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.




Step Parenting Blended Families

What I’ve Learned in 19 Years as a Stepmom

My husband and I celebrate 19 years of marriage today. All four of the kids in our wedding picture are grown – we have only an “ours” child still at home – 13-year-old son Nathan.

I love the way my friend Heather Hetchler counts years in stepfamilies – # of kids X years married, so in stepfamily years, we’ve been married 95 years! Wow! That’s a long time!

Read more

How to Create Healthy Stepfamily Relationships

I’ve noticed a common theme among step couples I’m working with lately: marital issues compound stepfamily problems. In other words, if you’re struggling with basic marriage challenges, it will spill over into your stepfamily.


Here’s an example: let’s say you and your spouse don’t do conflict well. Maybe you say things you know you shouldn’t in a heightened sense of emotion. It’s likely you will say things about your stepchild that you can’t take back that will fester a wound with your spouse. Now a marital issue has become a stepfamily issue.

Or perhaps you struggle with managing your finances properly. You didn’t have to keep track of it that closely when it just involved you, but now money is tighter and you and your spouse constantly argue over the child support payment. A marital problem has become a stepfamily issue.

My point is this: stepfamily challenges are real. It takes a lot of effort to cope with ex-spouses, parent children that aren’t yours, parent children that are yours, manage a job and a household and a dozen other commitments, and maintain a thriving marriage.

So please nurture your marriage. Don’t expect it to function on auto-pilot and keep cruisin’. It won’t. It will crater. And your children will endure another loss.

We all emerge from our childhood of origin with strengths and weaknesses. In stepfamily life, your weaknesses can destroy your marriage.  A weak marriage simply can’t stand up against the challenges. Look in the mirror and determine what you need to change to become a better marital partner.

Do you need to temper your anger? Do you need to practice patience? Do you need to be more intentional with your speech or your listening habits? Do you need to persevere through your challenges?

Ask your spouse. Or listen to what they’re already telling you. What needs to change to create a healthier, stronger marriage?

I didn’t have to ask my spouse. He’s been telling me for years some things that I haven’t listened to well. Then my sister recently told me the same thing. Ouch!

I love the passage in Galatians 5:22-23 that talks about the fruit of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.”  Relationships naturally become more harmonious as we polish our rough exterior and exhibit more fruit in our lives.

It’s easy to blame all our stepfamily problems on the kids. But the truth is, if we look closer at ourselves, we’re contributing to the problems with our less-than-perfect attitudes, habits, and weaknesses.

If you stay married long enough, which I hope you will, the kids will leave home. Your marriage will be all that’s left so why not work out the kinks in your marriage NOW? I promise it will benefit your stepfamily in the process.

Healthy marriages create healthy stepfamily relationships. Does your marriage need a tune-up?

How have you created more harmony in your marriage or your stepfamily? Will you share it with us?

If you’re stuck in marital disharmony, I hope you’ll consider professional counseling or check out my coaching page. Don’t give up on your stepfamily until you’ve worked through your marriage challenges. It might be the difference that turns your stepfamily around.

Photo by David Castillo Dominici