Blissful Blending Gone Sour?

I have a big problem. I was married for four years and divorced three years ago. I have just remarried a man who has two children, ages eight and four, from a previous marriage. I have a daughter who is now seven. At first our blended life was blissful, but as time goes on my husband and my daughter are having trouble getting along. My daughter was an only child until my husband and I married. She likes to be alone, sit in her room and read a book. My husband, very gregarious by nature, likes to have the kids around him all the time. He loves to wrestle and tickle the kids. His kids love to participate, but my daughter hates it. When he tries to include her, she gets angry. He then gets angry that she doesn't want to be included and a huge fight erupts. I just don't know what to do anymore. Our blissful blending is turning sour.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Jann Blackstone-Ford

Author of Ex-Etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After Divorce or Separation, and Director of Bonus Families, a non-profit organization... Read more

When you blend an ingredient in a cooking recipe you mix until everything is blended together and there is no sign of the original ingredient. This works for baking, but not for families. The term "blended family" is great in concept, but if you lose the individual's origin while blending families, resentment brews, and that is what is happening to your daughter. She is content to be by herself and read, and she doesn't like her personal space invaded. That's the way she has always been. When your husband pulls her into a tickling match, it goes against her grain and she resents it.

It sounds as if your husband may then take her dislike of tickling and wrestling as a personal rejection. He interprets her reaction to mean she is rejecting him and "the family," and what starts out to be a delightful romp then turns into a huge argument. He may be thinking, "But I'm just trying to include her." And she is thinking simply, "I hate to be tickled!"

This paradox is common in stepfamilies -- everyone jockeying for position, trying to figure out exactly what their place is in this new family. It generally takes up to two years to settle into the new family groove.

Remember, people come into stepfamilies with their histories intact. We inherit not only hair and eye color but temperament as well. Temperament is sometimes more easily tolerated when we are biologically related, but we, as parents, must be mindful of both similarities and differences of new family members if family blending is to be successful. The key is to ask opinions, listen to the answers and take note of the new family members' reactions so that as time goes on you grow together, not resentful.

But how do you get around the already hurt feelings? It's best to take your daughter's lead in this situation. She's very young and does not have the social skills of an adult. I would ask your husband to take note of his hurt feelings and honestly watch your daughter's reaction to the family fun. If it is obvious that she does not want to participate, that she is content to sit and watch the wrestling match, then he should stop taking it personally and let your daughter assimilate into your family at her own speed. She may not be rebelling against "the family." She may have learned to be true to herself at a very young age. For that, you are all to be congratulated.

Find out more about Bonus Families™ at www.bonusfamilies.com
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