Jun 5, 2020
“7 Principles for Blending Well”
The 2013 released comedy, A.C.O.D. quoted statistics that 2.3% of the American population are OCD, 55% are diagnosed with ADHD, but 54% are A.C.O.D. (Adult Children of Divorce), of which I am one.
When speaking to men about fatherhood issues I often ask what they received for their thirteenth birthday. Younger men sometimes remember, but the room usually is silent. Who remembers a birthday from decades ago?
It was the day, or close to it, that my parents gave me and my siblings the “It’s Not Your Fault We Are Getting a Divorce” speech. I was relieved. I remember saying out loud, “Finally!”
A Clean Divorce and Back in the Blender
We were all tired of the screaming, crying, and accusations. We were relieved it was finally over. Or, were we?
Theirs was a clean divorce: no nasty custody battles, no fighting over money, child support, or who keeps the house. Neither parent spoke ill of the other, both remained very involved and in our lives. I have great parents, but the divorce remains a painful blemish on their resumes and scar over our hearts.
It was a clean divorce as far as divorces go but with lasting messy consequences. Divorces always are.
Dad remarried a year later in December and mom married the following June. By the time I turned 15 we had two new “parents” and five new “siblings.” It happened that fast. I remember life being “weird” during that season of life, slowly finding the new normal.
Here’s the Deal
I highly anticipated our most recent Men in the Arena Podcast interview with Ron Deal. Ron is one of the most widely read and viewed experts on blended families in the country. He is founder of Smart Stepfamilies, Director of FamilyLife Blended for FamilyLife, and the author of over a dozen books and video resources on stepfamily living including the bestselling book and topic of our interview, Building Love Together in Blended Families, co-authored with Dr. Gary Chapman.
His podcast FamilyLife Blended with Ron Deal and his one-minute radio feature are heard around the world. His work has been referenced by multiple news outlets such as the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, CNBC.com, and USA Today.
Ron was a joy to interview with his casual attitude, love for Jesus, and expertise of blended families. Make sure to visit our website and read the show notes for our interview.
Ron’s interview brought back memories of the adjustments we made to blend not one, not two, but three distinct families—three. We had to blend the daily life in our 1) home with a new stepfather, the 2) regular outings and new relationships with his three children, and 3) two new step siblings living with my dad and his new wife.
One family was lost, it died, on my thirteenth birthday, and three lesser families took its place. As Ron shared, "Loss (became) the elephant in the room." It was a loss that we were compelled to navigate through mentally, socially, physically and emotionally. Now it’s clear why in Malachi 2:15-16 God said, “’Take heed then to your spirit, and let no one deal treacherously against the wife of your youth. For I hate divorce,’ says the Lord, the God of Israel.”
Divorce is a death.
Death is painful. Death requires mourning. I’m so thankful for 2 Corinthians 1: 3-4, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
7 Principles for Loving and Blending Well
Our time with Ron was rich, informative and personally fulfilling. It ended with Rod inviting me on FamilyLife Blended with Ron Deal to share my divorce experience and how it affects me as an A.C.O.D. Here are 7 things that parents, children and A.C.O.D.s like me must know about loving and blending well.
Principle #1: Blended families are not born with a sense of “familyness”. Your journey nurtures it. Time is required. Patience is a must. Trust takes time to build. He sternly warned against overzealous stepparents, encouraging them to build trust over time and to nurture the journey.
Principle #2: Patience is a virtue. While waiting, love generously. Ron explained, “Because the average blended family needs between five and seven years to merge and form a shared family identity, I tell couples to create their family with a “slow cooker” approach, not a blender.”
Principle #3: A committed, loving marriage is the first and last motivator of stepfamily integration, so strengthen your marriage. He shared what I believe is the most critical part in making a blended family work, “A committed, loving marriage is the first and last motivator of stepfamily integration. A poor or dysfunctional marriage is the equivalent of unplugging your family slow cooker. No more heat, no more family integration.”
Principle #4: Parents in blended families have to be a team and play to their individual strengths. Blended families are a new ocean with undercurrents, sharks, and murky waters; “Parenting in the stepfamily ocean has inherent challenges so it requires synchronized swimming by parents. In most stepfamilies this includes two groups: the parent and stepparent within your home and the co-parents in separate homes.”
Principle #5: Loss complicates bonding and building love, so grieve well. As stated earlier by Ron, “Given that grief is a powerful undercurrent in the stepfamily ocean, always just below the surface of daily interactions, both parents and stepparents should look for ways to share their grief journeys openly. For parents, recognizing sadness and entering a child’s grief at holidays, special days, and milestone moment is important for the child’s well-being and the process of family bonding. Grief must not be denied. Sharing the journey together is what makes grief tolerable.”
Principle #6: Don’t walk away too soon. Ron quoted an alarming truth, “The divorce rate for blended family couples is between 10 to 25 percent higher than first marriages. But it doesn’t have to be. We are convinced that smart stepfamilies who learn to speak love well can thrive in their journey and experience marital oneness and well-being and break the generational cycle of divorce for future generations.”
Fortunately, my Mom and Dad remained married to my stepparents until my stepfather’s tragic death in 2012, but both had to navigate through some rough waters.
Principle #7: Lastly, learning to love well comes by putting away guilt and knowing the source of love. We had to forgive our parents and embrace our stepparents and their children, but we failed to embrace the source of love—God. Ron affirmed what I already knew, that when a couple is devoted to Jesus and shares their faith through prayer, Bible reading and church attendance the divorce rate is almost nil. Nil!
It’s like 1 in 1000! Experiencing Jesus together as the source of all love is the secret to a long and fulling marriage and blended family.