Conquering Conflict in Your Blended Family – Part One: What is Your Style?

“I don’t handle conflict well and lately it seems to be following me around.”  Stepmother

Blended families have more conflict on average than traditional families. There are a lot of variables that can lead to conflict. But that doesn’t mean our families have  to be consumed with it. Conflict is part of life and if we learn to manage it constructively, we can resolve it as it occurs and move forward.

I will do several posts over the next week or so on managing conflict. Some of my thoughts come from within our own family and observing other stepfamilies during conflict periods. Other ideas come from Resolving Conflict in the Blended Family by Tom and Adrienne Frydenger.  

Many of us developed certain ways to deal with conflict during our childhood. Those styles may have worked for us in our family of origin or in simple conflict situations but may not work for us in complex stepfamily struggles. We will talk about different conflict styles and you will likely find a style you use most often.

When my first marriage ended, I went through a lot of counseling to better understand myself and how I ended up in such a dysfunctional marriage. I learned I was a peacemaker and people pleaser and leaned toward a peacemaker style when dealing with conflict. I wanted everyone to get along and went to great lengths to have everyone in agreement, even if I sacrificed my desires and convictions in the process.

Peacekeepers often give up part of themselves to work through conflict. They end up with stomach ulcers and migraine headaches because they’re not effectively dealing with the issue at hand. They’re going along with what others want, regardless of whether it has a healthy outcome that works for everyone involved (including themselves).

There are times when peacemaking is okay for conflict. We see from Biblical examples that Jesus believed in this style: “If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop  him from taking your tunic.” (Luke 6:29). However, if we follow Jesus’ examples, we will notice other styles he used also.

Peacemaking does not work with defiant teen-age stepchildren or rude, hateful ex-spouses. As stepparents, we are not doormats to be trampled or fence posts to be kicked. Many blended family issues are too complex to use a simple peacemaking style without getting trampled on.

Do you identify with a peacemaking style in manging conflict? Can you recognize times when it doesn’t work effectively?

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