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Q&A: Who's More Important—the Child or the Marriage?

Developing a good relationship with a spouse and a stepchild.
By Dennis and Barbara Rainey


My wife seems to value the happiness and wellbeing of my stepson above all else—even above the child we share together. This has been an issue from the beginning of our marriage. Our relationship is distant—unlike I planned and unlike God planned. What do we do?

Dennis: I would start by saying that, since this is a blended family, you need to lower your expectations a bit. Counselor Norm Wright once said on our broadcast that it takes an average couple three to five years to work through the normal difficult adjustments in a marriage, but it takes a blended family eight to 10 years.

Barbara: There are more issues to cover. There is baggage—habit patterns, unresolved conflicts, etc.—that each person brings into the marriage.

Dennis: After you come to terms with your expectations, I think you need to take the initiative to do something special to talk over these issues with your wife. I'd suggest a regular time for prayer and Bible study, where you grow together in Christ and begin to work through your adjustments. Perhaps you ought to get away for a weekend for a time of relaxation and communication.

Whatever the setting, first make an effort to take responsibility for the emotional needs of your wife. You need to ask her, "What can I do to communicate love to you and to lead you spiritually?" Get on her agenda. And love her sacrificially with the love of Christ. Then, after talking about her needs, try to help her understand what your own needs are.

What usually happens in cases like this is that husbands and wives focus only on how their mates are not meeting their needs. They lose all frame of reference. In this case, you should forget about your needs for a period of time and focus on hers; find out what need is being met by the stepson that you are not meeting, and how you can go about ministering to her and to him.

Barbara: You also need to examine your relationship with the stepchild. For example, if you are becoming resentful of this child, your wife will sense this and seek to protect him. It's natural for a mother in this situation to feel afraid that her child is going to somehow be slighted now that she and her new husband have their own child. You may need to understand that and assure her that you're not going to slight him.

Dennis: It could be that your stepson feels like the odd man out in the family—just the way you feel right now. If you are not bonding with this boy, your wife will become even more protective of him. You may need to remove any bitterness you've developed and pursue a solid relationship with your stepson. This may be a difficult assignment, but you need to do it by faith, knowing that God will give you the strength to do it.

Copyright © 2003 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

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