Families come in all different sizes and varieties. For the first time in 2010 the number of blended or stepfamilies exceeded the number of nuclear families. According to the Census Bureau over 1,300 stepfamilies are formed daily, approximately 33 percent of all weddings and 6.4 million children live with one birth parent and one stepparent. Over six million children are living in divorced families. Everyone wants "this marriage" to be their last and be healthy and strong but many couples in blended families know the odds are against them - very much against them. The blended marriage divorce rate is approximately 67 percent and even higher at 73 percent for the third marriage. The good news is most remarried couples can beat the odds of divorce and build a successful blended family if they have a good understanding of stepfamily dynamics and are aware of and know how to overcome the unique barriers to marital intimacy in a blended family. Many blended marriages fall victim to divorce because they get blindsided by the pressures and unforeseen dynamics of stepfamily living. Some common pitfalls are:

Reliance on First Marriage Experience. Dating couples naively assuming their first-marriage equipped them with everything they need to know to have a happy remarriage and parents who raised their own children assume they know how to be a stepparent. Generally speaking, neither is the case. The parent-child relationship came before the couple's relationship. The couple has not time to establish a strong marital relationship prior to the introduction of children. Issues regarding discipline, jealousy and resentment may all enter into play. There is also a lack of shared memories and traditions. Disagreement may arise over seemingly "small" matters, i.e., do we get just turkey or turkey and ham on Thanksgiving? Or something more significant like do we go to Baptist or Methodist church services. Only on TV does everything quickly fall into place and everyone's one happy family.

Just like the Biological Family. When blended marriage couples believe stepfamilies are just like traditional, nuclear families they are setting themselves up for disappointment. They discover their stepfamily is very different from anything they've ever experienced and realize they don't have the tools to successfully manage their home. Becoming a blended family is a gradual, long-term process. Blended families are created out of loss - a loss of a parent through divorce or death with this as a foundation all blended families face difficulties and painful feelings. Unresolved grief whether the result of death or divorce can prevent building healthy new relationships. Some experts say it takes at least two years for a new blended family to adjust and settle into the new arrangement. Trying to meet all the demands, physical and emotional needs of all of the members of a blended family especially considering the external factors of the ex-spouse, in-laws, etc. almost guarantee things will not run smoothly.

I will be their Dad. Unique to men some think they will enter the relationship replacing his stepchildren's dad and assume responsibility for their children's discipline. In most blended families your stepchildren already have fathers and who they more than likely love very much. Their father's authority is much better established than yours so whatever you do don't try to step into his place and don't ask them to call you "Dad". While insisting on being called, "Dad" is a bad idea that doesn't excuse you from actually being a dad. Act responsibly, be there for the kids when they need you, share their joys and sorrows with them, bulid them up as much as you can, help them with their homework, offer advice, explain how things work, organize their day and so on - all the things you'd do if they were their actual father. Do it because it's the right thing to do because you probably won' t get much attention or appreciation for it.

When my wife, her two children and I became a blended family in 1995 outside of family counseling there were no online resources and support available on how to successfully blend a family or how to be a good stepparent. I entered my marriage with a custom set of misperceptions and erroneous expectations. I learned first hand the dynamics and disappointments of blended life with very little support to turn to. Fast forward to the present and there's now an abundance of information on the web available to stepmothers. For men surprisingly it's just the opposite with very few online resources for stepfather's and men aspiring to become. I'm not sure why that is. What comes to mind is how we as men act when we're lost - we'll drive an extra 50 miles before we consider looking at a map or stopping to ask for directions. The absence of available online resources combined with men not taking advantage of what is available is a trend that needs to reversed. With the divorce rate for blended families at 67 percent a man cannot ill afford not to enter the marriage with their eyes wide open so they can avoid the pitfalls associated with the various challenges of the blended family and led their family with success. Preparation and continuing education by a man and woman before and after blending is insuring your marriage can not only survive but thrive.

Author's Bio: 

Gerardo Campbell is the owner of the website Support for Stepfathers, http://www.supportforstepdads.com, a resource for men so they can prepare and equip themselves for the challenges associated with step fatherhood and be able to lead their families through the mine fields associated with blended families.