All couples have dreams for the way they want their family to be. But some set themselves up for failure by holding on to unrealistic hopes. Here are a few of them:
We’ll have instant family happiness. It’s unrealistic to think that family happiness will happen overnight and without some struggles.
In a stepfamily, building a happy home takes longer. Losses associated with divorce, loyalty to biological parents, no shared history, and a lack of time together are just a few of the factors that can slow stepfamily bonding.
There’s no set timeframe for family cohesion. And it helps to remember that even intact original families must work to be happy. Like the church, it takes time, effort, and reliance on God for a spirit of unity and peace ( Romans 15:5-7 ). It’s the consistent application of gentleness, humility, compassion, kindness, forgiveness, love and patience that build unity (Philippians 4:5; Colossians 3:12-14 ).
Children will automatically welcome a new parent in the home. While single parents appreciate the added parental support in remarriage, children may not be as eager to tolerate the new authority figure. Feeling jealous or threatened by the new marriage partner, many children become either distant or aggressive in their relationship with the stepparent.
To defuse conflict, couples need to clearly define the stepparent’s role. As disciplinarians, stepparents shouldn’t be too heavy-handed or too permissive ( Ephesians 6:4 ). Talking with the children about the stepparent’s new role in the home, including them in setting house rules, and fair discipline can ease some of the turmoil. Spending time with the stepchildren and getting to know them can ease tension and build positive relationships.
The past won’t affect how we operate as a family. Some wish that they could erase the painful past of a family break-up. They fear that ex-spouses, money matters, and emotional pain will barge through the door of their new home and become regular unwanted boarders. So they pretend that these problems don’t exist.
Visitation schedules, child-support issues, and unresolved emotions should be discussed as they come up. Realistic acknowledgment of these problems is best.
Focusing on loving others can help us overlook some of the inconveniences of stepfamily life ( 1 Peter 4:8 ). We can also allow the difficult moments to teach us about patience, generosity, and focusing on others’ needs ( Philippians 2:4; Psalm 38:17-22 ). Facing the past and accepting certain realities of stepfamily life can encourage personal growth and healthy family relationships.
Our premarital counseling will prepare us for all that we’ll encounter as a stepfamily. Just as medical training in the classroom can’t fully prepare a doctor for work in the emergency room, premarital counseling is limited in what it can do to get couples ready for remarriage. There are intense emotions that arise and unhealthy ways of coping with the stress that can surprise us. It’s only in the challenges of stepfamily life that we become aware of some of the areas that need special attention.
While premarital counseling is important, it is equally good for stepcouples to continue to educate themselves about stepfamily life. Reading literature on remarriage and stepfamilies1 , networking with other blended families, and staying connected in a strong community of believers through church involvement are crucial to the success of stepfamilies (1 Thessalonians 5:11; Hebrews 3:13; 10:25; Galatians 6:2 ).
The desire of most couples entering remarriage is to create a safe, secure, loving home for their children and themselves. But if we tightly hold on to unrealistic expectations, we can unintentionally put our stepfamily at risk. Instead, stepfamilies can help themselves by taking an honest look at their expectations, adjust them according to biblical standards, and trust God to help them redeem the painful past and meet the needs of their new blended family.
- While RBC Ministries does not necessarily endorse all the concepts raised in the following books, they can be helpful for remarried couples and stepfamilies:
The Smart Stepfamily by Ron L. Deal (Bethany House, 2002.) The Blended Family: Achieving Peace and Harmony in the Christian Home by Edward and Sharon Douglas (Providence House Publishers, 2000.) 7 Steps To Bonding With Your Stepchild by Suzen J. Ziegahn, Ph.D. (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2001.) Merging Families by Bobbie Reed, Ph.D. (Concordia Publishing House, 1992.) Back To Article