When one or both spouses enter a marriage with children of their own, the new union becomes a blended family. Blended families can be incredible—in fact, Jesus came from a blended family—but they also face a number of unique challenges.
These issues are the result of previous relationships. They exist between the husband and wife on Day One, and that’s why divorce rates are higher among blended families. A few of these special dynamics relate to parenting.
Protective instincts: One of the leading causes of divorce in blended families is the biological parent keeping his or her child away from the new step-parent. The biological parent tries to control the entire relationship with the child.
That’s a problem. Marriage is a partnership, which means the new, non-biological parent has to have authority over children, too. As God said in the Garden of Eden, “the two shall become one.” The only way two things can become one is if you both surrender everything to the relationship.
This doesn’t mean the new parent has to replace the biological parent. It only means that they have to be treated as an equal.
Lack of trust: Marriage is trust. If you do not trust a person with your children, you shouldn’t be marrying them. However, I’ve seen on a number of occasions a blended family where one spouse does not trust the other with decisions related to children and step-children.
This is due to simple favoritism. The biological spouse will think, “Well, they just don’t love my kids the same way I love them.” That kind of thinking is a huge mistake. Remember: Jesus told us to love our neighbor as ourselves.
That kind of love is agape love. It’s love based on a decision—not on emotions or circumstances—and it is the greatest love on earth. A new spouse may not enter a marriage with the same natural love for his or her step-children. But he or she can love them by choice.
That’s agape love, and it is powerful. It reflects the love of Christ.
Visitation: In blended families, visitation is an issue that brings instability to certain homes. Children are always coming and going as they spend time with their now-divorced biological parents. This is one of the most agonizing issues that comes up when I am counseling families.
In one family in particular, an ex-spouse was spoiling the children and exposing them to ungodliness with the new spouse. This parent began using the children as weapons against the other biological parent. The other family—the one in counseling—had no idea what to do. Legally, they had no recourse.
My advice was, first, to not communicate through the children. Instead, communicate directly with the ex-spouse. Second, pray for those children every time they leave your home. Pray protection over their minds, hearts, memories, sexuality, and attitudes.
Third, do not take for granted every moment you have with those children. Be righteous. Set high standards. Take the kids to church and don’t underestimate the power of God to impact their hearts. Righteousness is more powerful than sin.
As Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”
Parenting is challenging for everyone, but in blended families it comes with special issues that must be addressed. While they can be complicated, these challenges can be overcome. Work together, seek God, and He will bless your efforts to follow His plan for your marriage.
Jimmy Evans // Marriage Today