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Ryan & Jessica Ronne: Insecurities & Conflict

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
The Truth Network Radio
July 11, 2022 10:00 pm

Ryan & Jessica Ronne: Insecurities & Conflict

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

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July 11, 2022 10:00 pm

Remarriage after widowhood creates unique struggles. Listen to Ryan and Jess Ronne as they continue to conversation on how to overcome struggles in their new roles.

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In 2010, we both lost our first spouses to brain cancer. And when I married Ryan, he brought loads and loads and loads of paraphernalia from his previous life into my new home. And I didn't like most of it. And in particular, these bright red Teflon pots. And so one day I packed them up in a goodwill box and he saw them and an argument ensued.

You know, your house should be a sanctuary of peace. And it didn't feel like that for me because it wasn't my stuff. And it was like all tied to another woman. Welcome to Family Life Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Ann Wilson.

And I'm Dave Wilson. And you can find us at or on our Family Life app. This is Family Life Today. If I died, how would you help our children grieve? Oh my goodness.

Honestly, I can't imagine my life without you. That's right. It'd be empty, wouldn't it?

It would be completely empty. And of course, that's a reality for any one of us. That could happen at any time. But to think of my grief and my loss, and then to try and process that with our sons.

I mean, they're married and they've got their own kids. Man, that'd be incredibly hard. And I immediately went to, what if they were 10 years old or 14 years old or six years old? We had to watch that happen when your sister died. And that would be an extremely hard thing to do. And then you think, what if I remarried?

Hey, there's an idea. And then you have to process the whole other. You act happy about it. You act excited. No, I was just like, you got one process of the grieving process. But if you brought in another family, it's a whole other world. You need help.

You need somebody that deals with this kind of stuff every single day to get an answer from them. And we've got that guy on with us today, Ron Deal, who directs our blended family ministry here at Family Life Today. He is sitting in the studio with us. Ron, welcome back. Thank you, guys. Always good to be with you.

And I see you smiling there. It's like, this is the kind of stuff you write about, you talk about you're with families who are walking through this kind of stuff all the time. So how does a grieving spouse deal with the grief of losing their husband or wife, and then maybe blending a family after that? Sometimes I think single parents who are thrown into that situation work really hard to connect with their kids and to grieve out loud with their children.

And I think, by the way, that's tip number one. You want to grieve out loud with them because they hear and see you grieve and the words that come out of your mouth and the prayers and the angst and the sadness and the sorrow, and that gives permission to them to feel the same and to express those things. And next thing you know, you grieve together, which is a really important thing. But sometimes I think grieving parents feel, wow, I'm so overwhelmed. How am I going to keep it all together? And then they think, I've got to keep it together so my kids will keep it together.

And I really think that's upside down. If you just go stoic, then your kids think, oh, the rule is we don't tell each other we're sad and we don't grieve with one another. We just all have to do it in our bedrooms all by ourself. No, we don't want that, which is why this conversation that we started yesterday, a Family Life blended podcast with Ryan and Jess, Ronnie, talking about how they were both widowed, found each other, got married, formed a blended family. By the way, it was a complex family, eight children between the two of them. And on the day they married, 22 grandparents connected to those eight children. How is that possible? I know.

I know. You have to ask them. But their parents had divorced and multiple divorces. And so there were step parents and former step parents and, you know, but grandparents who still were invested in the lives of these eight children. Think about family grieving. How many people is that? I mean, already we're up to 30 plus and we haven't counted cousins or uncles or anybody. Obviously, it's hard to manage.

You can only do what you can do. And so the kids within your household is where you're going to focus. By the way, just saying that makes me think of one other thought. One of the things we know about children is that especially young ones, they're sort of black and white about grief. So they've lost a parent and they know it and they feel it and yet they don't really get their heads around it until they turn into a teenager or until they turn 24 and they're graduating college and life has a new turn and all of a sudden they're missing their mother for the first time in a new way. And that's when the sadness comes out. I know in my own family, I didn't lose a spouse, but I lost a child. And I know my other two boys as the years have rolled on, we're now in approaching year 13 since our son Connor died. I've seen my other two boys grieve in different ways at totally different times. And so it's one of those things where you're not really sure when it's going to pop, where it's going to pop, what form it's going to take. And man, you walk with God, you pray about it.

And then when you see it, you try to step into that space. So let's go find out how the Ronnies dealt with their grief, the complications of blending this family in a whole new reality. Grief is so individual. The way a listener responds to their grief journey can be totally different than yours. They may not be as black and white. It just may not be as simple.

And the ring has stayed on their finger for a really long time. There's a lot of good ways to grieve. I think that's one of the strange things about grief, is that any new grief journey has a life of its own.

But if you don't know how to grieve, you kind of question how you grieve. And then you're like, am I doing this right? Should I be doing this? Should I be doing that? Should I be feeling this?

Should I not be feeling that? It's like, well, that's not the point. You know, it is your journey. You just try to hold on to God in the midst of it and stay faithful with Him.

That's the one thing you definitely need to try to strive for. But the expressions of grief are going to vary so much. I'm wondering about your children. So I already heard from Ryan a little bit in terms of one of your kids said, when are we going to get another mom?

I'd love for you to speak at some point to whether that made you feel permission to move on. Like, how did you interpret that whole thing? But what about the other kids? Obviously, here I am.

Yeah, that's right. Somewhere in there that felt okay. Well, what about the other kids? How did they grieve?

And what were their responses to a new person coming into their world? All that change and transition. Well, Caleb had asked me the same thing. Mom, when do you think you're going to get us another dad? And I was like, honey, it's not like I can just go to Walmart and pick out a dad for you. I'm glad you told him that. Like, one, I'm a 33-year-old widow with four kids.

Like, I'm not a hot commodity. But apparently, there was a guy out there. Honestly, our beginning years, it was not that challenging. Our kids were really young. They were really young. And I think that worked in our favor.

Yes, I think it did. We did get them into grief groups with other children. We got them into therapy. And then we moved to rural Tennessee. And it just kind of felt like everything was good. Like, this is our new family. We relied really heavily on one another.

And we had a lot of fun. I would say as the kids are aging, we're going through so many things that we had never anticipated as they're becoming teenagers and having questions about their identity and kind of raging out, you know, about real mom, not real mom, those types of realities. In the past couple of years, it has been far more difficult where the kids are concerned than it ever was in their younger years.

Yeah. And I think we started off, we didn't necessarily want to be a step family. We just wanted to be a family.

So, we talked to them about changing their name, her kids, and let them make that decision on their own when they were ready and if that was something they wanted to do. And we just wanted to be one. And then we just let them talk. We let them tell us whatever they felt. We were emotional in front of them. We didn't hide behind anything. So I think they did better, like she said, when they were really little.

They just like acted like this was normal. Okay, good. It's our new family. This is my new mom. This is my new dad.

This is our new house. And all these new friends to play with, you know, because I brought siblings and he brought siblings. So it was like fun.

They meshed so well. Okay. And by the way, young children, that's pretty common for them to do. So if the kids were talking to me right now, if you guys were not in the room and the kids were just talking to me and I asked them, so as of late, I hear you guys have started asking new questions and having new feelings. What commentary would you give me on this whole family journey? What would they say now? We've point blank asked some of them. Our two oldest graduated and I asked our oldest, you know, what did you think of your childhood?

I'm just like my own insecurities. Did you feel like we gave you a good childhood? And yeah, it was great. Like anything you would do different or did you feel like we gave you enough time? No, it was a good childhood, mom. It was good. He was the easiest.

He was the easy one. Our teenage girls would probably have a lot more to say to you. There's big feelings there right now. I think honestly to me, it's all outside influence.

I think they've handled it very well. It's when everybody else steps in and finds out like their new teacher is like, Oh, I didn't know your mom died. And then they want to feel sorry for them. And then they, our kids are like, they're part of a big family and they're going, wait a minute, can I benefit from this somehow?

So if I make this more than it is more than I feel, will I get more attention? And a few of them have really embraced that. And then with grandparents, you know, who try to reach out and remind them, Hey, don't, don't forget, you know, don't forget about this person. And we don't, we don't allow that either, but we don't, we're not going to bring it up to try to make them sad.

And I think a lot of the outside influence has done that. So the girls are processing fresh, new in this season of life. That is definitely something we teach. Grief is developmental and kids will continue to grieve it at every season of their life. And there'll be a new filter on it, a new dynamic around it. You know, other people speaking into that, it is what it is.

It's never going to go away. That will always be the case in every season of their life and in your life. And so one of the things we generally advise people, and I'd love to hear your reaction to this, it's just keep the grief conversation going. Like whenever something pops, you go with it. Yeah, I think we do.

And we're back to looking at therapy again and some grief groups again. And it's just, it's sticky dynamics. And with our girls too, my biological 14 year old falls in between his bio 16 year old and 11 year old. So that can get tricky. And we've seen too, as they've aged more of this loyalty towards the bios, that when they were younger, they all just meshed and they had fun and they played.

But we're seeing that movement towards the bios who feel safe now. And then, you know, both of our youngest have absolutely no recollection of this person who was their father or mother. And I think that's really painful that they're trying to work through that. And one other thing, all of the kids, everything they think about in terms of late mom or dad is also, again, through that lens of sainthood. So if I asked them to clean the room or I get upset about something or whatever, it's- My mom would have never done that. My mom would have never done that. And it's like, she would have. She would have been a mom and he, he's taken the reign with those conversations.

I don't necessarily feel like that's my place, but he'll sit down and say, no, your mom would have, you know, busted you too. So blood talks to blood. That's a good principle. So it's even more strange to think about the youngest children who don't have any memories of their biological parent. And so they don't really know where their loyalties lie. And so their siblings may be going, hey, aren't you on our team? And well, I am. That's exactly what's going on.

But I'm also on their team. Like, I don't really know. Yeah, I can totally see how that just would create some- And then you throw some attachment issues into the pot as well. And I mean, this is the journey of grief. I mean, if there's a big takeaway, it's blended family does not repair what was lost. It creates something new, something different that has its own life, its own set of relationships.

And you have to continue to grieve what has been lost developmentally, along with children, different seasons of life. It just is. It's not a statement about you did it wrong, or you shouldn't have done it this way or that way, or the timing of it.

Don't do that to yourself. I think far too many people start unraveling their own story when they experience hiccups. That's not helpful.

And it's not accurate. Everybody experiences this in one form or another. It's just, all right, God, how do we handle this? Let's walk through it.

That was so helpful for me to hear. I'm thinking about my sister who passed away and left her four sons that were ranging in age from 20 to 11. But I've never had that thought. They might all grieve at different times. And it may look different for each one. And this light bulb is going off in my head of, as I've watched them become men, that's very, very true.

But I didn't know that was normal. And I have an image in my head in our personal family situation. And it's Nan and I and our other two boys walking out of the hospital moments after Connor was declared dead. My oldest son took the hand of his younger brother four years apart at the age of 14 and 10. The 14-year-old Brayden walked Brennan out of the hospital. And he was the big brother who cared for his younger brother. Brayden didn't cry. He cried twice in the next six months. Brennan cried a lot. Brennan struggled and worried and fretted.

Who else is going to die? And lots of things poured out of him. But Brayden cared for his younger brother. Fast forward a number of years, Brayden goes to college and he unravels. And that's when his grief comes out. He'd been in a caring mode for so long that he just didn't know how to let it loose. It's things like that that will impact the timing, the pace, the expression of grief and sadness for adults and for kids.

And so you can't program it. There's no way anybody can tell you this is how it's going to go. Every child's different. You look for it. You try to step into this space with kids and give them permission to share. But to some degree, you just have to wait till it's there. And then you go with it. Yeah, man, hearing that story.

Wow. I mean, the question would be if I'm the stepdad or mom, what do we do? How do we help our kids process? Well, let's unpack step into their grief. I've said that a couple of times.

What does that actually mean? Well, you can be intentional to go into those spaces in a blended family. Imagine a stepdad saying this to his stepchildren. Your dad's birthday is coming up.

And, you know, I just love hearing the stories about your dad. But I also know this is a hard time. You'd love to be celebrating your dad this coming Friday, but he's not here. I just want you to know I'm sorry.

Your pain is real. Let's do something to honor him. What can we do? And by the way, if you don't want me to be there, that's fine. I just want to help you guys honor your dad.

How can we do that? See, you're just creating permission for expressions of grief. And that coming from the stepdad makes all kinds of other statements, things like, I'm not competing with your dad. Your relationship with your dad, even though he's deceased, is a good one. And I want to honor him and I want to encourage your relationship and connection to him, your memories of him.

We're not competing. That's an important statement. That helps kids know, okay, you're not trying to erase and replace my dad. It's those sorts of things that then tells a child at the age of 10 or 15 or six, I can talk about my dad and I don't have to worry about other people's feelings when I do that. That is what helps release grief. Another way to help step into kids' grief is when you see something, you hear something. You hear from third party that the child is talking about their deceased parent.

Find a way to bring that up and just go, man, I imagine something's going on. I saw some sadness in your eye. Can you help me with that?

What are you feeling? And you intentionally go there. You intentionally say the name of the person who's gone. You do those things hoping that the child feels comfortable to give expression. Now, some children, they'd rather draw a picture, you know, especially young ones. They'd rather do something creative to sort of give expression to their sadness.

Older teenagers and young adults, they can put words on it. Just give them permission and let them get it out. The visual that I keep seeing in my mind, Ron, is as a parent or a stepparent, you're continually opening that door to conversation, to relationship. I think what we can do is we can feel awkward and we don't know what to say, and so we just leave the door closed.

That's it. And you're saying, just open it. Just open the door. I like that that's so practical, what you're saying. And it does take courage, because as you just said, Anne, it's awkward.

And you don't always have the words, and you're kind of afraid of what they might say. And so you say a prayer, you find your courage, and you open that door. Let me turn a corner and talk about ghosts for a minute.

You've got a whole chapter on this, and I really appreciated it a lot. I talk about ghosts a lot in my previous writing. Often though, it's connected to a divorce narrative, where you have that ghost of pain and heartache sitting on your shoulder of how the relationship came apart. This is a little different when it's the ghost of a relationship that was good, that was happy, that was family, was complete. It was something there. I'm not saying it was a perfect marriage. I'm just saying it was all right.

It didn't unravel. Let's just talk around those things that sort of haunt you as you move into a new relationship. Jess, you used to tell a story about red cooking pots.

Could you tell our listeners, I thought it was a great story. Well, when I married Ryan, he brought loads and loads and loads of paraphernalia from his previous life into my new home. Paraphernalia. Lots of it.

He's a bit of a hoarder. And I didn't like most of it, to be honest. It's nothing against her.

She liked loud, bright colors, red, orange, yellow. I don't. I'm more of a neutral pottery barn type of girl. And I would look at this stuff and just want to vomit.

I didn't like it. It was all over my house. And in particular, these bright red Teflon pots that he had bought her for her birthday.

It was one of the nicest gifts he had ever gotten her. And he put them up in our new cupboards. And he doesn't cook or bake anything in our family. That all falls on me. And so every time I'm baking a nice dinner for my family, I'm using these red pots that I think they're ugly. You had lots of reasons to really not like these things. And the issue was much deeper.

I mean, we all understand that. And so one day I packed them up in a goodwill box and he saw them and an argument ensued. Why would you get rid of these? They were hundreds of dollars. Your pots were crap when you entered this marriage.

And they were. I shopped at garage sales and I said, I don't like them. I don't like all this stuff all over my house that doesn't make my house feel homey.

You know, your house should be a sanctuary of peace. And it didn't feel like that for me because it wasn't my stuff. And it was, it was like all tied to another woman who he had had an intimate relationship with. And I didn't feel like that was fair.

Is that the deeper issue for you? Oh yeah, for sure. Yeah.

And, and I didn't like it either. So you needed to get rid of them. Yeah.

And he didn't want to get rid of them. And did you interpret that as he doesn't want to get rid of her? Yeah.

Yeah. That'll take you to a hard place. It was a pretty nasty fight, but it did. It did work out later on because what it did is it brought attention to me that I was unaware. I had no idea what she was doing. Like, it was like, you just want to get rid of all my stuff. Like it had nothing to do with, you know, she didn't like it or whatever. I was totally oblivious to the meaning behind it. And I honestly don't think it came out in that argument.

I think it came out later where it was, I'm not even sure she knew deep down why she wanted to get rid of them so badly. But you know, on my side of it, I grew up with nothing, you know, growing up, but my mom, my dad was gone and my mom raised me and my sister and she got married later on as I became a teenager. But it was, it was hard.

Like we had to work from the time we could and you don't throw away good stuff when you don't throw away good stuff. And I spent, you know, a lot of energy and time figuring out, you know, exactly what to buy her and all that stuff. So it was important to me, but it had nothing to do with the intimacy of it that Jess felt from it. It was just more about, that's good quality stuff. Don't just give it away.

Yeah. When it comes to symbols and meaning like that, you know, I just invite our listener when something like that rises up inside you and you have a red cooking pot argument, ask yourself what's going on with me? What is underneath this? What is driving me to really be worried about this and concerned about what this means to the other person? And what does that reveal in me? And usually there's something there. And whatever that strong emotion is, that pain or fear, that's something you have to learn how to deal with and invite God to help you with it.

It sounds like you guys have discovered a new truth about pots. Sometimes they are symbolic of prior relationships, but it doesn't necessarily have an implication for whether or not you have a strong relationship. Have you gotten kind of around that?

Yeah, I think so. I held onto that bitterness for quite a while though, because I accepted it, but I didn't like it. I still didn't understand it completely way back then. And even in that book, I got to write my take on it. It brought up emotion.

It did, even when I was writing about what I really felt about that. And it really wasn't tied to my marriage. It was just something I didn't want to let go of.

And that's right. And I didn't know why. And honestly, I still don't really know, you know, deep down exactly what it was about. You told me it was kind of tied to your marriage though, because it was like one of the very few nice gifts that you had bought her. It was something that was valued to me, not necessarily to the marriage. It was like, I put forth effort and really thought this through. And I think the gift was really appreciated. And maybe that's more about what it was about, is I was appreciated for it. But yeah, I held onto it for a while.

But that's not Jess's fault. That's my own insecurity. And that's something I had to really face. And I did later on.

And I think that's why it's easier for us to communicate those things now. And I don't think it's fair to ever ask a woman who you want to marry to live in like a shrine to their late wife or ex-wife or whatever. If it makes her uncomfortable, I would say those feelings need to take precedence over your feelings. What I love, Ryan, about what you just said is that you got to what was underneath that for you. You got to the insecurity that was there. And you made a decision about whether or not you were going to hang on to that insecurity. I mean, oftentimes what we do when we get to these moments and everybody listening right now has got a red cooking pot thing in your marriage. Everybody does. It's what reveals some insecurity in you about your relationship.

We could list a thousand different cooking pot little arguments or moments. At the end of the day, we have to decide what am I going to do with that insecurity in me? Am I going to let that rule me? Or am I going to figure out a new path around this?

Or am I going to walk through this insecurity and trust you in spite of my insecurity? I mean, that's the moment where we grow up in relationships. I really believe that. And there's all sides and every side has to be considered.

So yeah, Jessica's got a point. If there's a shrine and I'm living in the shrine, boy, is that uncomfortable. And at the same time, what's the reason for the shrine? Is there a reason?

Is there something valid that led to the symbolisms being held onto in the first place? All of that has merit and it takes a lot of patience, I think, for us as couples to listen to the other person, to hear their point of view, to try to give consideration to the need within it. And then at the same time to give voice to what's troubling us and to do so in an environment, in a way that ultimately we can come together and say, but our us matters.

And how do I honor you in this red cooking pot conversation? And it's not always easy. I mean, And early on, it led to explosive arguments. I would say now when we feel something we'll say to each other, what's this really about? And then it's a pause. What is this really about?

Have the kids been driving me crazy today and I'm lashing out at him or am I feeling stressed because I took on too many projects or whatever it may be? We don't really have those shrine arguments anymore. What we have is what we have. And some of it's from his previous life, some of it's from mine, but we've accepted it as our stuff now.

But we don't tend to have those explosive arguments over that kind of thing anymore. So Ron, I'm curious, is that his job to eliminate those feelings and symbols that could trigger her insecurity? Or is that her responsibility to manage her own insecurities? You know, I really think it's both people who have a job to do.

But I have to just say, I think marriage education material for the most part over the last 30, 40 years would suggest that it's his job. It's like, you got to make that sacrifice to help her deal with that insecurity. So you need to throw out the pots immediately, no questions asked. Well that just assumes that if he throws out the pots, that her insecurity is going to go away.

And I would suggest to you, that's very unlikely because the insecurity is rooted in more than just the pot or what it symbolizes. It's rooted in her. And so she has some work to do to look inside herself and say, what is this in me? Why am I feeling insecure?

What is there that I need to work on? My relationship with God, finding my identity with him, living out of confidence in that identity. And at the same time, while she's doing that, he as her husband does, I think have, now that he's more aware of what causes that insecurity in her, what can I do to affirm her? How can I minister to my wife's heart?

And I use that term very intentionally. We don't often think of marriage as ministering to one another's heart, but that's what serving is. That's what sacrifice is. It is a form of ministering to their heart.

So they both have work to do. Yeah. And I know, you know, the insecurities are real. I can remember the day that Ann's old boyfriend shows up on our front porch because he had just signed with the Detroit Lions and he wants to come to the team Bible study.

And I'm like, not you, dude. Maybe you should ask Ron where that insecurity came from. Yeah, where'd that come from, Ron? I mean, I let him in and, you know, I prayed for him that he would leave and then he did.

No, I'm kidding. But I mean, you know, staring at him, it wasn't a red cooking pot, but it was like a person that represented, wow, this is not easy. And man, the Ronnies have, yeah, really modeled for us reality and authenticity and vulnerability, but also, you know, how to navigate that. And I didn't even know there's a whole nother aspect of their life with their eight blended kids, that they had special needs kids.

You have one special needs child. And, you know, anybody in that situation knows that that reorients everything in your home, your structure of your home, the scheduling of your home. So for those that really want to learn from their experience, make sure you listen to the entire Family Life Blended podcast. You've been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Ron Deal on Family Life Today. We've been hearing clips from episode 67 of the Family Life Blended podcast.

You can hear the rest of Ron's conversation with the Ronnies in the full episode. Just search for Family Life Blended wherever you get your podcasts, or click the link in today's show notes at If you are in ministry and wondering how you can help couples like Ryan and Jessica work through grief in a new family, we'd love it if you consider joining us at this year's Summit on Step Family Ministry.

This year, the focus is on helping ministry leaders better understand loss and grief in blended families. The event is October 13 through the 14th in Phoenix, Arizona, and you can find out more at And tomorrow, Dave and Ann Wilson will be talking with Kay Weymah about the natural struggles we experience as we live in a culture that is very much the era of self. That's tomorrow. On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I'm Shelby Abbott. We'll see you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a production of Family Life, a crew ministry, helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-25 19:09:52 / 2023-03-25 19:23:02 / 13

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