"Many people are married to people who have been married to other people who are now married to still others to who the first parties may not have been married, but to who somebody has likely been married" - Lionel Tiger, Omnigamy: The New Kinship System
In the United States, at least 50% of all first marriages end in divorce. The majority of these people remarry and form blended or step families of which roughly 74% fail. Most of those marriages produce children and multiple extended families. The latest statistics report that since 2010, step-families are now more common than traditional nuclear families.
New step-families face many challenges. As with any achievement, developing good step-family relationships requires a lot of effort. Step-family members have each experienced losses and face complicated adjustments to the new family situation.
When a step-family is formed, the members have no shared family histories or shared ways of doing things, and they may have very different belief systems. A child may feel torn between the parent they live with most of the time and their other parent with whom they visit. Newly married couples may not have had much time together to adjust to their new relationship.
A major concern for the blended spousal subsystem is the continued involvement of the ex-spouse within their lives who often plays a role in the child-rearing process. Thus, the new parental subsystem is often composed of the ex-spouse and the remarried couple. Loyalty issues may arise between the step-child and his or her new step-parent. The child may act out the nonresidential parent’s pain, resentment, or guilt within this relationship while the step-parent may feel left out of decisions regarding parenting, often creating difficulties with his or her spouse.
The blended family is composed of a complex meta-family system, including ex-in-laws (such as the grandparents, aunts, and uncles), new in-laws, and old and new friends. Loyalty issues may once again emerge as a result of these meta-family system relationships. Social or interpersonal perceptions, such as that of the evil stepparent, help to create difficulty within the stepparent-stepchild relationship.
The Marriage and Family Research Institute provides special services to help step-families overcome the challenges they face. Using a combination of parenting psycho-education, family systems treatment, and individual psychotherapy, the new family receives the tools that can make the integration process easier and provide for a better chance of success.
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