Christian Biblical Counsel: BLENDED FAMILY, THE

The Blended Family

God’s Recipe for Success

by June Hunt

Do you feel that the mix of your family is basically a mess? If you mix flour, sugar, eggs and oil together … it takes some work to get them to blend. But when the mixture is exposed to the heat of an oven for just the right amount of time, a chemical reaction occurs that bonds the separate ingredients into a delicious dessert. Likewise, when members of a blended family are subjected to the heat of new living conditions and differing personalities, it takes some work to come together as a connected family unit. Each individual needs to make every effort to promote peace and build one another up so that the family will be bonded in love and in unity.

“Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.”

(Romans 14:19)

I.     Definitions

Blended families, with their many challenges, have been around for a long time. They are formed for different reasons. When a spouse with children remarries after the death of a partner, the situation is difficult. But when the family unit becomes a blend of his children, her children and their children, the recipe for success requires a great deal of understanding and forgiveness.

“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

(Colossians 3:13)

A.  What Is a Blended Family?

•     The blended family is a family unit in which one or both of the spouses have been previously married and bring a child or children to the relationship.

•     The word blended means “mixed together.” It suggests a combining of separate units into an integrated whole.

•     The stepfamily is a family unit in which at least one spouse has a parental relationship with a child based on marriage, not blood.

B.  What Is a Nuclear Family?

The nuclear family is a traditional family unit composed of …

•     one husband and one wife

•     one marriage

•     one or more children from one union

C.  God’s Heart on Remarriage

•     Remarriage is permitted when the marriage covenant is broken by …

death

“By law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage. So then, if she marries another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress, even though she marries another man.” (Romans 7:2–3)

defilement (adultery)

“I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.” (Matthew 19:9)

desertion and divorce (a controversial position)

Only because of a hardened heart on the part of the one who leaves—God’s heart is one of reconciliation.

“But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace.” (1 Corinthians 7:15)

•     Remarriage is not permitted …

to an unbeliever

“A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 7:39)

to a former spouse who has married another

“If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, and if after she leaves his house she becomes the wife of another man, and her second husband dislikes her and writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, or if he dies, then her first husband, who divorced her, is not allowed to marry her again after she has been defiled. That would be detestable in the eyes of the Lord.” (Deuteronomy 24:1–4)

to a divorced person whose spouse has not broken the marriage covenant

“I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.” (Matthew 19:9)

•     Remarriage is not God’s preferred state for everyone.

“I wish that all men were as I am. But each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that. Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” (1 Corinthians 7:7–9)

 

II.    Characteristics

The French, known for their exquisite breads and pastries, have a saying, “Mauvaise brioche, mauvaise maison.” If the dough is not good, nothing else will be either. Making a good brioche is not difficult, but it requires patience and a basic understanding of the properties of the dough. Brioche dough is unusually heavy from the weight of so much butter and eggs. It takes longer to rise than ordinary bread, and the dough will be very sticky and hard to work with. Failures are inevitable when you’re learning to make brioche, as well as when you are learning the properties of blended families and how to work with them. Relationships get sticky and hard to deal with. But as any chef will tell you, failure is the beginning of wisdom and understanding.

“By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established.”

(Proverbs 24:3)

Stages of Blended Family Adjustments

A.  Fantasy Stage … unrealistic expectations

•     The dream of gaining happiness and wholeness through a new marriage

•     The dream that I won’t make the same mistakes I made in my first marriage

•     The dream of marrying a model parent who will love my children

•     The dream that I will love my spouse’s children as my own

•     The dream that our love is enough to conquer all problems

B.  Factual Stage … reality sets in

•     The dream of a unified family life is not reality.

•     The guilt, jealousy and anger from former relationships are damaging to the new relationships.

•     The children are mourning their lost parent and are not accepting the stepparent.

•     The transition to a new family becomes more difficult than expected.

•     The problems seem too difficult, accompanied by a strong temptation to give up.

Argument:

“You’re not my mother.”

Answer:

“You are so right. However, I am the mother in this home.”

Argument:

“You’re not my dad. I don’t have to do what you say.”

Answer:

“Your mother and I have talked about this, and we have agreed that this decision is best for you.”

C.  Fruitful Stage … growth and maturity

•     The realization that a blended family is not ideal; there will always be a unique set of family problems

•     The realization that mistakes will be made, but God uses mistakes to build character and strengthen the family unit

•     The realization that it is going to take the cooperation of both partners to overcome difficulties and make the marriage work

•     The realization that it takes time, and it may be years before there are any signs of unity or smooth functioning relationships

•     The realization that God will use this blended family as a source of spiritual growth, a means of healing the past and a demonstration of His unconditional love

QUESTION: “I have two children by another marriage, and my husband has three. His thirteen-year-old son lives with us, and I have an eleven-year-old son and a fourteen-year-old daughter. This is the second marriage for both of us. We seem to constantly disagree on discipline issues. It seems that my children have to make the most adjustments. My husband rarely disciplines his son, yet he is very critical of my children and their behavior. This is causing a lot of anger between us, and I am not sure our relationship will survive. How can we overcome the serious differences that are dividing our family?”

ANSWER: It is common for each spouse to put his or her child’s interests first. But when the children’s interests are first, over that of the other spouse and his or her children, it becomes a recipe for dissension. Although blended families such as yours tend to be very difficult, there is hope. Both you and your husband must be willing to agree on appropriate behavior and discipline for all the children. Do absolutely nothing until you can apply the policy to which you both agree. Ultimately, you will begin to discipline by taking each other’s feelings into account. As you learn to agree in other areas of conflict, you will begin learning how to act in the interests of all family members.

“Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4)

 

III.   Causes

Some recipes are not as easy as they seem, especially when many ingredients are added to the mixture. And in situations where there has been a divorce, more than just the members of the family are involved. Other parents from other marriages are blended into the mix. A major difficulty will be establishing lines of authority for children who spend a great deal of time with a natural parent. Children also resent leaving a parent who now is not part of the new family makeup. If there can be open lines of communication among all the adults involved, children will be able to accept guidelines for their behavior more readily.

“Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.”

(Exodus 20:12)

A.  Major Causes of Failure

•     First Marriage

—immature spouse

—sexual difficulties

—relatives

—value systems

—social adjustments

•     Second Marriage

—child rearing

—financial difficulties

—relatives

—value systems

—sharing tasks

B.  The Stepfamily Sabotage

Your emotional health is of critical importance when you are faced with the new challenges of parenting, the pain of separating from past marriages and the stress of interacting with ex-spouses. Your responses to the challenges will greatly affect the failure or the success of your new family. Although no two families are alike, all will have varying degrees of the following emotions:

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!”

(Isaiah 43:18)

•     Loss

—All members are dealing with the loss of the nuclear family.

—Children are grieving the loss of a parent.

—Spouses are grieving the loss of significant relationships.

•     Fear

—Children fear loss of affection.

—Children fear the unknown.

—Spouses fear a second failure.

—Stepparents fear rejection.

•     Anger

—Both children and stepparents may be angry over lack of acceptance.

—Children may be angry over too little or too much discipline from stepparent.

—Stepparent may be angry over additional financial commitments and responsibilities.

—Both children and stepparents may be angry over unfulfilled expectations, dreams and goals.

•     Guilt

—Children feel guilty over divided loyalty.

—Children feel guilty about being responsible for the failure of the first marriage.

—Children feel guilty about not accepting and loving the stepparent.

—Spouses feel guilty over the divorce and its effect on the children.

—Spouses feel guilty over giving priority to bonding with the new spouse.

—Spouses feel guilty over not loving stepchildren.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

(Hebrews 12:1)

C.  Root Cause of Marriage Failure … the Second Time Around

Wrong Belief:

“I must be perfect in this new marriage in order to project a healthy family image and to prove my success as a marriage partner and as a parent.”

Right Belief:

I cannot be a perfect parent or make others happy all the time. I will rely on the Holy Spirit, who gives me the wisdom and love to respond in a Christlike manner in all my family relationships.

“I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13–14)

 

IV.  Steps to Solution

Let’s face it, some of us will never make the perfect chocolate souffle … no matter how hard we try. But that doesn’t mean we can’t produce something wonderfully good! Does it really matter if the coconut cake slopes ever so slightly or the peach ice cream never sets up very hard? The important thing is to keep on trying when you feel like giving up. Stick close to God’s recipe for loving others, and He will bless your efforts.

“Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.”

(Proverbs 16:3)

A.  Key Verse to Memorize

“Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.”

(Romans 14:19)

B.  Key Passage to Read and Reread

Colossians   3:12–15

 

•     Know that you are chosen by God.

 

v. 12

 

•     Realize that you are loved by God.

 

v. 12

 

•     Reflect the character of Christ.

 

v. 12

 

(compassion,   kindness, humility, gentleness and patience)

 

 

 

•     Lift up and support each other.

 

v. 13

 

•     Forgive those who offend you.

 

v. 13

 

•     Act in love.

 

v. 14

 

•     Know that love builds unity.

 

v. 14

 

•     Live in peace with one another.

 

v. 15

 

•     Have a thankful heart.

 

v. 15

 

“As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.”

(Colossians 3:12–15)

C.  Remarriage Readiness Test

•     Do you understand why you married your first partner?

•     Have you recognized and confessed your part in the broken marriage?

•     Was there an honest attempt to work through the relational problems in your first marriage?

•     Have you learned to be content as a single?

•     Have you developed a healthy identity as a single or a single parent?

•     Are you capable of being responsible with your finances?

•     Have you determined why you desire to remarry?

•     Do your children have a healthy, well-working plan of visitation with their other parent?

•     Have you considered and consulted your children regarding their feelings about your remarriage?

•     Have you given up the unrealistic dream of an “ideal family”?

•     Have you committed to remarriage only with someone who has a personal commitment to Jesus Christ?

•     Have you made the issue of remarriage a matter of prayer, and are you seeking God’s will for your life?

“Understanding is a fountain of life to those who have it, but folly brings punishment to fools.”

(Proverbs 16:22)

D.  Preparing Children for Your Remarriage

•     Meet alone with your own children.

•     Communicate your unconditional love for them.

•     State your belief that remarriage is God’s direction for your life.

•     Share the positive future you see for them.

•     Encourage them to be open and to share their feelings.

•     Explain that the stepparent will not replace their natural parent.

•     Make your marriage commitment clear.

•     Ask for their help in this transition.

•     Communicate their secure position.

•     Let them know that Christ will be the center of their new family.

“Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”

(Proverbs 16:24)

E.  The Shared Custody Shuffle

Many have found that a shared custody arrangement is not always in the best interests of a child. Children seem to have more difficulty being constantly on the move. But if you do share custody, it is important to remember to do the following when a child returns to your home:

•     Stop what you are doing.

•     Greet with a warm hug.

•     Allow reentry time.

•     Give focused attention.

•     Ask nonthreatening questions.

•     Expect children to try to manipulate your feelings.

•     Don’t assume all they say is true.

•     Distance yourself emotionally from any anger.

“A man finds joy in giving an apt reply—and how good is a timely word!”

(Proverbs 15:23)

F.   Blended Family Bonding

Build a solid relationship with your spouse.

•     Base your relationship on Christ.

•     Face difficulties with a united front.

•     Move to a neutral home if possible.

“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24)

Observe family traditions and holidays with flexibility.

•     Be aware of various family expectations.

•     Be considerate of children who are caught in the middle.

•     Be willing to sacrifice personal expectations for holidays.

“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.” (Romans 12:10)

Nurture the children’s nuclear family relationships.

•     Respect the missing parent’s rights.

•     Encourage communication with all grandparents and relatives.

•     Encourage holiday cards, birthday gifts and thank-you notes.

“Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” (Exodus 20:12)

Determine to stand firm.

•     Don’t relax your standards.

•     Don’t be sensitive to rejection.

•     Don’t expect a problem free family.

“The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother.… Discipline your son, and he will give you peace; he will bring delight to your soul.” (Proverbs 29:15, 17)

Initiate family structure.

•     Work toward a biblical authority structure.

•     Have well-defined boundaries.

•     Maintain consistent discipline.

•     Be united in decisions.

“The Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.” (Proverbs 3:12)

Negotiate mutual ground.

•     Encourage open and honest communication.

•     Have frequent family meetings and devotions.

•     Talk, talk, talk with each other!

“I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.” (1 Corinthians 1:10)

Grow in dependence upon Christ.

•     See your personal identity in Christ.

•     Don’t depend on others for happiness.

“Just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” (Colossians 2:6–7)

Insights for the Instant Parent

•     Realize that becoming an instant parent is a challenging task.

•     Remember that you’re not replacing a parent; you’re offering a new relationship.

•     Reinforce your commitment to the marriage for the benefit of the child.

•     Regard your role as God’s example of what a marriage is intended to be.

•     Rebuild a gradual authority system to function by Biblical guidelines.

•     Reflect the love of God by providing security for the child.

•     Refuse to judge or criticize the missing parent.

•     Resist the temptation to withdraw emotionally if you are not immediately accepted.

•     Resolve to pray for the child and for your marriage.

•     Relinquish your right to be respected and loved—it may take a very long time.

“Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

(Hebrews 12:1–2)

A   blended family is like a jagged jigsaw puzzle.

If   you force the pieces to fit, you destroy the potential design.

If   you wait for God to work it, the picture comes—in time.

—June   Hunt

 

Selected Bibliography

Adkins, Kay. I’m Not Your Kid: A Christian’s Guide to a Healthy Stepfamily. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004.

Brown, Beth E. When You’re Mom No. 2: A Word of Hope for Stepmothers. Ann Arbor, MI: Vine, 1991.

Cerling, Charles. Remarriage: Opportunity to Grow. Old Tappan, NJ: Power, 1988.

Cresse, Michelle. Jigsaw Families: Solving the Puzzle of Remarriage. Lynnwood, WA: Aglow, 1989.

Frydenger, Tom, and Adrienne Frydenger. The Blended Family. Old Tappan, NJ: Chosen, 1984.

Frydenger, Tom, and Adrienne Frydenger. Resolving Conflict in the Blended Family. Tarrytown, NY: Chosen, 1991.

Houck, Don, and LaDean Houck. Remarried with Children: a Blended Couple’s Journey to Harmony. San Bernardino, CA: Here’s Life, 1991.

Houmes, Dan, and Paul Meier. Growing in Step: A Christian Guide to Stepparenting. Richardson, TX: Today, 1985.

Hunt, Angela Elwell. Loving Someone Else’s Child. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1992.

Hunt, June. Counseling Through Your Bible Handbook. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2007.

Hunt, June. How to Forgive … When You Don’t Feel Like It. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2007.

Hunt, June. How to Handle Your Emotions. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2008.

Hunt, June. Seeing Yourself Through God’s Eyes. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2008

Marsolini, Maxine. Blended Families: Creating Harmony as You Build a New Home Life. Chicago: Moody, 2000.

Solomon, Charles. The Rejection Syndrome. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1982.

VanVonderen, Jeff. Families Where Grace Is in Place. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 1992.[1]

 


[1] Hunt, J. (2008). Biblical Counseling Keys on the Blended Family: God’s Recipe for Success (1–14). Dallas, TX: Hope For The Heart.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s