As part of our Blended Family Friday series, each week we spotlight a different stepfamily to learn how they successfully blended their two families. Our hope is that by telling their stories, we'll bring you closer to blended family bliss in your own life! Want to share your own story? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nicole Messer met her second husband Justin back in December 2011, and she says she knew almost immediately that he was the man she wanted to raise her kids alongside.
The mom of three told The Huffington Post that the journey since then has been "crazy, amazing, weird, tough and just lovely."
"There's been so many different emotions," Nicole said. "We were both on the flip-side of relationships that just did not suit either of us well. Today, we are happier than ever."
Below, Nicole tells us more about her blended family and explains why it's so important that her ex stays in the picture.
Hey Nicole. Want to introduce us to your family?
Our crazy little family is made up of my husband Justin, me and our kids Rachel (7), Ian (6) and Arica (6).
Rachel and Arica are adopted with my ex-husband and Ian was adopted by me and my husband. We are truly a blended in many different ways.
Afton LeFevere / Afton Marie Photography
How long have you and Justin been together?
My husband and I went on our first date in late 2011. I had to twist his arm to go on a date with me! We had plans... but he was thinking about canceling on me. (He had legit reasons: He was spending time at the hospital with grandpa.) We ate at this wonderful Mexican restaurant, saw a movie, watched another movie at his house and have been stuck together ever since! I knew the first night that I met him that I never wanted to leave his side.
We were engaged on June 9, 2013 and married on August 9, 2014.
What do you appreciate most about home life now that your family includes Justin?
The absolute best thing about being a blended family is that there are more people involved. More people = more love! It's priceless to me how amazing our families have been in supporting us. Justin's family took us into their hearts and have treated us like blood relatives. Each of our families pitch in to help out with late nights at work, sports and dance practices and nights when we just need time away together.
What challenges have you encountered as a family since expanding?
I think the biggest challenge has just been figuring out what "normal" looks like for us. It's sometimes difficult to work out schedules for the girls when they go back and forth between home and my ex's house, but we're pretty good at talking about it.
Believe me, blending a family isn't without its challenges and we're definitely not perfect. Sometimes it takes some negotiation but we make adjustments as we go! If the girls have something going on one weekend, my ex and I will swap around for a different weekend. Emergencies come up, things change, but we're flexible.
You talked a bit about having a civil relationship with your ex when you first reached out to us. Could you talk a little about that?
Like I said, we are not perfect. We do not have it all figured out and sometimes it's not easy. There is never anything easy about a divorce. My ex and I have always been able to be very open about what's going on with the kids, though. We've never had to sit and hash anything out in a courtroom or with mediators. As long as you are honest about what you want and your intentions remain purely on what's best for the children, it really does get easier. I think the best policy we have is that when it starts to become an emotionally based conversation rather than a logical one, we take a break and revisit the topic later. It can take longer to come to decisions, sure, but it's what works for us!
What makes you proudest of your family?
Love! We're totally great at one thing and it's loving one another! I remember standing at the front of our wedding reception and looking out at our 140 closest family and friends and our kids, who were running around everywhere just being their happy selves and everyone was absolutely careless and comfortable. Every one of those people knew our family situation and they were there to love us and support us unconditionally.
How do you deal with stress in your household?
Family support. We could not do this without the never-ending support of our families. Marriage is tough! Coming into a relationship with three children and becoming a blended family is even more tough. Both of our parents have been married for 30+ years and we are not too proud to ask for help or advice.
If a stressful situation is child-related, which obviously does happen, I will be the first person to send texts and make phone calls to ask for advice or to bounce ideas off our many supporters.
We're also lucky that both sets of our parents have stepped up and helped out with our kids these last few years so we could go on dates or get away for the weekend. It's great when Justin and I are able to sit still for a few moments. We're able to revisit why we're together and why we are good at what we do.
What advice do you have for other blended families who feel like a peaceful family dynamic is out of reach?
Communicate! Things will definitely shut in your family when the communication shuts down. It's tough, it takes time, it's hard work but it's so worth it when you look into the eyes of your children and they see you being a great role model and going about it the right way. It's taken three or four years to get to where we are today and I know that there will always be more work around the corner. You just have to stick it through!