I truly believe that blended families are THE BEST KEPT SECRET. Yes, everyone knows about blended families and the blessings and horrors of step-parents and kids, right?! But the amount of work both physically and emotionally is astounding to me. And there’s really no way to describe it without living it. I’ve tried explaining it to my friends who are still “blissfully” in their first marriage. I try to describe being a newlywed, the pressures of having kids, jobs, dealing with ex’s and their families, and total strangers now family, not to mention someone is in a new home or everyone is in a new space along with which dishes to keep or get rid of and keeping emotional values for things in check and re-evaluated…. all bundled into one year and usually within 6 months. It’s really a hard concept to grasp.
How did you two meet and how long have you been married?
Our story begins in 1983…. for real…. 1983. My family had moved from northern Oklahoma to Southern Oklahoma my 7th-grade year of school. Andy and I were in the same church affiliation. In 1984 we ‘dated’ for about 2-3 weeks …and held hands once. Very scandalous, haha. I always knew he had a special place for me; I just didn’t know how much. Life went on after our ‘trist.’ We were always friends and just lived our lives.
Andy is 2 years older than me, and he just disappeared one day. I now know he had joined the Army. We went our separate ways living our very different lives. I remember about 10-12ish years ago when FB was becoming a thing, I found him there and asked how he was doing… he had just begun his divorce, but that was all the contact we had.
Fast forward, and I found myself divorced with four teenagers and zero help from my ex….like zero. I had been a stay at home mom and was working at providing for these kids and starting some sort of a career… I had no ‘warning shot’ from my ex…one day we were great, the next he was moving out. So it was a little like throwing a toddler into the deep end and saying “swim!”.
I had been single for about two years, and it had been my birthday and my son who is serving
a full-time mission for The Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter-Day Saints had sent the cutest picture saying Happy Birthday Mom on a wipe board. I had posted it on Instagram and FB. I had been on a TERRIBLE date the weekend before and I remember just being tired. You know we’ve all been there. So what do tired mommies do?! They get pizza and sit and scroll Instagram of course! Haha… I noticed Dru had liked my picture….but I had no idea who Dru was…he has always been Andy to me. I clicked on his profile and figured out it was him.
I messaged him on a whim and suggested we meet for dinner sometime (ensuring he was still single), we made a date for that Friday (it was Tuesday). We ended up texting for about four days till our date. We played ’20 questions’ to get to know one another again. He picked me up for a movie that Friday and we joke that we’re still on our first date. It all went VERY fast. That was April 21st and we married June 30th. So yea…. FAST. But we knew our foundation backgrounds and we knew we wanted the same things out of this life and decided we each felt the other was worth the work.
Our issues with blending a family can, on paper, really seem like humble bragging. But looking at it deeper, they are our own personal struggles.
How old are each of the children that you brought into the marriage?
My husband has two children, and I have 4. His ‘bookend’ mine. He has a 24-year-old, and then I have a 20, 19, 18, and 15-year-olds, and then his daughter is our caboose at 13 years old. They are great kids that are happy we found each other again. My stepson may have given me one of the best compliments when he told me the life we created in the last year is what he’s always wanted and hoped.
My husband had been single for eight years and had vowed never to be married again, and had not even been dating in those eight years. So his mindset was VERY independent and VERY single. His older son was already out of the house, and he had a daughter whom he shared physical custody with…so he wasn’t used to actual bodies around him all the time. He’s also an introvert, so the instant amount of people around…ALL the time was monumental for him.
I have full physical and legal custody of my children. Their dad literally doesn’t even talk to them (their choice because of his choices)… so they are with me 24/7. My husband’s ex used to have his daughter every weekend but has since moved 3 hours away, so she is with us almost all the time as well. So you can imagine the struggles of just everyday life from being the only person in the house to now sleeping with someone else every night and ALWAYS having multiple people in the house. Adjusting is an understatement of the year.
We just had our 1st anniversary on June 30th, so it’s been interesting to look back and see how we’ve stretched and grown. There’s been a lot of faking it till you make it. I wouldn’t say we were an instant family, but we functioned like one, which honestly helped. When it comes to parenting, we tend to stay in our own lane with our own kids. We’ve started going into each other’s territories very carefully always respecting what we’ve created thus far with our kids in our own ways. I do not call out my bonus daughter like I do my kids. That doesn’t work for her personality and the way my husband and his ex treat her, so I use a different approach with her and always VERY aware that I’m the odd man out when it really comes down to any choices and decisions. My husband is very respectful as well and will go through me first. My hope is that we don’t have to be so “careful”…but for now it works and is a step in adjusting to being our own kind of family.
Respect is the name of the ‘game.’ Even when we think our way is ‘right’… we each lived our lives successfully for 40 plus years, and no houses burnt down, and everyone was still alive so respecting each other is THE KEY. I always step back and look at the situation and ask how important my point REALLY is and what it might create. What sort of respect am I giving to receive it as well?
We have amazing children that have really helped this process. I must give kudos to all of them. They’ve all been aware of the struggles we have and have really worked at changing and adjusting to help us adjust and make this family work. I feel like they all want this as much as we do, for different but real reasons. But we’ve also been raising them in such a way that they already had our trust, and we were already working as a family that looks out for one another.
My kids (and myself) had been in therapy for a year after their dad left, this, in my opinion, should be a requirement for ALL children of divorce. They need someplace to figure things out WITHOUT our influence and junk. This helps them to work out their frustrations with the whole situation and not to let our stuff transfer to them. This includes the stuff that rises after re-marriage. I was shocked when things came up that I thought were a non-issue, therapy people… therapy! It can only help the blending process. If a therapist isn’t working for you… change them. You are not (or shouldn’t be) obligated to stay with them. I’ve met a terrible therapist and some that were great but just didn’t ‘speak’ to me. Do what works.
The kids each have their own struggles, but they are regular everyday struggles of growing up, nothing in the realm of some kids of divorce that I hear that rebel and are terrible to the incoming parent or their own parent. My children especially struggle with abandonment issues. They are older too, so Dru is more of a friend figure, except for my youngest… I believe she looks at him like a father, there was no need to parent them and Dru already had an older son, so he knew a little about letting go and letting them live.
We took a strengthening stepfamilies class after we had been married for about five months and it was great because we’d walk away with a better perspective to deal better…. AND realizing how good we had it. We also walked away with tools and realization of things like it’s ok to not like the bonus children all the time… I mean we don’t even like our own kids all the time, so it makes sense. Ha! The more education and direction you can get the better. There are professionals and people who have already done this ready to share and teach…thank goodness!!!
I will say this about parenting and blending a family. Multi-tasking emotions is a MUST. Deciding what sort of family I wanted was essential. So when things aren’t going necessarily the way I want or I would do or would ever think about…. I ask myself if my initial reaction is going to help my “dream” or hurt it. It has helped keep my tongue MANY MANY times. Because that’s what we’re all working towards, right? The ‘dream’ of having a healthy and happy family… I just had to decide what that could look like and just keep walking towards that hope.
Time is a beautiful enemy…that’s how I describe it. I’m not the most patient person in life. So this has been a huge stretch in letting time do what it does best… heal and create. It’s helped to heal a lot of wounds (is still helping) and is allowing us to create memories and bond little by little. Being thrown into what is meant to take decades is intense and confusing. But allowing time to be a friend and take a deep breath… priceless.
I want to note that I realize our story has minimal ex-involvement. Not like some of you that are in a constant battle of not only having to deal with the said ex but help these kids navigate two households and two ways of living and all the emotions that are involved with that dynamic. I tell my husband all the time that as angry as I get at my ex for choosing to not be in my kids’ lives, at least he’s inadvertently keeping his “junk” to himself and not making it harder for them. And my bonus daughter was VERY young when they divorced so she’s really not known life differently other than now having to share time, space, and money with us. She recognizes the benefit of having us here, so she’s been very good about the sharing…still hard but still doing it swimmingly.
Thank you for allowing me to share our story. I’m feeling even more grateful seeing our story on paper and seeing that we are getting it done.
I credit my husband and kids for sticking it out and looking for our ‘dream’ beside me. I credit my faith in a Heavenly Father that I know is watching over ALL of us and wants to see us succeed.
We still have a road ahead of us for sure… as I mentioned earlier, my oldest is serving a full-time mission for our church and hasn’t even met Dru yet! So we have that little nugget to experience coming soon (6 months!)… so we clearly have things to still figure out. I do believe though that we have the tools, love, and the desire to get it done.
Kudos to all those blended tribes out there… you’re doing better than you think you are…I’m SURE of it!!!
To read other guest blended family stories click HERE
Thanks for sharing Kim!! You have a beautiful family and an encouraging story! Keep up the good work and let me know when you start your blog!!
♥ The Blended Tribe