I blinked back tears as our daughter’s boyfriend nervously fiddled with a napkin. He then folded his hands and asked, “Will you give your blessing for your daughter and me to marry?”

Jacob looked first at my husband and then at me before he unfolded his hands and waited for an answer. Silence followed. I wondered if you could hear the rapid thumping of my heartbeat. I looked to Randy for his reply. His glassy eyes told me his emotions were about to spill over as he carefully weighed his words.

He breathed deeply before he answered. “Yes,” he said as he locked eyes with Jacob. “We give you our blessing. Take good care of our daughter.”

Randy smiled and looked at me. Jamie was 5 when he became her stepdad. The bumps, curves, and potholes that followed would make any man want to retreat. Jamie will even tell you now, as a 30-year-old adult, she knows she was a difficult child to raise. Yet I’m forever thankful Randy never backed down from the challenge.

He wasn’t a perfect stepdad. But he never quit trying. He got up when he fell down. He asked for help when he needed answers. He prayed. He struggled. He fought. He cried. He apologized. He forgave. He smiled with gritted teeth.

And he impacted Jamie in a way no one else could.

Encouraging your husband in his stepdad role

I wish I’d done more to encourage Randy when our kids were in the nest. I was too quick to criticize when he parented differently than I did … too slow to thank him for the little things he did that spelled love to my girls every day.

The stepdad role is hard. It often comes with heartache, confusion, grief, and loneliness. There are rewards along the way, but they might be years down the road.

If there’s a stepdad in your home parenting alongside you, he likely needs some encouragement. Here are a few ideas from a wife still figuring it out.

1. Tell him he’s loved and appreciated—often.

The early years of stepfathering require large doses of humility, patience, and courage. Although he might do all the right things, love from his stepchildren isn’t likely in the beginning. Love from his partner can help keep him going on days he wants to quit.

Most stepdads enter marriage with a desire to make a difference in their stepkids’ lives. Especially when the biological dad is unreliable or not in the picture, a stepdad discovers a natural tug to invest in their well-being. But a stepchild ultimately decides whether they’ll open their heart to another dad. Variables outside the stepdad’s control—like influence from the biological dad or unresolved grief from loss—can affect that decision.

When we show love and appreciation for their efforts, it goes a long way. They need us to acknowledge their feelings and recognize their heart wounds. In doing so, we help their deflated soul find gas for an empty tank and hope for another day.

2. Pray for him.

I know—we talk about praying a lot, don’t we? And when there’s big stuff going on, we’re more motivated to pray constantly, right (1 Thessalonians 5:17)? But sometimes, the daily grind’s the hardest. The rejection when he’s doing his part to build a bridge, but the teenager just isn’t interested. Or the inadequacy he feels when he can’t provide financially as he’d like to for his large family.

Prayer helps. Prayer for wisdom in his stepdad role and courage to keep trying amidst rejection, lack of respect, or unmet expectations. Prayer for confidence in the workplace when someone else gets the promotion he wanted and deserved. And prayer for strength to lead as the head of his household, always chasing after the Lord with a hunger for God’s Word.

3. Trust his heart toward your children.

Randy and I had a child together six years into our marriage. I easily and naturally trusted his heart for our son, Nathan. Even if I didn’t agree with every parenting decision he made, I knew he loved our son and didn’t question his actions.

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I didn’t take the same position with my girls in our early years of marriage. As their stepdad, I looked at Randy with a skeptical eye. If he showed an impatient attitude toward Jamie or Jodi, I questioned his love for them. If his words carried a sarcastic bent or less-than-ideal tone, I saw it as uncaring or indifferent.

One day, I contrasted the differences. After an act of disobedience, Randy disciplined our son. I never questioned his love or commitment toward Nathan because I trusted Randy’s heart. I knew he cared deeply and wanted only what was best for our son. Then I thought about my girls. My behavior was different. Although Randy’s heart was the same, I didn’t let myself trust that he loved them and wanted only what was best for them.

I asked God for the courage to let my guard down. Randy did love my girls, and I could trust his heart toward them. I began to change my behavior and then watched Randy’s confidence as a stepdad flourish. His relationship with his stepdaughters began to thrive. I realized my trust was exactly what he needed.

4. Affirm his strengths.

Opposites attract … and then they clash, right? That can certainly be the case in marriage.

It’s easier to recognize and affirm one another’s strengths when they’re similar to ours. But differences make life interesting! There’s value in understanding and complementing each other’s strengths in marriage, especially as a stepcouple.

The stepdad role naturally comes with insecurity. I’ve heard it compared to the feeling of being on a seesaw—you’re confident one moment, then deflated the next. Affirmations from a spouse can go a long way in combatting those insecurities.

Consider your husband’s strengths—particularly those related to his stepdad role. Perhaps it’s a steadfast spirit, a positive attitude, a peaceful demeanor, a sense of humor during tense moments, a drive toward godliness, patience with your kids, or an unusual zest for life.

Your words are powerful! Encouraging comments help combat the insecurities he carries as a stepdad. And positive affirmations from Scripture remind him of God’s strength. Here are a few to consider:

5. Offer grace … rinse and repeat.

Throughout God’s Word, we find grace in almost every book of the Bible—an indicator God considers it important. In Scripture, grace is defined as unmerited favor. In other words, it’s undeserved. The greatest example of grace is God’s free gift of salvation through Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9).

God gave me the last name of Grace in my second marriage—perhaps to remind me of its value in my stepfamily. I need grace daily. And so do others around me.

But we don’t walk in grace on our own accord. When the apostle Paul pleaded with the Lord to remove the thorn in his flesh, the Lord said to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). Paul needed God’s grace to transform his perspective about the thorn in his flesh. His human weakness was contrasted with God’s strength.

In the same way, our husbands need grace from us to transform their perspectives on hard days. They don’t always get it right. Unkind words are said. Feelings get hurt. And tense moments follow.

When we offer God’s grace, Christ’s power shows up. His sufficiency brings second chances and new tomorrows for relationships.

God’s grace is the light that adds sparkle to your marriage and harmony to your stepfamily.

Stepdads are a gift

Jacob and Jamie’s big day is quickly approaching. The logistics of flower arrangements, venue decisions, and invitation mailings cover the calendar. But one detail stands out from the rest: Will Jamie’s biological dad attend? It’s doubtful.

Thankfully, one detail doesn’t come with a question mark. Jamie’s stepdad will be there—loud and proud. There’ll be no hiding his tears as Randy walks Jamie down the aisle, a stepdad beaming with love, joy, and pride for a job well done as he gives her away in marriage.

Stepdads are a gift to be cherished. They don’t always get the attention and gratitude they deserve. But it’s never too late to show appreciation for all they do.

Encourage the stepdad in your home today!

Copyright © 2021 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

Gayla Grace serves on staff with FamilyLife Blended® and is passionate about equipping blended families as a writer and a speaker. She holds a master’s degree in Psychology and Counseling and is the author of Stepparenting With Grace: A Devotional for Blended Families and co-author of Quiet Moments for the Stepmom Soul. Gayla and her husband, Randy, have been married since 1995 in a “his, hers, and ours” family. She is the mom to three young adult children and stepmom to two.