The professional class and divorce industry have failed to provide children of divorce (and other non-triad arrangements) with an accurate theoretical model to understand their emotions and the ongoing problems they face. One of the reasons they have failed to do this, I believe, is that they put their trust in inaccurate models. One of these is called “blended family.” It serves as a buttress against developing a more accurate model.
It is a very popular model, and many or perhaps even most people rely on it for guiding their expectations as to how a step-family should form and function. The idea is that when two adults are in love, their love, joy and excitement is like a magical ingredient that will make the living arrangements and emotional bonding process go smoothly between people who have no shared past, no shared family tree, and no choice in the matter (the children). As I pointed out the other day, this explains why two otherwise intelligent people were completely comfortable with meeting their new step-children, and the step-children all meeting each other, on their wedding day. They relied on a flawed model.
This theoretical model is so appealing and pervasive that when the blending process does not go well, people will say, “My blended family won’t blend.” These people are under the false assumption that a smooth “blending” process is normal, and that a non-smooth process is abnormal. It is as if they are saying, “I have all the ingredients to bake a cake, but when I try to blend the ingredients together, they won’t blend. What is wrong with the ingredients?” This question makes sense when dealing with inert ingredients such as flour, sugar, salt, cocoa, etc. There is an actual chemistry involved in baking, and it is reliable–follow the recipe and you WILL get the desired result. But the “blended” model doesn’t work when applied to children and families, since they are not inert. Plus, family life should not be thought of as being in a blender, or as being subject to metal instruments that push you around so that you go in a direction somebody else wants you to go.
The normal result is to have a difficult time “blending” the family, because to even think of it that way is to embrace a flawed way to think about it. This is because:
- the Cinderella Effect is real
- the divorce rate among second and third marriages is higher than first
- children of divorce are at dramatically elevated risks for all sorts of negative outcomes
- divorce elevates the risk for suicide
- children of divorce have an elevated risk for experiencing divorce after they become adults and marry
- Human beings are not inert ingredients that operate according to chemical processes.
I long for the day when we are willing to embrace an accurate theoretical model for understanding first families and the harms that come about when they are destroyed because of the sinful behavior or the adults, or fail to form properly. It seems to me that we find ourselves in this predicimate because we (meaning, secular society) no longer accept “sin” as a legitimate category.