Archive for the 'stepfamily marriage' Category

Celebrating Valentine’s Day as a Stepcouple

Have you made plans for Valentine’s Day yet? If not, please do. As a stepcouple, you deserve a night out to celebrate your marriage and enjoy time as a couple.heartStepfamily life includes too much time trying to cope with the everyday strain of kid issues, or co-parenting with a difficult ex-spouse, or juggling the emotions that crop up constantly surrounding stepfamily challenges.

Valentine’s Day is a day to celebrate the love that brought you and your spouse together. Leave the kids at home and spend the night out. Make plans to do something special. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money or even involve the entire evening. But it needs to send the message to each of you that your marriage is important.

Make a few rules surrounding the evening. There will be no discussion of children, ex-spouses, financial challenges, or job stress. The evening is to be dedicated to celebrating your love and what brought the two of you together. Make plans for the future. Dream about years to come when the kids will be gone (it really does happen, I promise). Or plan a summer vacation for just the two of you.

But don’t let Valentine’s Day slip by without celebrating your marriage. It only comes once a year. What’s your plan?

How do you celebrate Valentine’s Day? I would love to hear.

Related Posts:

Nurture Your Marriage

The Value of a Supportive Spouse

Make Your Remarriage Work: Separate Marriage and Parenting Issues










Make Your Remarriage Work: Separate Marriage and Parenting Issues

“I refuse to get on that bandwagon and stay consumed with my stepson’s problems. It’s a tough situation but I don’t want it to ruin every aspect of our lives.”

I recently spoke with a new stepmom who is dealing with some tough issues with her 16-year-old stepson. She recognizes the critical place her stepson is in but refuses to allow the strain of his problems to interfere with her marriage to his dad. I told her I was proud to see her separate the difficult parenting issue from the new marriage she and her new husband are building. It’s not an easy thing to do.

When we’re raising children in a blended family, we often get consumed with the negative issues surrounding the kids and allow it to interfere with our remarriage. It’s crucial for us to be aware of how an unfavorable stepchild situation can bleed over into resentment toward our spouse. If we see that happening, we need to make a conscious choice to separate the parenting issue from our marriage, and talk with our spouse about our feelings.

When I blamed my husband for difficulties with his children in the early years of our remarriage, he would say, “I’m your friend in this marriage, not your enemy. We can work this out together. But we have to be on the same side and I don’t sense you’re on my side.”

He was right. I was allowing my stepparenting struggles to interfere with my feelings toward him and create a strain in our relationship. I’m thankful he didn’t allow me to stay stuck in those feelings.

There will naturally be some overlap between our stepparenting role and our remarriage. But when we let negative feelings toward our stepchildren interefere with our feelings toward our spouse, we need to evaluate the situation and separate the stepparenting struggle from the marriage relationship.

Do you have difficulty separating marital and parenting issues? Does it affect your marriage relationship?

Related posts:

The Power of Boundaries as a Stepparent: Part One

The Power of Boundaries as a Stepparent: Part Two

Nurture Your Marriage

As a Stepfamily, You Can Expect Challenges

Before my husband and I married, I read everything I could about stepfamilies. I was excited about joining our  families together and wanted to get a head start on how to have a happily-ever-after future.

But as I read, I was deflated by the dismal picture every book presented. I finally quit reading because I couldn’t process the negativity.  I was convinced it wouldn’t be that way in our family.

But I was wrong.

Some of our challenges were to be expected. But our biggest challenges were completely unforeseen. We could have never predicted that my stepchildren’s mother would die of colon cancer within the first decade of our marriage, leaving behind two teen-age children, angry and confused. Following her death, we never imagined facing a custody battle with my stepson’s stepfather over a child that wasn’t his, when my husband was fully capable of raising his son.

 I would have never guessed that my ex-husband would lose his complete career as a physician because of addiction, resulting in  disregard for child support payments and  feelings of detachment and confusion for my two daughters. And just as our family was finding resolution to many of our challenges, we couldn’t have foreseen the loss of my husband’s job, sending us four hours away from our three children in college – a new challenge on the horizon.

Every stepfamily I talk to has challenges. They come in different shapes and different sizes, but they’re there. In his book, The Remarriage Checkup, Ron Deal says, “…the reality of remarriage is that life in a stepfamily is much more difficult than most couples anticipate. The unique challenges of being a stepcouple work against marital success, and only those who intentionally work to overcome them find the reward they dreamed of before walking down the aisle.” (my italics)

What about your stepfamily? Are you experiencing unforeseen challenges? That’s not unusual. But here’s the question:

Are you willing to intentionally work to overcome your challenges or will you be another failing statistic?

Related Posts:

God is Enough for the Stepfamily Challenge You Face

Stinkin’ Thinkin’ Creates Bitter Quitters in Blended Families

Photo by flickr

Five Practical Tips for Successful Stepparenting

Because it’s the first week of the new year, I see ideas on how to better ourselves at every turn. So it made me think about what practical tips I would give for someone hoping to better their stepparenting  relationships.

If you read my blog often you probably know that the first tip I would suggest is to center your life around God and seek His guidance for you and your family. Take practical steps toward spiritual growth – consistent prayer, Bible study, and fellowship with other believers – to allow for spiritual maturity that will benefit all of your relationships.

The second tip I offer for successful stepparenting is to maintain a united front with your spouse. Don’t allow disagreements over the kids to impede on your marital relationship. Discuss “kid issues” in private and reach a mutual decision over behavior before addressing a child. Allow the biological parent to address disciplinary actions of his/her child whenever possible.

The third tip I suggest is to learn how to resolve conflict. Research shows that stepfamilies have more conflict, on average, than traditional families so it’s important for you to know how to manage it. If you need help in this area, seek outside services. Don’t resort to using intimidation, manipulation, or avoidance. Learn the skills you need to properly address conflict and resolve it or it will haunt you and your relationships.

Tip #4 for successful stepparenting is to commit to do your part to create peaceful relationships. I don’t have to define what “your part” means in a peacemaking role. Each of us knows what we need to do to promote peace in our home. The decision we must make is this: are we willing to do the “hard stuff” in our relationships? Are we willing to be the bigger person? Will we commit to take the high road, regardless of how our stepchild behaves?

The fifth tip I suggest is to maintain a separate identity of who you are outside your stepparenting role. This might seem like an odd tip for successful stepparenting but it’s an important one because it allows for better objectivity in your stepparenting role.

I didn’t grasp this for a long time and it almost destroyed me in the early years of our marriage. My identity centered on being a good mom and stepmom. Therefore, on difficult stepparenting days (which were often in the beginning) I felt like a complete failure. But when I learned to recognize that my stepparenting role was only one part of who I was, I could walk away from difficult stepparenting interactions and objectively identify what went wrong and how to fix it. It also enables me to recognize that my stepchildren play a role in what kind of relationship we have and I am only repsonsible for my part.

Five practical tips with a meaningful punch to enable successful stepparenting in 2012 and beyond.

Do you agree? Do you have other tips to offer? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Related Posts:

Steps for Successful Stepparenting

Positive Thinking Elicits Successful Stepparenting

Is It a Privilege to be a Stepparent?

Marriage is Not Always Blissful – Especially in Blended Families

My husband, Randy, and I celebrate 16 years of marriage tomorrow. If you read my blog often, you know it hasn’t all been blissful.

I’ll never forget the night Randy called me from a hotel room and said he wasn’t coming home that night. We had been married less than a year and we were struggling as we attempted to blend our four children. I realized the truth of his words, “It just isn’t working Gayla.”

We had had an argument early that evening over the kids and he couldn’t deal with the tension any longer. We both began to question if our marriage could stand the stress of stepfamily life: grasping at how to parent together, coping with difficult ex-spouses, dealing with the rejection of stepparenting, accepting the crazy schedule that left little time for a couple relationship, along with the grind of everyday life.

We had a decision to make: would we fight to keep going or would we call it quits before we gave it a fair chance?

Randy nor I wanted another divorce. We had walked that road and still felt the remnants of pain and failure. We knew we could make it work – but we needed help.

We began seeing a counselor who addressed the difficulty of our stepfamily dynamics. He also confronted us with the unresolved baggage we were carrying and the role each of us was playing in the tension-filled home we lived in. It was painful and heart-wrenching at times, but we began seeing improvements in our marriage and stepparenting interactions. 

We also found a stepfamily support group in a nearby church that was studying literature and Scripture specific to stepfamilies. It was a sacrifice to make the weekly meetings, but it was critical to our growth as we integrated with other stepparents and found healthy ways to unite our four children.

Sixteen years later, those difficult days of early blended- family life blur in the rear-view mirror. I wouldn’t want to re-live them, but they are part of our stepfamily memories, reminding us how far our family has come.

We have only one child still at home – it’s the only child Randy and I have together. And I must admit – life is simpler, life is less stressful, life is calmer.

But marriage is not all bliss, even at this stage. Our struggles are no longer tied to stepparenting or difficult ex-spouses, but we still encounter stressful periods. We have just come through a tumultuous year that put tremendous weight on our marriage. But our commitment of years’ past pulled us through our non-blissful days.

I have a renewed commitment to my marriage. I recognize the short-lived season of child-rearing. And when all our children leave home, I want a thriving marriage.

So, where are you on your marriage journey? Are you plunging through the difficult years of early stepfamily life? Can you recognize the growth your family has made through stepfamily challenges? Are you focusing on your non-blissful days or striving to make the best of whatever season you’re in, committed to the long run of your marriage?

How do you cope with non-blissful days of marriage? Will you share your thoughts?

Related Posts:

The Value of a Supportive Spouse

Making Re-Marriage Work: Steps for Success

Making Your Re-Marriage Work: Don’t Settle for Mediocrity

How Do You Cope When Your Season of Life Takes an Abrupt Turn?

I knew our move out of state would be a difficult change for me. But I didn’t recognize the change of season I would experience at the same time.

I had a comfortable life in Conway, Arkansas. I was actively involved in the community as a fellow parent, school volunteer, local magazine writer, piano instructor, and active church member.

I spent most of my time involved with our children’s activities and community events. But when we moved, everything changed.

It changed because my season changed. We had two children already in college who were living away from home, but it was easy to connect with them on week-ends or evenings.

Our fourth oldest child graduated from high school last Spring and made plans to begin college in the Fall. And like her brother and sister, she began her college education in Conway.

So, we moved to Shreveport, Louisiana with one child. Our 10-year-old, Nathan, is the only child we have left at home. It creates a lump in my throat as I realize we have begun the descent to empty nest.

How did this happen? How did we go from four children at home, frequent teen-age struggles, frustrating stepchild rebellion, and unexpected late-night crises to a quiet, easy-going environment with a compliant elementary child who rarely ripples the water? 

How did our home move from one that had constant activity with countless children coming and going to a home controlled by the activity of one? 

Suddenly, I recognize the brevity of our child-rearing season of life.

I know it feels like your stepchildren will never leave home and you will always be in an unending struggle with them — but it really does change.

I know it’s hard to recognize that someday you won’t need to have frequent conversations with your difficult ex-spouse about the children’s visitation schedule — but it really does change.

I know it seems like you will never get the laundry finished, house cleaned, and meals cooked on time because there are simply not enough hours in the day — but it really does change.

And when your season of life takes an abrupt turn, how do you cope?

Lean into your faith, and rely on those you love.

Seek help from someone else who has gone through it. Because at some point, we all experience new seasons of life. 

But in our new season, we can find meaning with purposeful involvement in other’s lives around us. We can leave behind the struggles of our stepparenting years and move forward with a renewed faith in maturing relationships with our stepchildren.

So, if you’re in a child-rearing season with difficult stepchildren that seems to have no end, be encouraged. It will not last forever.

But in the midst of it, nurture the relationship with your spouse. Because when the children leave home, and your season of life takes an abrupt turn, your spouse will be there to pick up the pieces with you. 

“To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

Where are you in the seasons of life? Will you share your experience in the comments below?

Related Posts:

There’s Beauty After the Pain

Finding Hope in the Midst of Uncertainty

The Valley of the Unknown

The Value of a Supportive Spouse

With Valentine’s Day upon us, it’s a great time to show your spouse what you appreciate about him/her. And if your spouse is a stepparent, make an extra effort to validate his efforts and the important role he plays in the life of your child.

It’s so easy to get distracted with our kids and forget to let our spouse know how important he/she is to us. My husband is a much better encourager than I am and I often take for granted his words of love and support. But without his support, I would have given up on my stepparenting role.

During my stepkid’s adolescent years, it seemed I was emotionally attacked regularly. If someone was unhappy, I became the target for their anger. But thankfully, my husband stood up for me and required that I be treated with respect.

One of the best gifts we can give our spouse if he/she is a stepparent is the gift of support. Stepparenting is a difficult role and if we don’t feel that our spouse is supporting our efforts, it’s easy to give up. There are a lot of ways to show support but here are a few to consider:

Thank him for being a parent to your child.
Compliment his stepparenting efforts.
Require that your children are respectful toward him.
Affirm his worth as your spouse.
Offer him grace when he messes up.
Cook his favorite meal.
Enjoy an evening together without the kids.
Put his needs before yours.
Make your relationship a priority.

If you’re a stepparent also, and you’re not getting the support you need from your spouse, ask for it! Your spouse cannot read your mind and may not realize the struggle you’re experiencing.

Marriage is a union between two people that requires constant nurturing. But the rewards of our efforts far outweigh the work.

How do you show support to your spouse? I would love to hear from you.

Related Posts:

Making Your Remarriage Work: Be An Encourager

Nurture Your Marriage

The Value of Prioritizing Your Marriage

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