Going from single to a spouse and parent of someone else’s children overnight is not for the faint of heart. For those who are or have been married, you know how tough marriage in and of itself can be, but throw a few kids in the mix from the get go, and that could be a recipe for disaster. But it doesn’t have to be.
Let’s face it! Blended families were not God’s original intent for the family, so it’s no wonder more second marriages end in divorce than firsts. God didn’t design us to parent someone else’s children. He didn’t plan for marriage to end in divorce. Therefore, both can be challenging and painful, but it doesn’t mean they can’t be fruitful and rewarding.
Divorce and blended families have become the norm in today’s society so how do we do it? How do we make it work? How do we ensure that we don’t end in divorce again?
I believe that blended families can be successful. Blended families and second marriages are a perfect representation God’s specialty: second chances!
However, they are infinitely harder than firsts and here are a few reasons why:
1. Parenting children that you didn’t have the opportunity to build relationships with from birth is hard. They come with preconceived notions about you and you about them. You have expectations and so do they. They have a mother/father that they have no interest in you taking their place.
2. Differing parenting styles
3. Strained relationships with the “other” parent or even among step siblings
4. Differing household expectations after doing things “your way” for so long
There are many other reasons that second marriages are harder than firsts. The first marriage is really about the two of you and learning to “do life” together as a couple and then adding children to the mix. In second marriages, we are trying to find a place for everyone in the family and blending all of those personalities and experiences into a happy little family takes time. It’s no longer about two people learning to live together but about five people learning to live together; and five very different people at that.
For us, the first six months embodied wedded bliss. My kids had a “dad” for the first time in a long time and my new husband had the family that he had always dreamed of; a fairytale in the making (side note: for those who are looking for a fairytale, run as fast as you can because you won’t find it this side of heaven. Keep watching Cinderella and relieve yourself and your spouse of those unrealistic expectations).
Then it was like a switch was flipped. At the six month mark, the honeymoon was over and real life had taken root. Between laundry and work and bills and a whole host of other everyday life circumstances, my house had become a war zone. We were 40 and 43 when we got married so we came with a lot of my way is the right way because it has worked for me thus far attitudes. I put laundry soap on top; he put it on the bottom. I didn’t make the bed, and he did. He filled the sink up to wash the dishes and I let the water run. He’s a planner and I am not. I didn’t speak to him with the right tone and he didn’t speak “my” kids with the right tone. Good gracious, all of these things became a source of tension in my home and there was no relief in sight. My fairytale stunk and we desperately needed support.
And then we turned back to Jesus, with the help of some encouraging friends, and began to focus on Him instead of our differences. Began to invite him to show us how He saw our spouse and our kids and you know what? He was faithful.
Just the other day my husband and I had an argument in the car. It was a silly argument but it was extremely important to both of us. Once we arrived at our destination, my husband told me he was going to go outside and spend some time with God. Not me… no, I was going to stew in my anger and continue ignoring him by not speaking to him. He came back an hour later and said “I’m sorry. God smacked me in the face and showed me I was wrong for arguing with you. Will you forgive me?” You see, when we make Jesus the center of our marriage and the center of our focus, He is faithful to correct us when we need correction and restore even the silliest of arguments back to a healthy relationship. In our human flesh, we want to hang on to the injustice. We want to be right. We want to be justified but God wants humility and honor. God wants us… our marriage… to represent Him to a broken world that desperately needs Him.
Let’s face it. There is no greater opportunity for learning to be like Jesus than in the context of marriage. But in a blended family, the opportunity is greater because of the greater challenges. However, Jesus paid the highest price for second chances. Redemption wins! It’s not easy, but it is possible. Stay focused on Him and your second marriage will be healthier and happier.
Here are a few ways to do that:
1. Your personal relationship with God should be top priority. Seeking Him for everything and trusting in His guidance and direction.
2. Regular devotion and prayer together. My husband and I take every Sunday afternoon to do a marriage devotion and prayer.
3. Open and honest communication. This was the hardest for me until we created a time every week where we ask, “How am I doing as a husband/wife? How am I doing as a parent? What can I do better?” During this time, we do not have the freedom to respond emotionally, defend ourselves or react in any way. Our job is to listen sincerely to the other and then pray about it together. Knowing that, it is a lot easier for me to be open and honest.
What about you? What are your ideas on cultivating a marriage relationship centered on God?
Allison’s story is a powerful story of redemption and grace. Having been a single parent for 9 ½ years, God was truly father to the fatherless and husband to the widow. Allison believes that single moms are the modern day widow and spends her life trying to help them create better lives for themselves and their children. She is the founder of Maia Moms, an organization that supports single mothers and the author of “A Heart Abandoned” a book that depicts her redemptive story and shows others how to overcome a broken past.