How the Beauty of Grace Saved Her Marriage

She had been wronged. Pornography had invaded her home and her husband couldn’t seem to give it up.

Tears puddled her eyes as she described her feelings of inadequacy, frustration, and hopelessness with his addiction.

But she wasn’t ready to quit. She had walked the road of divorce before and didn’t want to go there again. Her husband was the stepdad to her three kids and they had tried hard to build meaningful relationships with one another.

She was thankful he had agreed to counseling and was surprised when he openly admitted to his struggle with the counselor. She saw a glimpse of regret and was encouraged that he seemed willing to change his ways.

But then it happened. She picked up his phone while he was gone one day. There it was. She couldn’t deny he was doing it again.


I didn’t know what to say.

And then she began speaking again.

“I’m praying hard for my marriage. Will you please pray with me? I’m not going to let Satan ruin us. I’m willing to give him another chance.”

Chill bumps covered my arms although it was 90 degrees outside. The beauty of grace filled the room. Her face radiated as she described her love for her husband.

Yes, she was discouraged. She wished it wasn’t true. But she refused to live in denial… or defeat.

I told her how much I applauded her efforts. Her willingness to offer grace. Again. and Again.

Her willingness to stand by her vow… for better or for worse.

Her steadfast belief in a God who still saves marriages.

blogMaybe you’re facing mounting issues in your own stepcouple marriage. The complexities of stepfamily dynamics put a strain on even the best marriages. Will you commit to give your marriage similar efforts?


For better or for worse.

Steadfast prayer and faith in a God who still listens and heals marriages.

Hope when it seems hopeless.

I don’t know the end of the story with her marriage. But I know she will give it more than 100% before she gives up.

Are you willing to do the same?

If you’re looking for some stepmom support, please consider joining us at our next Stepmom Retreat in beautiful Asheville, NC Sept 26-28. It will be a great week-end where you will be encouraged, find tools for your journey, and enjoy camaraderie with others walking a similar path. Here’s what other stepmom participants have said:

“It’s been an amazing weekend. I met lots of great stepmoms and found so much comfort in knowing I’m not alone on my stepmom journey.”

“I believe every stepmom needs a weekend like this.”

“What an honor to join together with like-minded women who want to give the best they can to their stepfamilies.”

I’d love to meet you in NC! Details here:

By David Castillo Dominici,

Pic By Stuart Miles





How to Find Co-Parenting Success in Your Stepfamily

I’m leading a workshop at our Stepmom Retreat this week-end on Parenting Between Two Homes. I found some great information in Tammy Daughtry’s book, Co-Parenting Works, on how to identify your co-parenting style and find success as you co-parent.

Daughtry outlines three models of co-parenting that come from Dr. Hetherington’s book, For Better or For Worse: Divorce Reconsidered. Try to determine where you fit and where you’d like to fit:

     “Conflicted co-parenting is when former spouses make nasty comments about each other, seek to undermine each other’s relationship with the child, and fight openly in front of the child. Aside from being damaging, constant put-downs of the other parent may backfire, producing resentment and a spirited defense of the criticized parent by the child. One ten-year-old said, “When she goes into her usual routine about what a loser my dad is, I just hate her. I can’t stand it. Last night I yelled at her to stop and threw my dinner plate on the floor and locked myself in my room. She tried to make up but started with, ‘But you know your dad’s really irresponsible.’ I cried all night.”

     Cooperative co-parenting arrangements are where parents put the well-being of their children first and it is often difficult to attain. These parents talk over the children’s problems, coordinate household rules and child-rearing practices, and adapt their schedule to fit their children’s needs. Two decades later, the couples who cooperated were glad they did.

     Parallel co-parenting is a mixed blessing. It is the most common form of co-parenting (according to Dr. Hetherington) and is the easiest to implement. These parents simply ignore each other. They do not interfere with each other’s parenting or make any coordinated parenting strategies. They usually send communication through their children. The lack of parenting communication opens the door to problems and as children get older monitoring can be difficult. Children can also manipulate or play one parent against the other since they are the messenger.”

It’s not hard to recognize that the healthiest way to co-parent would be the cooperative arrangement, although it’s also the hardest. Perhaps that isn’t a possibility with your co-parent and you must resort to parallel co-parenting. But please, don’t stoop to conflicted co-parenting. Your children and stepchildren deserve better than that.

Time often heals raw emotions that follow divorce. Don’t stop seeking a cooperative relationship with your ex or your partner’s ex. It might not be possible today but it might be possible next year. Someone must take the road of humility and seek to make wrongs right. Will that be you? Your children and stepchildren will thank you for it.

What style of co-parenting do you engage in? Can you give tips on how you find success in co-parenting?

To hear the complete workshop on Parenting Between Two Homes and other workshops such as, “Successful Stepping: Is This Normal?” “The Ex-Wife-in-Law,” and more, join us this week-end at our Stepmom Retreat in Belleville, IL. It’s a great way to connect with other stepmoms walking a similar path and find hope, help, and healing. I’d love to meet you there! Details here:

Pic David Castillo Dominici



Dear Stepparent: Wrap Yourself in Grace

I cringed with guilt as I watched my son pull a uniform shirt out of the dirty clothes to wear to school. Ugh – how had I failed to get the laundry done?


I’m overwhelmed some days during the holiday season. I can’t keep up with where I’m supposed to be or what I’m supposed to be doing. There’s shopping, parties, Christmas concerts, decorating, baking, gift wrapping, and there’s… writing deadlines, coaching clients, and conference calls. Add in the daily family responsibilities and it’s easy to hit overdrive!

After I dropped my son at school that day, the guilt started again. I need to get those gifts in the mail, I should have done more shopping by now, I forgot to call my stepdaughter and check on her job situation… But then I stopped. I decided to start over with grace.

My thoughts changed to: I’m doing the best I can.  I’ll tackle the laundry as soon as I get home. I’ll ask my husband to go to the post office. I’ll text my stepdaughter and see how she’s doing. I’ll work on shopping after I finish my writing deadline. I don’t have to be perfect.

Are you pushing yourself into a frenzy of guilt? Are you expecting more from yourself than is feasibly possible? Step back and wrap yourself in grace.

Retrace your steps. If your stress set off a string of harsh words, apologize. If your head is spinning from an overly-committed schedule, cross something off. If your house needs cleaning before company comes, hire some help. But don’t strive for perfection. Sometimes good enough is, well, good enough.

Step back and remember the reason for the season. It’s not all about what’s under the tree or hosting the perfect Christmas party. It’s about celebrating with those we love and building memories through good times and bad. Your stepkids won’t remember if you bought the perfect present ten years from now, but they will remember if you apologized for a less-than-perfect parenting moment.

Grace is a beautiful gift. When we offer it to ourselves or to those around us, it multiplies.  One act of grace deserves another. If you forgive yourself for your failure, you have energy to start again. If you hold onto the guilt, you succumb to defeat.

Give yourself the gift of a grace-filled holiday season. And offer it freely and often to others. You’ll find joy and peace in the process.

How will you offer grace to yourself today?

For more holiday tips, follow my blog and  Heather Hetchler’s blog at CafeSmom  as we share tips from our holiday e-book, Unwrapping the Gift of Stepfamily Peace, every Mon, Wed and Friday. Our e-book is a great tool to help you and all stepparents find peace during the holidays and beyond. It’s packed with proven tools and tips, personal stories and a list of recipes and new holiday traditions you can create with your stepfamily.  Unwrapping the Gift of Stepfamily Peace









Pic by Natara

Loving Your Stepchild Won’t Happen Naturally

If you’ve been married or living with a stepchild longer than six months, I’m sure you recognize the truth in this statement. As much as I wish it to be true, loving a stepchild doesn’t happen naturally.

I talk to stepparents every day and I hear stories of how everybody got along so well until they married or began living together. Then relationships began to change.

It’s not uncommon for a stepparent to begin a stronger role as a parent when stepkids are living in the home, often creating friction in the relationship. And naturally, there’s no hiding who we really are with one another when we live together. Suddenly we begin to see a different side of our stepchild.

What do you do if you feel less than loving toward your stepchild? Don’t panic. And don’t berate yourself for it either. It’s natural.

Give yourself permission to grow a relationship with your stepchild over time. Don’t put expectations around the relationship or define what it’s supposed to look like. Your relationship with your stepchild is YOUR relationship. Don’t compare it to someone else’s or feel guilty for your feelings. Loving a stepchild takes time and effort.

If you’re doing your part to reach out to your stepchild and bond through relationship-building behavior, then accept whatever stage the relationship is at. Some days you might feel love for your stepchild and the next day feel not-so-loving 🙂 But time is on your side and as you build experiences and memories together, love follows.

It may never be the same type of love you have for a biological child. And depending on other variables (age of child, influence of other bio-parent, etc.) there might a degree of distance that you can’t change. But don’t give up. Continue to do your part to grow a loving relationship with your stepchild.

The rewards of stepparenting don’t appear early in the journey. But they’re far more rewarding down the road because you know you earned those rewards–they didn’t happen naturally just as a love for your stepchild won’t happen naturally. But it can happen!

Cherish your relationship today. Not the relationship you wish it were or the relationship you expect it to be next year. Where are you at today? It’s okay if it’s not perfect. Acceptance is the first key to change.

And if you want to grow a deeper love for your stepchildren, accept them for who they are and offer grace more freely for their shortcomings, expecting nothing in return. I know it’s  not easy but you’ll be blessed in the process!

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”  Galatians 6:9

Other thoughts on learning to love your stepchildren? I’d love to hear them!

Pic by Stuart Miles


Ten Ways to Strengthen Your Stepfamily Relationships

It’s easy to think we must be perfect in our stepfamily interactions and make huge steps every day to strengthen our relationships. But that isn’t true.

Small steps on a regular basis can result in huge dividends with your stepfamily.


Here are ten easy ways to show every day love and harbor positive relationships in your stepfamily:

1) Offer grace freely and often.

2) Think positive thoughts about your stepchildren; if a negative thought pops up – replace it.

3) Say at least one nice thing to each person in your stepfamily daily or as often as you see them.

4) Live “one day at a time” and enjoy the present moment – don’t project into the future.

5) Take care of yourself: emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually.

6) Strive to keep a thankful spirit.

7) Nurture your marriage with sweet gestures, alone time, and date nights.

8) Send thoughtful text messages when your stepchildren are away.

9) Deal with conflict when it occurs in a healthy context – don’t stuff it, don’t ignore it, don’t exaggerate it.

10) Pray for each member of your family daily.

Other ideas? What suggestions can you give to help strengthen stepfamily relationships?

Related Posts:

Is Your Stepfamily in a Season of Challenge?

Five Ways to Create Stronger Stepfamily Relationships

Lessons Learned About Stepparenting from Tim Tebow

Five Practical Tips for Successful Stepparenting

Five Steps for Healing Stepparenting Wounds

Five Steps for Healing Stepparenting WoundsI’ve been nursing a bee sting on the bottom of my foot for weeks. I ignored it at first, thinking it would heal on its own. But it hasn’t.  Now,  I’m annoyed at the nagging pain I feel when I’m on my feet too long.

My sister suggested I puncture the wound and look for a stinger that needs to be removed. I’m not a good patient but I carefully inserted a sterile needle close to the wound and removed a small skin-like material I found. Optimistic that would help, I thought — let the healing begin.  But the nagging pain continues. I’m now soaking it daily with espson salt and keeping it covered  with antibiotic ointment and a bandaid. If that doesn’t help,  I’ll have to consider my last resort – a trip to the doctor.

I would prefer wounds heal on their own. But that doesn’t always happen. Whether it’s a physical wound or an emotional wound, the steps we take determine how quickly our wounds heal.

Stepparenting wounds come in all shapes and sizes. They occur when someone hurts our feelings or our expectations aren’t met. In the beginning stages of blending a family, wounds occur frequently.

 Some wounds resolve on their own, but most require special attention. Nagging wounds occur   repeatedly, leaving us vulnerable to anger and resentment.

So how do we resolve our stepparenting wounds? How do we prevent our wounds from negatively impacting our relationships?  Here are a few steps I suggest:


1. Forgive your stepchild.

You may be justified in your anger, but it’s hard to find peace when you refuse to forgive an offense. The relationship with your stepchild suffers when you hang onto your hurt. Take the high road. “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13)

2. Don’t allow your feelings to fester.

I allowed my bee sting to fester for weeks before I did anything about it. As a result, the wound will take longer to heal.

Emotional wounds fester when we let our feelings take over our mind. Instead of addressing the issue, we compound it by complaining to others, acting out in anger, or  stuffing our feelings deep inside.

Festering wounds erupt. Deal with the offense so healing can begin.

3.  Commit to pray daily for your stepchild and strive to think only positive thoughts about him/her.

I know that’s not easy. When my stepson made piercing remarks about me in a custody hearing years ago, I didn’t want to consider praying for him or try to think positively about him. But when I made a conscious choice to dwell on his positive aspects and pray for his well-being, my wounds began to heal.

4. Give yourself grace for your part of the offense.

Each of us plays a role in conflict. Nonverbal communication speaks loudly. Stepchildren sense disapproving thoughts and critical looks. Words fly out of our mouth we can’t stop, contributing to conflict.

But if we choose to stay defeated in our guilt, we won’t find victory with our wounds.  Recognize your part and ask for forgiveness. Then give yourself grace and move on – imperfect people make mistakes.

5. Seek help when necessary.

It’s not unusual to get stuck nursing a stepparenting wound without healing. Some wounds go deep and wide, requiring professional help. It’s not a sign of weakness to ask for help, it’s a sign of courage.

If you’re considering stepparenting coaching, I hope you’ll check out what I offer. I would love to help you heal your stepparenting wounds and restore your relationships.

What other tips can you offer to help with stepparenting wounds? I would love to hear from you.

Related Posts:

Coping with Loss in a Stepfamily

Offering Forgiveness

When Stepparenting Feels Too Hard: Four Ways to Overcome Discouragement