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Stepfamily Profile: John and Melissa

More than 25 years ago John and Joann split. It was not amicable. The day the divorce was finalized, Joann left the courthouse, promptly secured a marriage license and married her boyfriend. Given that the divorce had been long and drawn out, it was not surprising to John that Joann remarried so quickly. He too was involved in a serious relationship with Melissa. John’s opposition, however, came when Joann told their daughter to call her new stepfather, “Dad.” Assuredly, this caused increased tension between the divorced parents.

Before the year was out, Joann’s marriage ended in divorce.

It was during this time frame that John married Melissa and they began a family of their own, including a daughter and a son.

Years ensued with squabbles over custody and child support. Melissa said that those early years were the most difficult because finances were tight. In addition, Joann’s life was unsettled due to her divorce and the pressures of running her own household. But in time, John began rebuilding a relationship with Joann, which included his new wife and children.

Melissa stated that it was done for the kids. “Our kids were siblings. We wanted them to have the opportunity to be close.”

With patience and level heads, this group of parents slowly mended fences. With each new milestone for their children, they felt the increasing importance of putting aside their bitterness to focus on what was in the best interest of all of the children. In essence, the adults’ needs were superseded by those of their children.

Over two decades later, they can all attest that it worked.

A few short years ago, John and Melissa’s daughter was a bridesmaid in Joann’s wedding to husband number three. John’s daughters lived together while working out of state and the parents pooled their resources to share responsibility. It’s not uncommon to find the entire family, stepparents included, sharing holiday dinners or special events together. And this summer, Joann welcomed Melissa into part-time employment with her company.

“Ever heard the adage, ‘It didn’t happen overnight, but it did happen.’ Well, that’s us,” Melissa said. “It’s amazing what you will do for your kids. And for us, it made us a real blended family.”

While these results may be surprising for some families, it is a testament to what can be done when all adults attempt to resolve their issues and put their children first. As a personal aside, I am good friends with Melissa and can attest that her no-nonsense attitude coupled with her commitment to her family steadied this situation along the way. She is always the first to understand stepfamily issues and ensure that peace can be achieved.

Melissa is also quick to point out what she believes was the most important factor in their blended family equation: time.

While clocks seem to tick slowly on days when stepfamily tensions are at their highest, it pays to look towards the long-term. Focusing on the end result can help put things in perspective and challenge you to respond in more effective ways. John and Melissa worked from this position throughout their decades-long marriage and have achieved a level of blended family success to which we all can aspire.

“This is what life looks like 20-25 years later,” Melissa added laughingly.

Duly noted.

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