blended families have challenges

Life in the 21st-Century Blended Family

Dear Mr. Dad: My fiancée and I are both divorced, and between the two of us, there are four children from previous marriages. Mine are 7 and 5, his are 6 and 8. When my girlfriend and I first met each other’s kids, things were great—the children hit it off really well and liked hanging out together. And the adult-child relationships seemed to be blossoming. But over the past few months, things have begun to deteriorate on all fronts—the kids are squabbling and my fiancée and I aren’t getting along as well with each other’s kids. We both had such high hopes of building a strong blended family together, but that’s looking less and less likely. What can we do?

A: You’re all—adults and kids alike—walking into an incredibly challenging situation, and, unfortunately, there’s no magic formula to make it work. That said, by far the most important thing you can do is to take a close look at your expectations—and then lower them. I know that sounds harsh, but it’s truly for the best. Imagining that the six people involved will all love each other and that you’ll come together into one big, happy blended family is setting yourself up for failure. Things might end up that way eventually. Or they might never get there. Most likely, they’ll be something in between.

Let’s start with the kids. The behavior you described is completely normal. Things started off well because the four of them are pretty similar in age and they could get together, play, and then go back to their own home. There were no territorial issues and not much pressure. But as things between you and your fiancée have gotten more serious, everything has changed. They know that when everyone moves into the same house, they’ll have to do a lot more sharing and they’ll have a lot less space of their own.

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Armin Brott

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Armin Brott is the proud father of three, a former U.S. Marine, a best-selling author, radio host, speaker, and one of the country’s leading experts on fatherhood. He writes frequently about fatherhood, families, and men's health. Read more about Armin or visit his website, You can also connect via social media: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest,  and Linkedin.

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