Blending Family Communication

The challenges of communicating well in a blending family are many. Past hurts, current perceptions, expectations, and fears or frustrations affect communicating well. The adjustment process is a long and winding road, so providing extra measures of patience and kindness help in communicating with kids and stepkids.

Experts suggest that, in the beginning, it’s best to ease your way into parenting a stepchild. Let the biological parent to do the disciplining and encourage the stepparent to be the affirmer, encourager, and builder of the relationship (slowly). When multiple step-siblings are in the home, things can get even more complicated, and it takes special care.

It’s also important to be really cautious about what you say about one another’s children. Affirming your mate as the biological parent is also important because you as a parent often feel vulnerable. In remarriage, there’s more ownership of the biological child’s words and actions, so the biological parent can simply take it more personally.

And in discipline and decision-making regarding the kids, the biological parent should always have the final say. The biological parent may choose to do something differently with her kids than with the stepkids, but she knows her own kids better. So each of you needs to honor the choices your spouse make and yield to the other.

Resolving stepparent/stepchild conflicts and communication issues is definitely a delicate dance. Knowing your role will help you both avoid and resolve conflict that may come with stepchild relationships. Whether it’s conflict over loyalty, resentment, confusion, time demands, duties, or whatever, knowing how to proceed will help you be successful.

What blended-family issues are you the most concerned about? I’d love to know.

Adapted from The ReMarriage Adventure: Preparing for a Lifetime of Love & Happiness, by Susan and Dale Mathis. Copyright © 2012, all rights reserved.

In-Laws Not Out-Laws

Thankgiving is tomorrow, and many of us will be visiting family this holiday season. Knowing how to navigate in-laws—or future in-laws—is important for marital harmony.

The reality is that in-law interactions can vary greatly. One set of in-laws may not want things to change—they may put pressure on you to keep things as they are. One may be hands off and unengaged with your nuclear family, so they just go with whatever decisions you make. Another may want to protect and constantly give advice—and sometimes they may even try to control you—wanted or not. Or one may be detached and seemingly uncaring.

Sometimes you even have to deal with in-law envy, especially when it comes to sharing relationships with grandchildren. Though none of these needs to be a source of unsolvable conflict, it is wise to talk about how your parents might respond to your family dynamics, especially your holiday plans and visits. This will help you better plan for the future.

Though most extended families are good-hearted, loving and kind, they still can bring stress and may require you to set boundaries. In setting boundaries, try to emphasize the best of each family situation, and honor the in-laws. It helps to avoid being critical or judgmental when things get tough, and try to be fair and balanced.

Your in-laws should understand that they should call before coming to visit, and if boundaries are broken, reestablish them together as a couple. And when there are differences in child rearing or other situations with the children, work together to resolve the issues—and be sure the children are not caught in the middle of the disagreement or feel torn between families. When there are differences—and there will be—remember that your spouse and children must come first.

It might be good to answer these questions ahead of time. How will you handle visits? What about family get-togethers? And what will you do about gift giving? What other expectations might your extended family have of you as a couple?

Finally, continue love each other, regardless of the outcome. We have an entire chapter in each of our books dedicated to helping you or someone you love with extended family challenges. Check out The ReMarriage Adventure: Preparing for a Lifetime of Love & Happiness and Countdown for Couples: Preparing for the Adventure of Marriage.

What extended-family issues concern you the most? I’d love to know.

Money Matters

Before you marry, money is a critical topic to tackle. And after you marry, money is one of those things that can bring lots of stress, conflict, and worry, if you don’t deal with it well.

Can you tell, right now, how much debt, how many assets, and how many bills you have? Often we can’t. Yeah, we might have a vague idea of where things stand, but usually, it’s only a general feeling.

One way to keep yourself up-to-date is to do a monthly checkup—together as a couple—and it’s important for you to start doing this before you marry. Set aside an evening and figure out where you are, exactly. Make it pleasant—a nice dessert and coffee, a candle burning, soft music playing—and get down to business.

Lay out all your bills, statements, records, and anything else that will tell you what you owe and what you own. Then figure out how you can simplify this by organizing your paperwork, keeping it in one place, and consolidating anything you can.

Cancel anything that’s unneeded. Do you have a landline that you rarely use? Do you really need all the bells and whistles on your cable—or do you really need cable at all? Be ruthless, and do what you need to do to give yourself some wiggle room to breathe financially.

Last, get everything in order, and write down a master list of all you owe, all you own, where it is—everything that affects your budget.

Now your monthly checkups will be quick and easy. Simply update your master list, discuss the changes or challenges, and adjust your master list and files accordingly.

Congratulations! You’ve joined a small group of wise people who know what’s really going on with your money.

What financial issues do you struggle with the most? I’d love to know.

For more on preparing to marry, check out The ReMarriage Adventure: Preparing for a Lifetime of Love & Happiness and Countdown for Couples: Preparing for the Adventure of Marriage.

So Long Single Life

You may have been single for a long time and have quite a circle of single friends who love their single lifestyle. But now they’re giving you grief because you’re getting married. You hear the jokes. You put up with the snickers and snide remarks. How do you manage all this and help them understand that you’re happy to be getting married?

Tricky stuff, to be sure, and sometimes you may even loose a friend or two through this transition time. You know that you can’t continue your single lifestyle after you marry, and this is important to recognize early on. You also know that you must keep your mate first, even over your best friend. But how do you manage all this?

First, discuss this transition with your friends. Help them understand that your friendship doesn’t have to be threatened by your upcoming marriage. But also let them know that your priorities have and should change—your fiancé comes first from now on. And encourage your friends to affirm your marriage, not fight against it. Ask them to be positive and encouraging to your face—and to others.

Unfortunately, there may be one or two who just don’t get it. They want things to stay the same, even when that’s not the best thing to do. Realize that this reaction may stem from immaturity, ignorance, selfishness or insecurity, and give them space and a little grace for those shortcomings. But be sure you draw a good healthy boundary, and keep your future spouse first.

Have you struggled with this issue? I’d love to hear about it.

For more on preparing to marry, either for you or a loved one, check out The ReMarriage Adventure: Preparing for a Lifetime of Love & Happiness and Countdown for Couples: Preparing for the Adventure of Marriage by Susan and Dale Mathis.

Great Expectations

The expectations we have heading into a second marriage are often quite different from those of a first marriage. Our past experiences and our current circumstances can overshadow the bliss younger couples might have going into a first marriage. There might be issues of trust, safety, and security. A death or divorce may bring a cynical, or at least cautious, view of the future.

In second marriages, the biggest influence is often our previous marriage. Whether you lost a spouse through death or whether there was a divorce, there are usually some negative feelings you need to deal with. Grief over the loss, sadness, depression, anger, pain, hurt, and trauma—these emotions and feelings can often affect your expectations of a second marriage and put undo pressure on your mate.

Because each of us is uniquely different from one another we must understand and manage each other’s expectations if we’re to have healthy relationships. To do this, talk about and study each other’s priorities and preferences so you’ll be better informed when it comes to understanding each other’s expectations. Though you won’t get all the answers to every area of life, you will soon realize how comfortable—or uncomfortable—you might be with the other person’s expectations.

As you move toward marriage, keep in mind that God expects you to serve each other unselfishly, accept one another’s unique personalities, needs, and differences, and be faithful to each other throughout your entire lives. God also expects you to love each other unconditionally, be merciful and forgiving, and be patient as you learn and grow together.

The key to merging these expectations successfully is communication, compromise, and care. Continually ask yourself, “What’s best for our relationship? What’s really important to us as a couple?”

What expectations surprised you the most?

Adapted from The ReMarriage Adventure: Preparing for a Lifetime of Love & Happiness, by Susan and Dale Mathis. Copyright © 2012, all rights reserved.


Picking Your Battles

Recently I’ve had several conversations with friends who are dealing with faith differences between them and their fiancés—or spouses—and all of them were quite concerned. It’s funny how nitpicky we can get about such things.

One of you thinks that “post-trib” is correct; the other believes “pre-trib” is right. And the topic becomes a point of contention. So what do
you do when your beliefs clash?

Rarely do all of us believe exactly the same thing. One enjoys traditional hymns while the other likes the contemporary praise songs. One isn’t too sure about God’s healing power and the other thinks it stopped when Jesus died. And tongues? Well, that’s a can of worms!

As a couple, it’s wise to major on the majors, and give each other space to grow spiritually. If both of you have the same belief in Christ as Savior, God as Father, the Holy Spirit as your guide, and other fundamentals of the faith, than you’re on the right track.

Frankly, your faith walk is a lifelong journey, and through the years you may change some of your beliefs about some things as you grow in Him by learning biblical truths, hearing God’s Word in church, and gathering in small groups and other places where you can come to understand His ways better.

So unless one of you believes some off-the-wall heresy that goes against biblical truth, relax and learn together. Be careful not to judge one another or demand that the other align with what you think. But if there are issues you’re really concerned about, talk to your pastor, read the Scriptures, and see what God has to say—together.

What spiritual issues have been a challenge in your relationship? I’d love to know!

For more on preparing to marry, or to let someone you love know about a resource that can help them prepare for remarriage, check out The ReMarriage Adventure: Preparing for a Lifetime of Love & Happiness and Countdown for Couples: Preparing for the Adventure of Marriage by Susan and Dale Mathis.