It can be really difficult and painful to know when to call it quits in a blended family. If you have a gut feeling that something isn't quite right, there are tangible signs to be aware of before making the decision to end your relationship.
When to Call It Quits in a Blended Family
Whether you are living with your partner and children, are considering getting married, or have been married or committed for quite some time, ending a relationship when there are children involved can add an extra layer of pain to this difficult decision.
1. Your Partner Is Exhibiting Signs of Jealousy
If you are noticing your partner is showing signs of jealousy when the kids are given priority, this is a big red flag. Both you and your partner should prioritize the wellbeing of your children without making them feel as if they are an inconvenience, afterthought, or are contributing to the problems between you and your partner. Signs of jealousy may look like:
- Your partner shifting the attention towards themselves in a big or dramatic way when the kids are prioritized
- Not wanting to discuss kid-related logistics and redirecting the conversation back towards themselves
- Complaining that you give the kids more attention than you do them
2. There Are Signs of Abuse
If your partner is abusive towards you, their children, and/or your children, it's time to consider exiting the relationship. You are responsible for your children's safety and allowing them to be exposed to this dangerous behavior not only puts them in harm's way, but it also puts you at risk for losing them if someone else reports the abuse to Child Protective Services. Signs of abuse include:
- Gaslighting you and/or the kids (otherwise known as crazy-making)
- Physical abuse (hitting, kicking, pinching, scratching, etc.)
- Emotional abuse and manipulation (threatening to harm, belittling, terrorizing, isolating you and the kids from others)
Keep in mind that if you do leave the relationship and your partner is harming their kid(s), it's a good idea to report the abuse and make an attempt to protect them as well.
3. You Aren't Working as a Team
If you and your partner are unable to work together as a team and one or both of you aren't willing to make an effort to change this significantly, you will likely experience many relational and familial problems. This can result in a chaotic and unhealthy home environment for you both, and your children. Examples of not working together as a team:
- Assuming you know what role or roles your partner wants in terms of home life, romantic life, and as a parent
- Blaming each other and not problem solving together when issues arise
- Refusing to discuss recurring familial or relational issues
- Not making a solid plan when it comes to co-parenting and blaming each other when issues arise
- Not taking a unified front as parents and undermining each other
4. Communication Has Broken Down
Examples of communication breaking down within a blended family include:
- Your partner expects you to parent your kids and theirs without their help or opinion
- Your partner isn't willing to discuss your relationship or co-parenting with you and gets upset or enraged when you bring up wanting to improve them
- Your partner doesn't consult with their kids' other parent when making significant decisions
- Your partner isn't making an effort with your children and refuses or avoids speaking about it
5. You Lack Support From Your Partner
If you feel that your partner doesn't consistently have your back, when you add children into the mix, problems are likely to escalate. In healthy relationships, both partners should be there to support each other through the highs and lows of day-to-day life. If you can't trust or rely on your partner, this may not be the healthiest relationship for you and your child(ren). Also note that kids are always watching and internalizing what they see, so if their idea of a loving partnership is someone who isn't consistent or trustworthy, they are likely to replicate this pattern as they mature into adults.
6. You're Experiencing Major Co-Parenting Issues
If you two can't figure out how to adjust to being co-parents and one or both of you is unwilling to work on this, you will likely face many significant issues as your relationship progresses. This will not only negatively impact your romantic relationship, but will also be detrimental to the children involved. As co-parents, it's important to:
- Create a plan for what you both want co-parenting to look like
- Give each other common scenarios with your children and discuss how your co-parent will handle said situation
- Check in with each other often to ensure you both are pleased with how co-parenting is going
- Both be open to feedback from each other without being defensive
- Be willing to seek outside help if co-parenting issues become too overwhelming
Why Do Blended Families Fail?
Blended families may not work out for many different reasons. Some include:
- Major parenting differences that one or both of you can't get past
- Having false expectations as to what your relationship and family life will look like once you get married or move in together
- Unwillingness to work on difficult problems or seek outside help when needed
- Challenges with ex-partners that add additional stress to the new family unit
- Jealousy and sibling related issues
- Having a difficult time adjusting to new routines (parents and children)
- Less attention for the children
- Lack of preparation for how hard the transition may be for your particular family
- Not liking or difficulty connecting with step-parent
How Long Does It Take for Blended Families to Adjust?
In general, it can take between one and three years for a blended family to adjust to living together. However, each family is unique and the timeframe may be shorter or longer.
What Percentage of Blended Families End in Divorce?
About 60-70 percent of blended families don't end up working out.
When Should You Leave a Blended Family?
It can be difficult to know when to walk away from a blended family. It's important to listen to your gut instinct and seek outside support if you are struggling with this decision.