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Any couple involved in a remarriage can tell you there are definitely some complicating factors. 

Extended family is even more extended. There are typically at least three people involved in parenting decisions, if not more. Visitation with the other parent involves consulting more schedules, and co-parenting is often complicated. 

Here are some blended family facts from Pew research and others:

  • 42% of adults (102 million) have a steprelationship, and when you add the 11.6 million stepchildren in the U.S. (16% of all kids), an estimated 113.6 million Americans have stepkin.
  • 52% of married/cohabiting couples with at least one living parent (or parent-in-law) and at least one adult child have a stepkin relationship.
  • 52% of “sandwich” generation couples have at least one stepparent or stepchild. 
  • The percentage is even higher for younger households, with 62% of married/cohabiting couples under age 55 having at least one stepkin relationship in the three generations.
  • 4 in 10 new marriages involve remarriage.

In many instances, children find themselves trying to navigate two worlds, attempting to understand why they have to follow different sets of rules at each house. Sometimes parents talk badly about the other parent in front of their children. It can very quickly become confusing and complicated for the children.

“Parents have to remember and accept the fact that while they can end a marriage to someone, they will never stop being parents,” said Ron Deal, speaker and author of The Smart Stepfamily: Seven Steps to a Healthy Family.

“While you may be relieved to be out of the marriage, your children have been in a transitional crisis. How well they recover from that crisis has a lot to do with you. The key to successful co-parenting is separating the dissolution of your marriage from the parental responsibilities that remain.”

Deal says that children can successfully adjust to the ending of their parents’ marriage and can fare reasonably well if: 

  • the parents are able to bring their marital relationship to an end without excessive conflict;
  • children are not put into the middle of whatever conflicts exist; and
  • there is a commitment from parents to cooperate regarding the children’s material, physical, educational and emotional welfare.

“I do realize that many ex-spouses have great difficulty cooperating about anything, let alone the nurture and discipline of their children,” Deal said. “That does not absolve you of the responsibility to try. Your children deserve your best effort.”

Although blending two families together comes with plenty of challenges, Deal wants to give stepfamilies the keys to unlocking some of the most difficult struggles they face. 

Deal helps families answer some of their most common questions, such as:

  • Should we develop new family traditions together? 
  • Are my boundaries and influence different as a stepparent?
  • How do I make sure no one feels left out or unheard?
  • What about dealing with ex-spouses? Are there dos and don’ts?
  • Sometimes, our “blended family” feels awkward. Will it ever feel normal?
  • Our marriage often takes a backseat to figuring out the stepparent dynamic. How can we stay connected?

Your blended family can grow, learn and become stronger, no matter what season you find yourself in. Work together to develop a game plan – one that builds connection and intimacy at home while keeping your marriage strong,

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

As wonderful as the holiday season is, this time of year is particularly hard on relationships. Nobody likes to talk about it, but statistics show that more breakups, divorces, and infidelities happen around the holiday season than any other time of year. Happy holidays? Not for everyone…

Why are the holidays such a strain on relationships? You already know this – the holidays are a particularly busy and stressful time because we are…

  • Constantly on the go and rushing around to shop, attend holiday parties and performances, and get our house decorated and cleaned.
  • Often forced to be around difficult people and put in stressful situations.
  • Trying to navigate the expectations that other people put on us during this season.
  • Tired and drained- physically, emotionally and financially.

Worst of all, while all of this is happening, we aren’t getting any quality time with our partner because our hectic schedule has us occupied and pulls us in different directions.

Beware! This is definitely a unique time of year when your relationship is vulnerable.

Here are six tips to keep your relationship healthy during the holidays.

  1. Be intentional. Make your relationship a priority and protect it. If you have to, schedule time to be together and talk.
  2. You are a team. Don’t let kids, in-laws, extended family, or anyone else pit you against each other or pull you in opposite directions.
  3. Learn to say “No.” So much holiday stress comes from trying to meet other people’s expectations. You don’t have to do everything.
  4. Break traditions. Traditions are meant to bring people closer together. If a particular tradition causes arguments and stress, maybe it’s time to let that tradition go.
  5. Compare and despair. Resist the impulse to compare your holiday experiences with other people’s. Social media lets us look in on other people’s parties, decorations and presents. Don’t compare, because what you are seeing isn’t reality anyway.
  6. Communicate! Be honest about your needs and your stress levels. Have conversations about holiday spending, visits, and parties. Get on the same page before it becomes an argument.

In all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, remember what really matters – your relationship with the people you love. Happy holidays!

Image from Unsplash.com

For many, the first week on the job is full of uncertainties, adjustments and even mistakes. Joining a new sports team or a band is sure to start off with some failed expectations, missed notes or assignments, too. I’ve worked at companies where I had an awful first week. But my time there ended up being fulfilling, successful and beneficial for everyone involved. The first week of anything new can be hard!

When a couple marries, each person has their own history, experiences, traditions and culture. They also have their own way of thinking, relating and communicating. So, why in the world would it surprise anyone that the first week of marriage (usually during the honeymoon) doesn’t go as planned? I’ve heard some horrific honeymoon stories from numerous couples I’ve worked with over the years. From big arguments and no sex to major disagreements and running out of money (and beyond), these couples’ biggest fear is that their awful honeymoon is a sign that their marriage is doomed from the beginning.

Let’s understand why it’s not the case.

An awful honeymoon doesn’t mean your marriage will be awful, too.

It doesn’t matter whether we lived together, lived nearby or hundreds of miles apart. For many, the wedding day is a game-changer. The day we commit to do all that we can to make our marriage work is when life changes. Often, because of expectations. Sometimes our support circle doesn’t help because we’re in our “honeymoon phase” and they feel they should respect our privacy. The media doesn’t help because it paints an unrealistic picture that all honeymoons are perfect. Ironically, couples don’t help each other, either. Why? Because we think we know all there is to know about being marriedeven though we’ve been doing it for a grand whopping total of 2 days.

Marriage is a journey, and the ceremony is just the beginning. Two people truly functioning in step with one another takes years to get really good at it. Our habits, beliefs and ideas were perfect in our minds until our spouse told us differently. Of course, we didn’t agree with them when they told us. But before the years of learning how to “click” as a couple scare us, we need to know there’s a lot of joy in the journey.

The journey is a process where hopefully each spouse is learning to be considerate, generous and loving toward the other. This process usually comes after we realize that we may have been a little more selfish, inconsiderate and stingy than we thought. When we drop the expectations that both parties already know how to do this well and embrace the journey, we can find joy in learning to do this marriage thing together. Instead of seeing a disastrous honeymoon as a sign that we shouldn’t be together, see it as the first step toward learning how to do marriage well.

 ***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

Headed down the aisle soon? You probably have some thoughts rolling around in your brain in terms of being engaged and your expectations. Don’t worry, you aren’t alone.

Almost everyone comes to marriage with some pretty specific ideas about how things will be. These expectations might be based on what people have experienced in their own family (things they liked or didn’t like and don’t want to repeat), a romantic movie, a previous relationship or even the Hallmark Channel.

Here’s the thing: Whether it’s how you plan to handle money, accepting support from family and in-laws, how often you will make love, being on time, handling conflict, career aspirations, helping with chores or cleanliness, if you don’t talk about your expectations ahead of time, there’s a really good chance it could lead to some disappointing and frustrating moments in the future.

People often don’t voice their expectations because they fear the other person won’t live up to them.

If you do talk about them and your spouse-to-be doesn’t see these expectations as a big deal or doesn’t plan to change their approach to these issues, you may try to convince yourself that once you have a ring on your finger and things are more final, things will be different. Don’t be fooled, though. There are plenty of studies indicating the best time to look for behavior change is before the wedding, not after.

Unspoken expectations can silently kill relationships. Do yourself and your fiancé a favor: Be honest about your expectations. Just because your family did something a certain way doesn’t mean you necessarily have to do it the same way. It could be that while discussing what is important to you both, you realize your expectations aren’t realistic.

One thing you want to guard against is sacrificing who you are in the name of your relationship. If your faith is very important to you and you strongly expect your fiancé to one day share your faith values, realize that change is possible. But it could place a hefty load of tension on your relationship.

It’s totally possible that you and your fiancé have engaged expectations of each other that you don’t even realize you have. Taking the time to go through a premarital education experience either in person or online could help you both identify things you feel strongly about and help you to work through those issues before you get married. Talking about your expectations ahead of time can save you a lot of headaches and heartache down the road.

Image form Unsplash.com

Weddings are time-consuming, expensive, and stressful.

We totally get it. There’s hardly any time to breathe, let alone enjoy this season with your soon-to-be spouse! But that’s why we created Preparing for Marriage Online. This online class will guide you both through the answers to these questions and MORE! And the best part is, you can watch each video in the comfort of your own home and on your OWN TIME – and right now, it’s all for FREE!

During this class, you’ll cover topics like…

  • Clear & effective communication skills,
  • How to handle the in-laws,
  • Conflict management,
  • The importance of dating your spouse,
  • Planning, budgeting, and finances,
  • What to expect your first year,
  • And more!

Becoming a team in marriage can be tough. After you marry, who should you approach first as your confidant, to ask for an opinion or to work through an issue? Your spouse or your parents? Many couples wrestle with this in the early stages of marriage.

One woman shared that she resented her husband of two years going to his mother about everything. He responded that he is closer to his mother and that she knows him better.

“My husband and I dealt with this in the first few years of our marriage,” says marriage educator, wife and mother, Gena Ellis. “When I showed up on my parents’ doorstep, my mother told me to go home. She said I didn’t live there anymore and I needed to go home to my husband. My husband was not being mean or hurting me. I was just spoiled and mad that things weren’t going my way, so I ran home to Mama. I am grateful my mom set these boundaries.”

Even though you love your spouse, learning how to get along together and grow your trust level takes time.

“I think a lot of men don’t realize how their relationship with their mom can lead to their wife’s insecurity in the marriage relationship,” says marriage coach Dr. David Banks. 

“For example, many well-intentioned men do not realize that confiding in mom after getting married is like being traded from one sports team to another and going back to your former coach for advice. This actually works against building trust in the marriage and figuring out how to rely on each other.”

Both Ellis and Banks agree that parents should receive, raise and ultimately, release their children.

“It is truly in a couple’s best interest if parents are a safety net rather than the first line of defense,” Ellis says. “If your adult child is having trouble ‘cutting the apron strings,’ helping him/her do that provides the best chance of a healthy and successful marriage. It is not helpful to say things like, ‘You will always have a room here.’ Or, ‘If she starts treating you bad, you just come home to Mama.’”

If you are a newlywed, Banks and Ellis offer these tips as you leave your parents and join forces with your spouse.

  • First, sit down together and talk about what it means to be a team.
  • Resist the urge to run to your parents at every turn. Set healthy boundaries for you as the couple and for your parents. Constantly turning to your parents creates difficulty in building trust and confidence in each other.
  • Watch the influences you allow around your marriage. People who have a negative view of marriage don’t typically help you to build a healthy relationship with your spouse. In other words, you may have hung out with people before marriage that you should see less often now.
  • Consider attending a marriage enrichment class. There are great tools to help you build a strong, lasting marriage.

“Loyalty is foundational to a healthy marriage team,” Banks says. “You may feel like your parents know you better and can offer better advice. But think of your marriage as your new team. Even though your old team knows you better, your job now is to make sure your new team knows you. This isn’t about giving up your relationship with your parents. It is about creating a new system where there is balance and everyone understands their appropriate role.”

 ***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

Tired of the so-so communication in your marriage? 

Check out this hefty DIGITAL E-BOOK by Marriage Researchers & Therapists

Inside, you’ll find:

  • How and why you and your spouse communicate differently, and what to do about it
  • 5 proven listening techniques that will pump up the intimacy in your relationship
  • 4 ways to start and end difficult conversations well
  • 5 ways you may be hindering communication with your spouse without realizing it
  • AND MORE!

PLUS! Every section has an easy, no-stress discussion guide created for you and your partner to build the communication you want in your marriage.

The bride-to-be shared that it was only two weeks, four days and six hours until the wedding. Her eyes sparkled as she talked, and everyone could tell she was head over heels in love.

Many brides who have gone before her know that feeling so well. They also know that starry-eyed love is not all you need to carry you through the marriage journey.

What kind of advice would newlyweds give to engaged couples?

One bride shared that she and her husband didn’t talk about finances before walking down the aisle. Even though they were set up for automatic deposit and bill payment, she was clueless about what was in their checking account.

“Not too long after we married, I decided to spend a little extra on payday,” said the bride. “I almost caused us to bounce checks because it was the first of the month, when many of our largest bills are paid. To this day, we still haven’t established a budget.”

Research shows that money is one of the least important factors couples consider when preparing for marriage. However, it is the number one thing that creates distress in marriage. Many newlyweds create massive debt furnishing their home, driving nice cars, and generally “keeping up with the Joneses.” Instead of trying to immediately have what your parents accumulated over many years, attend a money management seminar to learn how to budget your money. Most money experts agree there are three cardinal rules to follow when it comes to managing your money: Spend less than you make, avoid going into long-term debt, and put away a little bit for a rainy day.

One couple shared that even though they love each other, adjusting to having someone else around and having to consider their thoughts, feelings, likes and dislikes is a huge change. Everything from getting ready with only one bathroom and bedtime when one person is a night owl and the other isn’t – to spending habits, how to do the laundry, a clean bathroom, in-laws/extended family, visitors and time for date nights – are now up for discussion and negotiation.

Learning how to do the marriage dance without stepping on each other’s toes is a skill that takes time to master. The best thing you can do is talk about all of these issues as they arise. Keeping your frustration to yourself will only create friction in your relationship. This is where you learn it isn’t all about you and your wants and desires. It is learning how to let another person be a part of your life. You have to figure out how to give and receive and compromise.

One bride said she wished she had known she’d have to sacrifice who she was for the sake of her marriage. Healthy marriage isn’t about sacrificing who you are when you come together as one. Coming together should make you better as an individual and better as a team. Talking about career expectations, children, individual and collective goals before you marry will be helpful. There are seasons in marriage when you choose to make sacrifices because it honors your relationship. This doesn’t mean that only one person makes sacrifices.

Finally, keep expectations realistic. The person you marry cannot meet your every need, make you happy and always be perfect. You will disagree. You will make mistakes. And believe it or not, there will be times when you don’t feel head over heels in love. That doesn’t mean you married the wrong person – nobody is perfect. We all have needs and growth opportunities. Don’t focus on your needs and your mate’s weaknesses. Instead, focus on their needs and strengths, and on your own opportunities for growth.

A great start for your marriage takes at least as much prep time as you put into your wedding day. These couples have high hopes for a long lasting, healthy marriage. If that is your goal, make it a point to start investing now in your relationship.

The return on your investment will be worth it!

Looking for more? Check out this episode of JulieB TV on this topic!

Weddings are time-consuming, expensive, and stressful.

We totally get it. There’s hardly any time to breathe, let alone enjoy this season with your soon-to-be spouse! But that’s why we created Preparing for Marriage Online. This online class will guide you both through the answers to these questions and MORE! And the best part is, you can watch each video in the comfort of your own home and on your OWN TIME – and right now, it’s all for FREE!

During this class, you’ll cover topics like…

  • Clear & effective communication skills,
  • How to handle the in-laws,
  • Conflict management,
  • The importance of dating your spouse,
  • Planning, budgeting, and finances,
  • What to expect your first year,
  • And more!