By Staci Welch-Bartley
Tom and I were just getting ready to climb onto our respective massage tables in the couple’s room of Massage Envy when he shared with me that my son and his son had a verbal fight filled with hurtful accusations towards each other. My heart sank as I received the news. I had such a grand picture of what our independent families were going to be like when combined. My head was filled with blissful connections, closeness, sharing, and togetherness. I had good reason for this, as Tom and I share such an incredible list of values where we are aligned. Loyalty, emphasis on family first, being there to love and support our children through the challenging situations life often brings. Surely because of this, we could together pull off the perfect blended family, right?
All at once while on the massage table, I became keenly aware of the potential slippery slope that Tom and I were facing as a couple. The attributes I said we shared above were now appearing to be more of a curse rather than a blessing. Loyalty to family stood out. Because of our loyalty to our respective families, there had already been comments between us in our brief exchange about the boys that indicated we were both beginning to stand up for our sons. I began to imagine us saying things like, “I can’t believe your son did son this!” and “Oh yeah, well your son did that!” And, the next thing you know Tom and I would be divided as a couple because of our intense loyalty to our kids.
By the time I crawled off of the table I had come to the realization that what had transpired between the boys was not my biggest challenge. How Tom and I were going to split our loyalties in this situation was the bigger challenge. All at once I found myself committed to doing whatever I could to communicate to Tom that my desire was to make sure that this event did not create division between us. My desire was for Tom and I to stand strong and unified, while inviting the boys to work out the upset between them. We communicated to the boys that we would both be there to love them as we encouraged them to seek resolution. Which is easy to say, and much more difficult to do.
Tom and I were immediately thrown into the difficult position of striving to love and support our individual sons, while not pointing fingers and blaming each other, nor insisting one of us needed to side with any one point of view. We did not need to choose who was right and who was wrong for our relationship to remain true to the love and loyalty we had for each other. I am not going to lie; this was a very very slippery slope for us that was navigated with long heartfelt conversations, and many tears shared between us. In the end though, it added strength and deeper connection to our marriage.
When it comes to blended families, it is important that we remember and practice loving our partner first. Remember, this was the reason for creating this blended family in the first place. We fell in love and created dreams of a life together. It is so easy to get lost in all of the moving parts of a blended family if we become judgmental, or insist our partner must choose our parenting style and abandon their own. It’s important to give each person the space to love their children as they see fit, and stay focused on loving your partner above all else.
If Tom and I did not have the foresight and ability to keep our relationship the primary focus as well as being able to authentically share with each other without judgment, this tale could gone something like this instead:
“Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water. Jack fell down and broke his crown, and Jill came tumbling after!”