In Canada, thirty-eight percent of all marriages do not survive the thirty year mark. (Statistics Canada, 2006) The reasons for this statistic are vast and represent an obvious determinant in the rising number of second marriages. With second marriages come blended families – when one or both partners have children from their previous relationship. These second marriages often suffer the same low success rate. After surmounting the emotional pain of a failed first marriage, one may think the likelihood of success would increase with experience, but it does not (Wooding, VIII) unless all contributing factors are considered. Step parents face different challenges than a biological parent and to think otherwise is unrealistic. (Wooding, XI) Awareness of the potential difficulties, realistic expectations and hard work are required. The challenges faced by blended families can be overcome through education and hard work.
Experience and good intention do not guarantee success. Many assume that remarriages will be more stable simply because both parties are more experienced (Wooding, VIII) and have suffered through the adversity of divorce. Suffering is not always the best teacher though. The fact is that twenty percent of remarriages in Canada end before the eight year anniversary. (Statistics Canada, 2006) Reasons for the low success rate may be unhealthy, unresolved behaviours that both partners carry forward into the new relationship. For example; both the new husband and wife may be poorly versed in conflict resolution. “No matter the cause of the marital breakdown, the fact that most marriages break down under conditions of anger and frustration is what leads to the development of what could be termed “breakup baggage.” (Wooding, 4) Emotional baggage from the past relationship must be considered and dealt with properly. “These powerful negative feelings subsequently interfere with the divorce settlement, including custody arrangements if there are children, and often continue for years after the actual separation of the partners so that future relationships are also affected.” (Wooding, 4) Learned behaviour may have to be reconsidered and / or relearned. In considering what has been produced by the past, one or both partners may need therapy. Most remarriages involve stepparenting and this is, by far the biggest source of friction. (Wooding, XI) Parents assume that because they have already fathered or mothered their own biological children that the same natural rules will apply in stepparenting and they do not. Wishful thinking and experience are not enough. When confronting the challenges of a blended family, one must consider their past difficulties and current challenges.
Stepparents have different struggles than a biological parent and are treated differently by step children. To think otherwise is foolhardy and unrealistic. “Children tend to be much more forgiving of a biological parent due to the bond between them that has existed from birth. Stepparents get no such latitude so that the disagreements that occur, especially during teen years, become more bitter with a stepparent than they would be with the natural one.” (Wooding, XI) Many biological parents make parenting mistakes and their children are very forgiving towards them. Forgiveness for the stepparent, particularly from a teenager, is hard to come by. A stepparent will also deal with the stepchild’s natural resistance to his or her presence. “You will have to find ways to overcome their initial resistance and to form a bond with them. This is not easy, but is entirely possible if you are patient and persistent. The first step is to realize that his or her children will almost certainly harbour negative feelings toward you.” (Wooding, 64) The stepparent who is armed with these facts can take appropriate action. The stepparent who is not will have difficulty. “They will see you as an unworthy replacement for their real parent and