Everyone loves a good wedding. In fact, at our house, we are getting ready for one. The first of our five children is preparing to tie the knot in just a few weeks. The "wedding" feelings are beginning. Even for the mother of the groom. You know. The excitement ... the butterflies ... the anxious thoughts. How much weight can I lose before then? And as one who has experienced two weddings personally, my mind can't help but go to week two of the marriage. Everyone is excited about the wedding no doubt. Lots of preparation goes into that weekend and day. And even the following week usually entails a good bit of planning. I know our kids had to update their passport as a part of the plans. There are usually plane reservations to make and hotel arrangements. Excursions to plan. Wardrobes to purchase for the trip.
But then, there is Week Two.
That time when, literally, the honeymoon is over and life as a married couple begins. Week two of my first marriage was spent setting up the household, along with a good bit of crying. The excitement was over, the honeymoon just a memory awaiting the development of the photos (remember those days? When we had to actually wait a week to see the pictures we had taken?), and the realization that normal life was setting in. There were jobs to go to, budgets to keep, clothes to wash and bathrooms to clean. No more eating out, and having fun, fun, fun. Just lots of grocery shopping and cooking.
Week two of my second marriage was spent surrounded by four young children desperately trying to figure out this new arrangement in which they found themselves. And the two parents were wondering just exactly what we had signed on for. While love is a many splendored thing, for the moment, it felt like just enough rope to hang ourselves with. Everything felt bigger and harder to manage than we had imagined in our pre-marital state of euphoria. Now, the honeymoon was definitely over and we were managing a blending household, four kids who were still trying to figure it all out, and new relationships all the way around. And that was before the "ex-relationship" kicked into hyper-drive.
So, can we dissect week two and take it one issue at a time? Let's start at the beginning. Yes, the kids are there, and maybe hurting and confused and trying to figure out new relationships that they may or may not be old enough to understand. However, the center of the family unit is undeniably the parents. So how do you remain a team when there is so much pulling at you?
Since conflict is inevitable, the time is now to begin to develop some positive communication skills. Believe it or not, the habits you begin to develop now, will be with you for a long time. Start now. Be proactive in building positive communication patterns.
Here are three suggestions for developing those positive patterns in the midst of a newly blending family.
1. Open, honest dialogue. Here's an idea. Sit in chairs facing each other knees-to-knees. Hold hands. Maintain eye contact. Now ... talk. When you are facing each other, touching each other and looking at each other, its harder to use angry, accusatory words. I know it sounds like silly psycho-babble, but it really does work. What could be destructive now has a chance to be rational, helpful and encouraging.
Its also a good idea to set a time for the discussion. And by that, I mean two things. In the early days, it may be a good idea to "schedule" a regular time to touch base. Don't wait until things are so out of control that you just want to scream and throw things at each other (including angry words that you will someday regret). Choose a time when both of you are semi-rested and able to have a rational, uninterrupted conversation and both are able to stay awake. Secondly, set an ending time. Don't let the discussion go on for hours. And why not pre-plan something fun to do together after your discussion? This will give you something to look forward to, and will end a potentially difficult dialogue on a positive note.
I know you think this all sounds ridiculous and impossible. But trust me. If you can bite the bullet and just try it, I think you will be pleasantly surprised.
2. Date weekly. I know what you're thinking. That is impossible. After all, there are babysitters and reservations and time away. But if you make it a priority, your marriage will be so much better for it. Ideally, newlyweds have months or years to just focus on each other before the introduction of children. However the two of you have an instant family and must figure out how to build intimacy in front of an audience. You will have to be creative. Remember that dates don't always have to cost money. One of our favorite spots was a local park with acres and acres of picnic spots. We could find solitude and fun all for free. A fast-food picnic, a football and a blanket was great when going to a nice restaurant just wasn't in the budget. And if your kids have visitation with an ex, take advantage of that time to spend together doing something fun instead of catching up on work at the office.
3. Pray together daily. I've never understood why it is so difficult to pray with the person who you have chosen to share your life with. I have talked to so many couples who say that praying together is just too hard. And actually I do understand. The power and encouragement we need in order to have a healthy marriage is found in prayer ... especially praying together. The enemy knows that. I think he comes up with great schemes to keep us from the power released when praying together. But just do it. It doesn't have to be long and flowery. Just talk to God together. I promise. This one thing will transform your marriage.
"They all met together and were constantly united in prayer ..." Acts 1:14
About the author:
Teri is passionate about teaching, writing, and ministering to fellow sojourners. She spends her days working in ministry and her evenings and weekends being wife and mom.