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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.

 

 

 

Grief, Stepfamily, and the Process of Healing

I held my breath, waiting for words I didn’t want to hear. “I suggest you place your mother on hospice care. Her body has started to shut down.” The doctor looked at me compassionately, waiting for a reply. His suggestion didn’t surprise me. Mom wasn’t getting better. But the tears in his eyes produced tears of my own.

Gayla Grace and her mom shortly before she passed away.

He had watched me and my three sisters tend to Mom’s every need during her lengthy hospital stay. She was well-loved and well-cared for. He knew the loss would be hard for us.

Less than a week after the doctor uttered his painful words, Mom passed away, August 27, 2017.  I know Mom’s in a better place, but tears fall freely and often right now. Losing a parent is never easy.

Grief is not a new emotion for me. I wish I could say that makes it easier. It doesn’t.

Grieving the loss of a loved one is hard.

We can pack away the feeling in hopes of pretending it isn’t there. But it rears its head eventually. Grief shows up in the form of addiction, codependency, anger, depression, obesity, or a host of other issues if we don’t deal with it properly. Too often we address the symptoms of grief, instead of the root of the feelings.

How Grief is a Process by Gayla Grace of Stepparenting with GraceGrief changes relationships.

Long before my mother passed away, her mind had been stolen by the disease of Alzheimer’s. No longer the same person, I grieved for the mother who raised me. I plead with God to heal my mother. I didn’t want to give up hope. But I eventually learned to accept the reality of the situation, unable to change what was happening.

Grief has changed my stepfamily relationships also.

When I married my husband, I brought two daughters that joined his family with a daughter and son. As I began the journey with my stepson, I envisioned ball games as his biggest fan and an affectionate mother-son bond my friends had told me about. I looked forward to shopping excursions and pedicures with my stepdaughter.

Instead, I discovered loyalty conflict and distanced relationships. I endured tension at every ball game as I sat inches away from a woman who wanted nothing to do with her son’s stepmother.  I tiptoed around confused emotions as my stepchildren traveled between two homes. I uncovered feelings of insecurity and doubt as a stepmom.  And finally .. I lowered my expectations for relationships that would never materialize the way I’d envisioned.

I grieved for the life I would never have.

I cried. I fretted. I protested. I withdrew into myself. I bargained with God. I lashed out at others. I complained.

Until one day, I finally accepted the life God had called me to. And found a joy that only God can give.

I love these words penned by Sarah Young in Jesus Today:

“Make every effort to accept as your calling the life I have assigned to you. This perspective helps take the sting out of even the harshest circumstances. If I have called you to a situation, I will give you everything you need to endure it — even to find Joy in the midst of it.

Learning to be content is both a discipline and an art: You train your mind to trust My sovereign ways with you — bowing before My mysterious, infinite intelligence. You search for Me in the details of your day, all the while looking for good to emerge from trouble and confusion. You accept the way things are without losing hope for a better future.”

Acceptance.

It’s not easy—whether in our family of origin or stepfamily relationships.

Acceptance takes time. Oftentimes, it takes prayer. But when grief shows up … acceptance is the first step toward healing.

*Come join us at our upcoming Stepmom Retreat and learn more about how to process your grief and other emotions common to stepmoms. I’d love to meet you there! Details here: http://sisterhoodofstepmoms.com/dallas-texas-2017/

How has grief affected your stepfamily? Will you share how you’ve coped with it?

 

 

 

 

 

When Beauty Follows Pain on the Stepparenting Journey on Stepparenting with Grace

When Beauty Follows Pain on the Stepparenting Journey

The handwritten note that fell out of the envelope surprised me. My stepson didn’t mention he sent a note with my Mother’s day gift. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I read words that took me back in time. I began to reminisce about a very rocky season that I wasn’t sure I would get through.

 

When Beauty Follows Pain on the Stepparenting Journey on Stepparenting with Grace

It was 2004. My stepson was 14 years old and had just lost his mom from a difficult battle with cancer. He had been living with her and his stepdad over 300 miles away. My husband naturally assumed he would bring his son home to live with us following the funeral. But my stepson and his stepdad had different ideas.

The custody papers presented to my husband by the sheriff’s department came as a complete surprise. His son’s stepdad had applied for custody. It made no sense. We were prepared and willing to take him into our home.

The battle

The battle began with a preliminary custody hearing that included my stepson on the witness stand. We were in another room, but our attorney outlined the setting to us. I had been presented as the evil stepmother. Despite my efforts to be a caring stepmom who tried to fulfill a maternal role when my stepson was in our home, I was painted as someone quite different. The hurt I experienced that day took a long time to work through.

When Beauty Follows Pain on the Stepparenting Journey on Stepparenting with Grace

The Beauty

That’s in the past now. My stepson did eventually come live with us and in time, with God’s help, we mended our ways. We worked to rebuild a relationship that included a steady flow of grace and forgiveness. Slowly, he began to let me into his life. I never wanted to replace his Mom. I simply tried to play a maternal role to a boy who didn’t have a mom.

That was 13 years ago. At 27 years old, my stepson now lives out of state.

I’ve often wondered if my tireless efforts as his stepmom even mattered.

The letter I received this year on Mother’s Day told me they did.

Although my stepson never called me Mom, the letter started with:

“MOM!! Happy Mother’s Day!! I wanted to take time and express my
appreciation to you as my mother!! You have been there through
everything. My first love, my first heartbreak, high school and college.
You’ve literally been there for it all. Thank you. For giving me advice
and good examples over the years. Even though I know I pushed back
for many years, I now realize I had a great MOM all along. Thank you
for always being there for me. Love you, Gayla. Your son.”

If you need some hope and encouragement on your stepmom journey, please consider joining us at our upcoming Sisterhood of Stepmoms retreat. You’ll find all the details here: http://sisterhoodofstepmoms.com/dallas-texas-2017/

Will you share some highs or lows of your stepparenting journey?
How are you celebrating them?

 

Encouragement for the Stepparenting Journey

 Words of encouragement from Randy & Gayla

If you have trouble seeing the video, please click here.

My husband, Randy, and I recently celebrated 21 years of marriage. We’ve made it more than two decades together!

During our first year of marriage, I would have told you I wasn’t sure we would make it past year two. The challenges of blending four children together, ages 3-10, were harder than we anticipated. We did a lot of things wrong. But we did a few things right, too.

We were recently asked to share some tips and encouragement with families in our church who are walking the stepparenting road. I hope it encourages and empowers you also as you listen to what we’ve learned over 21 years as a stepfamily.

Points to remember:

  1. Be committed for the long haul.
  2. If it’s not life or death, let mercy prevail.
  3. Make the marriage relationship a priority.
  4. Manage the ex-spouse with grace and mercy.
  5. Recognize that your needs count too.
  6. Pray for wisdom…daily.
  7. Don’t take everything personally.
  8. Remember that rewards often come at the end of the journey, not the beginning.

You’ll notice at the end of the video I mention a class we’ve started here in the Shreveport area.

If you live close, we’d love to have you join us!

Do you have other tips or nuggets of encouragement? I’d love to hear them in the comments.