So did a close family member tell you not to marry me? Yeah, your dad.
Are you kidding me? No, he didn't. No, he actually said, remember, he barred me from the house from dating you because he coached me in baseball and he knew that I wasn't the kind of guy that he wanted his daughter to marry, but then I won him over.
You did. But what if your mom had said, hey, I really have some concerns about you marrying Ann. Would that have been hard? Oh, if anybody wouldn't have endorsed it, it would have been hard, but especially a family member. 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 familylifetoday.com or on the Family Life app. This is Family Life Today. We've got Ron Deal with us from our Family Life blended ministry, and Ron, welcome to Family Life Today. Hey, guys.
It's always good to be with you. And it sounds like you had a conversation with a couple who had almost exactly that happen, right? Yes.
As a matter of fact, they did. I spoke with Mike and Kim Anderson some time ago, and we're going to jump into that in just a minute. I'll lead up to it.
It's amazing. Kim had her daughter say to her, well, wait a minute, maybe I'll just let you hear it from her. Let me tell you about this couple. Mike and Kim Anderson, they're founders of Mike and Kim Coaching. They co-host the blended family coaching show. They're coaching and helping and supporting Step Families. We've had them speak at our summit on Step Family ministry before, so they're trusted voices.
A quick funny story about them. About 20 years ago, right before they got married, they came to a weekend blended family seminar that I did at a church near where they live. Mike wanted to go to the seminar. Kim was like, nah, we don't need to go to that. Mike was like, no, I had a bad Step Family childhood experience.
I don't want to repeat that path, so let's go. Coming out of the event, Kim was like, that was great. We've got to learn more. And so, they set themselves on this path that has ultimately resulted in them now being able to give back and bless other people through their own ministry, which is really cool. But they attended that seminar one week before they got married.
And the night before they got married, Kim's daughter came up to her and said something. Okay, well, let's just play it. You've got to listen to this. So, you're at this event a week before you get married. It's opened your eyes around a few things.
And then what happens? Did you get married a week later? We did. Yeah, we still got married. Thank you. I appreciate it. Didn't completely scare you guys away from it.
No, no. And you know, I had a five-year-old daughter going in, like I said, and she really adored Mike and they had a great connection and things were going really well there. But of course, the night before the wedding, she pulls me aside and says, I don't want you to marry Mike. And I'm like, blindsided.
What's going on here? Okay. So, I imagine that you had a sense that she was going to be okay with this. Oh, definitely. I mean, he was even affectionate towards him going into this. So, there was something there. The relationship had developed to some degree. There was something there. Yeah.
And then she throws you a curve. Don't marry Mike. Yeah.
That's right. What did you do? How'd you feel about that? Oh, my heart just sank.
I mean, that's that position of wanting to do right by your kid, but what do you do? And so, I tried to find out what was going on. She was five. So, she didn't have the best communication skills and she kind of hemmed and hawed and thought about it. And then she blurted out, well, he talks too soft on our answering machine. So, you shouldn't marry him. He's a soft talker.
Soft talkers. You've got to dump that dude. She was filled with some conflict. Definitely some mixed emotions. She really cared for Mike and wanted me to have a relationship with him. But of course, what was to come and what was the impact going to be and how was that going to change our relationship?
And there were probably some fears. And to note that only about six months prior to our wedding, her dad also remarried. And so, she was also experiencing this in her other home. So, she's moving back and forth between these two homes with big changes all in a very short period of time. You know, one of the things we tell blended families, couples, before they get married is to recognize that when they get married, it's a gain for the adults. And on some level, it doesn't mean it's bad, but on some level, it is a loss for their children.
Things are changing again. And I think adults generally really minimize that. Yeah. I think we were prepared because we had heard from you not to underestimate the loss that kids experience. Did it help?
I'm just curious. Did it help slightly, even ever so little? It did.
For you to know that's somewhat expectable so that when your daughter said it, maybe it went through a filter of, wow, this is not as bad as I thought? Yes. Absolutely. It was definitely helpful. I was able to stay in the conversation, hang in there. Not panic. I didn't panic.
I didn't dismiss. I hung in there with her and we got through it. And she, you know, she was happy at the wedding. We have a couple pictures of her kind of got this little look on her face like, what's going on?
Yeah. When we work with other couples and we talk about this whole kid's perspective ideas, how do we slip into their shoes and really understand that loss that you're talking about. We've got this great picture of us up on the platform in our wedding outfits, all three of us. Just joy-filled. And Kim and I are just smiling and there's little Annika right in front of us with the biggest frown on her face. We look at that picture and we're like, yep, there's where she was.
And that is a snapshot. Now, if somebody's listening to us right now and they're thinking, oh no, should I feel guilty about this? Should I feel horrible that I'm putting my kids through? What would you say to them?
I would say first, if you're carrying a burden of guilt, get some help with that. You know, that's just not something you want to carry around. But as far as our experience goes, Annika has benefited so greatly from having Mike in her life. I mean, it definitely has not been easy, but oh. And there you go.
It's just amazing. Keep the long-term view. I can't even imagine where she would be if she didn't have Mike in her life. You're playing the long game. And you know what I would say from a step-parent perspective is do everything you can to get yourself into that child's shoes and try to understand the things that they've experienced. Because every experience they've had leading up to their relationship with you is going to color the way that they connect with you. And you need to understand that before you start heading down the road, assuming that they're all on board and excited and it's going to be the Brady Bunch experience, right, because it probably won't.
We're talking with Mike and Kim Anderson today of Mike and Kim coaching. So they've walked this journey, and now you're helping other people. Before we get to that, I want to just kind of pick up where we left off. So you get married. You've got a five-year-old, Kim. And you guys get married. Kim, you're divorced. So you have an ex-husband. And is your daughter moving between the two homes?
She is. And then you guys get together, and you have two children of your own. Correct. And it's somewhere in the story there became some problems with the other household. Yes?
Yeah. We were pretty good peacefully co-parenting for the first ten years after our divorce. But that's one of the funny things about co-parenting is that things can radically change. You don't have a lot of control over what's going on in that other house and the attitudes. I'm sorry.
Say that one more time. You don't have a lot of control over what's going on and what the attitudes are. And so I tell you this story with a big question mark still in my mind as to why it happened, because we don't have answers around why this shift in attitude occurred. But at some point, my ex kind of got it in his mind that my daughter no longer needed us in her life. And he just kind of decided that she doesn't need to come to our house, and she doesn't need to have a relationship with us. And I'm sure it was around control. But he put her in this position of if you want to be loved and accepted by me, you've got to reject your mom.
Oh, goodness sakes. And how old was she when this started? She was 12, so a very rough age already.
And then to be put in this position, it was excruciatingly tough on all of us. How did that impact her? Well, she got lost, honestly. My daughter was gone. She became a robotic puppet for him.
Wow. And so she would come when we did see her. We went from 50-50 visitation, which we had done, like I said, for years and years, down to what was it, at the lowest point, like maybe.
It was like 11% of the time. And she would come with attitudes and all kinds of reasons why she shouldn't be there, and just repeating things that he had told her to say to the guardian, to the counselor. She just wasn't there. There was a few times, moments where she would break, where I would see her. There she is.
She's still there. But then it would all shut down. As soon as it came up, he would, you know, put more pressure on. We didn't have a clear understanding of the kind of emotional and verbal abuse that was going on.
Ron, as I'm listening to that, like I have tears in my eyes. Because I'm thinking as a mom, this would kill me. Yeah, it's so hard on everybody, right? On the mom, of course.
And on the child. I mean, if you were guessing, what do you guys think the impact would be on Annika? I can't imagine the turmoil that is going on inside of her. Because she's basically having to pick sides.
I don't know how you would do that as a daughter or as a son when you love both of your parents, but one is siding against the other. I mean, in some ways, it makes sense that she'd be acting out. She's trying to find security.
She's trying to find identity. I experienced that a little bit in my blended family because I didn't want to show my stepmom that I loved her because I knew it would hurt my mom. But this is a situation times 100 of what I experienced.
Well, you guys are exactly right. A lot of kids experience the very things that you've been talking about. Let's jump back into the story and find out what happened with Annika. Do you have a sense of what the cost was for her? Complete control from the other household. You're losing my love and affection? Yeah, and control of her whole life, her extracurricular activities, her friends, her everything. I mean, at a stage where she should be venturing out and making decisions for herself and figuring it out, she was under his thumb completely, and it really stunted her growth.
And I know your heart. Oh, it was the hardest thing I've ever had to go through. Did you get to see her on a regular basis through that time? We did see her.
Of course, he would intrude on that time and schedule all kinds of activities for her. Her attitude wouldn't be good, and so it would be really hard. It was hard to be around her. It was difficult. What was interesting is when we would have, like, this was about a three-year period. So we were in the family court system for three years, lots of time, energy, resources, everything went into this. And I think what was interesting is there were times where we would have vacations, and we would have some extended time with her.
And it took a day or two, but once that day or two passed, the walls started to come down. She was away from, you know, we would travel somewhere, and all of a sudden, we're like, there she is. There she is.
You could see the light come back on. She would emerge, but it could just as easily be shut down if she called him. And you would see her just, there was a vacation we were on, and she got to go rock climbing for the first time with my brother. He's a rock climber, and she was just loving it.
She's kind of an adrenaline junkie. And she was having so much fun and enjoying herself. And she wanted to call and tell her dad. And I said, yeah, you know, call him and her siblings in the other home.
And she was so excited to tell them about her big feet. And you could just physically see her just slump by his reaction. He just shut her down.
Didn't want to hear about it, didn't care. That's the thing. If you're listening today and you know someone in that situation or you are that parent who's doing that to your child, you have to have that image in your mind of this girl slumping over, going from joy to complete, you know, shutdown.
For hours after that. Because essentially what you're asking them to do is to give up their joy, to give up their ability to enjoy life and people and relationships in the other home for you. You're asking them to take care of you. And that's not right. It's costing them their childhood.
In fact, it's just the opposite. She was wanting to share with him. She was wanting him to know and to be known by him. And he was shutting that down. Have things improved? Well, so we're several years past this whole season now. What happened essentially, we had this three years in the family court system. And there's an amazing story of God's providential hand on this that we experienced. We wrapped that time up in the month of October.
I can't remember the year that it was. But we felt like we had lost. After three years of battle, I think we were at 30 some odd percent of our time with our daughter. And she still had the walls up. We just absolutely thought that, why have we been through all of this? We were crushed.
And I got to imagine like the disciples right after the crucifixion has got to be going, why did we go through all this? Like, really? And now it's just over. That's how it felt. That's how we felt.
We couldn't believe it. And so literally one month later, Thanksgiving weekend, the most terrible thing to happen happened, but it brought healing and redemption. And that was that her dad crossed the line of a physical attack in her home. She locked herself in her bedroom, went out her window.
She came to our home. And by the next week, we were immediately back into the court. The judge said, now we're done. He said, I've been listening to this.
I don't want to hear any more of it. The guardian of litem finally got to a place of saying, okay, now we can do something different. And the guardian of litem essentially said, I knew something was coming.
They all knew. We had to let it be her decision, otherwise she would just keep running back. And then she called for one last meeting and she said, I just want you to know, this young lady has been through all of this. She's used to a parent who is very authoritarian. You two are much more authoritative, allowing her to make decisions for herself.
And she's not going to know what to do with that freedom. And we thought, we're so joyful, we're going to get time with our daughter. And her walls were down. Yeah, she was spilling it. It was like this instantaneous return of our daughter.
And then we went through a really difficult time just in our home of her making really poor choices. The person was right. Once the thumb of control was lifted. Absolutely. And that makes sense.
Absolutely. Because she finally had some freedom, some say in her life, and she didn't know how to handle it. Because in those young formative years when she should have been making decisions and failing and learning, that was removed. And so now she looked to her peers to make her decision. So whatever environment she was in, she looked for someone else. And she just, yeah, it was three more years of rebellion. And she was in your home at that time.
Yeah, full time. How old was she? 15. She was 15. So 12 when the alienation process started, 15 at this point when she's back in your home. And things were really rough at that point. So we went from fighting for her, investing everything we had into freeing her from the situation, to when she turned 18, we had to ask her to leave our home because things were so, we had to set some strong boundaries and do the tough love thing. So I got to just pause and talk, let's talk to that listener for a minute that's in the middle of all this. Whatever their story is, they're in the middle of hard.
And I'm thinking about you guys. How did you protect your marriage in the midst of the stress? What did you do to stay alive? How did you protect your own kind of well-being, your relationship with God?
Well, throughout that court battle, we didn't protect our marriage. We saw it as really noble that we were going to allow some of the energy that we would have put into us to be put on the back burner because we were after saving this child. Here, this is near and dear to Kim's heart because this is her daughter. And at the same time, it's near and dear to my heart because of the environment that I grew up in and I got it.
I was like, man, I know what this poor kid is going through. How could we not fight for her? And so we didn't invest in our marriage. And it was on the tail end of that that we almost lost our marriage because we didn't make that investment.
Okay. I just got to say, I totally get that. I don't blame you at all. I mean, on the one hand, you are 100 percent after rescuing this child from her situation. And, I mean, flip around at the other side. Yeah, honey, let's go out and have a happy dinner and go on a date and enjoy ourselves when knowing at the same time that our daughter is over here miserable and sick and stressed out.
But we can enjoy life. I was in a pit. I was in a pit of depression during a lot of that, just emotionally distraught.
There was no way. But I remember that season of Mike being my whole support. I mean, I was crumbling left and right. And he was just there. He was holding me up. He was my shoulder to cry on. He was the one praying for me constantly and just in there with me. So, I mean, we came out of that season as a united team in fighting this battle. But our romance, there was no romance.
And what about God? I mean, was He distant? Was He close? Yes. Yes. All of the above.
Which day are you talking about right now? Yes. There were times when I was just so angry at God because we felt Him telling us, Fight, fight, fight. I will provide. I will carry you through, which He did. But the action wasn't there. No, we just couldn't get it. But I also got little, at my worst points when I was just done and distraught, God would give me a picture of her heart, of where she really is. She's still there. She's still bonded to you. Don't give up. Don't be defeated. She needs you to fight for her.
She needs you to know that you're going to be there when she's ready. You're listening to Family Life Today and a conversation that Ron Deal had with Mike and Kim Anderson on his Family Life Blended podcast. I mean, that situation, putting a child in the middle is the worst thing you can do.
Right, Ron? It is. It is so hard. You're torn between people that you love, and you always feel like you're failing somebody, so you're never feeling like you're successful.
You feel like a failure. And it's just emotionally, psychologically, spiritually. Think about the spiritual influence for a minute. If you're putting your kid in the middle and you're listening to this program right now, if you're doing that kind of thing to your child, and then you turn around and expect them to adopt your values, guess what? You're shooting yourself in the foot with your relationship with the child, and you're sabotaging your spiritual influence with your child. You just can't do that.
And it's negatively impacting who they are. Now, let's flip this over real quick, because what I also want to speak to is the person listening who's going, I'm fighting for my child, and sometimes I'm not even sure it's worth it. I'm not even sure we're ever going to get anywhere. Well, I want to say, no, keep fighting. You know, I love what Kim said about she had this vision, like God just gave her a vision of her child's heart, like she's still there. We can't see or touch or be with her very much, but she's still there and she still needs us.
Yes, that's exactly right. Keep pursuing at whatever the cost, because one day, ultimately, hopefully, you're going to connect. Well, Ron, as I'm listening to that too, I'm wondering, like, there had to be a fallout with Annika, so how did things turn out with her? Well, let's listen.
We'll hear the rest of the story. I'm sure people are wondering, have things improved with your daughter? Oh, yes.
Yeah, very much so. Yeah, I mean, she still struggles to set boundaries with her dad, and she's learning, she's learned how to have a relationship with him as best she can, which is great. I mean, she needs to have a relationship with him and with his kids, but she's learned to set boundaries, which is wonderful.
Not only that, I mean, that's all true and that's great. She's maturing, and she got herself back into school. She's gotten clean time, which has been incredible for over three years now, and she's figuring it out.
She's challenged by the things we all have been challenged by at 23 years old, but she's figuring it out, and she's wanting to do life well, and so that's pretty incredible. And the fact that we now have just an easy, loving relationship with her. Yeah, she invites us in.
It's amazing. She comes to us for advice, and she lets us coach her. It's awesome, you know, just with life stuff, and she trusts us, and she's very loving and appreciative. And, you know, we look back on that time, and we sometimes talk about it as painful for both of us, but she realizes what she put us through. I mean, at one point, she even apologized, which we never thought we'd get and didn't expect. It was a gift, but she definitely understands a lot about what kids go through.
So you're listening to Family Life Today and a conversation Ron Deal had with Mike and Kim Anderson about their daughter, Annika, and the blended family. And I'll tell you what, Ron, hearing the end of the story warms my heart. I mean, as I was listening to this podcast, I was like, I don't know if this is going to ever turn out, and yet God shows up, and it just reminds you it's worth the fight. Stay in.
Yes, absolutely. It is worth the fight. Of course, to me, this is a story of a faithful God who keeps providing, who keeps helping along the way, and the power of one faithful parent and a bonus step-parent who don't give up, who are going to continue to fight for their child and then to fight for relationship with their family. There's some complexity in blended families when the other household is not cooperative, and that made things harder for the Andersons, and yet they didn't give up. They stayed with it, and the outcome is really positive for everyone, especially Annika. And as you always say, Ron, play the long game.
Don't get discouraged today, because we have no idea what God is up to for tomorrow and the next day, or maybe the next year or two. That's David Ann Wilson with Ron Deal on Family Life Today. We've been hearing clips from Episode 10 of the Family Life Blended podcast when Ron was joined by Mike and Kim Anderson.
You can find the full episode by searching for Family Life Blended wherever you get your podcasts or by visiting familylifetoday.com. If you or someone you know is in a blended family, you've got to check out Family Life Blended. In addition to the podcast, Family Life Blended has books, online courses, videos, as well as live events. And one that's coming up real soon is called the Summit on Step-Family Ministry. This event is for church leaders and laypeople who want to learn about healthy blended family living and the essentials of local ministry. You can find out more about the Summit on Step-Family Ministry at familylifetoday.com. Tomorrow, Dave and Ann will be joined by Jenny and Curtis Solomon to tell the story of how their marriage was full of lies, deceit, and on its last leg due to pornography addiction. That's coming up 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.
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