My husband and I have been married two years and we each brought children into the marriage. He has two boys and I have one. His youngest is 12, and is autistic, and the other 15, while my son is eight. We have been having a lot of problems with the three boys getting along. They each have their own issues and naturally we each favor our own children. I find the 12 year old very hard to deal with. My husband caters to him and has no expectations for him. He goes to a regular school and functions fairly well; he just seems to have social issues. The oldest is a teen and knows everything. My youngest is a sweet, good natured boy who really wants to hang out with his older brothers, but they aren’t very accommodating. My husband is a great guy and when it is just the two of us there are no problems, but when we begin discussing the boys, we end up in an argument. I don’t want this to ruin our marriage, but I don’t know what to do. I’ve suggested family counselling but my husband says we just need to adjust to each other. Well it’s been two years; I think we’re beyond the adjustment phase. Do you have any suggestions on where we can go from here? Thanks, Laura.
Great Question! Blended families are the new norm and they can and do work, but it takes compromise and understanding from everyone involved. The ideal of the Brady Bunch is basically that, an ideal, not a reality. According to the University of Houston, 1300 new stepfamilies are established every day in the USA. A concern for stepfamilies is that the chances of second and third marriages ending in divorce is considerably higher than first marriages. A major reason for his is because of the challenges involved in blended families. For example, I assume your son was an only child and now he has to make the adjustment to having two new brothers, one of which autistic. Autism can be many things and requires knowledge and adjustment from everyone in the family. You could contact autismcanada.org to assist with understanding some questions you and your son may have about it. As well, the middle child has now lost his position as the youngest in the family, which changes his view of where he belongs. As you can see there are many issues going on. It’s important that you continue to spend time alone with your son and that your husband spend time with his sons. The children need to know that they still have their place with their biological parent. As well, you need to have family time, set a tradition where you all do things together as a family. Perhaps a movie or game night, or a hike together, find an activity that will help you bond together. You each need to have your relationship with your own child/children, then you have the relationship with the whole family, and you and your husband still have to spend time alone together. It may seem complicated, but it can work, with patience, love, and understanding. I also agree that a few visits to a family counselor would be helpful. Good luck with your new family.
Follow Barb on twitter @BarbGod
Email your questions to email@example.com. Some submissions may be edited for length and to protect confidentiality; your real name and location will never be printed. This column is for entertainment only. The author is not a professional counsellor and this column is not intended to take the place of professional advice.