116: Divorce Grief– Breaking Soul Ties
Do you have wounds from a previous relationship that you carried into your new family? We call these ghosts of marriage past. Unresolved residue also happens with our kids and affects our ability to form trust & intimacy with others. Ron Deal speaks with Moe & Paige Becnel about how to wrestle with our ghosts and lessen their power.
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It’s not uncommon to carry unresolved residue into our new family, but It can affect our ability to form trust & intimacy with others. Ron Deal speaks with Moe & Paige Becnel about how to wrestle with our ghosts of marriage past and lessen their power.
116: Divorce Grief– Breaking Soul Ties
Paige: After four years, we had promised each other we would not divorce and when that word started creeping in, we thought, "Okay, something has to happen."
Paige: "Because our kids know nothing but divorce, and we've got to show them something better."
Moe: And one day the Holy Spirit spoke to us and said, "The only thing your kids know about marriage is that it ends in divorce. You have to up your game and resolve every conflict that comes your way to show them what a healthy, strong, thriving marriage is all about you."
Paige: Before we could do that with the kids, we had to do it between each other. We basically had to do a little backing up and get healed, and then come back forward again.
Ron: Welcome to the FamilyLife Blended podcast. I'm Ron Deal. We help blended families, and those who love them, to pursue the relationships that matter most.
Now, throughout this year, we have been returning to themes in a book I wrote called The Smart Stepfamily. The original addition of that book came out just over 20 years ago, which is so hard for me to believe; revised and expanded edition came out just a few years ago. We've been just kind of jumping in and taking a look at some of the really important aspects of that book.
And today we're going to spend time talking with some really good friends of mine about a concept that we introduced in that book called The Ghost of Marriage Past. I can tell you through the years as I've done training, this is one of the topics that's intrigued so many people, so many people can relate to it, and I think maybe you can or maybe your spouse can. We'll get to that in just a minute.
If you haven't read The Smart Stepfamily, let me suggest you pick up a copy. Small groups by the way, will be interested to know there's a whole DVD series based upon that book. It also has the title, The Smart Stepfamily. It's available on DVD if you actually know what a DVD is, or a DVD player is, or if you use that sort of thing. We have it, but you can also stream it online. The show notes will let you know how you can get access to The Smart Stepfamily book and eight session video series.
One viewer said, "I'm a stepmom, 17 days into this saga, and I'm so glad I found you at the beginning of our adventure. I feel scared. Thank you so much for your advice. I'm going to watch these videos because I want to start this blended family out in the right way. God bless you all." Well, God bless you as well.
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Okay, Moe and Paige Becnel have been friends of mine for many, many years. They married in 1989, formed a blended family with five kids, and now they have eleven grandchildren. They founded Blending a Family Ministry in 2002. They've led singles ministry, divorce recovery classes, blended family workshops, and they have served as marriage pastors at their church for many years.
They authored two books: God Breathes on Blended Families—it's a terrific, terrific read; God Breathes on Blended Families—and they also wrote another book called Blending a Family 40 Day Devotional. They are really, really great people, lots of wisdom. So glad to have them on here. Moe and Paige, good to have you guys with me.
Paige: Thank you, Ron.
Moe: Thank you so much, Ron.
Paige: And we just found out that our youngest daughter is going to have her second child, so we have expanded our family to 12 grandkids.
Ron: You're not done. You're not done. Okay. [Laughter]
Paige: Oh, I hope so. [Laughter] It makes Christmas interesting.
Ron: Oh, I bet it does. Congratulations, by the way, on that.
Paige: Thank you.
Moe: Thank you, thank you.
Ron: Okay, so let me start with this; speaking of longevity, you guys have been married a long time and your family has flourished. I'm curious from your point of view, what has changed regarding stepfamilies or stepfamily ministry? Anything come to mind that you've noticed has changed through the years?
Paige: I believe a lot more commitment from not only Moe and I, but from the kids.
Ron: Okay, yes.
Paige: Like, this is it; this is our family. And it's not thought of as anything else. I think that since we could show our kids that marriage was important to us, marriage is important to them as well.
Moe: Absolutely, and we just spent Thanksgiving at our son's house in Florida. We now have five kids, of course. One was in California. He, they just moved to Florida, close to three other kids so we have four in Florida now, within two hours' drive of each other and we have one family up in Virginia. Well, we flew there for Thanksgiving, and we had 28 people in the house, in our son's house— [Laughter]
Ron: Oh my goodness.
Moe: —including former spouses.
Paige: Yes, it was so, it was so good. Yes, it was a great time.
Ron: Well, it's nice of them to live sort of near each other, at least a little bit.
Moe: It helps us a lot.
Paige: A little bit. It helps we can do one flight and see everybody.
Ron: [Laughter] Okay guys, in the introduction to your book, God Breathes on Blended Families, you say the following, you say "During the first few years there were isolated moments of closeness, but no sustained unity or harmony in your family. There were many times where you wondered if you would ever become a functioning family or as a fragmented unit and move on to becoming a family, but much to our joy," you say, "it did happen." You mind just commenting on that journey a little bit? If somebody's listening right now and they are in the first few months or first few years of their blended family, what encouragement would you offer them?
Moe: Well, while there's so many thoughts rambling through my head right now, but the first one that comes to mind is, if you haven't been through a divorce recovery program, we strongly suggest it, even if you are already remarried.
Our pastor knew we wrote a book, and he came into us and said, "I want you to write a program for our church for divorce recovery." Paige was working at the church, and I was still working for the utility, and she started writing and came out to be a 12-week class.
Moe: We saw so much positive healing come out of that, that we even got healed. [Laughter]
Paige: Yes, true.
Moe: When we first taught the first class of that program, we had come—we taught five of the class, six of the classes. We had guest speakers come in for the other six. And while we we're sitting there listening to the other guest speakers, we were, had been married for 10 years, and God and the Holy Spirit starts pricking our heart, "You haven't done, you haven't dealt with this. You still have this." And it was so eye-opening that we started recommending married couples to come to that class.
Moe: And we had one couple that did come, and they were, they had been married several years and they were still struggling, and that class set her free.
Ron: Wow. So what you're saying is a lot of people really have not done their grief work—
Ron: —divorce or being widowed and they carry that with them into the new family without even realizing it.
Paige: Absolutely. You think you're healed. We're adults, right, so we automatically assume, "Oh, we're fine."
Moe: And then when you start dating, all of the good feelings come back, you know? But those go away pretty quick. [Laughter]
Ron: Well, this is exactly where I want us to go in the conversation. We're going to dive into this in just a minute; come back to this Ghost of Marriage Past thing. But I've got to ask you about one other piece of your family story. I heard you once say the first four years of your family were the death spiral. Now— [Laughter]
Paige: Yes, they were.
Ron: You've got to encourage people. Tell them what you mean by that, and how did you come out of it?
Moe: We actually called it a living hell. [Laughter]
Ron: Living hell or a death spiral, one of the two.
Paige: The first four years were tough. We were two single parents. "Hey, I've been a successful single parent," and Moe's thinking "I've parented my kids well. I've been a successful single parent. I've gotten through this divorce thing."
"I've gotten through this divorce thing."
And then we come together and it's, you're butting heads. "Don't tell my kid what to do. I don't discipline like that."
"You can't tell me that I'm doing something wrong. I've always handled my bills like this."
"Well, we don't have the money for that."
"What do you mean we don't have the money for that? I could do it as a single parent. Why can't I do it now?"
Paige: All of these issues come up where you're just butting heads and at the time that we went through divorce, Ron, there was no such thing as divorce recovery, so we had nothing to go by. The advice I got from my pastors was "Don't date for one year."
Ron: And that was it.
Paige: And that was it. That's all I had to go by and so I honored that, but a year later I'm thinking "Is this my life? Am I supposed to be alone the rest of my life?" When you get married, you—honestly, how many people really go through divorce recovery? So when you get remarried, you're going in with all these little ghosts coming right with you.
Moe: Yes, and when she talked about her rules for her kids and my rules for my kids, that was so, such a big deal for us to give up. You know, how are we going to come together and come up with one set of rules for the whole household to make it fair?
Paige: That was hard.
Moe: We did that and of course some of the kids pushed back on it. But we said, "Well, this is the rules, and you know we can take away what one, whatever you want to hand me. [Laughter] Of course, the electronics wasn't that big back then, but anyway, one thing we learned is, I consider it this way. These are my strengths; here's Paige's strengths.
Ron: Okay. Right hand; left hand. Okay.
Moe: Yes, and when I started valuing her strengths, we quit arguing about each other's weaknesses and we started embracing each other's strengths. And that was a huge thing that we did. It really changed our relationship.
Ron: Okay, so I'm hearing negotiation. I'm hearing conversation between the couple, trying to figure out how you're going to parent together, finding one another's strengths, learning how to work towards those strengths and integrate those into your own. So, the first four years were a death spiral. You guys have also said that around year eight of your anniversary, the kids brought you some video and some tributes that they had put together, sort of representing how far your family had come. Is that right?
Paige: Before we answer that or get into that, I just want to say that after four years, we had promised each other we would not divorce and when that word started creeping in, we thought, "Okay, something has to happen."
Paige: "Because our kids know nothing but divorce, and we've got to show them something better."
Moe: And one day the Holy Spirit spoke to us and said, "The only thing your kids know about marriage is that it ends in divorce. You have to up your game and resolve every conflict that comes your way to show them what a healthy, strong, thriving marriage is all about you."
Paige: Before we could do that with the kids, we had to do it between each other. We basically had to do a little backing up and get healed, and then come back forward again and help our kids heal. So then on our eighth anniversary—
Moe: we are having a family time together and our kids come, our oldest daughter that was living with us and the second oldest had a friend that her dad had video equipment to produce a, not a cd—
Paige: —an eight-track tape.
Moe: —an eight-track tape. [Laughter]
Paige: Now we're really telling our age. [Laughter]
Moe: Which I wish we could show that when we'd have our classes, but it got overwritten because our kids used to record their favorite movies.
Ron: Oh, is that right? [Laughter]
Moe: And we don't know what happened to that video.
Paige: Oh, we were furious.
Moe: In that video they said they had actually snuck out photo albums and see the old video cameras, eight tracks and they snuck them out of our house; didn't even know it—went to, brought over there to her friend's house and they put this video together and so it had all kind of fun times together. We took vacations together; we had birthday parties; all of that was in the video. And then they—
Paige: It celebrated our family.
Moe: Yes, and it was really at the very end, they had some comments, and it was, those comments from them are in the book and it says some things like, "We've grown together through the years." "I don't know what I would do without my dad and my brothers and sisters," which was, they were cross mingling, and it was amazing. It was—my mouth was down to my chin wide open. I'm like, "What am I seeing?" I'm sitting on, we're sitting on the edge of our bed in our bedroom watching this video and I'm seeing, what are they telling me? And they were telling us that they feel like we are a family. And they were celebrating the family and that blew me away.
Paige: That was so cool.
Moe: Because we were still arguing. [Laughter]
Ron: Behind closed doors.
Paige: Not as much, but we were still had those little moments.
Moe: Yes. The devil doesn't leave you alone.
Ron: Oh no, I understand that. Absolutely, 37 years in and we are still arguing.
Ron: But what a good story. We're trying to be real here, not paint just this rosy picture for people that are listening. But it's true. You know there's some principles that, I don't know how many times we've said on this podcast, your marriage is the first and last motivator for the kids in your family to become family to one another. Like they are, will not be motivated towards familyness if they just see you miserable and fighting and wanting to get away from each other. They lose all motivation to want to move toward you or anybody else.
Moe: Sure; absolutely.
Ron: But the reverse of that is, as you said a second ago, we had to pull back. We had to do our work. We had to work on us and figure some things out, and then we were able to lead from a position of unity. And that ripples into creating a climate where it's more likely with time, the kids, sure enough, can, are now celebrating with you this family and what has happened and the journey that you're on. And man, that is so, so encouraging.
Okay, so let's pull back and let's dig into this ghost of marriage past idea.
Ron: This thing of what sort of hangs with you. If somebody's listening right now and they're just not familiar with the concept, let me just, let me share a couple of thoughts.
And then I'd love to just hear from you guys, Moe and Paige, just on reflections on your own journey or any of the other couples that you've coached and worked with through ministries through the years. Essentially the ghost of marriage past is that it's that residue of pain and hurt that sort of hangs onto your heart that you carry with you, even if you have gone through a divorce recovery ministry or something.
My observation is until you get back into a position where you're close to things that potentially could hurt you again, you don't really realize the residue is there and how thick the residue is; and so you may go through a divorce recovery and feel good about yourself. And then you start dating and then you fall in love and then you begin to realize, "Oh man, this is where I feel that. This is where it comes back." Or money issues, an argument like you guys had. Or an issue over parenting and I'm not trusting you to care for my kids that way, you know?
Ron: That reaps all of this hurt from the past. And what, what the ghost says is essentially insidious messages of, "Better not trust him." "Hold back a piece of your heart because if you give everything, they're just going to rip it out like the last person did." And it's that insidious little thing that says, "Be careful."
Now, this little mechanism, everybody probably listening right now can relate to it in one form or another depending upon anything you've ever been through, like if you had a near miss car accident, if you ever lost your kid in the mall for five minutes—I'll explain what a mall is someday [Laughter]—if you ever, you know, if you've ever had that thing, and then anytime you were to get back to that or even reflect on it, there's a part of you, your heart starts thumping again.
We just experienced massive tornadoes here in Little Rock, Arkansas where we live, and I've spent the last few days with my wife just kind of wandering through, trying to see if we can help people. And you know what we found ourselves talking about?—the death of our son. Because loss reminds you of loss.
Paige: It does.
Ron: The residue just stays.
Paige: It always comes back up. That residue is always there.
Ron: It stays with us. Okay, so that's the basic idea of what we're talking about today and what we're saying is unpacking that is a journey. It's not a one-time thing. It's not a quick little, you know, read a book and you're over it or anything. It's just, it's sort of how do we manage those inner fears and keep them from keeping us from loving again? Because at the end of the day, that's what it does, so what are your thoughts about that?
Paige: I think the first thing that comes to my mind goes back to the children. It's because when we go through a trauma, we are the parents and you've probably had Linda Jacobs.
Ron: Yes, yes.
Paige: And she may or may not have talked about this, but the older the person, the quicker they will get back into the routine of things because as an adult everyone going through these horrific tornadoes are thinking, "Okay, what can I do for my family? We've got to find a place to live. We've got to find clothes. I've got to find a meal. We need a car. I've got to get the kids back in some kind of routine," so we don't have time to grieve. We just go forward. And that's what parents do, is they, as adults, we just move forward. Because that's what we're told to do.
Ron: Especially if we're worried about our kids, right? You're right. We lock it away and we do for them.
Paige: Now that ghost comes in and tells your kids will bounce back, and our first—when I hear people say that my first question is, well, the only person I heard bounce back in my life is the Yeti on Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer [Laughter] and Yukon Cornelius says, "Oh, didn't you know, bumbles bounce."
Paige: Well, kids are not bumbles and neither are adults. And we kind of push the kids aside and say, "Oh, they just go with the flow," and they don't. They do not bounce. Their little hearts don't bounce. A lot of times they close their hearts off to us because they see us hurting. Kids know us better than anybody else, especially our kids. They see us hurting, really. They hear us crying ourselves to sleep at night or sitting at a table and worrying how we're going to make ends meet this month, or hearing the conversation between their parent and ourselves, and it's not always nice.
We have to—kids are hearing that and they're not going to bounce back, and we kind of push that under the rug and it becomes a ghost that comes right back up in discipline, in how they react at school. "Moe, my son had a, was perfect As, and now he's Ds, what happened?" Well, let's talk about he didn't bounce back. He's—who's packing the suitcase?
In fact, I talked to a single mom and she—her whole point was, why is my son forgetting his jacket when he goes to school, or forgetting his gym shorts or forgetting his homework? And I said, "Well, tell me your schedule. What's going on here?" And she said, "Well, we have 50-50 custody, which by the way, I think stinks." And she said, "There was no such thing when I went through my divorce; there was no such thing."
Ron: No, neither me.
Paige: There was no such thing as 50-50. And it hurt both; it hurt everybody when you don't have that 50-50. But what I didn't like about it is that they took that 50-50, which you would think is week here and week there and the child is packing their suitcases. They were taking it every other day.
Ron: Oh my.
Paige: So this, yes.
Paige: This poor child didn't—I mean, he's eight years old, he can't remember to brush his teeth much less "Now, where am I sleeping tonight? Whose house am I going to? Do I need my jacket? Did I pack my homework?" And so I asked mom, I said, "This is what I suggest you do. I suggest you and your former spouse decide on either one house between you two that you can rent out, or an apartment or a condo, and that's where he gets to live. That's his and you two, go day by day and spend the night. You still have your 50-50. And what do you think her response was?
Ron: No way. I'm not doing that.
Paige: No way. I can't do that. That's so much stress. And I said, "Okay, you're in your mid-thirties and it's too much stress for you. What is that on an eight-year-old? And she was speechless. I said, "The best thing I can tell you is if that's not going to work for you, getting him his own space that he never has to move, then at least break this every other day up into week by week. And I'm not your lawyer. You've got to go to your lawyer and get all that straightened out, but you're killing your kid."
Ron: So what you're saying is the residue from the past hangs on even for kids—
Paige: Yes, even for kids.
Ron: —and so we've got to be aware of that and sensitive and try to step in.
I'm also thinking Moe, there's a parent's side of this.
Paige: Oh yes.
Ron: You're feeling some guilt about the residue and the hurt that you're seeing—
Moe: Oh, absolutely.
Ron: —in your children, and how did guilt impact you? How did it affect other people?
Moe: Oh, man. I was driving. I was a customer service rep from a company, so I was driving probably 20,000 miles a, a month for them. And then my former wife and two kids moved to Mississippi. I was just—I felt so bad that my kids are stuck in the back seat, one in the front seat. They took turns. One would sit in the front, one would sit in the back, and then on the way back to their moms, I'd switch them, but they spent so many hours on that interstate. It was just unbelievable, but that's really something that—
Ron: Does that guilt kind of ripple out into moments like when you and Paige were trying to make parenting decisions, or you know you're trying to make every moment with your kids special? I mean, did guilt sort of float up to the surface for you at the point?
Moe: It did, definitely. I would make sure I try to get them every chance I got. If she wanted to go on a vacation with her husband, I would say "Sure, I'll take them." We'll talk about that later because I messed up one day, [Laughter] but turned out that I would get them every chance I got and on weekends and every time there was a youth camp, they were in church, or they were at youth camp. As much as I tried to influence them for God and following God, the youth pastor was a real milestone in our life.
Moe: Yes, strongly suggest that if you are having trouble with a troubled child, talk to—set up your team. Find a teacher that he likes; find a youth pastor that he likes; maybe the lead pastor. Just have him—let them have opportunities to share their heart with them. Because they know that we're hurting and so they don't really want to share their heart with us.
Moe: And so, they just—and the other thing about divorce is that the parents are hurting and so they're more focused on their pain. They're, a lot of times they're not obvious of what their kids are going through, similar to the story that Paige just shared.
Paige: That is so true.
Moe: It's really tough.
Ron: Yes, having a team around you just helps you, helps support you, and maybe fill some of those gaps in your child's life.
Moe: Exactly. But while we're talking about guilt, let me just share the scripture that I found that just brought a relief. It's in Hebrews 10:19-23. I'm not going to read the whole thing. It says, "since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our heart sprinkled," He not only washes our sins away but He, it says "to cleanse us from a guilty conscious." And that just hit me in the head and just stuck with me the rest of my life. And he says, "and having our bodies washed with pure water."
Ron: Guys, I'm so glad we started by reminding everybody the kids are wrestling with some ghosts too, and watching their ghost gives parents some guilt, which adds to whatever ghost that you have, and certainly as a contributor there. Let's drill down a little bit more into how this ghost thing impacts marriage specifically, okay.
For example, one of the things you've already said that I think is real insightful is that when you feel guilty over what's going on with your kids, it makes it hard for you to lean in and trust your spouse. I had a guy say one time, "You know my kids are everything and I know they're not going anywhere. Life has already taught me I can't trust my wife. At least that was the first marriage experience."
There you can hear the ghost saying, "You can trust kids. They will be here for you through thick and thin. Yes, they're hurting, you're hurting, but you're family. Nobody's going anywhere. But wives, you're it. It's a question mark. And so that seed of doubt from the ghost has got to make a difference in how he views his wife, how he gives to how he loves, how he serves, how he sacrifices. It'll make him rethink so many things.
Paige: Yes. My first thought is personal contracts that we make with ourselves. "I will never trust her completely," so you've got a personal contract that needs to be broken. You have, "I will never give her a dime to spend. If she wants to spend money, she has to make her own money." "I will never tell her my deepest secrets." Those to me are huge when we make those personal contracts with ourselves. And if you think about it, I was actually praying about this last night and I thought, "Wow, a contract takes two people to make it a contract, so you're making a contract with yourself and that ghost of that past marriage."
Ron: Oh wow. That's insightful.
Paige: You've now got a contract and many contracts you can't break but this one you can. And you can buy what Moe was talking about, letting God come in with the blood of the Lamb that set us free in going back to God and saying, "What have I done here? I've created my own monster. And the monster is me," so what do I need to do here to break this? And really just, I would suggest a divorce recovery; start there. Because sometimes we can't nail it until we hear other people talk about it and then go, "Ah, there it is."
Ron: In other words, there's a grieving aspect to this.
Ron: And it's not just saying, "Yes, they're gone, it's over." No, there's a deep mourning—
Ron: —a hashing out, a deep sadness that comes up over and over, and the thoughts that accompany that. Those are the things that really have to be grieved and then set aside, sort of like let go of, so you make decisions about moving forward.
Moe: When we wrote that divorce recovery program, one of the classes was about soul ties. When Paige said she was a pastor at the church, she was a singles pastor. We had a huge singles ministry, which all, which basically turned into single again ministry.
Moe: We saw so many people come through this divorce recovery through that singles group and that's one reason our pastor wanted us to write it because we were sending newcomers to the church who were single again. We were sending them to divorce recovery at another church. He said, "We need one here," so we started teaching that and divorce recovery, one of the classes was all about breaking soul ties.
Moe: I remember this one guy when he really got what we were talking about because soul ties happen. I've even spoken about this at the singles ministry meetings that soul ties cause us to make—well, I'm getting backwards here. Every time we pray for a single guy meeting a girl, I'm going to—"What can I pray with you for?" and they'll tell him, and then he'll pray for her. And I said—one day he comes to me, "I've been praying off all kind of women," and I said, "Well, let me just warn you, every time you pray with someone, you're creating a soul tie. And when you're—
Ron: You're sharing something spiritual.
Paige: You're sharing something deep and spiritual, that's right.
Moe: Yes, and intimate, yes. Every time if you go and sleep with somebody, you're creating another soul tie; and if those two people are different, then you're really creating soul ties. The soul ties need to be broken.
And so, we're talking about this in the class and this guy said, "Man, every time I opened my cabinet in the morning for coffee to get a coffee cup, my wife's—my former wife, we took this really nice vacation, and she had a favorite cup, for coffee cup"—and he said, "I'd usually take that out and have a drink in it." And he went, he said, "I've got to do something with that because every time I open that cabinet, I get a sinking feeling in my spirit."
Moe: And I said, "That's a really good indication that something there needs to be broken. It doesn't mean that you can't co-parent with that person, but that soul tie is causing you grief and pain, and that has to be get gotten rid of." So the next class, he brought the cup with a kitchen towel and a hammer.
Paige: And he wrapped the cup.
Moe: In the class he broke the cup.
Paige: Yes, wrapped it in a towel—
Moe: It was powerful.
Paige: —and he said—
Ron: What a metaphor.
Paige: —"I just felt like something was broken off of me," and it's a ghost that just keeps whispering to you "You weren't good enough. She found somebody better."
Moe: It can be more than just a cup and a cabinet; it could be photo albums that you have. I actually went through my photo albums, and I didn't throw the pictures away, but I gave them to my kids. I said, "You will cherish these; here."
Ron: Wow. This is so good. I'm sitting here connecting some dots. One of the things we talk about to do good co-parenting, you've got to let go of the personal relationship you had as husband and wife. And you've got to just focus on the parental relationship you have as partners in raising a child. This is one of those lingering personal things that can hang on for somebody and it keeps you making contracts with him as Paige said, and that's so ironic. You know, John—Jesus in John 10 said, "I know my sheep and my sheep know my voice."
Ron: Whose voice are we listening to? You know at some point we've got to stop and reflect and go, "You know what? I'm still hanging on to that old voice that tells me who I am, that tells me I'm not worth anything, that tells me, whatever that voice was that came from that dissolved relationship." It's time to stop listening to that voice; start listening to the Master's voice even more. Let Him tell you who you are. Let Him tell you what the present is. Not living in the past, but—not stuck in the past, I should say, but living now in the present and moving forward. What a contrast to actively let go of the old, the old stuff, the old junk and say, "What do I do now?"
Paige: Yes, it's huge.
Moe: Let me just add one more thing to that is when Paige and I were beginning, and I'm co-parenting with my former spouse and she would usually call me at work and say, "Look, I'd like to switch kids, switch the weekend. I want to be off this weekend, and can you be off, can you take them that weekend?" And one time I said, "Yes, I'll do that," and I had not talked to Paige. And I went to the—I always tried to make Paige my priority, but I really messed up that day and I called—
Paige: We had a getaway weekend planned.
Ron: Oh wow.
Paige: Oh yes.
Moe: It was a weekend out of town.
Ron: It came at high cost there. [Laughter]
Moe: I never made that mistake again.
Ron: I noted when you said, "I did that one time,"—
Paige: —one time.
Ron: —emphasis on one.
Paige: Again, it's that ghost that wants to keep pulling you to the other voice rather than saying, "No, I have a very viable voice, very healthy voice, and that talks to me from my husband's heart. I need to trust that and not what I'm getting from the back end of my relationship."
Paige: I'm co-parenting, and I think many times people hold on to that last relationship.
Moe: —a little too long sometimes.
Paige: I know people that say, "That was the best husband I ever had." In fact, in divorce recovery, we had people that would say, "You know, we could have—my former spouse and I could have made it, but we didn't wait long enough. We should have pushed through more."
Ron: Wow, wow.
Paige: Or those that said—now this is an interesting thought—"Well, if I can't have her, I don't want anybody to have her."
Ron: Which means "I'm still holding onto her."
Ron: "I'm not going to let her go."
Moe: And stalking her.
Paige: Yes, and still emailing her every day, or vice versa. You know, the woman could be emailing the guy every day.
Ron: Yes. Okay, so if somebody's listening right now and they just recognize themselves. They just went, "Oh my goodness, that's me. I'm holding on, holding on." You got any words of wisdom for what they should do?
Moe: Well, I just want to clarify for the kid, for the children, co-parenting is important, and that they see that I'm working with their mom.
Ron: But that's the parental—
Moe: That's the parental, absolutely.
Ron: —not the personal romantic relationship, yes.
Moe: We've told people in the past that you have to—if I am causing Paige fear or--what's the word I'm looking for?—where—
Moe: —distrust. If she's not trusting me because of something that I'm doing, one thing I did with her calling me at the office for that, I said, "Look"—
Paige: —his former spouse.
Moe: I actually said, "I will call you back when I get home," and I hung up. I kind of broke her from calling me at the office. I wanted all our conversations to be in the hearing of Paige.
Paige: This may sound very—
Moe: Because this relationship was number one, is number one now.
Paige: It may sound very impersonal to people that have been married and are no longer married, is that you have to change the relationship, especially if there's children involved. Usually if there's no children involved, they can move forward a little bit easier. But you almost have to make this relationship with your former spouse a business relationship. Treat it as a business. Yes, we're going to have things we have to talk about and things we're going to have to work through. And yes, we're going to have to show up at birthday parties and graduations—
Moe: —sporting events.
Paige: —births of grandchildren, but let's make it a business contract and not so much an intimate, relational contract.
Ron: Yes. Guys, there's one other aspect of The Ghost of Marriage Past I want to talk about. By the way, in the book, I'll just tell our listener, I'll walk through a number of things that ghosts say, the little whispers, that different ghosts seem to have on people.
Some if you've been divorced; some if you've been widowed. It kind of varies depending on your situation. But I think one of the ones that's most insidious for people is the whisper of, "Watch your back. You got hurt last time," and hurt could have been your spouse died, right? I mean, just now they're gone.
Paige: Yes; well, that's a hard one, yes.
Ron: It could have been, you know your spouse left you; the whole thing crumbled. You fought for the marriage, but it just didn't happen. Obviously, the other person didn't want you the way you wanted them to want you, and so you've learned that sometimes the best of intentions doesn't work out, so watch your back.
I think that just sort of eats away at trust—
Paige: It does.
Ron: —in so many circumstances. Like you're looking at your spouse and if you're not careful, here's what that whisper does. You start seeing things that may or may not be there. You know, they spend an extra 50 bucks on something and forgot to mention it or tell you about it and you're like, "Oh, okay. I can't trust you with money or my heart."
You know, "You used to ask me all the time, ‘How was your day?' You don't ask me that anymore. I think that's because you're fading away from me." "You seem to be more invested in whatever, kids, money, your bass boat, anything but me and so I can't trust you." Watch your back. All of a sudden you start leaning away from the person and not trusting them. Have you seen that? Can you guys—did you experience that in your marriage?
Paige: I didn't experience it in the way that you're saying. I went through a very abusive marriage, and so getting out of that, I had more, not really grieving, but how do I heal all of these wounds that I have? I don't want to pick the scabs off so how do I let them heal? And in that case, the best advice I can give is to talk to a counselor, talk to someone that you can trust. Don't try to do that on your own because it won't work.
As far as what you're saying about "Watch your back," if you as the new spouse says, "You know, they're kind of holding me back a little bit," what we always suggest is date them, woo their heart back. Just because you're married doesn't mean you can't go on a date.
And that was one of the things we brought into our marriage was—and we have some funny stories about leaving the kids on that one [Laughter]—but go on a date night with your spouse and woo them back, meet them at the door with flowers. Don't just say, "Oh, we're going on a date night; get dressed." Do the whole thing. Like, "Hey, this is our first date as a married couple. Let's have fun." Meet them at the door, bring them to the car, sit them in the car if it's the woman.
If it's the man, call him on the phone and just say, "Hey, I'd love to take you out tonight to a really special place."
Ron: Show them their value.
Paige: And show them their value. If it's the person that is feeling that "Watch my back. Watch my back," just to those that are listening, I would say check your heart to see what's not healed. Let's go back to what's not really healed. And it's easy to say, and you said it in your book, Ron, it's easy to say they're not—I'm not comparing them to my former spouse. But in reality, somewhere down deep inside, you are. And you have to come to that realization and it's hard.
Or they'll say, your spouse will say, "I'm not your former spouse," and you mentioned that too, in your book, "I'm not your former spouse."
The one thing that I think helped Moe and I when we would get into little arguments about one of us feeling insecure, the other one would say, "I am not your enemy. I am on your side, and so whatever you're feeling, if it came from me, please explain that to me. But if it didn't come from me, let's look into this together." Never let the other person feel like they're on their own going through a healing.
Ron: That's so good.
Paige: Let them know "I've got your back. I do have your back. And when you think I don't, come talk to me, come tell me because I'm human. I just may have gotten too busy in my stuff, and I may have not recognized you needed me more right now, so talk to me."
Ron: That's good. That's good. I love the idea of, you know, naming the ghost together, putting words on, "What is this ghost about? What is—what do you feel?
Ron: What does it make you want to do?" and sharing that together. You know one of the things Nan and I are still learning how to do is how to love the other person in their pain and not take responsibility for their pain.
Paige: Yes, yes.
Ron: You know Nan can't love me well enough that all of my pain goes away. Some of it has to do with her; some of it has to do with me; most of it has to do with me in my past. It's like she can love me in it. She can come alongside me. She can be an asset as I'm trying to wrestle with those pieces of me. And that's part of how you partner together as husband and wife. But at the end of the day, I've got to own my stuff and so to do that in cooperation with your spouse—
Paige: —can't put it on them; just help me.
Ron: There you go.
Paige: It's like "SOS, I need help." What does that look like? For some, for some people, it's, you know, "Hey, I need five minutes. Let me just think for five minutes," or "Let me process," or "I'm going to go get my nails done and get a back massage."
Ron: Yes, nice.
Paige: And that's just going to kind of, ooh, bring it all down.
Ron: And while you are doing that, be praying.
Paige: Be praying, absolutely.
Ron: What we said earlier about knowing the Shepherd's voice. I mean, seriously, it may sound a little weird to somebody listening, going, "Well, you want me to pray about my fear and my concern and my lack of trust in my marriage?" Absolutely. Because knowing what that is, unraveling that part of you and connecting it to the past and understanding it in such a way that you can say, "Lord, I'm submitting this to you. You've got to help me with this," I mean, that's where change is going to grow. It's not going to necessarily happen—I hope it happens like a miracle, but it probably won't.
And yet it's that ongoing conversation, "Father, help me see who I need to be and who I need to, the voice I need to turn down and not listen to anymore."
Paige: We put assumptions on each other a lot without asking questions, without saying what's going on. And if we're going through a period where we feel disconnected a little bit, whoever feels the disconnect is the one that will say, "I'm just feeling disconnected from you. What's going on? Is it me? Am I doing something?" And I often find out it's not me, or Moe finds out it's not him, so then we do a date night. "Let's go out to dinner tonight. Let's go walk the mall."
Ron: [Laughter] Whatever that is.
Paige: Whatever that is, and "Let's just get away from the house. Let's get away from the technology." And if you look at too much technology, it can give you too many ideas.
Ron: Oh yes.
Paige: Way too many.
Ron: What you're saying is regroup—
Ron: —and reach for each other once again.
Paige: Yes. One of my favorite scriptures comes out of Luke 21 and Jesus is talking to the disciples. Everyone I think knows that scripture about, He says, "I know the hairs on your head." And we go, "Ah, that's so comforting. He knows every hair," even the gray ones that are popping out. Thank you, God. [Laughter] You know He knows all of those.
But right after that, there's this one line, scripture. It's verse 19, Luke 21:19. And He says—it's Jesus talking to us, saying, "By your patience you will possess your soul." And that often reminds me when I am feeling stress coming up or disconnect from Moe, or maybe even a disconnect from my kids, or feeling all alone in this world, or I'm hearing things come up that "You will never get rid of me. I'm always right here," this little verse will come up and say, "But by my patience, I will possess my soul." And my soul is where my feelings are, and I refuse to pick up fear. I refuse to pick up this lie. I refuse to pick up whatever's going on by the patience I have, and that patience comes from God.
Ron: Wow. Moe and Paige, thank you so much for being with me today. I really appreciate it.
Paige: You're welcome.
Moe: Thank you.
Ron: To you the listener, if you want to know more about their work, their ministry, their book, God Breathes on Blended Families, look in the show notes. If you have a question or a comment or an idea for a future episode, you can also contact us there. We'd love to hear from you.
Just a quick reminder that FamilyLife Blended is a donor supported ministry. This podcast is donor supported. You can make a tax-deductible donation to FamilyLife in honor of, or specifically for FamilyLife Blended. We'd love to have you do that. That'll be helpful for us. Helps us reach more people.
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A couple things I want to encourage you to get on your calendar. Our next Summit on Stepfamily Ministry is virtual this year, which means no travel. You can stay in the comfort of your own home. Thursday, October 12th is our next Summit on Stepfamily Ministry. You or a group of leaders from your church can sit comfortably at home and be part of this year's training. It is about ministry in a local church. We want to equip you to share this ministry with those around you, so get that on your calendar and please plan to join us. Again, the show notes will tell you how you can get more connected to that.
Okay, join us again next time when we're going to be talking about another subject related to blended family living, and look forward to having you with us.
I'm Ron Deal, thanks for listening.
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