In a blended family every day should be Valentine’s Day. Okay, take away all the roses and grandiose love poems, but continue being intentional about showing care, love and (at the very least) respect and you can improve your blended family’s chances of thriving and growing together.
Why? Who doesn’t enjoy being treated with kindness? We don’t complain about the grocery clerk being nice or the driver who lets us in the turn lane. The nature of Valentine’s day – though contrived – is about giving positive reassurance in a relationship and focusing on someone else’s best qualities. It’s a little like having a schedule to maximize your time or a financial plan for your money. Like those plans, being intentionally positive toward someone helps the relationship grow when you’re not around and lays a path for where you’d like the relationship to head.
In blended families, roles tend to be undefined and can even change from one day to the next depending on who is in the house. Expectations haven’t always been figured out and those pesky personality quirks can be irritating since blended families don’t have the luxury of the natural bond of love first families automatically enjoy. In a blended family it’s easy for step-parents and step-children to find themselves confused about what emotion matches which person. How can the family work at blending together and understanding each other when it’s difficult to pinpoint the root of their own feelings?
That’s where Valentine’s Day can help. Valentine’s Day is all about the heart and all the warm, soft, gooey feelings that make us feel safe. When we feel safe we can open our hearts to those we love…or want to love. In a blended family you can take advantage of acting as if your family members are strangers (because essentially they are) and think about how you would like a stranger to treat you and then return the favor to your blended family members: a pleasant smile, pleasant small talk, a nice tone of voice and maybe laughing at their joke you don’t really find funny. It’s all about being intentionally pleasant and getting along. KISS – keeping it simple silly – will help too. Direct eye contact and a smile can go a long way.
Does it all sound contrived and fake? It can be seen that way, or ask yourself “am I doing something that’s helpful to my situation right now?” and you may see it differently. It’s all in how you think about a situation because our feelings follow our thoughts and our actions follow our feelings. So, instead of using your brain to list the unending things you don’t like about your blended family, use the brain to outsmart the heart and help create a nicer environment for yourself and those around you.
Since blended families lack a first family’s bond of love, building relationships in a blended family can take years and as much intentional effort as it does to date someone seriously. Not literally, but figuratively: thinking about them, showing them you care, doing nice things for them “just because,” and taking time to say “hello” will help to nurture the growing relationships.
It’s a monumental task to tame the chaos that can exist in blended families – some days you love it, some days you don’t. Valentine’s Day is the same. It can be a day we hate or love — it all depends on the potential of the relationship you have in front of you. Just because you’re not feeling the love right now, that doesn’t mean you never will.
Roses are Red, Violets are Blue, we are stuck in this family like Elmer’s glue…And, I hope to one day be good friends with you. Happy Valentine’s Day!