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Improving Your Marriage as a Blended Family Couple (Part 1 of 2)

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly
The Truth Network Radio
April 7, 2021 6:00 am

Improving Your Marriage as a Blended Family Couple (Part 1 of 2)

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly

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April 7, 2021 6:00 am

Author and speaker Ron Deal offers couples in blended families advice on how they can assess the strengths of their marriage and improve on areas of weakness in light of the particular challenges they face in parenting stepchildren. (Part 1 of 2) (Original air date: Oct. 28, 2015)

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Man I knew my marriage was falling apart.

I just didn't know how to fix it. I felt like I would always be alone even if I stayed married at Focus on the Family's hope restored marriage intensive. We offer hope to couples in crisis so they can have a marriage they've always dreamed for the first time I felt like my husband truly heard me. I received some great tools from the counselors of change my life and my marriage to begin the journey of finding health go to hope today. Too many people determine you engagement and marriage based only on their couple's only on what's developing with them as a unit they have to also include the children because the reality is, once you get very success of the home and the marriage is more determined based on the stepfamily dynamics that it is necessarily even on the couple's Ron deal describing the unique dynamics of marriage within us that we were a blended family context. You'll hear more from Ron today on Focus on the Family and your host is focused president and author Billy and I'm John Fuller John were well aware that a significant portion of the people listening to us right now. Don't fit into a traditional marriage or family stereotype that there may have been a divorce or the death of your first spouse, or maybe you were single parent, and now you've gotten married again and are trying to rebuild the family if that your situation we want to acknowledge you that you exist and offer you all the help we can to strengthen your marriage relationship and address some of the unique challenges you may be facing and Ron deal is a frequent guest here on this broadcast. He's an author, speaker and family counselor who specializes in helping stepfamilies. Ron is the Dir. of family life blended, which is a part of the ministry of family life and he's written a book that will form the basis of our conversation today. The title is the smart stepfamily marriage keys to success in the blended family and we've got copies of that here. The details are in the episode notes and for some of our listeners.

If you're not in a blended family. A lot of the encouragement and advice Ron provides is certainly applicable to every marriage how to be a good spouse being sensitive and humble. It all applies so I encourage you to keep listening yet and here Jim is now how you begin that conversation with Ron on today's focus on the let's talk about those unique, what are those things that make stepfamilies unique compared to traditional family.

Well let me give an example. This book is based on a study that Dr. David Olson and I did together using research that he's done for years and years and years and we looked at literally thousands of couples and a relationship profile and examined them to try to understand what predicted health and stepfamily marriages. The number one thing on the list. Sounds general and applies to everybody and that's do I like you do. I really like who you are, the qualities and attributes that you bring to the relationship and the marriage.

The opposite of that would be you got some bad habits to get some things about you that make it hard to love you right, but the absence of those things you icon the fruits of the spirit right if you're a person who just exudes love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Wow, it is just great to be married to you or to be your neighbor and had applies yeah part of your neighbor or your friend or your extended family member. Now that applies to all marriages right everybody listening right now who is married or know somebody who is married or wants to be married. That applies to you, but here's what was really unique. When we got underneath that and took a little deeper look at step couple marriages. We found that the absence of those things creates a fear that drives the couple further and further apart.

And you know here's what I mean by that.

If I not sure I can trust you mean if your love, joy, peace, patience, kinds goodness, I can trust you. And if you're not of things. If you're critical if you're angry if you get a quick temper. If you're stubborn if you're controlling we found unhealthy couples and step families were seven times as controlling as healthy couples and stepfamily that creates an environment where I can't trust you. That's interesting Ron ask about that because are those some of the antecedents that created the difficulty, perhaps even the first marriage. Now I want to acknowledge that many stepfamilies reform through the death of a spouse, and other circumstances, biblical circumstances, so were not just speaking to those who divorce for biblical reasons.

So always with that disclaimer, but as you describe that that may be really the core problem is you know how a person behaves.

I think it's a yes.

But for sometimes that's who somebody is, they just can have a quality about them. There little quick-tempered, and that something is been a part of their life forever. But what's unique here Jim is that sometimes people when they find themselves in a stepfamily situation.

The context creates in them things that they would not not normally do so for exam I'm thinking of a stepmom who we recently had a conversation and she said to me Ron. I keep becoming the wicked stepmother it, it's not who I normally am, but I'm so frustrated with some of the circumstances that take place with my husband's ex-wife and how we have to deal with her in the frustrations that creates for us that I find myself getting quick-tempered, not listen to that which is not traditionally that I write so the context is bringing that out in her whereas she's not normally that way. Well let me ask you, what does a person do that's in that situation. What is a way to get a hold of that. So the better fruit of the spirit can come out, you know we we all battle at that care what stage of life urine and the answer applies to all marriages right not to stepfamily marriages but I think it's humility and explain humility is the thing that allows us to look in the mirror and say I need to look at who I am. Honestly, who I am and how I'm acting and I need to take responsibility for that.

What we want to do human nature. As we look at somebody else and we blame them right. We look at the circumstances we blame it we get frustrated and we just say I'm the victim of this and so we kind of ignore the fact that were being quick-tempered, or were being critical or being controlling and until you have the humility of heart to stop to really consider what is this about me that I need to get a hand. But Jesus put it this way in the sermon on the Mount, you fool.

Stop worrying about the speck in your brother's eye and start dealing with the log in your eye. That is a passage about looking at everybody else and blaming them, or at first dealing with your self before the Lord, then and only then he says can you help somebody else do the speck. Let's talk about some of the parameters within stepfamilies.

What are the stats in regards of failure all the things that you're talking about when we look at the divorce rate for couples. It's at least 10 to 25% higher than it is for couples in first marriages depending upon their their circumstances and it's this effect of intensity.

It sounds like yeah we talked and other broadcasts here about just that the stressors in their multiple stressors that go on around the couple's relationship that that create this environment where you start doing and acting in ways that are not loving and what we want to talk about today and we have talked in the past about some of the stressors being children in the difficulty of integrating them and I love the analogy that I haven't forgotten that is stepfamilies need to aim more for being a crockpot, a slow process of stewing together so that the flavor comes out. But today, let's concentrate on the marriage relationship understanding. We know the children bring a different dynamic.

You talk about delayed honeymoon for the step couple in your book, what, what were you getting at with delayed honeymoon. Yeah, it's kind of the function of the crockpot that you were just talking about. There is a honeymoon for couples.

It often comes though. Once the crockpot has done the work in bringing the entire family together that not notice this. This is what couples get confused because when they're dating there really focused on each other and their couple nests as I like to say but once they get married. The success of the marriages of family nests issue and that's one of the things that we report in this book that we found in our research is before the marriage couple satisfaction is more intimately tied to their couple relationship do they like each other, how will they communicate with one another to they resolve conflict well with one another, but after the wedding, it's tied as much to what's going on around the couple as it is to their actual relationship right you mentioned the research described that research. It was a large sample size. It was David Olson created the prepare enrich inventory that used all over the world and he's been collecting data for years and years and years and we went into his stockpile.

If you will, 50,000, 50,000 couple profiles 100,000 people in our data set it that's just a massive study and that's his genius. Not mine. Okay, but what it allowed us to do is look at lots of factors related to families with a tremendous amount of statistical validity behind it and so we really know.

For example, when we were talking earlier this idea of being afraid that this marriage won't last. Okay. Whether that's prompted by my own fears or something going on around us with the kids or that your ex-spouse or what ever the antecedent is to that fear.

Fear predicts with 93% accuracy whether you have a great marriage or a lousy one person know if there fearful and that relationship while I think what we see on the outside what they might just you noticing themselves is fretful.

I'm anxious. I snap at you.

I don't trust you so that I question. Were you really where you said, I find that I don't share all my money with you, but I'd rather us have a joint account for the bills we pay together, but I want to make sure I keep my individual account not the first of all images back up and say that's not necessarily wrong to have an individual account.

I'm not saying that's wrong.

I am saying. Sometimes people do that depends on the personalities that sometimes people do that because deep within them is this fear that you might leave me the way the last one to write and I want to make sure I don't get caught without anything in the bank and is looking out for myself some of that Ron is reasonable especially, you know not to be stereotypical here, but a woman who was wounded by her husband.

That was you know cheated on her. She could have that feeling that all guys are like this and speak to that woman who has that emotion. You're exactly right. It would be very reasonable for her to have that feeling to be guarded in array. And that's exactly the point. Fear makes us guarded and cautious. It makes me think a little bit more about protecting myself in surrendering myself and I just listen to their we know biblical Christian marriage is about surrender and so this thing that is within people that says I'm gonna withhold a little of me is the opposite of where Christ wants to move us and so this is a eight very important piece to building the strength of your marriage is looking within yourself.

Seeing that fear for what it is and then asking the Lord give me strength to walk through this fear and do what love requires me to do, even if I'm not sure it's all gonna work out on the other side. That's an excellent point. That's the stressor I was put there is. That's what the Lord requires of all of us in our walk where there were first-time murder in the stepfamily situation when it comes to that trust in your spouse and back to this humility idea. I just really think this is so very important, we come to the Lord and in a humble posture of I need you I can do it myself. We walk with the Lord throughout her entire life.

Someday the Lord's income again and every knee will bow and every tongue confess I think that's a posture of humility.

You know, and the same sort of dynamic really blesses our marriage is when I come with an attitude of humility about who I am. I need to learn. I need to grow.

I need to look at myself and become a better husband wife would that posture helps me grow and helps our marriage grow over time. Our guest today on Focus on the Family is Ron deal sharing insights from his book the smart stepfamily marriage co-authored that with David Olson will recommend you get a copy. Just click the link in the episode notes to learn more.

If you're struggling with issues of fear or surrender, or that posture of humility. Ron was talking marriage will encourage you to contact us for help.

We have resources for you. Great team of caring Christian counselors and that we also have a great program for marriages in serious trouble. It's an intensive counseling session over several days in one of our premier retreat centers hope restored and offer you hope in your marriage when you attend a hope restored intensive fuel at the time you need to focus on you and on your relationship, called learn more about hope restored or how we can help your counseling services are numbers 800 K in the word family or click the links in the go-ahead and return down to more with Ron deal on today's episode of Focus on the Family run in fact in your book you have a relationship checkup that you talk about and in that research you've identified five types of marriages talk about the need for the checkup and then kind of the big buckets. These five big buckets that you've identified most couples fall into David Olson and his team through the years have identified five different types of couples in other words, if you look at a couple's relationship across a number of domains. For example, communication, managing conflict, and sexuality, how they manage their finances and their family and friends and their leisure activities that in you look across those and you you find for example the couples that tend to have very high scores across most of those domains. We call those vitalized couples okay there extremely happy. They hardly ever think about divorce or separation.

They just are going and blowing right I think God intends all of us to be vitalized couples. Ideally, next comes couples they call harmonious. These are couples that have many strengths but there's a few errors in the relationship that they could grow in the mid range we call conventional couples. Let me say we have a ton of these sitting in churches every week.

They don't necessarily get along real well they don't communicate very well, but they have a high degree of spiritual commitment to marriage and the idea of marriage. This is the couple that sits in the restaurant and doesn't talk, but they're never gonna get divorced because God said don't and we know from research that churches are full of these kinds of couples were not really happy.

These break down to well I don't actually know percentages, but what we do know from doing. I do live marriage conferences. For example, if her churches and I can tell you I have couples take this profile before they come to a marriage enrichment event and the vast majority of the couples that come to the event are actually unhappy in up to two thirds and this is in a church couples attending a marriage enrichment conference okay so we talk about vitalized couples. Those that are really living a joyful relationship then you have harmonious couples.

Conventional couples you just described were the other two that the two bottom ones are called conflicted couple so I always see that carries the idea there really struggling there. There arguing about some things are not getting along. And then D. Vitalized couples really are in a tough tough situation. They have the highest divorce rate. In fact, half of those couples divorced within three years I would be a little careful because it is you just described. Conflicted couples not agreeing on some things.

I'm sure that could be part of the vitalized is also trade as well at Beckley. What will the pattern. What we know about vitalized couples is that when they have conflict they resolve it.

So it's not the presence of conflict is whether you find your way through it together or if it puts you at odds with one another. That's what separates vitalized couples, for example from conflicted couples. Now in this book we built in this couple checkup profile so if there's a code in the back of the book that allows couples to look at their own relationship. And here's the point of the five types you just can't want to get a sense of where you're at and you can take this profile and get this snapshot of your relationship quick story about two months ago I went into my audiologist.

I'd worn a hearing aid on my left ear for about over a decade. About 12 or 13 years about the age 35 I started losing hearing in my left ear.

They did another test. My audiologist did and she found an anomaly in the results, and she looked at me and she says I thinking get this fixed.

I went and had a long story short I went had surgery and I'm sitting with you today without a hearing aid for the first time in well over a decade hearing at normal levels without that snapshot of the hearing, I would've never known. I had an option that I didn't know I was available to me, they would not have known the steps to take to improve my hearing. Couples need a snapshot of their relationship on a regular basis once a year and just eyeball it and go look were doing great here, great, here we go hunting high five.

But look here some areas we can grow in a relationship that's what we've encouraging couples to do as they read this book to get a sense of where they are and they get a sense of how to improve. That's good. It's right there any questions you have to go well.

The guys question how many quiet takes about 30 minutes okay for you. That's our marriage it's worth your merit. 30 minutes once a year. I think and what you get after you take that test and you get the five identifiers that you just brought up about a 10 to 12 page profile that's going to tell you how you're doing in your relationship. Regarding communication, resolving conflict, leisure and finances sexuality. Your spiritual face. Does that bring you together or does it not you get that snapshot of cross a lot of domains of personality profiles built into it and for stepfamily couples who are then reading this book. The smarts to family marriage.

They're able to say, oh, look how we compare to what health is, and we can now say we need to work on this in this, but we can feel really good about that and that we all need that from time to time with the test again. We talked about how these things are broadly applicable.

What about a person that's in their first marriage. Can they take the test and are the measurements geared for them as well. Couple and see how cool this thing is it actually figures out what kind of marriage are in first marriage a second marriage if you're dating or engaged in it tailors itself to your circumstances and gives you the right question so it's a very sophisticated tool that's great. You also in that research identified the top 10 strengths of healthy step couples. Let's talk about some of those okay the first one we've Artie talked about and that's that sense that I can trust you and figure is low. If the fear is low the quality the relationship goes up high, that there's just a direct correlation there but then the next couple of items that showed up on the list are things that apply to all marriages. Communication and resolving conflict. I know you guys have talked about those a lot on this broadcast through the years.

Turns out couples in stepfamilies got a know how to communicate well. They gotta be able to connect the gotta be able to talk about life and schedules and making decisions about money and parenting. But here's what I want people to see right off the bat back to this fear issue. Fear cascades negativity down on communication and resolving conflict, and sexuality in managing our finances. It cascades negativity, but the absence of fear cascades positivity.

The trust issue is key to couples in particular and step it that's that's true for all couples. Everybody has to build a trusted partner. But what we found is that this is more of an issue for couples and blended family situations and if they get that part right, then the other pieces of the relationship tend to go well. Some of the others that are also in that list of 10 shared leisure activity as strong flexibility and adaptability.

Good financial management. You touched on that healthy physical intimacy and affection positive shared friendships and healthy boundaries. As I read this list Ron is you can see the intensity it's almost with the imagery I get is a burner enough for a first-time married couple your learning for the first time all these things to work them out together. There is special intensity is like the burners turned up in a negative way in the stepfamily because these things, you have more deeply rooted habits and behaviors that may be prevent you from a more natural progression in this regard.

That's an excellent observation.

Let me say something about leisure because this was a little interesting to me right when we compare couples in stepfamilies to couples in first marriages, leisure activities, that that is to enjoy fun things together right leisurely activities together. It's important to both first marriages and and stepfamily marriages, but stepfamily marriages. It was higher in the list. Statistically, it's more important and so we begin to wonder why is that what is there. What is going on there and this is how I make sense of it. If the fear factor drains relationship. The fun factor helps build. It fills the tank and so it is really important for couples in stepfamilies to carve out time away from the kids away from the pressures away from the. The ex-spouse and the struggles that go along with whatever those dynamics are and really just go on a hike. You spend time together play cards. My parents been married almost 61 years. They play cards or play games, invite friends over and even if it's just the two of them do that nearly every day that sorta stuff brings couples together they run.

Let me ask you this, as we wind up today when you look at that again. There's an instinct. It seems in us. It's a them and us kind of approach even with the kids, and that's for that jealousy factor. I'm sure is increased because biologically. Perhaps there's some lack of connection there with those kids. How does a stepfather step mother see that understand that and then deal with it in a way that's healthy for them so that the kids don't feel like I know you don't see me as your own. Yeah, I think we're back to humility again the humility to look in the mirror and say you know why am I so jealous of you. Why my resentful of your time with my spouse or how this happens.

I've got a no this thing in me that's insecure that wants to be central to my spouse's life, but I don't feel like I am, so I need to take a deep breath and realize that it's appropriate for you to spend time with your kids in a balanced sort of way you know it, not entirely, but obviously in balance with your relationship with me and our marriage, and your relationship with your kids. All things are beneficial when they're in balance and I've got a just breeze through and say this is all right will find our time. Let me communicate to you my knee that we spend a little extra time together but do so softly, rather than anger in anger or with Chris criticism and harshness. Humility is exactly wrong. We talked a lot today about the different aspects of the stepfamily, but these principles apply. As we said, throughout the program. Today, to all of us first married and stepfamilies you mentioned the need for the fruit of the spirit and again a general principle, but that intensity of seeking the fruit of the spirit is so much more important in that stepfamily relationship because you have so much potentially negative atmosphere that you got a deal with the gotta pursue it with even greater zeal is what I hear you saying today especially humility that's come through loud and clear that idea that the huge problem in marriage is fear not trust the exact opposite. You said that so well and that couples need, and I think it's brilliant for all of us that we need a snapshot of where were at and how do we measure against healthy couples and by taking that healthy couple profile get an idea of where they're at. There is more to cover. Gotta get into some of the solutions.

How do we apply these things. I think we fit issues really well but let's come back next time. If you're willing and talk about would be happy to. This is Focus on the Family with Jim Daly and our guest is Ron Diehl talking about his book the smart stepfamily marriage keys to success in the blended family, John.

We ended our conversation with Ron on a positive note, and I'm glad there are so many great resources like his book to help couples who are thinking about remarriage or are already in a blended family situation.

Let me encourage you keep working on your relationship. Good marriages don't just happen every day you have a choice to make about loving and serving your spouse. I think that's God's point about marriage and we want to help you keep your marriage strong and that's why we'll send you a copy of Ron's book when you send a gift of any amount Focus on the Family today and if not for you to get a copy for another couple that you know and let's work together to strengthen these relationships. You can donate and get the book when you call 800 the letter a in the word family 800-232-6459 or stop by the episode notes where will have the link and John for those couples who may be struggling in their relationship, whether it's a first marriage or a remarriage situation. We want to help you as well. We've got our counseling team and hope restored where we offer intensive counseling over several days for couples who may be on the brink of divorce.

Don't let your marriage fall apart. That's the point. God's got something better for you and your spouse. We want to help you in any way we can, so contact us today. Set up a consultation with one of our counselors or asked for more information about restoring once again our number is 880 family or click that link in the and coming up next time more from our guest about dealing with the ghost of the past marriage for the person who spouse just turned and walked out, had an affair. Marriage is over and you can see it, and there is the ghost says toylike can turn on a dime. Don't lean into for half of Jim Daly and the entire team here. Thanks for joining us today for focus on family. I'm John Fuller inviting you back once more help your family thrive in Christ. When a woman discovers her husband struggled with pornography. She needs a practical plan. The latest book from Focus on the Family aftershock but professional counselor Joanne Conti will help you through the seven steps of self-care and to learn how to deal with the emotions involved in the discovery of your husband's addiction. Joanne Conti's timeless wisdom. If you hope, even while you're in your whole season of aftershock. Learn more about

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