Love and Happiness in a Blended Family

Black Love: Advice to stepparents for creating a united front.

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RT: While we were engaged, we had a big argument over disciplining the kids. It was very hard for me because Lamar is stricter than I am, and even though I knew he was a good person, in the back of my mind I wondered, "Is Lamar hard on my kids because they are not his?" It's only natural [for] a biological mother.

Lamar reassured me that though we weren't seeing eye to eye, he was committed, in love and wanted our relationship to work. He also apologized after the argument. In the end, I had to learn his style of discipline, and it wasn't that he didn't love them. We have kids together now, and that's how he is.

LT: Discipline is such a big issue in marriage and relationships, period. When you add on a nonbiological parent, it just gets more challenging. That I didn't have children at the time was almost like a mark against me because there was [no] precedent for how I raise children.

The truth is, if I was the biological father, I would have been a lot harder. I held back on a lot of things because I wasn't. I told Ronnie I would treat my own children the same as I treated her biological children, but she thought, "OK, you're saying you would be this hard, but there's nothing to compare that to." She wasn't sure until we had our first child together two years later.

TR: After you were married, what issues came up that you hadn't anticipated?

LT: There were people outside of our relationship that really wanted to see our marriage fail. They used Ronnie's biological children as a conduit to introduce negativity into our relationship. Family members would tell our son he didn't have to listen me and I can't tell him what to do.

When he began acting out, I assumed he was coming to these conclusions on his own, but I found out later he was hearing it from his family. That was irresponsible of the adults around us. If they had a problem with me, they should have said it to me directly instead of to him.

TR: Ronnie, did you ever feel that there were people who didn't want your marriage to survive as well?

RT: I don't think they necessarily wanted our marriage to end. Many people just don't know how to have healthy relationships, and so they may have projected unhealthy habits onto our relationship, like giving bad advice or doing things that went against what our goals [were] for our family. I had to learn in the beginning of our marriage to pick and choose who I talk to about our relationship, that just because someone is family or a friend doesn't mean they will give good advice.

When we got married I was stressed, we had kids and a new house, and I didn't feel like Lamar and I were divvying responsibilities evenly. I wanted more help. I confided in a family member, and the response was, "Your husband's lazy!" I realized I had to check myself about what I said about my husband and who I said it to. If I'm saying something negative about him, that opens the door for others to say it as well.

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