Pastor Steve Carr uses biblical truths in highlighting delicate topics and offers solid advice to overcome challenges and nurture a blended family.
4. Resolve any guilt or resentment. Rather than worrying about your mate’s past, you should be more concerned about your own. If either of you have been previously married, each must question his or her own heart to be sure that no guilt or resentment is being held on to. Unresolved issues here will greatly hinder the future of your marriage.
If you have failed to resolve such issues, you are laying a sure stumbling stone for your present relationship. Many times in counseling a spouse will say to me, “It seems as if my husband is taking his anger toward his previous mate out on me.” Usually statements are made such as, “You are just like my ex-wife.” Or, the husband will say, “Every time my wife sees her ex-husband she goes into a deep depression.”
Do people really hold on to past issues like this? Yes! Remember when John the Baptist preached that King Herod should not have his brother’s wife, Herodias? Scripture declares that, “Herodias held it against him and wanted to kill him, but she could not” (Mark 6:19).
What happens when a person holds resentment? At some time in the future, that resentment will cause that person to take an evil action as it did Herodias. She simply waited for an opportunity to strike out at John. Ultimately, she had him killed. Therefore, “If you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses” (Mark 11:25).
On the other hand, if you are beating yourself up with guilt for your failures, remember, “There is…no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). John also declared, “For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things” (1 John 3:20). God knows that you’ve failed and He also knows that you’ve repented. If you’ve done that, then He’s forgiven you. You need to accept that your history has been blotted out, washed clean (Acts 3:19). Resolve these issues once and for all, and go forward!
5. Have a game plan. A blended family takes a great deal of wise planning because there are many potential minefields that you can avoid if you talk these issues over. This game plan should ideally begin before you get married by discussing such things as:
a) A sufficient time for courtship. Don’t rush into marriage. You need plenty of time to truly get to know one another. A sufficient length for courtship allows you time to establish and deepen your friendship with each other. Friendship is the basis of any lasting marital union. Solomon’s wife believed that this was the key to her successful relationship. She declared, “This is my beloved, and this is my friend” (Song 5:16). Have you established this friendship with your prospective mate?
b) Establish a relationship with your partner’s children. It is essential that from the beginning you work hard at establishing a real friendship and relationship with the children of your prospective mate prior to engagement. You may be in a hurry to get married, but children take time to come around to the idea of having a new parent.
If you try to rush the children, you will regret it. It’s important to remember that you are not marrying just one person, you are marrying a total package, which includes children. If you fail to take the time to establish a real friendship with the children, you start off your new marriage with them believing that they are really not important. If you’ve already married and have failed to take this step, you need to get to work immediately. You must look for every way possible to develop each stepparent-child relationship.
Some steps toward accomplishing this goal would be to first establish regular conversations with each child. As you show respect for their concerns, relationship will grow. Offer to include them in the things you are doing and show support for them in their hobbies or sports interests.
Speaking from personal experience, as one who grew up in a single-parent household, children are very idealistic. Many are still hoping and praying no matter how hopeless it looks that their moms and dads will get back together, which makes you a very real threat. Knowing this, it would be wise to make friends from the beginning and go slow with the wedding plans. There is no shortcut or substitute for true relationship.
c) Where will you live? Another inherently explosive issue is what I call “protecting my turf.” These conflicts occur when adults or children consider the marriage partner as “moving into my house.” Many times teenagers or older children become very angry at having to share a bedroom with a stranger. The battles that result from these turf wars can tear two adults apart.
There is a simple solution to this dilemma. I have found that you can alleviate this conflict altogether by simply starting out fresh in a totally different home. Consequently, everyone is starting out new with no turf to protect and no history or memories from the past.
With all these issues and many others, it is essential that you have a game plan for what you will do. Don’t wait until the conflict arises, talk over the potential conflict and take the appropriate action now.
d) What church will you go to? Agreement on which church you will attend is also very important. If you don’t attend the same church already, one of you will have to leave your friends and the place where you have found spiritual encouragement and guidance. This is not easy. It is important that you make this decision together as soon as you can, because you don’t need any interruption in your spiritual growth or feeding while you are trying to adjust in so many other areas of a new marriage. This settles a potentially touchy subject early in your relationship.
6. Your commitment. One thing that blending a family will require is an absolute commitment. This is true for any couple, blended or not, because a successful marriage requires hard work to experience the companionship that God intends. However, blending a family is even a tougher job. As I mentioned earlier, the statistics of failed blended marriages are staggering.
However, you can beat these statistics by making an absolute commitment before God and to your spouse. Declare to your mate that the word divorce will not be used in reference to your marriage. Pledge that you won’t quit, even when times get tough. Then go before God and ask Him for the grace to keep your commitment. He will honor this!
It’s important to remember that most people marry with great emotion and feelings of love, never thinking that they will ever consider breaking their marriage covenant. But, when the conflicts come, the emotions of love disappear very quickly. What keeps you together when this happens? Commitment.
Ultimately, it’s your commitment to Christ that is the key to keeping your commitment to your mate. Why? Because as you keep your commitment to Christ, your one-on-one relationship with Him brings the fruit of His Spirit and the power of His love into your heart (Gal. 5:22-23). As God’s Spirit reigns in your life, you won’t selfishly live according to your fleshly nature, but you will choose to walk in love (Gal. 5:16-17). Love will cover a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). Therefore, if you want to keep your commitment to your mate, be sure your relationship with Christ is alive and personal.
In addition, remember that your commitment is not just a feeling, but a covenant with a person you’ve married (Mal. 2:14). Feelings come and go, but your commitment must remain in spite of your feelings. The lack of feelings simply means that there must be unresolved conflicts in your relationship. Don’t give up on the marriage. Instead, seek reconciliation and the feelings will return.
Click here if you missed Pastor Steve Carr’s Nurturing Your Blended Family – Part III
If you would like more information on the marriage ministry of Pastor Steve Carr or his book Married and How To Stay That Way, visit Covenant Keepers
Excerpt republished with permission from Covenant Keepers by Pastor Steve Carr, Copyright 2013