According to the American Psychological Association, 40%-50% of all first marriages in the United States end in divorce. The rate of divorce in remarriages is even higher – at approximately 75%.
Experts predict that this growing trend will result in the “blended family” becoming the predominant family structure in the United States. Merriam-Webster.com defines blended family as a family that includes children of a previous relationship of one spouse or both. This type of family structure comes with a unique set of challenges that traditional marriage counseling and training may not address.
Organizations like the Marriage Service Technicians are powerful resources to help these couples better prepare for marriage. Co-founders, Andrea Riley, and her husband Cliff, specialize in blended family services, using proactive techniques to help guide, coach and mentor couples into harmonious unions. The couple utilizes analogies of repairing and maintaining cars to illustrate principles of repairing and maintaining relationships.
Andrea’s choice to venture and form Marriage Service Technicians with her husband was predicated on not only her experience entering into a blended union, but also the added value- her passion to help families thrive. In a recent interview she states, “a marriage service technician does a lot of teaching, training, [and takes] more proactive measures that can steer couples in the right direction [prior to and] in the beginning stages of marriage before problems develop.” They also assist couples in various stages of relationships to recover and heal from damage that may have already occurred.
In 1991, Andrea entered into marriage as a stepmother. Having gone through obstacles herself, she understands the challenges that couples and blended families often face. Noting, “Cliff…had two children, a son and a daughter, prior to us getting married…there were times in the earlier stages when conflict would arise or I would bring up things that were going on and point out different things [with the children]. He actually would get defensive and he sometimes would feel like he needed to protect his children from me.” She goes on to point out the fact that this is a typical challenge that many blended families face.
Outside of a lack of communication between couples and developing a clear and concise plan when entering into parenthood as a stepparent, Andrea often finds that couples fall into a false conception that ‘LOVE’ is all that is needed to maintain a successful relationship and family dynamic. The problem she underscores, is that rushing into a relationship with a stepchild can often feel forced instead of natural. “When they’re ready to open up and to accept that stepparent, that’s when they’re going to be ready. There are things that you can do to help them and those are some of the things that we deal with or we point out (other) things that might be working against them; but we really can’t force a child to accept, even if we (as stepparents) call them our sons and daughters. A lot of times that (pressuring children to accept us) can just work against us and build up resentment within the children.”
With numerous obstacles and challenges working against blended families, Andrea warns that the most prevalent danger relationships face is a lack of understanding. Saying “many relationships and families are destroyed because of a lack of knowledge. There are very clear “principles” that can help build relationships – if they are practiced consistently. Violating these rules can have severe, devastating effects on marriages and families.”
As American author Joseph Campbell once stated “when you make the sacrifice in marriage, you’re sacrificing not to each other but to unity in a relationship.” Echoing the remarks of Campbell, Andrea encourages couples to work together to go the distance noting, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
To learn more about Andrea & Cliff Riley and their services as a Marriage Service Technicians visit http://MarriageServiceTechnicians.com or contact 609-326-3329.