A Smooth Blend is Possible but be Patient and Allow the Fruit to Take Root
I still smile at the memory.
Our oldest son Andrew had invited several special guests to our home and had just finished sharing a dramatic testimony of his miraculous health journey – formerly bed-bound, then wheelchair-bound and taking 34 prescribed medications and supplements a day - and only in his early 30s.
After his testimony there were God-praises and tears and cheers and high-fives across the room. Then a friend of mine whispered to me, “Who was that guy you just hugged?” I laughed and told him, “Well, that’s Andrew’s biological father.” The friend was flabbergasted - all these years, he had thought I was it!
Andrew’s father had been in town, was invited, and was abundantly moved and blessed, as we all were, by that stirring testimony as to the restorative power of God in our son’s life.
My wife Vanessa and I have three sons: Andrew, from her first marriage, and the twins, Jordan and Joshua, from a previous relationship of mine.
We began as what is called a “blended family,” defined as the result of a marriage of two adults who both have children from previous relationships. We started out blended I suppose, but I must say that it has turned into a smooth blend, and I couldn’t be more thankful, grateful, or blessed by our three sons.
Blended families are a potential problem for a successful marriage. According to the U.S. Census, 1,300 new stepfamilies are formed every day in this country. A full 4 out of 10 (40%) families are blended with at least one spouse having a child from a previous relationship before the marriage to the current mate. Sadly, 7 out of10 (70%) blended marriages end in divorce.
For couples who are “fighting the good fight” in a blended family, success is possible because love is in unlimited supply and never runs out!
We draw no lines between our sons. Frankly, I would be insulted if someone called Andrew my “stepson”, no matter what the law or the courts might say.
I remember watching the television sitcom The Brady Bunch as a kid – “a man name Brady” and his three boys and his wife Carol and her three girls formed a new family. Their union produced mayhem! Awkward moments, sibling rivalries, perceived favoritism, BUT, those fictional 30-minute vignettes always had happy endings. Real life doesn’t always work that way. Making marriage work can be tough sledding – throw in other variables and a couple really has their work cut out for them. But the rewards are endless.
After money woes and sex incompatibility, many couples divorce, sadly, because of children. There are many factors that come into play: unresolved drama with ex-spouses, financial stresses, clashing parenting styles, and playing favorites are some issues that a blended family can face.
When spouses are proactive from the start in addressing the challenges that come with a “ready-made” family, the odds of success climb much higher. What does it take – well, in our case, it was a genuine, shared faith in doing things God’s way. The Fruit of the Spirit were instrumental in our co-parenting and blending styles, with a common goal in mind. That goal – a functional and healthy marriage and family. Was it always easy – of course not! But what major blessings on the journey!
Before our 25th anniversary trip, our sons took us aside and sit us down. They each took turns in talking to us about what our marriage had meant to them and then presented us with a beautiful card and a very generous anniversary gift. We were seriously blown away! The fruit had clearly taken root!
Essentials for us have been transparency in our feelings, family meetings, taking one-on-one time with our children, and most certainly, worshipping together both in our home and at a formal house of God. Some of our favorite times have been our family walks where someone invariably comes up with a “crazy” question and then off we go to the conversation races. The last question I remember was “Did skunks stink in the Garden of Eden, before the fall of man?” (I know – real deep!) We talked and we laughed for literally an hour, enjoying different perspectives, and recognizing that there was no “right” answer.
Our faith in God is our great unifier – He puts everything in its proper perspective if we lean on Him and not to our own understanding.
Anyone is perfectly justified in being nervous about starting life with a new mate and a new family. But it can be a wonderful journey. Just Us offers some tips for blended families:
Develop Bonds Through Consistency, Honesty, and Building Trust. Focus on how you treat your spouse and their offspring. The Golden Rule still applies! Be consistent, be honest, and trustworthy as you treat them with dignity, respect, and compassion. Stay with it, and chances are, you will be a recipient of the same.
Don’t Neglect Your Marriage at the Expense of Catering to the Kids. Nurture your marriage and let them see how you're treating their mom or dad. Whether you know it or not, they are watching! If you and your spouse express love and affection and have playful fun with each other in and out of their presence, you are likely headed toward a happy home.
Be Patient – It Won’t Happen Overnight. As Vanessa says, “Everybody is learning each other’s mojo.” Expect to mess up every now and then but stay the course. Apologize if you find yourself overstepping – listen and learn. It's perfectly okay to apologize to a child. Don’t force your mentality on them – a transition to normalcy could take years to set in, but you married for the long haul, didn’t you?
Help the Kids Out. Work with and support them - be their cheerleader! When Andrew was young, he had a tough time learning to spell the word "Wednesday." My simple solution that we still laugh about today – I broke it down phonetically – Wed–nes-day. (I reminded him that the middle syllable was “nest” without the “t” on the end.) Piece of cake!
Family First. Vanessa gets full credit for this one. We have a wonderful family tradition of celebrating one another’s birthdays. We all take off from work and make a day of it – eating, playing games, talking, reminiscing, and just enjoying one another’s company. And we top it off with prayer as they head to their homes. It’s my favorite family tradition, and I marvel at God’s goodness to us. “He has brought us a mighty long way” as the saints of old would say.
There is so much more, but those are some of our essentials. More than anything, please plant, grow, and utilize the Fruit of the Spirit: Galatians 2-23 – But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control, against such things there is no law.
Being a spouse to a godly and good woman and a parent to three of the best men on the planet is my abiding joy (yet another Fruit). Yes, it still takes time, effort, and every moment is not a moment of bliss. But a loving family is high in the stratosphere of life’s greatest rewards. There are few things more satisfying than a smooth blend!