Eric and I recently attended a fun date night event at our church. We laughed at the answers given by the panel of married couples all with varying lengths of marriages. The whole time I was listening, I kept trying to think of what we would say if asked these same questions. You know… preparation is critical.
“What would she say is her biggest pet peeve about you?”
“What’s the most romantic thing you’ve ever done for your spouse?”
“What was your biggest misconception about marriage?”
“How did kids change your marriage?”
My brain cooperated with answers to some of the questions, on others my mind was blank. The couples on stage seemed to have insightful, humorous, encouraging answers to every question. Wow. I wonder how much prep time they had in advance of this. Or maybe they are all superheroes who know everything about each other. Regardless, I decided then and there, Eric and I needed to step up our game.
“Babe, remember that question last night about the pet peeve? I need you to tell me what your pet peeves are about me… yes right now…. I know you have at least one… yes I’m serious…”
He thought it was a trick.
“I need to know these things. If we are ever on that stage, we need to have gone over this stuff.”
He declared he would never be up there. I served up another question since he was obviously not going to jump right into the pet peeve one. I hit him with the one about our biggest misconceptions about marriage. That’s when he said something quite profound.
“As a blended family, I think we expected the different personalities of our children to affect our marriage, but I don’t think we knew how much outside influences would also impact our home.”
He’s so right.
When Eric and I married 20 years ago, our kids were 16, 12, 6 and 2. His two were the oldest and my two were the youngest. Before our big day, we read books, did a bible study and talked to others who had remarried. We did as much work as we could because we knew second marriages and blended families came with unique challenges. We wanted to be an example of how God uses broken pots to build something stronger. It was important to us to show our children what a Godly home looked like and how a husband and wife should treat each other. We carried a lot of guilt for what the kids had been through already. Eric and I loved each other deeply, but we also knew that this marriage and our blended family was going to take more than love. It would take work. What we didn’t know was the hardest challenges would come from outside our home, not within.
From the beginning, our kids got along. Oh there were difficulties. It wasn’t all a bed of roses, but they meshed well. Sometimes it was hard to tell who was biologically related and who wasn’t. And just like full siblings, they fought and made up and fought some more. Joel wanted to choke Alaine half the time. Austin jumped on Joel’s head from the top bunk so many times he has PTSD and at least one scar. Laura made videos of the “wild Austin” and once Laura could drive, Alaine tagged along with her any chance she got. The four couldn’t have been more different and yet more bonded.
The issues came from other adults in the lives of our kids. When you have a blended family, the former spouses/other biological parents are still a daily presence in your home even if they live in another state. Their viewpoints, input, comments and beliefs emanate from the mouths of your kids like they are puppets. Of course, you also hear from them directly. And not just the other biological parent, but their new significant others as well. You can keep right on tracing that line outward to encompass those people’s kids and their families and so on. Even in the best co-parenting situations, this causes stress and challenges. It’s a balancing act between encouraging relationships and open dialogue with protecting and preserving your new family.
Twenty years later, our kids are all leading adult lives and building their own families. Eric and I are proud of each one and proud of the impact our marriage had on them. We made mistakes in our blended family, but we worked together to navigate through it. We had guiding principles for our family of six and tried to point the kids to God when we didn’t know what else to do. We also got really good at apologizing and asking for forgiveness. It wasn’t what we thought our family would look like, but it’s what God built from the pieces – a beautiful picture of redemption and restoration.
If your family doesn’t look like the picture you painted as a kid, don’t be discouraged. Know that in God’s hands all things work together for His glory. Your family may be the one that encourages others. And your answers to the questions may be exactly what someone else needs to hear.