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Blended Families: Prioritizing Spouse or Kids?

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EB
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Blended Families: Prioritizing Spouse or Kids?

Post by EB »

When a couple marries for their first time with each other, it’s much easier to fit into the Biblical mandate to “leave and cleave” and then to prioritize your spouse for life - that spouse was there before the kids came into the world and that spouse generated the children together with you.   But when you come into a marriage with little ones ... it gets complicated.  


Biblically speaking, I see that your spouse should always come before your kids - if this is not true please enlighten me.  Children will one day grow up and leave you, forming their own families, but your spouse is for life.


However, I can also see the parent’s struggle to do this as the kids were there before the new spouse showed up on the scene.  The kids have a very strong bond to the parent and the new spouse is often seen as the “intruder.”   A new husband or wife will have a terrible time knowing that they will always come 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc... down the line in priority.  Of course this will come in between the spouses and disturb their marital relationship, sex life, etc. 


What is your take in this issue?  Those of you who have blended families, who do you prioritize and why?  What is your view on this issue as far as being Biblically correct? 

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Re: Blended Families: Prioritizing Spouse or Kids?

Post by SeekingChange »

I have no personal experience with being a part of a blended family. But, I have often struggled with making the spouse a priority when there is an unhealthy balance. Because children are innocent and vulnerable, I believe parents have the job to protect their spirits from as much damage and harm as possible. Abuse would be an extreme example, but I am talking more of common problems.

Whether right or wrong, I have always known the statistics of preachers kids leaving the faith. I have my belief it's because of the imbalance the father/pastor had in ministry, and the neglect of the family. I ALWAYS made sure my children had time with dad, even at the sacrifice of my time with him. I have always viewed that this was a salvation issue for my children. And looking back, I would do some things different between my husband and I, in hope to make our relationship better, but one thing I would not change, is making sure my children had quality time with their dad, and if that meant sacrificing my time with him because he wasn't balancing work well and robbing the family, that's what I would do, and still do, when needed.

I think the biggest difference in a family is whether they are child-centered or not. Our family has never been child-centered, where our worlds revolve around them. It's always been parent-led and about building the family, in Christ
God can change what people do, behavioral patterns that have been in play for decades. He can change what we do to cope, to find comfort, to survive conflict, to count. Rahab had done a same old thing for years... and then she did something new.
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Re: Blended Families: Prioritizing Spouse or Kids?

Post by DoveGrey »

I am not personally experienced with blended families, I can however, can speak from the perspective of someone who regularly listens to children discuss their blended families.

The kids who are the most well adjusted are the ones who either have strong and dependable single parents, or who are now part of a blended family with a solid marriage. The kids who have a loving and stable situation in one home, but not the other, tend to strongly resent having to spend time with the parent who is in yet another unhappy relationship. As I was told by a student just the other day, "Nothing ever changes with (that parent.)" This child admires the parent who has sought out a healthy relationship. The child sees this as a chance for life to finally be better. I've known this child both before and after the divorce, and the effect of that new healthy relationship surprised me.

Biblically, you focus on your marriage. But there's more to it if kids are involved. Kids who have been through the trauma of divorce or death need to see that life can be beautiful again. They need to see adults handle both conflict and peace in a healthy way. Focusing on your marriage is indeed a good parenting strategy. Obviously, you're making sure to spend quality time with your kids. However, if you don't spend quality time on your marriage and it becomes rocky, you're not only putting your kids through more trauma but you are also not modeling a healthy relationship for them. Not focusing on that marriage can make the damage worse.
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Re: Blended Families: Prioritizing Spouse or Kids?

Post by one_woman_man »

I'm not in a blended family. I agree  with SC that managing/proportioning time with each/both parents is very important and will involve sacrifices. I also concur with DG that health and stability in a relationship are critical factors.

I have often said that the best thing a spouse can do for their child is to love their child's parent.  I don't think that is necessarily excludes doing what SC or DG have said.
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Re: Blended Families: Prioritizing Spouse or Kids?

Post by MoreBlessed »

The kids in our blended family include older teens and young adults (and older adults who don’t live with us). We were counseled before marriage and we read several books. I am NOT an expert but I can share what we were told and what we have implement so far. It appears to be working great, but it’s very early. Statistically it takes 4-7 years to blend well.
Here are some things we do:

1. We avoid physical expressions of affection in front of the children, which I really bristled at at first. We were told it is painful for the children to see their parent with the other spouse and it is loving to spare them that pain. Talk about agape love in action. That one is HARD to do. We save it for behind closed doors or when they aren’t in eyesight.
2. Each spouse should spend time with only their children. A yearly vacation without the other spouse. (Due to COVID this hasn’t happened yet but is in the works) We did spend our first Christmas with our own children, even though it broke my heart. This is also an act of love that is unpleasant for us (spouses) but for the greater good.
3. Let the children determine the pace. Love them and encourage them. Never parent your step children. You are their greatest encourager! Never a word of criticism. It is very freeing once you embrace it. But it’s hard. We have already seen step children seek counsel from the other parent, which is lovely.

The first time my husband spoke the words “You come before my children. I married you and you come first” I was taken aback. As a mother this has been a harder, slower transition for me, but my marriage does come first. Thankfully my spouse loves and prays for my children almost every day with me. He seeks ways to bond with them and build his relationship with them. Which draws me closer to him and makes it easier for me.

It has been hard to “put them first” in some ways but we are in this for the long haul.
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Re: Blended Families: Prioritizing Spouse or Kids?

Post by JLoydH »

Such good advice.  I am going to bookmark your post.  Thank you!
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Re: Blended Families: Prioritizing Spouse or Kids?

Post by newwifenewlife »

Even in a blending family, the spouse has to take priority. No doubt. How that plays out in real life is a constant choice and priority. Because my wife has two daughters who are still living with us and a dad who up until April was uninvolved for nearly 5 yrs....UNTIL April, then he got involved trying to save the girls from mean mom and me. So DW always feels more torn than I have with my sons out of the house.  I respect and encourage her to spend time with them, just as she will with me when my sons are near. At the same time, she choses to prioritize our marriage and time together just as I do. Admittedly, because of my job and side gig, she gets a lot of time with them without me but sometimes she has to say, "We're going to bed" or like today, "We're going out and will be gone all day...while the girls were at home for a special school's online-only home day to give the teachers a non-in-person day".

It's a weird dynamic but if a blending family couple will prioritize their marriage and do so in front of the kids, in the long run, it'll be a healthier family. The spouses prioritize each other for a stronger marriage and when it is seen by the kids, it helps them feel more safe and stable. It's a love for "both and", not "one or the other". Yes, it sometimes hard because the kids need more attention on occasion, especially early on in the blending and transition but, if a couple will model what they want in a marriage and family, it becomes easier and the kids, again, feel safety in the strength of a growing marriage.

Ultimately, couples can prioritize each other over their kids (first time or blending family) and avoid an empty marriage now OR they can prioritize their kids and later have an empty nest AND an empty marriage.
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Re: Blended Families: Prioritizing Spouse or Kids?

Post by DoveGrey »

Thanks for that! I was hoping you would weigh in.
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Re: Blended Families: Prioritizing Spouse or Kids?

Post by newwifenewlife »

Why?

1. We avoid physical expressions of affection in front of the children, which I really bristled at at first. We were told it is painful for the children to see their parent with the other spouse and it is loving to spare them that pain. Talk about agape love in action. That one is HARD to do. We save it for behind closed doors or when they aren’t in eyesight.

@More Blessed - Can you share more be reasoning or why you chose to do that?

I understand it may be painful as a child to see that but I completely disagree with not showing any because of the value it actually does/doesn't demonstrate. I see not showing affection in front of the kids as seriously harmful to them because of what it models (or doesn't model). No affection/physical affections doesn't model good and loving affection in a healthy marriage.

First, I want our children (my adult boys and DW's teen girls) to see what a loving and affectionate, healthy couple should be like.  My boys do not remember much, or maybe any of that, because my ex & I have been divorce for 50-70% of their lives AND their mom's 2nd marriage (ended after 3 yrs when DW & I got married) was at least emotionally and verbally abusive so they hated the guy. My bonus daughters never saw their dad be affectionate with their mom. (DW told me yesterday that her ex & her never kissed more than a peck in the morning. HUH? WOW!) She was married to him 15 yrs and the girls never saw/heard them disagree or show affection so the divorce was a shock to them. (The first strong disagreement we had after our engagement, the girls were afraid we were gonna break up. No, normal couples fight. Great couples & marriages disagree, fight fair, and work to a resolution, even co-creating a solution as necessary, in a healthy manner. This is why I'm ok with kids seeing parents have conflict and reconcile.)

Seeing affection between parents (whether biological or not), while it can/will "gross" all kids out, it models healthy, God-designed affection AND more importantly, especially in a blended family as well as in the early years, it brings stability and security to the family by showing parental love and the commitment & priority of the bio parent to the new spouse. This is HUGE because kids will catch a hesitation, lack of priority, disagreements between the couple and then the kids will avoid any commitment on their part because of the lack of it on the bio parent's part AND they will also naturally work to pit the bio parent against the step-parent.

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