The nature of the American family has changed significantly. A century ago, divorce was uncommon. Families were usually only broken by death from accident or disease. Children went to orphanages, were adopted or taken into families of surviving relatives. There were problems and unhappiness in such outcomes, but the economic realities of the time required that individuals in thrown-together families make it together because other alternatives were few or none.Today, however, more than half of all first-time marriages with children end in divorce. Most divorcees than go on to second or third unions with new partners, bringing together children of previous marriages and forming blended families.Such mergers can be the most challenging of all family arrangements. Not only does the new marital couple have to establish a harmonious relationship with each other, but each also must build relations with his or her stepchildren. Furthermore, the children must find ways to make it together, hopefully, with the love, support, guidance and nurture of the parents/stepparents.Obviously, no two blended families are alike, but there are some common concerns to which couples considering merging their families should be alert. In fact, many potential pitfalls can be anticipated and prepared for, including: role expectations of one another, the nature of joint careers, division of labor, views on discipline, special concerns about each child, money, sex, in-laws, religion, health care, dispute resolution and more. In other words, a serious look ahead at the complexities of a marriage involving two sets of children is wise.Not all attempts to blend families are successful. However, many of them, with resulting close ties, offer rewarding relationships, rich memories and the satisfaction that comes from challenges met and survived. The more thoroughly the families prepare for the merger, the more manageable the inevitable surprises and the greater the likelihood of success.