Blended families are one thing. The “Yours, mine and ours” reality can bring on confusing priorities and parenting roles. The genetic simplicity of the “Only ours” situation isn’t necessarily easier, though. Kids are tough on first, and all the other numbers of marriages. The tension, the divided loyalties, even the question “Who do I support, now?” are factors that could drive a couple, or at least half the couple, into therapy. The good news is, “That’s a positive move.”
The types of counseling professionals who handle Married with Kids problems are called family and/or relationship therapists. They’re trained to expect, to identify and to rehabilitate classic and other problems common to nuclear and to blended families.
A therapist’s objectivity, their ability to be neutral about issues that trouble family members, can allow unhappy relatives to more easily sort out the problems before them. Family members can stop trying to “get even” and enjoy “getting along” as the calm mental health professional points out potential solutions and ways to prevent future problems.
Poor or combative communication is often the hallmark of war-weary families. Cliché’s, cold shoulders and foul mouthed vocabulary derail conversations and attitudes. Rolling eyes and loud voices are no help. Ordering children to take sides in adult arguments, and vice versa, is the road to a disaster of an entirely different dimension.
A relationship therapist’s first goal is going to be to convince everyone involved to speak as pleasantly as possible under awful circumstances, and to refrain from abusive behaviors. Rude, mean-spirited or simply negative remarks (rejecting responsibility, name calling, justified and unjustified accusations) are forms of emotional abuse. So is withholding sex. These tactics kill relationships.
One of the complicated threats to an embattled family is the effect of anger, resentment and any form of negativity upon sexual relationships. Skilled family therapists guide adults into how to hold fair discussions and how to nurture their intimate lives. That includes learning how to set boundaries with the children let between the adults. They’ll also teach how to separate all that from other issues affecting the family, including an unhappy sex life. If a couple can’t tolerate having sex with each other, the loss will have a negative impact on the overall situation. Clever, skilled therapists might share the wisdom that sex lives tend to improve thanks to ever-better behavior between the couple and the impact of their behavior.
Progress in family life will be measured by the relationship therapist, and by enlightened clients, in incremental improvements as hot tempers cool off over time. That’s likely to require practice from all the family members. The good news is that as one family member models better communication skills, other relatives will be more likely to A) lose their rationale for using rough language or behavior, and to B) mimic the nicer behavior.
Competent, licensed therapists all over the Internet and inside offices can help everyone in the family to communicate better so that emotional lines will no longer be drawn between blood and/or blended relatives. Good-natured, polite, and inviting communication efforts are what brought the adults together in the first place, after all.
Reinvesting in constructive conversation can only improve matters, especially for the children involved. They’re essentially hostages to the warring adults who have a moral duty to model far better behavior to emotionally vulnerable offspring. With improved communication and respected boundaries, an embattled family can thus reverse direction from misery to happiness. Family members will learn, with therapeutic assistance, that they can cede dysfunctional power grabs for the sake of mutual happiness. Individual family members, and the family as a unit, can thus progress over time from mere coexistence to functional, pleasant interactions at will. The fun of finding out that good-natured compromises being the soul of happy family lives can open a world of healthy family dynamics.
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