I think every couple or family has specific issues that are a source of contention or pain. Although the exact issue may be different for each of us, everyone has a constant issue that creeps up over and over again. For some it is finances or a lack of communication. For others it is career challenges or maybe a lack of engagement. Though different for everyone, it seems that most have something that is their Achilles heel and they struggle to find a permanent solution.

In my upcoming book, The Long Walk Back, I talk about some of the things that my past has dictated I contend with even today. One of those things is our blended family. We love our kids and grandkids and we enjoy our time together, but parenting in our blended family has been our greatest struggle. It is the one place where Barbara and I have had the most conflict and have struggled to find common ground.

There are many contributing factors to our struggle. First, we were two broken people who each had issues we were trying to resolve internally. We struggled to find answers to our own problems, much less how to parent correctly. One of the other factors is the children’s other parents who were broken as well. This combination complicated communication and direction. Our children were also hurting and we often found ourselves making decisions out of guilt feeling we had created most of their pain. Added to the pile was the fact that our involvement in each of our children’s lives varied. All of the children have lived in our home at some point, two of which only lived with us after they were an adult. Cameron came to live with us in 7th grade and has spent the most time in the family home. Austin would live with us his junior year in high school, but that was 10 years into the process. Robbie and Lauren only lived with us after high school. These varied involvements created certain hurdles that we did not manage very well.

Though it has been our greatest area of conflict, we clearly recognize there are some things that we could and should have done early-on that would have made it much better. Frankly, these things are probably applicable to any struggle you are having in a relationship, especially in a marriage.

Start Early

One of our challenges is that we did not plan for parenting in our blended family. When we became aware of the challenges, we thought they would work themselves out instead of actually putting things into practice. At some point it almost seemed too late to begin. Frankly, it probably was because they were not too far from becoming adults.

Whatever your challenge, deal with it early. Whatever the difficulty, don’t procrastinate believing that it will take care of itself. The sooner you get started the more likely you are to achieve long term success.

Speak Often

There is rarely over communication when you are having difficulties. You most likely cannot talk about it enough. As a matter of fact one of the main problems is usually a lack of communication. Lack of communication creates assumptions and assumptions lead to increased problems. It is also important that plenty of conversations are had that are not initiated by an incident. Looking back, that was probably one of the things that made it worse for us; we waited until there was conflict to communicate and so very little was ever resolved. Talk early and talk often.

Stay Committed

There is no such thing as a relationship without challenges. There are no setbacks in life without hurdles to overcome on the journey back. One of the critical things is knowing that you are committed no matter what. Commitment creates safety in knowing that life will continue even while you work through the current struggle.

If you are facing frustrations or struggles as you navigate life, know that you are not alone and there are some practices you can put into place that will improve your odds of success. I have had my share of setbacks and problems. I have also seen grace overcome many of those things. If you would like to know a little more about my story, I have a brand new book entitled The Long Walk Back that you can preorder beginning on Monday. I would love to hear some of your story and struggles as well-leave me a comment below.