My husband and I celebrate 24 years of marriage this week! In the beginning, I wasn’t sure we would make it to our next anniversary. With God’s help, Randy and I learned how to navigate the turbulent waters of stepfamily life in a “his, hers, and ours” family. We now experience the rewards of remarriage every day with a love that has conquered hardship and a family that has grown to love each other, despite our flaws and insecurities. Our original family of seven now includes a son-in-law and a soon-to-be daughter-in-law who like to have fun together.
One of the first things Randy and I learned that helped create harmony in our marriage was the need to separate marital and parenting issues. I wrote a devotional about it in my book, StepParenting With Grace.
“In remarriage, we often allow hard issues surrounding the kids to bleed over into negative feelings toward our spouse. When I blamed my husband for stressful parenting moments with his children in the early years of our remarriage, he said, “I’m your friend in this marriage, not your enemy. We can work this out together. But we have to be on the same side, and I don’t sense you’re on my team right now.”
He was right.
I had let kid issues create a strain in our relationship. Although there will naturally be some overlap, we can train ourselves to separate the two if we stay aware of the dynamics. I learned to pray for wisdom as the first step.
Stepchildren carry a lot of power in remarriage.
They can easily divide a relationship when allowed that advantage. Frequent dialogue between a couple is imperative to maintaining unity. Sparks might fly at times, but that doesn’t indicate failure. Disharmony is normal, particularly during the early years; but we must attack the problem, not our partner, in the midst of it.
The apostle Paul gives wise advice about our words: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29). My family memorized this verse during our high-conflict years. As we discussed troubled behavior, Randy and I countered our language against thoughts of: ‘Will my words build up my spouse? How can I say this in a way that will benefit my partner?’
When we’re careful to avoid offense, we more easily express concerns and move toward resolve without entangling marital and parenting issues.
How do you separate marital and parenting issues? I’d love to hear your comments below.
For more encouragement in your blended family, pick up a copy of Stepparenting With Grace: A Devotional for Blended Families.