Tuesday morning, October 1st, I was part of a radio presentation to discuss Divorce Care. The host has been so taken with my passion for separated, divorced, and remarrieds into stepfamilies, that he has asked me to continue with informative discussions. http://www.cyberears.com/podcasts/podcast_5852.xml
I have committed to the next several weeks to discuss the various topics in Divorce Care including… Forgiveness, New Relationships, What About the Kids. I feel Divorce Care is the last chance I have to not only help them recover and heal, but to help these individuals avoid the pitfalls of entering another relationship too soon and more tragic, another marriage too soon. I have been there and done that.
The past several days I have been reading several entries from stepmoms on our group FaceBook page that I will keep private until such time as they give me permission to discuss their stories. But reading these recent posts, I have an ardent desire to capture their pain, struggles, frustration, anger….and run to the nearest pre-marital meeting between couples and their pastor, or gather anyone contemplating stepliving life. I want to share these stores and say, “Wait, are you prepared for this…Can this happen to you…What if…?” There are so many issues that come up once a couple steps into life with each other and the kids, it is virtually impossible to write a book (mine is currently at the editor’s) and list or discuss all the variables that crop up in a stepfamily because each one is unique and has a life of its own. We all understand the language, but in each stepfamily the “words” of the language are different. Not every stepfamily deals with the exact same issues.
This is why I do not use the word “blended”. “Blended family” sounds easy, but it is far from that….as if you could just take a big spoon and in a big bowl stir together two adults, one or more children, ex-spouse and their parents, step-grandparents, counselors, lawyers, school officials, doctors, well-meaning friends, add a gallon of emotions and POOF!, instant family cake. Yeah, that sounds easy, but it is far from realistic. Everything mixed together, losing all role identity and purpose? I think not. The well-intended “cake” will fall.
Stepfamilies include many, many steps and baby steps at that. Slow, crock-pot or roaster style cooking…that is how a stepfamily is created. God, husband and wife, child or children, then add everyone else, season appropriately with patience, flexibility, forgiveness, understanding, and several handfuls of love. Each component of the stepfamily mixture maintains their role, look, shape, and purpose. The critical element is time. Lots of low-temp time. Stepfamilies do not instantly develop a routine or history. Some statistics say a sense of regularity and relationship stability within a stepfamily can take up to seven (7) Years. Sound like a long time? Talk to a few stepmoms or stepdads in the early years of their union or marriage, and they will concur that it is a longer process than they ever imagined….and much more difficult. Does that mean you should feel depressed or hopeless because of a long stretch? Of course not, it means you can release your preconceived expectations, and relax and enjoy the journey because time will be your best friend as you become familiar with each other, share, laugh, and make your own new memories. Love is a decision, not an emotion. So is the goal to be a successful stepfamily. It is a decision you and your husband/wife or mate are committed to, refraining from emotions running your household.
My mind will often take a thought and turn it around and around like a brilliant jewel. I ponder and think about the thought. Something has been weighing heavy on my mind lately…today’s “jewel” was why and how do lovebirds become birds of prey? Couples fall in love, head over heels….have-to-have you love, get married, have children, and somewhere down the marital drive, the wheels fall off. Soon the lovebirds are fighting, arguing, leaving, having affairs. Once they separate, these once-upon-a-time lovebirds often turn into angry, vengeful, bitter birds of prey! No more love stuff….this is war! Then things get worse. They turn their diabolical maneuvers on the children….to retaliate against their ex-love. They shuffle paperwork, engage lawyers, the court system and school system, demand more money, get their friends and family, including boyfriends or girlfriends to stand up and join the fracas. Kids are found to be ADHD, feeling isolated or depressed, being diagnosed with all kinds of issues/illnesses, taking pills, seeing counselors, failing, angry, taking it out on other students with bullying, and some…become suicidal. And then bring to the mix……a stepdad or stepmom who then find themselves in the middle of it all.
My first inclination is to think their wedding is an event in the minds of too many. Not enough couples sit down together to plan the rest of their lives together. They plan the wedding, they do not plan the marriage. The wedding is a one day event, their marriage is a life-long covenant, a promise. I’m not sure how many times “til death do us part” is said at ceremonies anymore…besides, it is beginning to sound like a dance to me. We need to say it like it is, “We are going to be married until one of us dies. Period. Divorce is not an option.” The marriages of 40+ years ago were just plain different than they are now. Something changed after that. In Divorce Care and life in general, I’ve heard of marriages ending before and after 20+ years, rarely after 30+, and not ever have I heard a marriage dissolving after 40+ years.
Even with abuse and adultery, individuals can repent and change and resume marriages, it has been done. No marriage should exist with abuse, violence, ongoing affairs, or danger to the spouse or children. But I wonder how many marriages end because of just those things.
Do couples enter marriage and then begin to take each other for granted and don’t take the time to realize they are? Do they stop caring? Does cute humor turn into vicious jokes and ridicule? How does blame, condemnation, criticism, and defensiveness weave its ugly head into the lovebirds life? Why don’t couples routinely go to marriage retreats or conferences? Teachers, doctors, and other professionals are required to renew or update their education and skills (I know I want MY doctor to!)…and they aren’t committed to these things until the day they die! Why aren’t we taking better care of our marriages, especially once children come on the scene? Little things if not addressed, turn into big things. I believe we all take things too personally, we live in a society that has become me, me, me….and “right now” for me (instant gratification).
I believe God has been pushed aside in lieu of “I know what I want and need and I certainly know what I’m doing and how to get it.” I believe couples and families need to pray together more. I believe there needs to be better communication (and more listening than talking), less blame. We should strive for more humility, less pride, more work and service to others, less self-centeredness. Respect must reign in a home between everyone, especially between the adults to set the example for the family. Stepfamilies should seek to have harmony, calm, respect in their homes as the first stepping-stones. Be happy with these initial and important attributes. Kids are stressed to the max…I cannot imagine shifting my stuff to multiple homes…every other day, every other week, every other weekend, holidays become running from one household to another. And deal with school, parents/step-parents, peers, and a very fast-paced world. I just can’t imagine it. Us adults decide what house we are going to live in and then we do. How often do we seriously contemplate and understand and appreciate the shifting lives of our children and stepchildren?
I don’t have the answer as to why there is so much divorce today, I am pondering things and wanted you to do so as well. Ponder the lives of the children in your household. Ponder your marriage or relationship. When is the last time you spoke lovingly to your husband/wife or mate and sincerely complimented them…what about to the kids? Do you wear a smile? (Best facial feature & relationship builder!!) When is the last time you had alone time with your spouse/mate to talk over the day, share ideas, look at the calendar of events for your family? Please don’t allow an air of ugly little “demons” in your household such as bitterness, disappointment, envy, hurt, anger….and too much busy-ness.
Stepfamilies are everywhere, more than ever in history. Stepfamilies have a different lifestyle and couples need encouragement and support and must take the responsibility of choice for their behaviors and environment in their homes. We choose how we think, speak, and act. We have full control over ourselves. I encourage husband and wife/mates in stepfamilies to unite in protecting each other and their marriage/relationship. It is hard work, requires diligence and endurance, but the reward is waiting for you!
I leave you these words from Scripture, Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance (endurance), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”
Post these words where you can easily see them each day. Stepmoms and stepdads have a new opportunity to make a difference in each other’s and a child’s life. Take this responsibility seriously, you are a part of their future and hold it in your hands.
God bless you, each and every one!