to you on a heart-to-heart level.

couple arguing

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Very Few People Know How To Work With A Blended Family Situation

couple holding hands over table

There aren’t many professionals trained in the complexities of blended families. Most counselors who work with couples in blended family situations are doing so using a traditional family framework, which is not the same as a blended family structure. Step families are much more complicated than traditional families—you’re not only dealing with your own marriage, but also your children, your spouse’s children, your ex-spouse, and your partner’s ex-spouse. 

There are so many different expectations, values, and rules that get crossed when two families merge, so it’s no wonder so many blended families experience conflict. The national divorce rate for second marriages is 67 percent—a testament to just how tough it is to fuse two families together.*

Yet this is no reason to despair. So much of a blended family’s success comes down to accepting that things will be messy, that people will disagree, and that it will take time to integrate different ways of life into the same home. When couples are willing to work through the messiness, their chances of success are much higher. 

Most Remarried Couples Don’t Know That There Is Specialized Help Available

For many remarried couples, knowing where to turn for support isn’t easy. Oftentimes, it seems like there’s nothing to be done until the kids are 18 and the ex-spouses are out of the picture. Until then, many of them feel like they just have to “wait it out.”

What’s more, couples with blended families may feel embarrassed reaching out for help. After all, their first marriage didn’t work out—the fact that they’re having difficulty with the new one can be very anxiety-provoking.

In reality, however, therapy actually gives your new marriage a greater shot at a happy and healthy future. It’s a chance to create a strong foundation that you can build on for the rest of your lives.

Therapy Can Help Couples With Blended Families Live In Harmony

happy blended family

Many couples come to me feeling deflated by the messiness of their blended family situation. But once they learn how to manage their expectations, not take things so personally, and let go of what they can’t control, they begin to see that there is profound hope. 

I grew up in a blended family myself, so I understand the complexities of the issues firsthand. In all matters, I consider the children to be the most important factor. Even though they are not present in counseling, I believe that your marriage has the best chance of thriving when you do what’s best for your children. Together, we will work on setting appropriate boundaries and expectations for the relationships between step-parents and step-children, allowing harmony and understanding to enter your home.

What To Expect In Couples Counseling Sessions

First, I will meet with you and your partner in separate one-on-one sessions to get a feel for your individual concerns and establish rapport with each of you. Then we’ll all meet together to talk about the main issues and continue doing so for the remainder of therapy. 

In our sessions, I will help both of you learn to let go of unhelpful expectations for your family. When you’re in a blended family, you have to think differently than you would in an intact family. For example, you might find yourself going out of your way to try and get your spouse’s kids to like you, but this isn’t always the best goal. As the step parent, sometimes you have to accept that your step children will probably feel more loyal to their parents than to you. So instead of trying to shower them with love and warmth, sometimes it’s best to simply work on being cordial and respectful. 

To that end, I often focus on boundary-setting between different family members. If step parents and step children don’t feel comfortable sharing certain things with each other, that’s okay. As long as there is respect, you and your step family can live together peacefully. 

I will also give you and your partner communication skills for de-escalating conflict, reducing defensive behavior, and working through disagreements with ex-spouses. My hope is that this process can help you navigate the messiness of blended family situations and arrive at a place of deeper acceptance. Your blended family doesn’t have to be perfect, and once you accept this, I’m confident that everything else will fall into place.

You May Have Some Questions About Couples Therapy…

Do both of us need to be present for this to work?

Having both of you in sessions is pretty essential. Since there are so many nuanced and interconnected dynamics in a blended family, couples counseling is most effective when the two of you are present. But if your partner is resistant to coming, it’s always possible to pursue individual counseling to work on your side of the relationship. Over time, if your partner sees improvement and growth in you, they may be motivated to try couples therapy themselves.

How long will couples therapy take?

It all depends on the complexity of the issues. I’ve had people come in for one problem (e.g., “My partner texts with their ex too much”) and wrap up counseling in a few weeks or months. Other clients have come in for more involved issues and taken longer to complete the healing process. There is no magic timetable for therapy, since every couple is different and every blended family has its own unique dynamics.

How long will couples therapy take?

It all depends on the complexity of the issues. I’ve had people come in for one problem (e.g., “My partner texts with their ex too much”) and wrap up counseling in a few weeks or months. Other clients have come in for more involved issues and taken longer to complete the healing process. There is no magic timetable for therapy, since every couple is different and every blended family has its own unique dynamics.

Set Your New Marriage Up For Success

If you want to improve your relationship with your partner and your step family, I encourage you to pursue therapy with me. To get started, you can use the contact form, or call or text at 301-744-9299.

* https://www.forbes.com/advisor/legal/divorce/divorce-statistics/