Foundations for a Healthy Stepfamily

In a stepfamily, we need to recognize this marriage and family unit came together as a result of loss usually as a result of divorce or death. It is a very different starting point than a first marriage. So how can we build a healthy foundation with this in mind?




All right guys. Hey, welcome to ManTalk. My name is Vince Miller

It's men talking, men talking. We dive into real relevant and gritty topics that a lot of times get set to the side because of buisiness fear or other obstacles. So we're in the middle of a series talking about marriage and family today. We're diving in to the tough, tough topic of step families. How do you build foundations for healthy, healthy step family or healthy blended family? I'm Vince. I know you come from a blended family. I know you've got kind of a different story. Can you give myself and some of our listeners just some insights into what that was like? Yeah. You know, I did. I grew up in a blended family situation, so, um, my mom got married, had me after a couple of years, divorced my bio dad is what I call them, and bio dad went out and got remarried again and had a couple of other kids.

Um, my half brothers, two half brothers, a mom, bio mom went out and got remarried again, divorced again. So I had a stepfather in the house, no additional children from that marriage, but she divorced and then after that she could see that this was kind of harming and hurting me like these marriages in this loss. And I would say my mom's inability to hold down a successful relationship. She was just challenged and being able to do that, she decided not to remarry. And after that really my grandfather and grandmother became kind of my parents to me. They essentially raised me throughout the teen years and because of that I was greatly impacted by this, uh, well let's call it a nontraditional family experienced growing up, all sorts of different beliefs, different experiences with an understanding of a philosophy on life and approaches to life and how to handle it.

And so I'm hearing in this blended family situation, I'm hearing all kinds of different philosophies and ways of handling things. And to be quite honest, that was sometimes confused as a child. Um, I've kinda found out that my grandparents who really essentially raised me a kind of had a great path on life. They love God and, and everything that they said, it seemed to work for me. So I, that path don't life. Yeah. So, well, I think it's such a, such a relevant topic. Yeah. I mean, well, so many of our listeners, so many of our guys, whether they're in the middle of a family like that, raising a family like that, kids, step kids, that whole dynamic, uh, or you got buddies, you know, people, you know, friends from work, friends from church, wherever they're coming from. I mean we talked a lot about the obstacles to, to marriage to a happy marriage and one of our other episodes and a lot of times it just gets hard.

Whether it's, whether it's loss or whether it's a death of a spouse. I encounter men that are having these challenges all the time. I mean, there's so many nuances, especially with a blended family situation. I mean there's so many little idiosyncrasies that are so hard for guys. I'm talking on the guy side now, but for guys to try to figure out how to handle and navigate and the positioning and the vying for control and power and children, they get caught in the middle. I mean, it's hard for guys, I think. Yeah. So is there. When we look at the Bible and we look at scripture, where do we see blended family and how can we, you know, we know we can do it in a healthy way. Where do we see that in scripture? Actually, the blended family is all over the Bible, so I'll just take one character, Moses, right?

I mean, he's like, you think about it for a second, you know, Moses born into his biological family was passed down a river because they felt like that was what God was calling him to do. He goes, you know, the emperor, the favorite at the time was putting all the babies to death. So they float them down the river. That baby makes its way into the Pharaoh's house. So the king's house is raised by that family. We would call that a step family, right? Moses grows up to discover his heritage, right. And uh, and then leaves that Emperor's Palace, which was great by the way. I mean, you could have the best life you could ever have. He leaves, he goes out to the desert, marries into another family, right, marries into another family who spends 40 years shepherding and then makes his way back to be the emperor of the free world basically, and leads a, the leads God's people Israel out of slavery into the Wilderness.

I mean, think about that, that this is a kid who grew up in a step family, a blended family situation who became kind of the leader of God's people. Right. Miraculous and incredible. So yeah, there's all kinds of examples in the Bible of families, the layers of complexity in that from one family to another family to another family. Yeah. It was like for like 40 years in his first spot, 40 years in the second spot and in 40 years in his last spot. Right. And so he had three very significant different community experiences in each one of those. Yeah. Which in some ways you when you consider that it makes him uniquely qualified to lead the family of God and a lot of ways it's interesting. We're a mess, right? That's what you're trying to say is like growing up in a messy situation. You understand messes and you can lead through them, but yes, I would also use that illustration to powerfully teach that there's hope for a blended family.

Right? Like God has something special for a blended family and if you have one, you may have the emperor of the free world, your home right now, you never know that the emperor of the United States in here, that doesn't work. It doesn't work so much, but no, I think that. And that's something that and his team really talk about the complexity that's involved in step family. So he says in step families, we need to recognize that this unit came together as a result of loss. Whether it's by divorce or death. It's very different starting point than a first marriage. We see that in the life of Moses talks to me a little bit about some of those complexities that you experienced. Yeah, so I'll talk a little bit from my viewpoint as a child growing up in a blended family, I'd say that there's, there's kind of some basic struggles I would say in a blended family system, right?

So one of those struggles is clearly loyalties, like how can you continue to be loyal to Christ, right, and loyal to your current family system and your previous family system and also the children that are caught in the middle of that whole thing like that, that is pretty complex. Uh, I think people that have stepped family experiences or blended family experiences are struggling with that all the time. It's Kinda like almost positioning and, and trying to figure out how do I position myself to do what is most honoring to Christ and it becomes very difficult to understand what those decisions will look like day to day. And you probably have friends that have been divorced before and they struggle with that or maybe they, they lost a family member so they're remarried. So all those things get a, become a big hairball for people. My hair ball of loyalty that isn't easy to untangle for them.

I also believe that a development stages of our children play into that too, so when children are younger, there's a certain development process that they're going through there. They may not understand what's happening and then they have moments as they get older, say 12 or 13, where they start to recognize that we had our family is a little bit different and my mom sometimes plays against my, my dad and, and why is that? Yet I have this, these two blended families now that I'm trying to understand how development developmentally I engage with them. I think that's another struggle. And then also I think just relationships in authority are a big part of it. It's not just loyalty to people, but it's how, how do I report to this person or that person or how do I relate to a stepchild or how does a stepchild relate to a parent or a step parent?

Or how do I relate as a new spouse to my husband's ex spouse, crm getting. I mean, there's so many, uh, so many fragmented pieces here. Goodness. I mean, it's you, your thoughts on why it is, is I can't even, I can't even describe it all right now. It's too hard to describe, but there's a lot of things going on. I think that's the great part about counseling care and Marcus is especially that authority piece that you touched on, you touched on, especially when you're unwinding that hairball of complexity to be able to do that in the context of authority. Yeah. Christian perspective, what counseling care and their team bring is that authority obviously that loyalty to Christ first. I mean that's got to be just an anchor in terms of unwinding that we and we need someone outside of us to help us to understand those things, right?

I think that's the great part about, um, counseling care and places like that that you can go and you can get maybe in another perspective on the situation that you're in because you and your new spouse are going to look at things in a particular way and sometimes you need another viewpoint to help you understand how to, how to navigate these complexities. They are not easy and sometimes they, they create so much frustration for everybody, right. You know, where am I going today and when am I getting picked up? I can't tell you how many of these families is blended families have this Gantt sheet for how they relate to each other. I mean seriously, like, that's hard. It's draining, it's exhausting. I get it, but sometimes you need an external perspective, right? To offer you wisdom from a biblical standpoint and I think that's what sometimes the counselor will do in these situations.

So if we've got a guy out there right now, smack in the middle of that, whether as a result of loss or divorce or whatever it is, or they've got a buddy walk in through that thing, what are some of those, those first steps that you can take just to have the right approach to navigating this? Yeah. Well, I'll give you a couple of just like simple quick ones. These are super pragmatic too, but I think one of them has to be. You have to allow time, right? Family systems don't just happen overnight. Suddenly. I mean, a marriage happens overnight, ceremony happens overnight, but I'm the blending of two families coming together with all these little nuances. It's gonna take time. It's going to take a lot of times, some people will reject the idea of it. I remember when my mom got married the second time I rejected the idea of having a new father.

I just did know I was young until I understood that I wasn't going to accept the fact that this new guy was living in the house. I just didn't. So we have to allow time for those things to kind of take place for relationships to be built. Uh, like we'd keep describing this hairball that's part of the hairball. It just doesn't pull out. You just don't pull one string and it all come undone. It just doesn't work that way. It's, yeah. Ouch. And that'd be very painful. But we wish we could handle it that way, but that's not the way it happens because everybody processes things differently and families blend together over time. Uniquely. I also think that it's really important, and this will be a second thing. It's really important for adults to act like adults. What a novel idea. It is a novel idea, but it's very challenging in a blended family situation.

Right? Because what's going to happen is you as an adult with a child are going to want to when your child over by becoming a child, adults do this man, right? We do this with my own kids. Yeah. Right, exactly. But sometimes in a blended family situation, we're doing it to win our childhood away from our ex spouse. Right? Right. And that's not fair. Right? So we got to be adults. We also have to be adults when we're engaging in dialogue with our new spouse, for example, and we don't want to engage them in a talk toward our ex spouse. That isn't good either. So that's another place where we have to be an adult and other places where we have to be an adult is actually engaging in our with our ex spouse in a Christian way, for example. And that's when they be even harder because we probably had some blistering points of disagreement with them.

Right. But we can. We can really. We can find it easy to kind of play these psychological games with them. Yeah, right. Um, and be kind of passive aggressive with like about where we drop them off or how we do it or the things that we stay or how we poke at them in a phone call or an email or that even the things that we say to our children about them. Right. I, I was, I was a victim of all those things with my parents and they were very painful and hard for me as a child. Um, I think another thing is to remember the law. This will be the third thing, a law, the law of primary parent. I think this is so important. Explain that. So, um, I think a child for example, is always going to look at their biological parents regardless of who they're married to as their primary parents.

And we can't come between that, um, you know, regardless of how old or how young they are, they're always going to look at their biological parent has their biological parent. I think that's why, um, you know, like adoption agencies for instance, allow kids the right to eventually meet their biological parents because at some point they want to know them even if it's just a meeting or they want to casually meet with them and that law primary parent never goes away for that child. So we have to embrace that. We can never forget that a step parent will always just be a step parent. Now you may take the place of mom to them or dad to them, don't get me wrong, but they will always have a primary parent and it's who they're genetically related to. And then lastly, I think, and this is important, I, I, I'm saying this on behalf of my own self as a child of divorced multiple times, but children are always caught the middle.

We have to remember that that support piece, and I think we need to not make life harder on them. We need to figure out a way to make it easier on our children for their sake. And they always feel caught in the middle. They, they don't want to be drawn to one loyalty over another. They are caught in the middle between everything, uh, whether it's an argument between you and your ex spouse or an argument between you and your current spouse or relationships with other kids, they're always caught in the middle and, and we have to keep that in mind and be sensitive. So those are, those will be a few points that I think would be very important in a blended family situation. Those aspects, I mean the first one that jumps to my mind is honor you in everything you do. Really honoring relationships.

Yeah. Current spouse, ex, spouse, children, stepchildren. Just trying as best you can to kind of build a culture of honor. Is, is really an important first step in kind of a think. I think what you're saying tyler is super valid at this moment because you really think about it like, you know, Moses raised by three different families, never got away from his heritage. It was actually his heritage that brought him home. Right? And, and we, we need to remember that like people, that, that kind of DNA never goes away for children or families and there's something incredible that happens when we allow God to kind of work amidst an awful situation, whether it be death or divorce, it doesn't really matter. God can continue to work through that. And I think that's what blended families need to hear. There's hope in every situation and there's good that can come about it in spite of the loss that we've experienced.

And I think that would be great for men and women to hear today regarding this kind of blended family. Yeah, episode one. I think that's so good and I think that's really a great message. A great challenge to all of our guys out there is, is honoring relationships, honoring people. We talked about authority early, keeping that authority and context that our authority is Christ and we are called whatever the situation might be as helpful, unhelpful, broken, whatever it could be. Stepping into that place with our authority, clear and really honoring the relationships. I think that's huge. That's huge. That's awesome. Well guys, thank you so much for joining us once again, if you need any help, any resources to navigate some of these challenges that we're dealing with, gotta, reach out to the guys at counseling care. Again, you can hear, uh, you can find a lot of those resources on be links, pdfs, things like that, grateful for counseling care and their support of this series. After that, we'll see you guys next time on Montauk.