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Building Love Together in Blended Families - Ron Deal

Building Relationships / Dr. Gary Chapman
The Truth Network Radio
February 27, 2021 2:00 am

Building Love Together in Blended Families - Ron Deal

Building Relationships / Dr. Gary Chapman

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February 27, 2021 2:00 am

Author and director of Family Life Blended, Ron Deal wants to help you build love together in your blended family. On today's program, Ron talks about the unique challenges step-families encounter. You need more than just good intentions to overcome them. How do you build trust and become one? Don’t miss the encouragement for blended families on this edition of Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman.

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This is Doug Hastings, Vice President of Moody Radio, and we're thankful for support from our listeners and businesses like United Faith Mortgage. My grandma loves iced tea. It's her thing. So I go to hang with grandma for a bit, and I see she's holding her big plastic cup with her tea, but the cup is literally sitting inside one of grandpa's sports socks. And I'm not making this up.

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For all licensing information, go to, corporate NMLS number 1330, equal housing lender, not licensed in Alaska, Hawaii, Georgia, Massachusetts, North Dakota, South Dakota and Utah. Today on Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman, help and hope for blended families. Be loving, be everything you can be at a level that is palatable for the other person to receive from you. Don't push too hard.

Just be there and be consistent. That's leading with love. Welcome to Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman, author of the New York Times bestseller, "The 5 Love Languages" . Today, some practical and biblical help for making your blended family members feel the love you want to express.

Well, this is a great topic and we're coming back to it here at the end of February because it is just so needed. Our regular dear Gary will return at the end of March. Today we'll go back to last year when step parenting expert Ron Deal joined us, one of my favorite people on the planet. He has such a heart for those in blended families who are struggling and have deep questions. He and Dr. Chapman worked on our featured resource titled Building Love Together in Blended Families.

You'll find it at Gary, do you feel the same way as I do about Ron Deal? Well, you know, Chris, I do because I've known Ron for a long, long time. We've had him in our church to lead workshops for blended families. And I have really enjoyed working with him on this new resource and think it's going to help a lot of people. So I'm excited about our conversation today.

Yeah, and I think this might be a mission. Maybe you're not in a blended family, but as you listen, there's going to be somebody that comes to mind, oh, this would be a great resource for them or this conversation, maybe they could hear this. I want you to listen carefully as we welcome back director of Family Life Blended, author of a number of helpful books for step families, Ron Deal. His latest is Building Love Together in Blended Families, "The 5 Love Languages" and Becoming Step Family Smart.

You can find out more at Well, Ron Deal, welcome back to the program. Thank you, Gary. It's it's always a joy to be with you and Chris.

Well, first, give me your perspective on why we created this resource. You know, I was reflecting on that not long ago, and I remembered back to having my first child. Do you remember having your first child? It's been a long time.

Yeah, it's been a long time. If you go back in the recesses of your mind, you were excited. You were enthused.

You were prayerful. And the child comes and you discover how much you love it. And like, you just can't imagine loving anything more. And you would do absolutely everything for this child.

That's not a problem. And then it cries all night. And you're like, now what do I do?

You know, everybody listening to us right now can relate to that. Some positive, good thing that came down the pike in your life. And yet it came with challenges and that you had questions and you didn't have answers, maybe adopted for the first time or fostering a child. There's joy and there's challenge.

And like, what do we do with that? I think an awful lot of people enter a blended family story with anticipation and excitement and eagerness. And there's a lot of good in it for them. And there are questions that come along with it. We wrote this book because we wanted to help people find some of those answers to the common questions that they're asking. There is great joy in raising a child.

It is a gift of the Lord. There's joy in living life as a blended family. And there's some challenges that come along with it. And we just want to encourage you in that journey. Well, you know, Ron, for a long time, in the back of my mind, I wanted to do something to help blended families. And of course, you know, as I said, I've known you for a long time and know that you've invested really a great portion of your life in working with blended families.

So whenever you agreed to work together on this project, I was thrilled because I think together we've created a resource that really is going to help blended families, especially at the point of how do the love languages interface in a blended family, because it's very, very different, of course. Well, let's talk about the different types of blended families. You know, maybe we should step back and define what a blended family is, also called a step family.

It depends on where you are, where you live. The terminology, people use different terms. But it's when one, at least one of the adults, has brought a child from a previous relationship into the new marriage, the new family. That's technically what a blended family is. As you said, there's different types of blended families. So there's one adult's brought a child or more. Both adults bring children. Maybe they have a child together, one or both.

Sometimes there's yours, mine, and ours. There's blended families that were preceded by the death of a parent. So someone was widowed, and now they're marrying again. Sometimes it's a blended family preceded by divorce. Sometimes it's a story where somebody had a child and was never married, and now they are getting married, perhaps for the first time in their life.

There's never been a death or a divorce, but marriage for the first time to somebody who's not the biological parent of the child. There's a lot of different pathways into this journey called blended family. By the way, each one of those families has nuances and differences and challenges, but also different rewards that come along with the journey. So it's a very diverse group of people that makes writing a book like this.

As you remember, we talked about this quite a bit. How do we speak to people in lots of different circumstances? Of course, that's one of the great things to me about the love languages. It does get below the surface down to some of the foundational relational dynamics going on in any family. How do we then apply that in a very specific way to what's unique about being a blended family? As we know, Ron, blended families are not always so blended. We hope for blendedness, but it's not always there, right?

Exactly. The heart and intent of the couple as they enter the family doesn't equal blended. They start a journey. When they walk down the aisle and get married, they actually start the clock on the blending process. We know it takes, on average, five to seven years for families to really find their sense of family identity.

If you want to call that blendedness, we can make up words along the way here. But there's some stress in that merging journey. Those first few years tend to be stressful for most step-families because the realities kick in. It's, oh yeah, you've always done parenting this way.

I do it this way. My kids are expecting this. Your kids are expecting that.

How are we going to do this? Those realities can become stressful pretty quickly. I think as it relates to building love in a blended family, the title of this book, which is, of course, the objective of somebody getting married. Why would you form a family if you weren't going to be a loving family?

That's the point. But the journey to build that love is affected by a number of things. For example, in the book, we talk about having different expectations of what it is to be loving and what love looks like. The way you love a sibling as a child may feel a little different than how you love a step-sibling.

The way you love a parent is different than the love that you feel or the attitude you have or how you act towards a step-parent. Obviously, there's a journey there that people have to navigate and work through. I really love the way we title the book.

It is about building love, building as in a process, as in you start with a blueprint and you lay a foundation. Then you begin to try to figure out where everything fits. That just takes time. We're going to help our readers and listeners today understand a little bit more about the building process. I can imagine a listener who has only been in the blended family maybe for a year.

They hear you say, it's going to take five to seven years to get really blended here. They just swallowed really hard. Oh, really?

Really? Nobody told me that. How come the pastor didn't tell me that? Well, part of the reason the pastor didn't tell you that is because the pastor didn't know to tell you that. One of the things we're doing here at Family Life is helping people and church leaders understand this so that they can be an asset to couples. Yeah, they swallow hard a little bit and go, oh, wow, I just didn't quite realize.

Well, again, I want to put this in perspective because I think this is important, Gary. It doesn't mean you've done anything wrong. Just like having that first child and you go, I love this and yet I'm still trying to figure out what to do. Nan and I have often thought we felt sorry for our first child. You know, you try out all the wrong things on the first child and you do get a little bit better with the second and the third.

I think most parents can relate to that. Well, in the same way, in the same way, you're growing, you're learning, you're experimenting, you're learning what not to do. You're learning what to do in the process of building love within your family. So, yes, it's a process. You've got to keep going. You've got to keep learning. And don't be so disappointed or ashamed of how that process is going for you. If you're a couple of years in and you're feeling the tension, that's to be expected. You know, that doesn't, again, doesn't mean you've done anything wrong.

It just means you need to learn and continue to trust God and help you to do a better job managing the terrain as you move forward. Ron, you have said before that every blended family gets together because of some loss that they have been through. And that's really important to understand, isn't it?

Yeah, it really is because it plays a big role in how you build love. Just yesterday, I was recording a podcast. I do a podcast called Family Life Blended that I would recommend to your listeners. And I was interviewing some people about special days, holidays, Mother's Day, Father's Day, you know, how do you celebrate those in your blended family? And a woman on the podcast who was well into her adult years, married and had her own children, when her widowed mother gets married. So Jennifer is an adult.

I think she's probably in her mid 30s when mom marries a new man. Now, Jennifer loved her dad, had a wonderful relationship with her father. They had a very strong family growing up. She even talked about kind of having a sense of pride about how healthy their family was and who their family was. And then dad passed away and 15 years goes by, 15 years.

That's a long time. They've adapted to dad not being there. All kinds of things have taken place. And mom falls in love and gets married. And Jennifer says, you know, it brought back all the pain in my dad's death. And trying to love this new man in mom's life and make room for him in our family and find acceptance. That was the word she kept coming back to. To find acceptance meant that I had to again grieve dad and accept that he was gone and that our family was going to change again.

And I didn't have any control over that whole process. Now, that is loss upon loss upon loss. And the new blended family generational family, three generations, is experiencing more loss again for Jennifer because it relates to her dad. So there's this there's this bittersweet element that is always under the surface affecting how you build love in a blended family. Her mother was eager for Jennifer to enjoy this new man. Hey, is your stepdad? No, he's not my stepdad. Jennifer introduces him as mom's husband.

Right. And so that's not my dad at all. I mean, that's mom's husband.

That's different. But mom's eager. She would love for Jennifer to be drawn to this man because mom is.

But Jennifer's little hesitant. She's like, this means I have to grieve dad all over again. See, those things are really intertwined along with the good of the new comes this bad, if you will, the sadness about the past and what's gone. You always have to attend to loss. And this grief is there, whether the parent died or whether there's a divorce. Right. Because it's still the loss, you know, and that child had a father who's not there, didn't die, but they divorced. And yes.

Would you say this? There's a sense of loss and therefore the need for grief in every blended family, in every blended family. It is. And it doesn't just happen on day one. It is an ongoing story in the family for Jennifer and her story. It was 15 years after dad's death that mom got married again. Well, it just brought up all the sadness again. You know, this new man in her world is a walking billboard reminder that dad is not here. You can't have one without the other. It just is what it is now. Now, let me just throw this in here.

Here's an application that we talk about in our book. Let's imagine we were talking to this new man who is now Jennifer's stepdad. She's an adult. She's got her own family. He now has step grandchildren.

Her children are his step grandchildren. Let's say he knows what Jennifer's love language is. Let's say he knows that it's physical touch.

And I'm just making this up. I'm not sure that's exactly the case. But how comfortable do you think Jennifer is with him hugging her to express love? See, now we have a bit of a dilemma. He may have the best of intentions. He may have the best heart toward her wanting to develop a relationship. But that expression of love just may not feel right to her. There's other things that need to happen before physical touch is something she would welcome from him. So lesson number one for blended families and "The 5 Love Languages" is just because you know someone's love language does not mean you have permission to use it.

That is a foundational difference that we talk about in this resource that I think is so very important. In fact, that was one of the reasons you and I decided we needed to write this book and what would set it apart from the other great love language books that are available. Is there's just a unique dynamic going on in blended families that you have to be considerate of and move in slowly and understand that you're going to build a relationship a little bit at a time. And once both people are open to the expression of the love languages, now the timing is right. Yeah, because through the years I've had individuals say to me who are in a blended family who had read my book on the love languages and was really trying to apply it in all their relationships. And they say, you know, Dr. Chapman, I know you wrote this book and I know this is true, this love language thing, but in my blended family, I know their love language, but they don't receive it.

And I don't know what's going on. And again, that was one of my motivations for wanting to be involved in writing this book because I knew this was a reality. Yeah, you know, foundational to what makes "The 5 Love Languages" so amazing in terms of how it impacts relationships is the understanding that both people involved want to give and receive love at the same level. But what if you have one person who really isn't interested in that? In our case example, Jennifer is nice to the man. She has a great, wonderful openness towards him as a friend and I appreciate that he loves my mom, but I don't need him hugging me.

I don't need him in my life in an intimate way. So her motivation is low, if I could say it that way, and the new stepdad's motivation is high. Well, what has to happen there? I mean, this is a big lesson for anybody listening, whether you're a grandparent, a step parent, a step sibling. When you're that highly motivated person trying to love somebody who has a lower motivation than you, you've got to scale down your effort. You've got to meet them where they are, not where you wish they were. It's the same thing if I gave Chris an assignment and said, Chris, I want you to run down the street and you've got a new neighbor, moved in two doors down, and go down and make friends with them. Well, my guess is, Chris, you would go down there and knock on their front door and when they opened the door, you'd begin a conversation, but you'd stay on the front porch, right? What if you ran into their living room, pushed your way through, and said, hey, I'm your new best friend. And at that point, everything backfires. They're going, who is this guy?

What is he about? Somebody call the police. They don't know to trust you. They don't know what you're about. They don't understand your motivation. You're moving into their space.

See, that's not how you make a friend. And the same thing is true in blended families. The way you build love is by respecting the boundaries of where they are. And you've got to meet them where they are and then work with that. And over time, you can become friends and then move when they invite you into the living room of their heart. Yeah, I hope listeners are hearing that because it is the only way.

It won't happen if you just push in and say, I'm going to make this happen. You meet them where they are. Great, great, great truth. We talk in the book about seven blended family principles for loving well. Why don't you share one or two of those as we have time in this segment? Yeah, you know, we've kind of talked indirectly around one of them.

I'll just put words on it again. Blended families are not born with a sense of familyness. Your journey is what nurtures that. So it's this idea that, again, we're going to grow the relationships over time. You're eager when I say you're the adults who are getting married are eager for everyone involved in this blended family. And again, that's often three generations. It's the adults, parents, grandparents, if you will.

It's the children, step grandchildren. You're eager for everybody to get connected, for Christmas and holiday traditions to come alive and for people to feel like they're at home with one another. Well, that eagerness on your part is not always met by everybody else. It's a journey to begin to build love in those connections, and it just will take longer than you necessarily want it to. So principle number two, patience is a virtue. You know, waiting on love can really be hard. You're eager. You want to see that happen between other people. They've got to figure that out.

Their timing, their pace is going to be something that makes a difference in how quickly that happens. Here's another principle, and maybe one we could spend a little time talking about. A committed, loving marriage is the first and last motivator of step family integration. You know, it's pretty obvious to say it's the first motivator of building your family and building love within your family, in the sense that if this guy and this girl didn't fall in love, there would be no blended family, right? If they didn't decide to be together, nobody would be together.

Nobody would be moving into the same house and trying to figure out how to love one another. So it's the first motivator for everyone else. It's also the last motivator. And what we mean by that, and we talk about this in Building Love Together and Blended Families, is when there's stress in your home, when there's strain between step family members, and they're not motivated to find a way through that, the marriage still is the motivator. In other words, you staying together, you being lovingly persistent to be dedicated to one another, and you're going to love your family members through all this stress of merging, is what ultimately says to them, you've got to figure this out.

I mean, the alternative is, as a couple, you quit. And look, if you're having step—some of your children, step siblings, are not getting along. They're not building love well. And you, as a couple, divide over that, and you each go your separate ways. There's no way those step siblings are ever going to push through their merging struggles. Why would they?

We've now gone our separate ways. So the marriage is ultimately the glue and the thing that helps other people say, I've got to figure this out. And I think when the children see the parents and step parents loving each other, encouraging each other, positive about life, it does give them some hope.

It does give them some motivation. And particularly if those children are older, because they want their parents to be happy. So, yeah, I just think that marriage is the central unit in any family. It is extremely important in a blended family that we make that marriage relationship what we dreamed it would be, and that was loving and supportive and caring of each other. Very well said. Very well said. You know, there's one more principle I'll share today, and that's that parents in blended families have to be a team and play to one another's strengths as biological parent and step parent, try to help each other out.

Again, this is pretty intuitive. You've got to be strong in your marital relationship, but you also have to be strong in your parenting of the children. And we spend quite a bit of time in this book talking around parenting and step parenting and working together. At the end of the day, if you are divided over how to raise children, and by the way, the children could be adults.

It could be that you have a 30-year-old who is in need of a financial loan for whatever reason, and the biological parent's like, yeah, sure, I'll upload you some money, and the step parent's like, whoa, wait a minute, they're 30. We don't need to be doing it. And now we're divided over how to deal with children. It's the same moment in time. You've got to find a way to come out together as a unified team. Now, Gary, I know you've talked through the years so much about the importance of unity in parenting. It's just quadruple important in blended families. Because there is this fragileness to the family identity, there's this natural divide between the biological parent and their children and the step parent.

And so it's fragile. You have to work hard to secure the foundation of your marriage relationship and your parenting relationship. Otherwise, things can unravel pretty fast. And in addition to that coming to a place of unity on whatever the issue is, also we make the point that the biological parent is probably the best one to share the guideline or whatever the decision is with their biological child, at least certainly in the early stages as opposed to the step parent communicating that to the child, right? Yes, because parenting is about influence and leadership and who has the greatest influence. The biological parent who has a longstanding, committed, trusted relationship with the child. And while the child has a new relationship with the step parent, they're figuring out trust. They're figuring out, I don't know where to put you in my heart.

How much authority do I grant you? That's ambiguous. But what's clear is the biological parent's place in the child's life. So, yeah, we recommend that the biological parent do the hard work in the early years of the blended family. And over time, as love is built between family members, then step parents can be doing more and more of that hands-on taking initiative sort of parenting. This reinforces what you were talking about, Ron, about the unified front and parents being of one mind about things.

That's important. You know, I'm not in a blended family. My wife and I, we have nine children and I see that every day. You've got to be together with this. But with all the complexities then of a blended family and the struggles with the kids, his, hers, ours, you know, that if you're not on the same page or you don't struggle well to get on the same page, then the problems amplify, don't they?

They do. And, you know, sometimes I realize when I talk about this, I make it sound easy and I never want to do that. You know, get on the same page.

Okay, bam, we're on the same page. Well, you know, reality is this is a series of conversations, an ongoing process, which is true, as you just said, Chris, in all families for all parents. There's just even more reason for you to find that togetherness in your parenting as a blended family couple because there's more things trying to unravel you. There's more dynamics pulling you apart. So work at it.

And sometimes that means, practically, what does that mean? Well, reading a book is really helpful. I mean, one of the things we recommend couples do is get this book, read it together, dialogue with another set of friends or somebody, maybe a pastor, but absolutely within yourself.

When did you think of that one thing that they just said? Well, I don't know if I agree with that. Use the book as an opportunity to ignite the kind of conversation you need to have in order to find that unity. Again, some people will need to, yeah, consult with a pastor or a counselor or somebody or grandma who just has a lot of life wisdom. So do whatever you have to do, but get on the same page.

Ron, why do you think the divorce rate is higher among blended families than it is in first marriages? You know, it's because of all the stuff we've been talking about. You walk in without a map, without a blueprint, and you think, we've got to build a house. Well, you just build a house, right? Well, this house is sitting on a different sort of terrain, and there's a few earthquake tremors every now and then, and so you have to meet different standards and be prepared for X and Y and Z. Oh, well, we didn't recognize that.

We didn't realize that. So what kind of building materials do we have? There's a specialization, if you will, in what it takes to build this home, and I think a lot of people just get blindsided by that. They start in thinking that it's a simple build and then discover it's a complex build. And, you know, honestly, I think a lot of people are just overwhelmed by that. One of my hearts for blended families, and the reason I'm working with Family Life to minister to blended families 24-7, is I really believe, and I've seen, that people can overcome those questions and find there are good solutions out there. You don't have to end up divorced.

I think a lot of people just give up because they don't know what else to do. So that's what we're doing at Family Life blended is equipping people with resources to help them make sense of their life and move through it. Yeah, so important. So you're a step-parent, and you've got this child or children who are rejecting every move you make to draw closer to them, to express love to them.

We talked about this just a little bit earlier, but speak to that parent. Yeah, well, first of all, that is so hard. It is frustrating. You know how hard you're trying. That's so important, and I want to recognize that. You know how hard you're trying. You're putting your best foot forward. You're being kind. You're extending yourself.

You're making sacrifices. You are throwing your time, energy, and money into this child and the family and making it work. And yet you feel pushed aside, rejected, whatever word you would use. It is not a good feeling, and it is hard to endure underneath that.

So having said that, I think here's how you endure. First of all, you recognize that this child's need for you is not as great as your need for them, not in the moment, not right now. Their level of motivation, as we talked earlier, to have a love, intimate relationship with you is just not as high as yours is. Recognize that and say, I need to lower my expectations. I need to lower my expectations of them and of myself so that I can meet them where they are.

I'm back on the front porch knocking, and they're not opening the door. How do I stay here long enough to give this a chance? That's number one. Number two, Gary, you and I talk in the book about lead with love and then listen for love.

So let me talk about both parts of those. This is, again, how you endure in that situation. Leading with love is, okay, I'm called to be loving towards this child. I don't have to have my expectations so high that I'm constantly disappointed. It's okay to lower your expectations, but I still want to lead with love. I still want to be kind. I still want to know what their love language is and their dialect so that I can do things that are helpful.

Now, if their love language is something really intimate, like physical touch, like we talked about earlier, or quality time, but they're not interested in giving me quality time, well, you can't do that. So it's okay. Find another expression of that. One of the things we share in the book is start with acts of service. Most people are grateful for kindness done to them. So just live in that zone for a while.

Love them with that. By the way, just a little insight I had recently in an old story we've all heard. The parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke chapter 10. You know, it's only been recently.

Maybe I've missed it all along. The question that is asked by the attorney who's wanting to justify himself is, Who is my neighbor? And then Jesus tells this great story about the Good Samaritan.

But the question Jesus returns back to the attorney is not the same question he asked. Jesus does not say, Now, who is your neighbor? The question he asked back after telling the story is, Who was the neighbor? Who led with love? Not who is my neighbor like I have to love some people and don't have to love other people. Who will be the neighbor?

That's Jesus' question. And I think if you're feeling rejected, that's you. Be the neighbor. Be loving. Be everything you can be at a level that is palatable for the other person to receive from you. Don't push too hard.

Just be there and be consistent. That's leading with love. And then the last thought is, Listen for love. We tell a story in the book about a stepdad who said, Boy, my stepson, you know, I do everything.

I serve, I give, I do. I'm even doing love language stuff. And he never acknowledges it or gives me any credit for any of that. And he was really discouraged and defeated. And then one day, he and his wife were having a conversation. Actually, they were talking with me about this love language stuff.

And I asked a question, and I said, Well, I'm just curious. What does he say about you to other people? And all of a sudden, there was this aha where they both realized that what his stepson does do, he doesn't ever directly say to his stepdad, Thank you for the stuff you do for me. But what he does do is tell his friends, My stepdad does stuff for me. What he couldn't do is acknowledge directly, I'm making room for you in my heart.

Thank you for who you are. But what he could do is go around the bend. And so the stepdad and the biological mother in that situation both had to listen in a new way for the love comment that the child could make. Maybe it was a loyalty thing. Maybe the child didn't want to dishonor his biological dad by being really close and affectionate towards his stepdad.

Who knows what the reasoning is? But at this point in time, this is what he can do. Okay, well, listen for that, because that's still love. It may not be the level of love you hope for, but that's still love. We talk about in the book not only the love languages, but we talk about dialects within the languages. Why is that important to understand, and how does that apply in a blended family? Yeah, well, this is where I need to turn it over to you, the expert, because you're the one who perfected this notion of dialect.

But I learned so much from you. It's the nuances within the love language. Somebody has quality time, that's their primary love language, but within it, their dialect is quality time doing activities that serve other people. Or it's quality time, you and I walking together, no distractions, just having conversation.

If you're looking at your phone, the quality time is gone. So it's finding the specific expression of that love language for this person. That's the beauty of the dialect.

There's a great wisdom in that. And of course, in a blended family, one of the things you have to do just in loving your spouse is unlearn the dialect of a previous spouse and learn the new one of this. We tell the story again in the book of one of the guys who, his first wife and his second wife's love language was exactly the same, but the dialects were very different.

So he's thinking, oh, I got this. I know how to do gifts. I know how to give gifts. Well, the dialect for his second wife was surprising gifts, not just any gift, not just something, here's a gift card, go buy yourself something.

No, it was surprise me with something. That's really what was helpful. So he had to unlearn a habit from a previous relationship and relearn a new habit in this new relationship. There's great wisdom in that dialect.

A lot of applications to that. I like the story we also tell about the child whose primary love language is physical touch. And the stepparent knows that. And of course, we mentioned earlier, so they reach out to hug them and they don't want to hug them. And so we talk about the different dialects, some of which are more intimate than others. So maybe if the child's love language is physical touch, you have to start with maybe fist bumps.

Yes. And that might go for two months, you know, and then maybe a little pat on the back and maybe it might be several months down the road you really get a hug and they embrace you. So if you understand the dialects and the different levels of intimacy, you can kind of walk into their love language step by step.

Let me just add on to that because that is so very important for the listeners right now. I have heard from so many children, teenagers, and even adult stepchildren over the years, who looking back said, this is what my stepparent did right. What they did is they did not push themselves onto me. They did not say, I'm your new dad or I'm your new mom. They did not say, you must call me mom. They did not, you know, force love on me. And what they did do, these people will tell me, is they just let me figure them out. They gave me space. That's what the fist bump says. I respect you enough to just connect with you as you're able to connect with me at this point in time. And I'm going to trust that over time, it'll deepen.

It'll move something out. We won't fist bump forever. But for now, that's what we're doing. Isn't that part of what the struggle is for the parent is a fear that they're not going to love me. They're not going to accept me. They're not going to call me mom. They're not going to, you know, whatever the problem is. And that fear, instead of the trust, you know, instead of just kind of relaxing and being content with whatever level the child wants to respond, you know, there's something secret in that sauce.

Yes. Fear always makes us panic. And panic never helps us love the way Christ wants us to love. So recognizing that in yourself and saying, I've got to calm that fear. I can't let that dictate how I respond to this child.

And I do have to trust, you know, not necessarily in the child, but I've got to trust in God that if I lead with love, continue to be patient, walk this thing out, eventually it will open the door to something else. Well, what are some of the special circumstances when the blended family is also an intercultural family? That we kind of jokingly say is a blended, blended family.

Yes. They're blending cultures. They're blending people and family and traditions and relationships.

So it adds a whole nother layer to the blending. Traditions is a good illustration of this. You know, how you celebrate Thanksgiving or the food you eat or the way you do birthdays, or if it's a Hispanic parent who marries somebody from an Italian background. You have different expressions of love and conflict, you know, and how you speak to those things and different expectations of how children respond to adults, right? So those cultural messages play a role in, again, your expectations of one another, what you hope to see, how you judge whether you're successful or not. You know, I've known people who said, boy, if we're not hugging, if we're not all having big, loud, boisterous conversations, then we're not family.

Well, that's true in your Italian family background, but that's not necessarily true in somebody with a different background. So there's more conversation to have. There's more dialogue between the adults to say, what do we expect? How do we work with this? And I would say one of the tips you can do is help educate the kids and yourself.

Have family meetings and conversation. Hey, over dinner, you know, hey, have you guys noticed I like to be loud? And the kids are going, yeah, you do. Well, I don't know what that's all about. Yeah, well, this is where it comes from.

My grandmother, boy, could she put up. And you get that stuff out and you talk around it and you say, and I've kind of put on you the expectation that you guys would join me in that, or that you would understand that I'm really not angry at you all the time, that I just sound angry sometimes. Please forgive me for that. I'm working on that. Just know this is what's going on in my heart. Have those conversations so people are getting it. Not just adults, but kids need to hear that as well. Yeah, apologizing for our missteps and our misstatements can also be really healthy in a blended family, or in a non-blended family for that matter.

Yes, yes. We talk about that the blended family, there are loyalty conflicts or love conflicts. Again, just explain what that is and how do we overcome that? It's the feeling that I have a special place in my heart for somebody that's important to me, and I don't want to push them out or feel like I'm being made to push them out.

And so how do I make room for somebody new? So imagine a 12-year-old kid who deeply loves his dad and his mom. Mom and dad are divorced, but I don't care, and they're still my parents. I love them like crazy, and I have a relationship with both of them. Well, now I have a stepmom who's entered my world, and she is a great person.

That's kind of my problem. I love my mother, and I like my stepmom. I don't want my mom to think, see, that's the loyalty conflict. I don't want my mom to think that I don't love her anymore or that somehow I'm loving my stepmother more than her. So a child will often in that situation hold back on really moving toward the stepmother. I'm holding back to send the message to my mom that I still love her most, and I'm holding back to send the message to my stepmom that, no, it's not that easy.

You can't just walk into my heart. That's a loyalty conflict. It's very common. In fact, it's predictable for children that they would experience that. The beautiful thing that adults can do is give a child permission to not have to break their loyalty conflict. For the stepmother to say to this child, I love you. It's okay if you like me or love me, and I'll leave that up to you. We'll figure this out together, but what you don't have to do is stop loving your mom. In fact, I want you to continue honoring your mom, loving your mom, spending time with your mom. I'm going to help your relationship with your mom.

I'm never going to compete with that. That's a message that frees the child up and says, oh, well, you're kind of cool about all this, and now that just made you attractive. Ron, we've talked a little bit about grandparenting stepchildren. Let's touch on that topic again because I know their grandparents are out there listening. How do I relate to my step-grandchildren?

Yeah, they're eager to build relationship and move into the child's heart and life. If you're a grandparent who has a great relationship with your grandchildren, well, you just naturally want to have a relationship with your step-grandchildren. Although I have to just comment, the circumstances surrounding you becoming a step-grandparent do make a difference. It could be that your adult child made some very poor decisions and you don't feel good about any of those things, and now the consequences are that somewhere down the road they're now in a blended family, and so this has kind of been forced on you as a result of poor choices from your child. That can make it more difficult for you to embrace your role as a step-grandparent. What I would just say to you is, yeah, embracing that role, first of all, is not your blessing on the poor choice your son or daughter made. You're not doing that at all, but you are saying, this is where we're at, and this child deserves an influence, somebody with a godly Christian point of view, and I'm going to try to be that.

Now you still have to figure out a relationship. The child's going to have to figure out where to put you and how to work you into their heart, and so you're going to navigate that over time. Another factor here in grandparenting has to do with that middle generation, the son or daughter or son and daughter-in-law. They really are the gatekeepers. I've seen situations where that middle generation said, no, we really don't want you spending time with our children, and you really are blocked for whatever reason. That is really frustrating.

That can be really frustrating, and you ultimately have to work with that parent to get their permission to be able to have access to the children. It is what it is. You start with the challenge in front of you and try to move forward from there. Well, Ron, this has been a great conversation, and I really did enjoy writing this book with you, and I really believe that it's going to be a tool that blended families can use that will enhance the loving relationship within that family. So thanks for being with us today, and thanks for working with me on this project.

Thank you. Well, maybe you're in a blended family or you know someone who could use this practical biblical resource. At, you'll find out about building love together in blended families, "The 5 Love Languages" and becoming step-family smart.

Again, go to We have a great program of hope for you next week. What if every woman who had an unplanned pregnancy felt empowered to choose life for her unborn baby? Help her be brave is our topic. Amy Ford will join us, and she'll give practical help for how you can discover your place in the pro-life movement. Join us in one week. A big thank you today to our production team, Steve Wick and Janice Todd, and helping out in Little Rock, Keith Lynch. Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman is a production of Moody Radio in Chicago in association with Moody Publishers, a ministry of Moody Bible Institute. Thanks for listening.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-08-21 06:38:24 / 2023-08-21 06:56:55 / 19

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