FamilyLife Blended® Podcast

127: Getting Remarried?

with Jim and Shirley Mozena | December 18, 2023
Play Pause

Getting remarried in later life after the death of a spouse or divorce? How do you know if you’re ready? Should you consider the feelings of your adult children? Ron Deal talks with Jim & Shirley Mozena about the risks, as well as rewards, of a later-life remarriage and what to consider as you date.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

Getting remarried in later life after the death of a spouse or divorce? How do you know if you’re ready? Ron Deal talks with Jim & Shirley Mozena about the risks, as well as rewards, of a later-life remarriage and what to consider as you date.

MP3 Download Transcript

127: Getting Remarried?

With Jim and Shirley Mozena
December 18, 2023
| Download Transcript PDF

Shirley: I really enjoy being married. After my second husband passed away, very suddenly, of a brain aneurysm, I was hurting so badly, and I knew that I was happy when he was there, so therefore, maybe I should find somebody to share my life with again, and that sadness would leave. Well, it was the wrong time to pursue that. You have to get through your grief first and then it's okay. And I have learned, really, to be content by myself or with a spouse.

Ron: Welcome to the FamilyLife Blended podcast. I'm Ron Deal. We help blended families and those who love them pursue the relationships that matter most. And to that end Let me remind you that the most watched video curriculum for blended family couples called The Smart Stepfamily is free to view online. Grab a participant's guide and you're off and running. You can watch by yourself or with a group of couples—The Smart Stepfamily. Check the show notes out. It'll tell you how you can get connected to that resource for free.

Some of you are in later life and you're pursuing another person. You're in love and you're wondering about marriage or just living together or whether that's a good idea and how your kids are going to respond to this whole thing. Well, stay tuned. This is the topic that we're going to be talking about today on this edition of FamilyLife Blended.

Now, if that doesn't describe your situation, please don't skip to the next podcast just yet. You'll learn some principles in our conversation that do apply to younger stepfamilies as well. Or you might be listening for a friend that you know who is dating or considering marriage. Listen and then share this episode with them.

Hey, I've got a Christmas encouragement for everyone that comes at the end of the episode today, so stay with me for that. And before I forget, if you'd like to say thank you to FamilyLife Blended with a year-end, tax-deductible donation, we have an incredible opportunity for you. FamilyLife® has a matching gift challenge until December 31st, 2023. Every dollar you give is doubled. This is so important to our ministry and keeping FamilyLife Blended, the leading blended family resource ministry in the world, keeping us on our feet, going and expanding. And you can help us by going to the show notes and making a donation. So let me just say thank you back to you in advance for that.

You know, we love listening to our listeners when you write in and tell us what you're thinking; we love that. One woman recently wrote to us and said, “Working with FamilyLife Blended literally changed the trajectory of our stepfamily. It's so important to know that you're not alone on this journey. Ron and team, thanks so much for the work that you do to create this podcast resource.” Well, I want to say thank you for taking the time to, to share that thought with us. And we're glad that it is blessing your life.

And by the way, for all our listeners, please do us a favor, share this podcast on social media or directly to a friend that you care about. Who knows, you might benefit their life the way this woman was touched and blessed by the ministry as well. Join us at FamilyLife and go on mission to change the world or maybe just someone in your corner of the world.

Well, Jim and Shirley Mozena are the authors of Second Chance at Love: Navigating the Path to Remarriage. Shirley is a speaker for Stonecroft Ministries, and she's written three books. Jim was owner and president of Mozena Consulting Group. He taught university business classes and authored four books on improving organizational performance. They absolutely love their blended family of eight children, seventeen grandchildren, and three great grandchildren. Thank you, guys, for joining me today on this podcast. I appreciate it very much. I just want to say Merry Christmas to you.

Jim: Yes, Merry Christmas to you.

Shirley: Merry Christmas to you.

Ron: Hey, let's start there. What have you guys learned in your family journey? What have you learned about navigating the holidays with a big, blended family?

Shirley: We have a large family as you addressed the number of children that we have and grandchildren. We found it's better to just take one side of the family and have a gathering and then take the other side. So that means Christmas time is lots of days of having dinners or get togethers.

Jim: Yes, and I remember back from one of your past broadcasts where you talked about grandparenting and you talked about inclusion, trying to include everyone, which we did at first. I found that every situation is a little bit different and so what we found out, we tried it at first and there just seems since there was some bitterness in my first marriage. I was married for about 10 years and got divorced, and then I was married for 30 years when my wife second wife passed away, and she's number three and third’s the charm. [Laughter]

But what we found out, that it sort of was really uncomfortable for everybody, so for in our situation, we decided to start having separate Christmases and everything. And that seemed to work out really well with the different families and whatever. So, you know, that worked out for us.

Ron: Jim, that is, that is a good wisdom, and I appreciate you sharing that with our listeners. One of the things we do teach around here is have a plan but be flexible.
And what I'm hearing from you is that you tried the family gathering thing and you figured out that wasn't going to work for you guys. That's a discernment that I think all blended family couples need.

Jim: Yes.

Shirley: We did find at Thanksgiving that it was okay to blend. I don't I don't know why that is, but we have had 24 people at our table for Thanksgiving. [Laughter]

Jim: Yes, right. We have, right, phew, but thing is you're right, but she's such a good cook and everything, that sort of draws people. [Laughter] But that does work. That is interesting, that was good—Thanksgiving worked, but Christmas holidays we did differently, so you're right. Every situation seems to be different.

Ron: Yes, that's good. Well, you guys seem to be high on second chance relationships, if I can say it that way since that's the title of your book. So let me ask you a question that I hear from our listeners and people at my speaking events. Why should a couple who is later in life pursue a second chance at love. I mean, you know, when people get candid with me, they say, “Man, why not just coast through life or find someone you can live with without a permanent commitment and just don't even bother getting married?” I think what they're saying is, “Is it worth the risk?” What would you guys say to that?

Shirley: Well, I think it's worth the risk, but some people may not think it is worth the risk. I really enjoy being married. I enjoy the companionship. I like cooking meals and sitting across the dining table and hearing how delicious it is. I like sharing evenings, but you need to do it at the right time.

After my second husband passed away, very suddenly, of a brain aneurysm, I was hurting so badly, and I knew that I was happy when he was there, so therefore, maybe I should find somebody to share my life with again, and that sadness would leave. Well, it was the wrong time to pursue that. You have to get through your grief first and then it's okay. And I have learned, really, to be content by myself or with a spouse. I'm very happy now. I hold these days together lightly in my hands because I know it could change very quickly. But I can trust God to take care of me.

Jim: Absolutely. Hey, why don't you tell them a story about Jane, what Jane said to your friend.

Shirley: Right. I have a very dear friend. We've known each other since junior high school and she and I were widows together. Her husband passed away of a brain cancer. It's interesting that she and I were engaged both at the same time and were married within a week of each other.

But at their fourth year, her second husband had stomach cancer and they lived in the same house that she lived in with her first husband. He actually died in that same bedroom that her first husband died in. I asked her before he died, I asked her, “Are you glad that you took this step, and you married Chuck?” And she said, “Definitely. It's worth the pain. I don't like where I am right now, but it's worth the pain.”

Jim: Yes.

Ron: You know I'm really keying in on that word you used a minute ago: content. When people are not content with their current circumstance, whatever that is, and they're not in a trusting posture with God, don't you think they get vulnerable to making decisions that are not very wise?—maybe marrying too quickly or overlooking some things about this person that they, you know, kind of are so romantic about them that they overlook some obvious things they need to be a little concerned about?

Jim: Yes

Ron: So contentment seems to be that thing that says, “I don't have to do this. I don't have to get married. I don't have to stay single. I don't, but I'm content where I am.”

Shirley: Yes, absolutely.

Jim: One thing that we learned I went through a similar situation after my second wife passed away ten years ago of pulmonary fibrosis. I thought that since I sold my business and took care of her for a year that we spent a lot of time together, so I thought I worked through some grief. But I really hadn't. I got into a relationship too soon and because I enjoy being married. Some people have a desire, God has a desire for people to get together and some people don't.

In our grief share program that we've done over the years, many, many people ask us to sort of “Should I get remarried or not?” And it's pretty well what we've found, God has a different plan for each one of us. You’ve got to be content first and then you can make a decision of if you need to seek another spouse or not.

Shirley: Yes.

Ron: Yes, so guys, this is fantastic stuff because the next question I had planned for you is, “What are some good dating practices?” and we're already there. You know, I'm hearing be content. I'm hearing, do your grief work. I'm also, I want to press into that just for a minute because I think you made another great observation, Jim, at least in your experience. You dated too soon. You realized you had more grief work, if you will, to do. Here's one of the things I've noticed. You know, when people say, “Well, have you grieved enough to be ready to date again?”

Well, the answer is, everybody should say, “I don't know,” because you think you have until you move into a new relationship that requires of you, requires you to sacrifice, requires of you to think about the future and make—and begin to alter your life on behalf of wrapping it around this new person. Then and only then will you realize whether you have more grieving to do. The more you move towards somebody, the more you have to think about separating from the past attachments that you've had in life. It's sort of like life is going to help you grieve. The question is, are you open to that when it shows up?

Jim: Yes. Now, one of the things we have found out that we mentioned in the book is that people when they meet a new relationship, many times get infatuated, and we call them the honeymoon drugs. You get a lot of endorphins and whatever, and you feel great.

What we found is that you got to be real careful because when you're infatuated, and those drugs are flowing through your head, you feel great, and you start only seeing what you want to see and all the good stuff and the realities of the complexity of blending a family and all that is something that you've really got to be cautious of. That's why we talk a lot about red flags, and also, even ask your friends about, do they see any red flags? Which for me was the case, when I was in that relationship, my friend said, “Oh, Jim, you should be careful. You know, even though she's a good Christian lady, you got to be, you know, you might be going a little too fast.” I said, “Oh, I'll make it work out.” Well, not necessarily.

Thank God we, that didn't work out and we had a counselor that said, “No, that's not the right time.” It worked out for us, and so we broke off and opened us to what God wanted. It was right here.

Shirley: Yes. Well, and I learned too that it isn't just exactly the time, like, for example, in my first marriage, after my husband of 40 years died, I met somebody. It was about two years and so I thought, “Okay, it's probably enough time,” and so I did, and it worked out. It was wonderful. We met and we both clicked, and it was a very good second marriage.

So, after he died, suddenly, I wanted that same thing back. I was desperate, really. And two years passed, and I thought I worked through my grief and started dating. And really, because of how I allowed myself to get into this relationship, that didn't work out eventually. The two years was not a good monitor for me. It wasn't that. I just wasn't over it yet. I hadn't worked through my grief.

Ron: You know, I feel the need to press into something here that you guys are bringing up I think is so important. My wife and I do a lot of speaking on grief. Our grief story is different than yours. We lost one of our children. And we teach and talk that grief is a journey, not a destination. You never get to the end and now you're done. It is not something to be conquered.

Our Western culture says, you know, smother that thing and get past it. Have you—you know, we ask questions to people, “Have you found closure yet?” Well, what in the world does that mean? You know, like, is it gone? No, it's not gone. But one of the things I find with people who have experienced death or divorce is that when we talk about grief with them, we talk about it as if it is a destination. “Okay, you're done grieving. Now it's time to enter a new marriage.” Well, wait a minute. Here's the thing, folks. Grief comes with you into the new marriage.

Jim: Yes.

Shirley: Yes.

Ron: There's not, there's got to be days where you're reflecting upon a previous relationship or a great memory of a time and a season. You have children, you think about your children and who their biological parents were and what they mean to those children. Like, this is the ever-present reality, even as you love one another. So the idea that you've somehow finished that and can turn a corner into something new is just a setup for, I think, discouragement and feeling odd, perhaps about carrying those prior people with you into this new relationship.

Jim: And because the reality is we talk about our spouses. Shirley stands on the shoulders of her past spouses and it made her who she is, and I love that about her. But one of the things about grief—what we've found, too, with dealing with grieving people over the last ten years—is that at first, we're overwhelmed with emotions, and part of our brain every time we think of it, we cry, we're overwhelmed with it.

What happens is we tell our stories over and over again. In Grief Share, we talk about the idea, you got to tell your story a hundred times to save people. And as we do that, it seems to be that our feelings move from our emotional side of our brain over to the rational side, where the memories become precious memories. They're never forgotten. They're always there and they'll come with us in the second marriage, and they come to the point where they can be shared too. The spouse, the new spouse has to honor that.

And that's one thing why, when you're marrying again, one of the things that's helpful when you marry another widow or widower because they understand that and so—which is different than divorce, which is a little different dynamic but that precious—you eventually do get to the point where you're not overwhelmed with tearing, you're not stuck in that grief but they become those precious memories. I lost my daughter a year and a half before my wife passed away and the precious memories of Kara will always be there. It's just that they become precious memories and they're not overwhelming as they were at first.

Ron: Oh, my brother, first of all, I'm sorry for that great loss in your life because I know how that lingers and how we carry all that with us. And so, part of marrying later in life is embracing the losses of this new spouse and maybe even helping them reflect on those things and stepping into that space with them and not shutting it down or closing it off or getting rid of the symbols. You know, there might be an appropriation of certain possessions and things that symbolize the prior family or relationships, and you can put those in different places—have an appropriate place for them to what I'm trying to say.

Jim: Yes.

Shirley: Exactly. Yes, that's actually many of our conversations are “Well, what happened when such and such happened?”—like when your kids acted up or whatever it was and it—we often talk about our past life, often. And it's not like, “Oh, I want to go back there.” It's more like, “That's what happened when I climbed Mount Hood.”

Ron: That's right.

Shirley: “It was tough, but I made it through,” or whatever the situation is.

Jim: And also, you got to be careful. You don't want to be jealous. I mean, that's the, you know, a real danger. There's nothing to be jealous about, particularly when you're from a widow and a widower, lost your spouse. It's easier. You know that person is gone. But when you're dealing with remarriage from a divorce situation, that's a different dynamic. It's a little more difficult. Like people ask me, “What was more difficult, Jim, when you got divorced or when you lost Kathy, your late wife?”

Actually, what I say is, my divorce was more difficult because of pain after 40 years now is still there with our grandkids. And I try to—when I worked with men's ministry, I try to help guys think it's not going to get better; try to work it out with what your family right now.

Ron: Well, we need to, let's switch into another big topic that we hear from people about, who are getting married later in life and that is the adult children. I'm going to give you a little scenario and you guys react to that, and then let's talk about this because it is such an important subject, I think, for couples to not overlook.

Just last week I was speaking at a church and a woman came up to me and she said, “I've never been married before. I'm in my late fifties. I've met a guy; we're in love. We've been dating almost a year. He is refusing though to introduce me to his three adult children. I'm not really sure what to make of that. He is concerned that they are, you know, not feeling great about dad dating again and so he said, ‘I'm just sort of waiting until the time seems right.’ And her question was, you know, ‘Should I be okay with that? Should I press into this and want to meet them? But the bottom line is, how do I think about his kids?’” Yes, thoughts, reactions to that.

Shirley: I would say that might be a red flag, something that she might be cautious about. I can tell you—it's really kind of funny—when I met my second husband, and pretty quickly we became engaged, both of his sons lived in different towns. I can remember the first time I met his son, Greg. He was on the phone, and he said, “Hi, Greg. I just wanted to tell you I'm engaged and here she is. Meet my fiancé,” and so he gave me the phone and I talked to him, and poor Greg said, “Well, hello.” But it really worked out okay.

But I think your children need to know that there's a need in your life and they need to accept it. And in my circumstances, for the most part, my children came around. Sometimes it took them a little while.

Jim: But with your, that one mishap you had about Ron; you remember your daughter Erica said, “Be cautious, Mom.”

Shirley: Oh yes, she said, “Aren't you moving a little bit too quickly?” And “Oh no, I'm doing fine. It's the same amount of time. I'll be fine.” And sometimes you do need to listen to your children.

Jim: Yes, yes. And that's—

Shirley: Yes, and they know you and care about you the most.

Ron: Yes, that's right.

Jim: And the reality is, you know, I would love to have had all the step kids and my kids to love, surely the same. It just, it isn't that way. I mean, we'd love it to be that way, but there's difference. Like when I was raising my step kids when they were little, in my second marriage, I always wanted to be their dad. But I soon learned that I'm a father, but not a dad, and I'm a dad, but not a father. And it was sort of, that sounds confusing, but if you're in a stepfamily, you sort of understand those things. [Laughter]

Ron: Yes, that's exactly right. And they're not the same—the dad, father, stepfather; it's not the same.

Jim: No, it is not. And I want it to be, but you got to realize it is going to be, the bonding is different. And as much as you try, sometimes you do, if you get the child when they're very, very young, as infants, they'll have that bonding with you. But when they're children, or teenagers, or adults, the bonding is different, and you've got to make the best that you can of it, and respect that they have a natural parent too.

Shirley: Especially if they're still alive.

Jim: Yes, right, right.

Ron: So, what if somebody says to you, “Well, we're dating. We're planning to get married. All of our kids are in their twenties and thirties and so we know they have their own life, their own careers, and this is going to be fine with them. They're not going to care that we got married.

Jim: Yes, my—it's obviously different for each child because like I had one son that was very close to my second wife that passed away and when Shirley came into the picture, it took him a while to sort of shift his emotions. Now, he loves Shirley very much but others of it just jumped right in and said, “Dad, we can see you're happy” and whatever. And so, you know, you got to respect each. The children, all my kids, were different the way they jumped into the relationship and how long it took them to sort of feel comfortable with my new wife. But it's always a little bit different. It's not their original mother or their—

Shirley: Or in my case, dad.

Jim: Or dad, right. So that's the hard thing about it.

Ron: Yes, I think most people really underestimate how significant It is to an adult child that their parent marries again. It's changing so much within the family.

Shirley: It really does; it does.

Ron: There's 15 more people at Thanksgiving. There’re extra kids running around at Christmas—grandkids and stepgrandkids and stepnephews and nieces and like, how all does that? Those are all new relationships for those people.

Jim: Absolutely.

Shirley: That's right. And they didn't ask for it.

Ron: That's right and so it's sort of been forced upon them, sort of like other things have been forced upon them. And again, so you can go about this in a respectful tone in terms of talking to your kids and the story you just told a minute ago, Shirley, about “Hey, surprise. You got to”—you know, “I'm engaged.” I would go about it a little bit differently. [Laughter]

Shirley: I would of too.

Ron: You know, slowly introduce and start gaining conversation with them before those big, monumental announcements are made, and slowly work them into it and you're at the same time listening and hearing what it is that they're concerned about or thinking about. The fact that you had a daughter say, “Mom, I'm wondering if you're moving a little too fast” in that second situation. And so, you know, it is a two-way street, and they are deeply invested in the outcome of this process and so you've got to include them in it.

Shirley: Exactly. Yes, that's true.

Jim: Very much so. Very much before you dump the question on them, right.

Ron: Right, right, right. And just remember they're going to have different levels of motivation toward having new relationships and how they're going to try to do that.

Jim: That's right. That's right, very much so.

Shirley: And the other thing is too, sometimes we have to accept that they're not interested, and they really don't care. Unfortunately, that's kind of, with some of our children, they decline invitations where we want to invite maybe one side of the family over and it's, “Well, we're busy.” They don't even make excuses. It's just, “We won't be able to come.”

Ron: Yes. You're trying to figure out how to navigate this space, creating opportunities, but they just don't have that need.

Shirley: Right.

Jim: And it's not that they don't love us or whatever. That's where you've got to have a lot of grace and understanding.

Shirley: And he has a lot. I really respect it. And I think it probably came from this, the tumultuous years when his children were younger, and they were a split family.

Jim: Well, and one thing I really always made sure, I made a commitment early on in my, when I got divorced, to never say anything against, bad against their mother, which is very difficult because she was very bitter. And I think because of that, I have a very good relationship with my two boys. I have three kids of my own and so with the two boys we went out every Thursday, every other weekend, and every summer. We had very close relationships so that worked well.

Unfortunately, my daughter was at 13 which is an absolute terrible time and she sort of went with my [her] mother and she unfortunately heard a lot of the negativity and so I've sort of become sort of an uncle to her which is fine. I respect her, where she's at, and I try to have lunch with her every so often, but it's a very different relationship because of all that. I just accept it and thank God that I have that.

Shirley: And I'm the one that wants to kind of tweak it and say, “Well, why doesn't she want to?” And, you know, I go into that, but I need to let it go because it's his family.

Ron: And that's where the rub is. And I mean, it's this delicate balance. You said a minute ago, you have to accept that not all kids have the same desire for relationship or depth of a relationship with you. And you have to meet them where they are, even though you still long for more, right? And you can try to create opportunities, but you can't force them into it.

Shirley: Well, there's always that longing in all of us, because what we're really longing for is that perfect relationship that we're not going to experience until heaven with Jesus. And then it will be good.

Jim: That’s true.

Ron: Well, I'm wondering if there are any other red flags that you guys have encountered either personally or with other couples.

Jim: I do want to re-emphasize the period of infatuation is where we've seen most of the mistakes are made. That is a real red flag because you've got to be real careful. We have at the end of each chapter, as you know, Ron, questions for people to ask their engaged person. And also, we ask them sometimes to ask friends because sometimes you don't see it yourself.

So that's one red flag that you got to be real careful of and maybe try to really respect other people's opinion of what's going on and try to listen carefully to them because that's one when we've seen from people, grieving people who've got remarried that have been absolutely wonderful, but we've also seen disasters. Because people did not look at that red flag of infatuation and then they started discovering the issues around money and blending the families and sex and politics and all those other issues that—you know, faith, all of those things that need to be pretty well shared and understood at least and accepted by both sides.

Shirley: Right. Well, absolutely. In red flags, the first one you mentioned was faith. You didn't mention it first, but it's the most important, which is faith.

Jim: Yes, it absolutely is.

Shirley: Maybe they're not at the same level of their walk, their Christian faith, as you, or maybe they're just really doing, attending church, or doing group spiritual things together just to please you. But pretty quickly you can find out if that is really genuine or not, and that definitely is a red flag.

Jim: Yes, it is. And also, I'll show Ron's book. [Laughter] In that book you also say that faith is critical. You've got to really make sure. That's one of the first things you said in your steps is to really make sure that you're both aligned with that. Because if you have different world views, you're going to be—and religious beliefs and different religions and even different types of Christianity or whatever—

Shirley: —denominations.

Jim: —denominations and all that, you're going to have some real challenges.

Ron: Yes, don't overlook those differences. They need to come into alignment.

A couple other things that I, when you mentioned infatuation, I thought of, yes, a quick turnaround, I think, is a hazard of infatuation That is when somebody comes out of a divorce or being widowed and in within months is moving into another relationship. I'd love to have you comment on that. And premarital sex is often part of that infatuation; that rush of energy towards one another. What are your thoughts around those for couples?

Jim: Well, since for men, it's really a big deal, [Laughter] but it could be for women, too. I, unfortunately, that was a real hard thing for me and it's one thing that Shirley and I, when we got engaged right, well right away.

Shirley: Actually, at our first date.

Jim: Our first date at Starbucks. We even said, Shirley brought it up.

Shirley: I said, “Yes.”

Jim: Which is great. She said, “You know, I do not believe in having sex before marriage,” and I said, “I agree.” We said, “We're going to have to really commit to that.” And because it's difficult, it really is difficult in this day and age, people living together. They're saying, “We've been married before so what's the big deal?”

Shirley: “What's the big deal,” and “I'm not going to get pregnant.” So that's another drawback.

Jim: I lived about 30, 40 miles away so we bought a house, when we were engaged. But what we did first before we did that, we lived, Shirley lived 40 miles away so she had a guest room so I stayed with her, but we thought—we made a commitment that we wouldn't have any sex or anything, but then we got aware—actually, our son and daughter in law, or my daughter—

Shirley: —daughter and son in law.

Jim: Right, right, and she said, “You know the perception of our grandkids,” sort of “We know that you are respecting your commitment but the perception of others and of people, other people.

Shirley: Our neighbors, my neighbors.

Jim: So I moved out because even the perception, we didn't want to have that. And also, for the grandkids. It is a difficult issue because it will come up. The drive to be intimate sexually is still there. And it is a hard issue, and we talk about it, that's one whole chapter in our book because sex is a big issue.

Shirley: Right. And the emotional attachment when you become intimate sexually too soon, then other things kind of fade away that are important parts of your life that you just really need to talk about and maturity in just many ways and how you look at life.

Ron: Yes, my contention is it steals discernment.

Shirley: Yes.

Ron: As soon as you're bonding sexually, brain, body, soul is coming together, and you are just assuming the absolute best about this person. And we actually know, you know, the attachment process that happens when two people combine sexually and so all of a sudden, you're not now evaluating the relationship and the person with both eyes open, right? You kind of have both eyes shut, and so that's one of the issues. And you're right, no matter what stage of life you're in, that is a relevant issue.

Jim: And I have to be honest, I mean, my first marriage, we did, were sexually beforehand, and it clouded things, and also made everything much more difficult, and also probably was one of the things that also led to her leaving and taking the kids.
It was a—people just think it's so common now, just go ahead. But it can make such a difference in how you see red flags, you build the relationship, and all that. You've really—it’s a tough one. And I'm, you know, I don't want to be judgmental to anybody. It's going to be hard.

Ron: You know, a couple of things just occurred to me. You mentioned earlier, talking about finances when you get married and thinking through some of those issues, a lot of people are choosing to just live together these days, because then you keep yours, I keep mine. We don't have to even bother with the wedding. It just makes life simpler. And, of course, sex is a part of that picture, as well as now we're not even bothering to deal with things like money management. All of those just seem to be ways of not being together and clouding the type of relationship commitment that you really have with one another. So again, what are your thoughts around all of that?

Shirley: Well, when I married a second time, there was no divorce in either of our past so that makes it easier, definitely. But we did have a prenuptial agreement and it was we had determined that certain things would go to our own children, and we would combine some things and so we did that. It was all very open. I moved into his home, kept my home and rented it out, but there was a life estate in that prenuptial agreement.

Later, we began to get a real will once we were married, but we never signed it. We were very close to signing it, but we'd just been on a long trip, and we put it off. He died very suddenly so the prenuptial agreement was there that just protected me and protected his children too in both ways and I'm really so grateful that we did that.

Jim: We did too.

Shirley: We did the same thing. But one thing I will tell you, which should have opened my eyes, and it, kind of, did, was that wrong engagement. When I had a prenuptial agreement—I went to my attorney, and had it done—and he didn't want to sign it.

Jim: Red flag.

Shirley: Yes, and that's, about a week after that, he did break it off. I think it was probably that, that did it.

Ron: Well, I will add to that conversation. I appreciate that candor so much. It's a really good example of why it's so important to talk about estate planning and financial matters. You may not know, but we've actually published a book. It's one of the books in our series called The Smart Stepfamily Guide to Financial Planning, and we recommend to people that they get a prenup of a different kind.

We've actually coined a term, The Togetherness Agreement, and it's all about not if things go wrong, what are we going to do if we end up breaking up, but how do we provide for things that go right and how do we care for you, your children, me, my children, whatever the case may be. Some very creative financial tools are discussed in that resource, so I'll just mention that to our listeners, The Smart Stepfamily Guide to Financial Planning. Again, check the show notes to learn more about that.

Jim: Yes, to me that's very important because one of the chapters we have on finances, particularly when you get married later in life. You have the whole issue of retirement. You've built up pensions. You've built up retirements.

Ron: That's right; there's a lot to consider.

Jim: There's a lot to consider. You have inheritance, usually, issues with children and all that and also, we always talk about our three buckets. There are things in her bucket that are hers that will go to her children. There are things that I have in my bucket that go to my children. But there's a center bucket that we put all the current income and also all the current expenses and that's ours.

We combined that very much so, because we found that when you're committed and you have a, as what we refer to as covenant marriage, that you really are deeply—you know, you're going to do whatever it takes to work through things. That things need to be combined in a certain sense, not everything, but the majority of it, and that pre num, before we did that, it can't— and I like your idea of a togetherness agreement, because it's not only what happens when it breaks apart, but you got to look at too, what are you going to do with the togetherness when you—who's going to pay for what?

And I don't, I just said, “Who's going to pay for what?” I don't like that term. To me, everything comes out of that center bucket. It's ours; our bills, our expenses, our income, and then we have for our retirement funds that we brought in, those are separate going to our inheritance. And those are separate things, but we live together as a combined couple.

Ron: Yes, that's good; and you found your process. We recommend to couples that they find what works for them given their unique circumstances and so, there's a lot of good ways to handle that.

Guys, I'd like to close with a quote from your book. Don't you love it when somebody reads something back to you?

Jim: Yes! Thank you! [Laughter]

Ron: You know, some people essentially try to leave their past marriage and family behind when they bond again and form a new family. You, on the other hand, like to say you're standing on the shoulders of your previous spouses. I loved that when I saw it. Tell us what you mean by that.

Shirley: Well, I was married to one person, my first husband Bill, for 40 years. He taught me a lot about resilience. He was a mountain climber and if I wanted to be with him, that's what I had to do too so I learned. We had some difficulties in our earlier part of our marriage. We didn't communicate very well, and it was rough, but we learned how to do it. And I took that experience into my second marriage. And even though it was a shorter one for 17 months, I used some of those things and I learned that I could be loved again, and that God really loved me, and so it left me open to join my life with Jim.

Jim: Yes, and I appreciate that because that's what's, who made Shirley. Shirley's lived—you know, she lived 43 years with another husband besides me and it really shaped who she is. She has incredible talents and gifts and things; and a lot of that was developed during those years so I want to cherish that too. And a lot of my learnings, I mean, even I was maybe a little selfish with sex in my earlier marriage. And I'm—you know, that was one learning that I said, “I don't want to do that again. I want to be very much open to serving Shirley.” And it's made our relationship in the last ten years wonderful in so many ways by honoring our past and learning from each other's spouses and, and just looking at that way, Ron.

Ron: You guys, thank you so much for being with me. I appreciate it.

Jim: Certainly.

Ron: And to our listener, if you want to learn more about Jim and Shirley and their work and their book, check the show notes. We'll get you connected.

And before I forget, this isn't the only resource we've ever produced to address later life blended families. We get asked this all the time. We sometimes call them second half stepfamilies. You can look through our podcasts, episodes, and you'll find other conversations around this; but we also have book chapters in a number of my books and scattered throughout The Smart Stepfamily and an entire chapter in Building Love Together in Blended Families. All of those things are going to be helpful, but if you can't find what you're looking for, just email us. All right, we'll help you find it. Email us, We'll get you connected to what you're looking for.

Let me remind you once again of our year-end matching gift challenge. Any amount you give before December 31st will be doubled. We appreciate it in advance. You know, it occurs to me that Christmas is a season of giving. We give our loved ones gifts. I give myself the gift of as much dessert as I can possibly eat. And of course, most importantly, we are reminded each year of the greatest gift of all: Emmanuel, God with us. And we have promises galore in Scripture that He will continually be with us. Hebrews 13, verse 5, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

Then there's James 4:8, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” By the way, Him drawing near to us is not dependent on us doing all the work first. James is saying the character of God is such that He is already available. You just need to be open. Open yourself to Him and you will be near to this God. Listen guys, the entire Bible is a story of a God who keeps drawing near to His creation even in the midst of our sin. Celebrate that grace this Christmas, enjoy the giving, but rest and find peace in the receiving of the greatest gift in history, Jesus the King.

I'm Ron Deal. Thanks for listening.

On behalf of the podcast production team and FamilyLife, let me just say “Merry Christmas.”

FamilyLife Blended is part of the FamilyLife Podcast Network. Helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.


We are so happy to provide these transcripts to you. However, there is a cost to produce them for our website. If you’ve benefited from the broadcast transcripts, would you consider donating today to help defray the costs?

Copyright © 2023 FamilyLife. All rights reserved.