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What Happens to Your Marriage When the Kids are Gone by Gayla Grace

Your Marriage Counts: What Happens When the Kids are Gone?

My husband and I celebrated 22 years of marriage this past weekend. Of our five children, we have only one still at home who is an “ours” child, 16-year-old Nathan.  Although life still has challenges, our marriage, most of the time, is free of tension and conflict. I don’t say that to brag, but to offer hope.

It hasn’t always been that way.

If you’ve read much of my blog, then you’ve heard my stories of disharmony and stepfamily struggles. I’ve opened my heart about our challenges in hopes you could avoid some of the mistakes we’ve made.

As I think about what advice I’d give as we celebrate another anniversary, I want to offer a reminder: your marriage counts.

What Happens to Your Marriage When the Kids are Gone? Words of encouragement by Gayla Grace

One day the kids will be gone.

The food fights at the dinner table, the step-sibling squabbles over who sits in the front seat, the arguments over chores that didn’t get done, the lingering smell of dirty laundry that emanates from their bedroom, the curfews that are broken…those things won’t matter anymore.

If we’re fulfilling our role correctly as parents and stepparents, we will work our way out of a job.

Our kids will fly away and lead thriving adult lives.

It will be the two of us.

Will we have a marriage left? Will you have a marriage left?

 

Parenting and stepparenting is a season. And like all seasons, the season will end.

Please don’t neglect to nurture your marriage.

In the midst of watching your stepson at the soccer field, hold your partner’s hand.

While making dinner for the family, smile at your spouse across the room.

On a busy afternoon at work, stop and send a text that says, I love you.

Sure, anniWill you still have a marriage when the kids leave home?versary trips are nice and date nights are important, but even simple gestures of love can keep relationships connected when schedules don’t allow for extended time together.

If you’re stuck in unresolved conflict or tension that won’t subside, seek professional help. Stepfamily life is complicated. Sometimes you need help from a neutral party who can identify the root of an issue and what to do about it. Be sure to find a pastor, counselor, or coach who understands stepfamily dynamics.

I also encourage you to check out helpful resources for stepfamilies. My husband and I are currently leading a stepfamily class at our church with the book, The Smart Stepfamily Marriage: Keys to Success in the Blended Family. It’s a great book to go through together as a couple that shows how to build on your relationship strengths and helps you improve your weaknesses.

Your marriage counts.

Do you have suggestions on how to nurture your remarriage? I’d love to hear them in the comments.

 

 

 

The Path to Super StepMom Status by Gayla Grace

The Path to Super StepMom Status

The Path to Super StepMom Status by Gayla GraceIn my 20 plus years of being a stepmom, I have had more conversations than I can count with other stepmoms who are frustrated and desperately trying to achieve SUPER STEPMOM STATUS. It’s as if it’s an award to be given out at the end of the year. But they aren’t achieving the status and instead end up feeling like a failure. Year after year they vow it will be different but the next year rolls around and things are the same. No award. No loving stepchild who thinks they are great.

No. It’s just the same ole thing.  And often we feel we’ve failed.

You are not alone.

You are not the first nor will you be the last stepmom to:

  • think you have failed.
  • believe with all your heart that you CAN be the best stepmom ever!
  • believe your stepchild will LOVE you!
  • and they will want to be your friend!

The reality is that they don’t think you’re the best. They may not ever love you nor want to be your friend.

I speak from experience. During my stepson’s adolescent years, he found all kinds of reasons to dislike me. Some of them might have been legitimate, but most were unfounded. Regardless of how hard I tried to be a good stepmom to him, he rejected my efforts.

I tried. He rejected. I tried again. He rejected again.

The cycle went on.

I wish I could tell you there was a “magic formula” to ensure stepmom success. But I can’t tell you that. What I can tell you is there’s no such thing as “SUPER STEPMOM!”

So…

Sometimes we’re dealing with a difficult teenager. Or a younger child that whines and cries.

Are we going to want to quit and throw in the towel? Most definitely! But we have to remember we’re the adult in the equation. We need to keep our cool as best we can. We can pray and ask for strength from the One who is greater than we are. And then remember …  this is normal stepfamily dynamics.

I’ve been married to my stepson’s dad for 20+ years. Finally, after many difficult years, my stepson and I now have a good relationship.

Is it because I became a different person toward him?

No. It’s because he has matured into a young man who, at 27  years old, recognizes and appreciates the role I’ve played in his life.

 Did I want to quit being his stepmom during those adolescent years?

Absolutely!

Did I deserve the treatment I received?

No!

Am I thankful I didn’t walk away?

Yes!

Quitting is NOT the answer!

Trying to achieve SUPER STEPMOM status does not guarantee a good relationship with your stepchild.

It almost always results in unmet expectations. Consistent love over time, through the ups and downs of life, could be the difference.

Remember this: regardless of your stepchild’s behavior, the only way you fail in this role, is if you quit.

Are you trying to be SUPER STEPMOM?  How is that working out for you?

Change is Inevitable. Can We Learn to Trust God and Adapt?

One phone call. That’s all it took to change our stepfamily forever.

“I just got the news. She passed away earlier today,” my husband said. The finality of the words stung.  I thought about my teenage stepchildren facing life without their mom. Saddened, my heart ached.

I knew it would affect all of us. Like the ripples after tossing a stone into a lake, the effects would soon make their way into our home.

We had weathered some rocky storms as a stepfamily in the nine years my husband and I had been married. We were finally settling into a comfortable relationship, finding what worked for our family. I felt blessed for our newfound harmony.

Losing their mom created left a cavernous hole in the hearts of my stepchildren. My relationship with them suffered as they dealt with their grief.

It’s easy for me to trust God when things are going well. Yet, when I face circumstances I don’t understand and that I cannot change, my faith tends to waver. You too? My husband and I had been praying for his ex-wife to be healed. That was not God’s plan.

Change is inevitable. Can we learn to trust God & adapt? by Gayla Grace

My mind was bombarded with questions that had no answers.

  • Would the children move across state lines and come live with us?
  • Could our home accommodate two more?
  • How would they cope as they struggled to accept their mom was gone?
  • What could we do to help with their troubled emotions?

The path before me was uncharted and unknown. I would have to trust God with what lay ahead.

Solutions were not easily or quickly found.

Tension mounted in our home.

Tempers occasionally flared.

We waded through months of confusion and anxiety.

At times, my husband and I did not see eye to eye.

Yet, when we let go and surrendered to God’s plan, peace engulfed us.

Soon after her mother’s death, my stepdaughter began college and didn’t relocate. My stepson lived with his stepdad and younger half-brother for a while longer before moving in with us. For healing to begin, we had to give up control and trust God with the outcome. Then and ONLY THEN did we begin to experience peace and begin to see positive changes.

It’s been more than ten years since my stepchildren lost their mom. Now, as young adults, both of them live out of state and are thriving. I’m thankful for healthy, loving relationships with them.

These days my own mother’s health is waning as she struggles with late-stage dementia. My stepchildren understand the sadness that accompanies the loss of a parent and offer compassion toward me.

I still struggle with God’s plan at times, particularly as I watch Mom suffer.

I want it to be my way, and I have a hard time letting go of control. But I know His ways are sovereign.

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.  “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9

Trusting God’s plan is hard. Have you learned to trust His plan with your stepfamily? Will you share it with us? 

Tough Times Never Last, but Tough People Do

It’s been a tough week in Bossier City, Louisiana, where I live. Life-threatening storms swept through our community with 20 inches of rain over a two-day period and flooding that left many families homeless.

flooding

School dismissed for three days while displaced families from mandatory evacuations of heavily-populated neighborhoods sent families in 3500 homes away from the comfort of their usual surroundings.

As I thought about friends coping with the devastation this morning, I reflected on Robert Schuller’s book, Tough Times Never Last, but Tough People Do, that I read many years ago. It is a tough time for a lot of people right now.

But there is always hope for better days. Within a few hours of hearing about yet another young family who lost everything in the flood, I learned that Samaritan’s Purse was headed to LA for rescue relief. What a blessing to read their plans to help:

“Our teams bring in equipment and as soon as the water recedes, they roll up their sleeves to help flooded families get the mud out of their homes, sort through water-damaged personal belongings, and pull out damaged sheetrock, flooring, and insulation. Our Billy Graham Rapid Response Team Chaplains will be alongside to pray with and encourage flood victims.”

Samaratan's Purse

Sometimes in the midst of our challenges, it feels like there is no hope. But tough-minded people are created in the midst of tough circumstances if we don’t give up.

Maybe you’re in a tough season right now as a stepparent.

Perhaps you feel invisible in your role as a stepmom and no one notices the constant sacrifices you make.

Maybe you face another day of rejection from your stepson.

Maybe your spouse refuses to support your stepparenting efforts.

Perhaps the biological parent in the other home undermines the relationships you seek you build.

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Why Healthy Boundaries Matter in Your Stepfamily

I didn’t realize I was in an emotionally abusive marriage. But I was. Married at 23-years-old to a man chasing the dream of success as a medical physician, I was along for the ride.

But all too soon, the ride got very bumpy.

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Arguments turned into character-attacking rants. Nights of alcoholic rage became the norm.

Convinced it was my fault, I tried harder to be a better wife. Nothing changed. My self-esteem plummeted under the weight of shame.

I wish I could tell you I recognized the dysfunction in my marriage and sought help. But I didn’t. At least, not until far-reaching damage had been done to me emotionally.

Eleven years after saying “I do,” I finally gathered the courage to walk away. With two young daughters to raise, I refused to subject them to the emotional (and sometimes physical) abuse I was experiencing. Al-Anon—an organization dedicated to families of alcoholics—gave me the tools I needed to set healthy boundaries that enabled me to start a new life.

Unfortunately, boundaries couldn’t save my alcoholic marriage that included a history of relapse and destructive patterns. But I learned life-changing lessons on how boundaries impact relationships.

As a result, I’m sensitive to others in emotionally or physically abusive relationships. I quickly recognize fuzzy or negligent boundary setting. And I see it often in stepfamily relationships.

Sitting across the table from a stepmom in tears, I suspected a boundary problem. As the conversation continued, I listened to her describe her stepson’s fits of rage and disrespectful language toward her and her husband.  At 17-years-old, he was controlling their home with his behavior. But she didn’t know how to change it.

“How does your husband respond to his son’s actions?” I asked.

“It becomes a yelling match to see who can get in the last word,” the stepmom responded. “I often leave the house and take our daughter with me. I can’t stand to watch it unravel. But the real problem exists when my husband isn’t home and the behavior gets directed at me. His outbursts are becoming increasingly more violent and I’m scared to confront his anger—he’s bigger and stronger than I am.”

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Parenting Resolutions for the Not-So-Perfect Stepparent

Happy New Year! What are you doing to make 2016 your best year as a stepparent?

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Can I give you a few thoughts to consider? Start here—don’t insist on being perfect.

We set ourselves up to fail when we try to do everything perfectly, expecting that will create the relationship we’re hoping for with our stepchild.

This year, instead of making resolutions on how to be a better stepparent, I encourage you to make room for imperfection and second chances.

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