Latest Marriage Articles
10 Things to Know Before You Remarry
6. Dating is important but true stepfamily relationships start with the wedding. Children are sometimes tolerant, even encouraging of their parent's new romance, but they frequently change their tune when real stepfamily life begins. Mike called me the day after he and Carrie married. After dating for two years, they spent three months in pre-remarital counseling with me trying to work through issues from the past and anticipating the needs of her children. Even though much had been accomplished, on the day of the wedding, Carrie's 16 and 19-year-old daughters began badgering their mother. They had appeared supportive of her decision, but now that Mike was really moving in, they berated Carrie over her decision to divorce their father and remarry. Carrie spent her wedding night in tears.
7. Discuss and develop a plan for your parenting roles. For the first couple years after remarriage it's generally best for the biological parent to remain the main source of nurturance, affection, and discipline. The stepparents role may evolve from a "babysitter" role (where they borrow power from the biological parent and enforce "their" rules), to an "uncle or aunt" (where the children consider the stepparent extended family, but not a parent), to a "parental role model" with a considerable measure of authority. This gradual progression gives the stepparent and stepchildren time and space to develop a relationship before power battles come into play.
8. Develop a working relationship with your ex-spouse. Susie thought her negative relationship with her ex-husband could never change. She learned, however, that seeking to forgive him and avoiding pushing his hot buttons helped to diminish their negative interaction. Gradually their co-parenting relationship improved and their children became more cooperative in each household. This in turn opened the door for Susie's new husband to interact with her kids and gradually build a relationship.
9. Loyalties, left unattended, will divide and conquer a stepfamily. Allow children to love both biological parents and don't force a relationship with the stepparent(s). Let children set the pace for their new steprelationships and don't worry if they aren't "warming up" as quickly as you'd like. ave worked very hard to win the heart of his 12-year-old stepdaughter. But after only four months he gave up because she didn't seem to be returning any of the effort. With a crock-pot mentality Dave would have understood that relationship building takes years, not months.
10. Consider the potential for sexual pressures within the home. The incidence of stepfamily incest is eight times greater than in biological families. Stepsiblings in particular are often confronted with sexual thoughts that lead to shame or inappropriate behavior. Darrell and his wife of 10 years approached me at a recent seminar after her thirteen-year-old son admitted to sneaking into his fourteen-year-old stepsister's room to fondle her. They had been living in the same house for ten years, yet the lack of blood relations left the door open for abuse. Sexual indiscretions in stepfamilies are real and must be guarded against.
Making the Decision to Step Forward
Because stepfamily life presents these and other challenges, it's important to invest in pre-remarital counseling. Be sure to find a Christian therapist or minister who understands stepfamily peculiarities. Unfortunately, this can be very difficult as clergy are just now beginning to wake-up to the needs of stepfamilies, and most counselors don't have much stepfamily training either. If a qualified counselor is not available in your area, purchase a book or attend a seminar for stepfamilies. Make sure you look in every direction before you leap, otherwise you might spend a lot of time wandering around the wilderness.
Stepfamily life is not impossible. Indeed there is a 'Promised Land' of marital fulfillment, family stability, and shared spirituality. But for most stepfamilies finding these rewards requires intentional effort and a keen understanding of how stepfamilies work best. Making the decision to begin the long journey from Egypt to Canaan needs to be an informed one.
After a lot of exploration, Angie and Mike decided that remarriage was workable for their two families. And they were willing to accept the risks. Four years into the marriage the couple reports managing their initial adjustments fairly well. Recently, however, Mike's 15-year-old son unexpectedly decided to come live with them. New challenges are now confronting them, but they are seeking help from a local support group.
Shelly has decided to focus her energies on her children. She explained to her boyfriend that she'd like to continue seeing him on a casual basis and hopes that some day they can take the relationship further. But for now, not complicating her single-parent family with a remarriage seems best. His willingness to wait remains to be seen.
Ron L. Deal is Founder and President of Successful Stepfamilies, author of the best-selling The Smart Stepfamily: Seven Steps to a Healthy Family, and a licensed marriage and family therapist. Ron conducts seminars throughout the country and has appeared on numerous national TV and radio programs. Successful Stepfamilies provides practical resources, free articles, and conference information to families and the churches that serve them. Their web site is the largest, most visited, and most referenced site for Christian stepfamilies in the world. Build your stepfamily (blended family) or marriage ministry today.
Printed by permission of HomeWord. For additional information on HomeWord, visit www.homeword.com or call 800-397-9725. We pray that you will continue to be blessed from these resources. If we can be of any further assistance, please contact us.