My husband and I married in mid-October 15 years ago, and the holidays descended upon us as we began our new life together. My expectations of a joyous  holiday season quickly faded as the reality of combining two households with different traditions and outside family members settled on us.

I wasn’t prepared for the chaos and heartache that accompanied our first set of holidays together. Blending four young children, managing a harried schedule with two ex-spouses, and competing with the “other households” for time together and adequate give exchange ignited a simmering blaze that burned throughout the season, leaving behind a trail of hurt feelings and unmet expectations.

Our holidays as a family have changed considerably since that first year. We only have one child living at home and although our schedules are busy, we don’t have competing households to contend with. We live out of state from my ex-husband and my stepchildren’s mother passed away nine years ago. So, the complications are significantly reduced and it’s much easier to agree on a time to come together to celebrate the holiday.

We also enjoy time together comfortably, without the strain of awkward relationships and misunderstood communication. Our family has matured through difficult times and worked through angry encounters, hurt feelings and stressful situations. We can now appreciate one another’s differences and love each other’s uniqueness.

I’m thankful I didn’t give up that first year of marriage during our difficult holiday season. We’re not a perfect family, but we’ve learned to love and accept one another, creating loyal relationships that tie us together as a family.

I pray you’ll enjoy a happy holiday season. But, even if it’s less than perfect, don’t give up on your family. Stepfamily relationships are complicated and stable stepfamilies are not created overnight. There’s always hope for continued growth and better days ahead if you don’t quit.

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