Subscribe to our newsletter

Save a Marriage Today

Connect with us

Swimming in the Blended Family Ocean

FamilyLife Blended™ is passionate about helping stepfamilies succeed.
By Ron L. Deal

I think remarried couples—and especially those with children—swim in a different ocean than first-marriage couples. The water temperature can be a little cooler—trusting a spouse can be a challenge after you've been hurt in a previous relationship. There are unique under-currents—most everyone in the stepfamily has experienced a loss that is always just under the surface, influencing everyday interactions. They run into a few more sharks—think of loyalty conflicts and ex-spouses.

And the water is murky—stepfamily life can be confusing, especially in the beginning: What role does a stepparent play? Do we combine our assets or leave them separate to provide for our children? How do we combine traditions and holidays? Do we take the kids to the ex-in-laws for Christmas or don't we?

Many of you swim in the blended family ocean—or at least you try to. Many of you grew up in a blended family. And the rest of you know stepfamilies who are struggling to stay above the surface. Chances are at least 30-40 percent of the couples in your church fall into the "stepcouple" category.

Yet it's easy for many stepfamilies to feel like second-class citizens in our churches today.Some truly feel like they are "the church's dirty little problem" because of guilt over decisions or actions that contributed to a divorce. Others are treated as though they live in a "less than whole" family situation" by those who have not experienced divorce themselves.

That's why FamilyLife is passionate about helping stepfamilies succeed, and that's why we've established an outreach called FamilyLife Blended™. We offer books, DVDs, events, and articles that focus on helping remarriages and stepparents, and we train churches and professionals to work with blended families. If you're looking for help in your remarriage or stepfamily, or if you're interested in reaching out to blended families, you can learn more at

Blended and BlessedRecently we hosted the first national summit on stepfamily ministry for 150 leaders from around the United States, Canada, and South Korea. Titled "Blended and Blessed," the event in Dallas (see photo below) sought to identify best practices of local church ministries and synergize the efforts of lay couples, church staff, and parachurch ministries like FamilyLife, Focus on the Family, and New Life Ministries.

Many assume that typical marriage and family ministries are adequate for blended families as well. They aren't. In fact, I contend that a traditional marriage ministry teaches only half of what it takes to strengthen a stepfamily marriage given the unique dynamics of stepfamily living that beat against the couple's relationship.

Those who recognize this—and are helping those who swim in the stepfamily ocean—often feel like they are alone in blended family ministry. One benefit of the summit in Dallas was bringing these like-minded people together to connect and share ideas. The atmosphere was encouraging and even electric, and our hope is that the event will prove to be a catalyst to a huge movement in the church to help blended families.

Many attending the summit heard for the very first time that new research confirms what I have believed for years: Preventing redivorce and strengthening the stepfamily environment in which a child grows helps to break the generational cycle of divorce. Children from healthy stepfamilies have healthier attitudes about marriage, make better choices, and are more likely to remain in one marriage for life. All it takes is one generation and we can break the generational cycle of divorce and redeem a family legacy.

Just think, you could make a difference in both this generation and the one to come. Learn more about healthy stepfamilies and encourage your church to begin a stepfamily ministry so families can be blended and blessed.

Copyright © 2013 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

Meet the Author: Ron L. Deal

Ron Deal

Ron Deal is a marriage and family author, conference speaker, and therapist. He is founder and president of Smart Stepfamilies™ and director of FamilyLife Blended™, the ministry initiative of FamilyLife® to stepfamilies (for more visit and 

Ron is author of The Smart Stepfamily: Seven Steps to a Healthy Family (and DVD series), The Smart Stepdad, Dating and the Single Parent, The Smart Stepmom (with Laura Petherbridge), and The Smart Stepfamily Marriage: Keys to Success in the Blended Family (with Dr. David Olson). A highly sought-after, recognized expert in marriage and blended families, Ron is a member of the Stepfamily Expert Council for the National Stepfamily Resource Center, and is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Licensed Professional Counselor with over 25 years experience in local church ministry and family ministry consulting. He is a featured expert on the video curriculum Single and Parenting (2011, Church Initiative) and his material is widely distributed by a variety of family education initiatives

Ron served as a member of the Couple Checkup Research Team (headed by Dr. David Olson, PREPARE-ENRICH) which conducted the two largest studies of marital strength ever accomplished. They surveyed over 100,000 marriages and remarriages (over 200,000 people) and examined the qualitative differences between highly satisfied marriages and low-quality marriages. The results of their groundbreaking research for couples are published in the books The Couple Checkup (Olson, Larson, & Olson-Sigg, 2008) and The Smart Stepfamily Marriage (Deal & Olson, 2015), and are featured in Ron’s newest seminar for dating, engaged, married, and remarried couples, the Couple Checkup Conference.

Ron is a popular conference speaker and has appeared in dozens of national radio and TV broadcasts both in the U.S. and Canada. His daily 60-second radio feature, FamilyLife Blended, is heard by thousands each week around the country and online. He has appeared on Fox News, MSNBC, ABC’s Nightline, WGN-News, The Mike Huckabee Show, FamilyLife Today, Focus on the Family, HomeWord with Jim Burns, Celebration, and The 700 Club, and his work has been referenced online (e.g.,,, in magazines (e.g., Essence), and in newspapers throughout the world (e.g., USA Today, New York Daily News, Chicago Tribune, Atlanta Journal, and Minnesota Star Tribune). The May 2012 issue of Ladies' Home Journal featured Ron's therapy work with a blended family couple in their popular feature column “Can This Marriage Be Saved?” Ron has written feature family articles addressing a variety of family matters for a variety of publications and online magazines including Focus on the Family magazine, ParentLife, The Family Room, Gospel Today, Christianity Today, and HomeLife magazine. On a regular basis Ron trains therapists, marriage educators, and ministry professionals at conferences around the country and has spoken at the National Stepfamily Conference, and the Utah and Arkansas Governors' conferences on the family.

Ron and his wife, Nan, have three boys. Their middle son, Connor, died unexpectedly in February 2009 at the age of 12. In his memory, the Deal's have partnered with Touch a Life Foundation to rescue and rehabilitate children in Ghana, West Africa, from trafficking. They would be honored if you would help them sing Connor's song. Visit Connor's Song to learn more about this ministry and to hear Connor sing.

In addition to FamilyLife sponsored events Ron is available to present his Couple Checkup Conference or Building A Successful Stepfamily conference in your church or community. Learn more here.



Save a Marriage Today

Subscribe to our newsletter