Fifty percent of all marriages are blended families in which one or both spouses start the marriage with children of their own. Blended families can be incredible, but from Day One, a husband and wife will face a unique set of challenges. These challenges arise from their previous relationships.
One of the most significant issues a blended family faces is the twin combination of lower trust and higher expectations.
“Lower trust” means a spouse enters the marriage with less goodwill toward the new spouse. Due to past experience, they are quick to become suspicious of a spouse’s motives and actions.
In most cases, they haven’t always been this way. Maybe they entered their first marriage believing the person they loved was innocent until proven guilty. But then that trust got violated. A heart got broken. That changes things.
“Higher expectations” means one spouse enters the marriage expecting more of their new spouse than they might have otherwise. Because of what they’ve been through before, they arrive with their jaw set and a short leash, determined not to get hurt again.
This puts enormous pressure on the new spouse.
This combination of low trust and high expectations is a prime reason why divorce rates are much higher in blended families. Before first marriages, a couple establishes trust during the dating process. It can take some time before a relationship starts to disintegrate.
Not so in a blended family, where trust may never be fully established. This means cracks may exist in the relationship from the very beginning.
Inner vows are another issue that damages blended families. These result from past emotional pain. Someone hurts us and we say, “No man will ever treat me like that again” or “No woman will ever speak to me like that.” We spend the rest of our lives protecting ourselves from that pain.
In the process, we become unteachable. We prevent Jesus from being Lord over that part of our lives. We must recognize these vows, give them over to Jesus, and ask Him to take control over that past hurt.
To deal with these issues—lowered trust, increased expectations, and inner vows—I recommend that every blended family start their marriage with a vision retreat. During this retreat, you work through the issues of your past together and dream new dreams for the future.
You need to get away from your everyday life, sit down with each other, talk about your marriage, and seek God as a couple.
How many children are you going to have? What are your deepest desires? What are your personal values? What will be your family values? What vision do you have for your relationship? What is God’s plan for your marriage?
In the process, you have to forgive the hurts of your past. You can’t let old scars become a harsh taskmaster for your new marriage. Instead of being ruled by your emotions, you should set Jesus Christ as the Lord of your marriage.
Marriage is trust. You cannot marry and mistrust. Submit your blended family to God, and give Him the pain you might be carrying with you from a previous relationship. He can heal your heart and help you begin your new marriage on a healthy foundation.
Jimmy Evans // Marriage Today