Adult stepfamilies—when children are adults from the beginning—experience as many transitions as those with young kids. Listen to Ron Deal's conversation with Terry Moss & his family on how they worked through the adjustments in their adult stepfamily.
About the Guest
One Flesh Ministries. In addition, they lead the Prep for Marriage classes, facilitate ReEngage (a 16-week Marriage Enrichment Group), and are leaders/instructors for the Blended Families Ministry at Christ Fellowship Church in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. Previously they established the blended family ministry at Calvary Church in Naperville, Illinois. They are certified marriage mentors and...more
Like remarrying with young kids, new stepfamilies of adult children bring extensive transitions. Authors Terry & Carol Moss suggest how to navigate.
Ann: So we haven’t talked about this too much, but your mom and dad got divorced when you were seven?
Ann: Then your dad was remarried when you were 13. What was that like when your dad told you that he was going to get remarried?
Dave: Well, he didn’t tell me.
Dave: Yes, I just sort of found out. I don’t ever remember a conversation; my mom told me, “Hey, Dad’s getting remarried.” You know, I lived with my mom; so I wasn’t living with my dad, but I was shocked.
Ann: Did you have any sense of like, “This is betrayal,” or hope that your parents would get together?
Dave: Yes; I mean, I always thought, “They’re going to get back together”; it was just my belief. But that announcement/when she told me that, I knew that dream was over.
Ann: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.
Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on our FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today.
Dave: My mom told me, “Hey, Dad’s getting remarried.” I knew that dream was over, and it was going to be a whole new life.
I think a lot of families experience that/blended families. So today, we get to hear a story similar from our FamilyLife Blended® podcast with Ron Deal, the president of our blended ministry, here at FamilyLife, where he interviews Terry and Carol Moss about blending a family with adult kids.
Ann: What’s kind of fun is because Carol has her daughter on the podcast and Terry has his son on the podcast. So we get to hear from the adult kids of how this couple came together.
[Previous FamilyLife Blended Podcast]
Ron: Terry, Carol, let me just set the scene a little bit as we jump into our conversation. You guys, at this point, have been married for 14 lovely, blessed years?
Terry: Wonderful years.
Ron: Carol, you had three children when you married: Shandell; Kevin; and Nina, who was 16; and Nina’s with us today.
Terry, you had two children: Terrance and Brandon, who was 25. Brandon’s with us in our conversation today; we’re going to hear from him in just a minute.
Part of the reason we’re having this conversation today, the way we’re having it, is because there’s often a different experience between where the adults are and where the kids are. The adults are excited and anticipating the new family and what’s to come, and kids are feeling something different than that. So there’s just a lot of question marks, and unknowns, and some fear wrapped up in that. The gap between adults and kids means you’ve got to work hard to try to bridge that gap.
In some ways, what we’re doing today is reflecting back on that journey for you guys. I hope the listener is going to take away from our conversation today: “I need to figure out how to bridge these conversations with our children, no matter what their age, so that we can move toward each other in that process.”
Okay, so we’ll come back; and get more from Nina in a little bit. Nina, you had two older biological brothers and then, when mom married Terry, you got two more older stepbrothers—
Ron: —right? And Brandon is one of them.
Brandon, you were 25ish when you found out. Do you remember how you felt, leading into the wedding, the announcement?—shortly, coming out of it, what were the big emotions there?
Brandon: I wasn’t afraid of anything; I was more hurt, like: “What?! What happened here? What’s going on?” We lived far apart from each other. I think you were still in Illinois at the time; I was in Maryland. I was still trying to process the end of the first marriage; right? I wasn’t a part of the dating, and the relationship—any of that stuff.
I don’t remember every little detail. All I remember is, when Dad was ready to announce that they were going to get married, in classic Moss fashion, it’s got to be an event; it’s got to be an experience. [Laughter] He brought Carol to town, and my/dad’s sister—my Aunt Jeanie and Uncle Brooks: they live in southern Maryland; I lived in Maryland—and so we all went down there: “Oh, great, we’re going to have a little family time.”
He may have said there was someone else coming, but I wasn’t expecting Carol; I wasn’t expecting a marriage. I was just, “Okay, someone…”
Ron: None of that was on your radar.
Brandon: None of it on my radar.
We sit down; and it’s like, “Okay, hi random person I’ve never met; I don’t know who you are.” [Laughter] And then there was—and she was perfectly lovely—but I just don’t know what’s happening. Then it’s like I’m sitting there—and I remember holding my wife’s hand; we’re sitting there—and the announcement comes; it’s like [deepening voice]: “Brandon, Jessica, we’re getting married.” I was like, “Who is we?!” [Laughter] Because I’m already married at that point. [Laughter] I’m looking around the room, like, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. Oh, no; it’s you two!” and “What’s your name again?” [Laughter]
I/again, I don’t know how many of these details are exactly accurate; but this is a feeling I remember very strongly. For me, it was like: “I don’t know what’s happening; I don’t know what to do with this. I don’t know how to connect with this new family that’s here.”
Carol: And you know, I think one good thing is—and we’ll give credit to Dad with that—is when he started feeling like there was some separation; and that we wasn’t jelling; and that the boys on his side, TJ and Brandon, may be feeling a certain kind of way, what Dad did was—he did like Brandon said, an event—he brought everyone together.
Dad called the boys to our home in Illinois; and we spent a weekend together in which; therefore, you are able to sit and express: “How you are truly feeling about Carol,” “…this marriage,” and the whole gamut—so how you feel—“Let’s be honest right now.” Dad did that from the very beginning of bringing everybody together.
Terry: That conversation was primarily had with me, and TJ, and Brandon; because that was more I needed to understand where they were, because I started feeling a distance in our relationship. That’s when I said, “Okay, I’m going to pay for both of you to come to Illinois,”—one from Maryland and then one from California—and they came. It was a Fourth of July weekend. They arrived on that Friday; Fourth of July was Saturday, and it was raining all day; so it was a perfect day for us to just sit and talk. I think we started at 9:00 in the morning and just had continuous conversation to about 4:30 that evening.
Carol: What I think is important, too, as the stepmother, was to give them their time—take me out of it, because it’s not about me—I want him to have that relationship with his boys. It’s about them validating the feelings—I think is very important—so remove myself out.
Ron: Carol, you know there are stepmoms listening right now, going, “No, no, no. I have to be in the middle of all of that.
Ron: “I have to be there to represent me. Nobody speaks well; nobody really knows. Even my husband doesn’t really understand what I’m feeling in the midst of this whole family dynamic.” What would you say to somebody who makes that objection?
Carol: I would say to give them their time. It’s not about you at this moment; it’s about them. They’ve had a relationship the whole boys’ lives/their whole lives—their dad—and they’re feeling a loss, and I knew that. In order for this—for us to blend successfully—it’s that they have to establish their relationships and they have to be able to validate their feelings and express themselves, so let them have Dad.
He’s my husband now—so I have him, prayerfully, for the rest of my life—so let me take me out of it. That’s the whole thing: take yourself out of it, and it’s not about you. Give them their time; and that’s how I thought/I thought “Give them their time to jell.”
Terry: I appreciated it too.
If I could just share a little bit of that conversation, I think one of the things that was an eye-opener for me—because again, the purpose of bringing them to that conversation in that moment was to try to understand: “How were you feeling?” and “What’s going on?”—of—“Why do I feel like distance is becoming a part of us?”—so we started the conversation. I told them, “Hey, it’s just us/the three of us. Be honest, speak whatever’s on your mind. Don’t feel like ‘Well, I can’t say this because you’re my dad.’ No; whatever, just say it.”
I started off—and TJ, the older—“I’m going to speak, because we’ve been talking about this; and I’m going to tell you what we’re thinking.” He started off with: “Our problem isn’t because you and mom got a divorce.” He said, “I lived with you; I understand that.” I thought, “Hmm, okay.”
Secondly, he said “It’s not that you married Carol; she seemed like a very lovely woman. You seem to be happy. I’m fine.”
So now I’m really, in my mind, thinking, “Wait; well, if it’s not…” [Laughter]
Brandon: “What’s left?” [Laughter]
Terry: “If it’s not that? “If it’s not this; now, what is it?”
I’ll never forget the third thing; and TJ said: “It’s not that,” and “…not that,” “It’s the fact that you have moved on with your life, your new family, and everything—your new life—and we feel like you left us behind.”
That was like a “Ooof!” Having those conversations, I had to be prepared for whatever the answer was; and so when I heard that, it was revealing. I had to swallow [gulping sound]. [Laughter]
Ron: Yes, sure.
Terry: But then I also said to them, “Thank you for sharing that. I had no idea you felt that way.”
And then I gave them my reason: “Why wouldn’t—your distance; you’re grown; you had your own life—I didn’t know that would be how you would feel.”
Carol: And I wanted Brandon and TJ to understand that from me, as well—as the stepmom—is that I’m not taking you away from them; I want to be a part of. That’s how I wanted to present myself is that: “I’m/I know that’s your father; and I know how you guys feel; I don’t want you to feel like I’m taking him away. I just want to be a part of.”
My whole thought was: “I’m coming alongside; I’m not the head. I’m not taking him; I’m not trying to control any of that. I just want you to see the true me/the true heart that I have, and I want to just be a part of.”
Dave: So we’re listening to a clip from our FamilyLife Blended podcast with Ron Deal, interviewing Terry and Carol Moss about blending their family with adult children. I tell you, I love Carol’s heart there—
Ann: Yes, me too.
Dave: —that she’s expressing.
I also know, when my dad remarried, I know how hard it is for the kids.
Ann: You’re the stepson.
Dave: Even though my stepmom, Beata, had the same heart—she didn’t want to take my dad away—but being the son, you just felt, even though she didn’t want to, it felt like she was.
We need to hear the rest of the story, especially from the kids: “What did they feel and—
Ann: It’s interesting, too, because—little teaser—“Why weren’t the kids at the wedding?”
Dave: That’s a great question; let’s find out why.
[Previous FamilyLife Blended Podcast]
Ron: So let me get the situation right. When Terry and Carol got married, Brandon and his wife were not able to be there; or Brandon and TJ?
Terry: Brandon and TJ were not there.
Ron: So Nina, do you want to ask that question of Brandon now?
Nina: I mean, did you guys feel/was that an option that you didn’t want to attend?—or you had the option, and you chose not to. What—because again, I was younger—so I don’t know.
Brandon: Yes, it wasn’t really anything too deep. I think, going back to the initial story of the introduction, it was happening like the next week or something. Like we didn’t really—like it was like: “Hey, this is Carol. Hey, we’re getting married. Hey, it’s happening in like a month. Hey, it’s a destination wedding; do you want to come?”—we’re like, “Okay; like I’m still back at are you guys reconciling?” [Laughter] I was like, “You need to give me way more runway than this.”
And then it just came down to logistics—I have a wife; I have a/I don’t know if I had a kid at that point—but we were like, “Okay, we’re going where? We’re going to Hawaii for how long?—to do what?”—like—“Wait; what’s happening?” We just weren’t really in a place to do that that quickly.
Ron: Nina, it sounds like you were wondering what that meant to them.
Ron: And you were kind of wondering what/if that made a statement about them and their approval of the marriage.
Nina: I’ve just always wondered.
Ron: Right; here’s my question back to you about that; because that, again, is a very legitimate question. You were there; right?—“Why weren’t they there? What does this mean?”—not knowing probably left some sort of doubt in your heart and mind. I’m wondering how that, if at all, impacted your developing relationship with your, now, two stepbrothers. Even if it was just in your head, how did that make a difference?
Nina: Not necessarily. I think that question more so is based off of how I think I would have felt at that time if I was in their shoes. But again, like Brandon said—logistics, timing, everything—and if I could honestly say, “We didn’t know each other that well.” We all hadn’t really come together as a family and “Oh, these are your two stepbrothers; now, everybody love each other.” It was never one of those coming-to-Jesus moments, so I’ve just always wondered: “What was your guys’ perspective or your personal perspective on the situation?”
Ron: At the front of this conversation, we kind of wondered if it would serve you well to reflect back on the family journey. I mean, I see the value in this—because here’s this little question mark that’s been hanging over her head for 14 years—just wondering: “What’s the backstory? How come they didn’t come to the wedding? What does that mean? What are the implications of that? How did that impact their relationship with Terry and Carol?—with us?”—who knows.
Just a simple question, and a conversation and dialogue around this family journey, just kind of opens that up. All of a sudden, everybody gets a little information they didn’t have before; and now, you know what it means and what it doesn’t mean. Sometimes, I think that is a really important thing for blended families—there’s a good takeaway—when you find out what it doesn’t mean, it helps. Because when you have confusion and ambiguity, your mind can go in a thousand directions and nine hundred ninety-nine of them are negative. When you now realize—“Oh, it’s not that; it was this…”—I don’t have to make anything of that anymore. That little piece of anxiety is now removed, and it frees you up to move in a more positive direction.
Okay, we’re going to close with this: one of the things I know for adult stepfamilies that is kind of this convergence of reality—“This is a family, and we’ve got to figure this out,”—is special days, and holidays, birthdays, or Christmas time, or Thanksgiving. You have this merger of traditions and expectations; and all of that seems to rise on those really big important special days that happen throughout the year. What’s a good takeaway to share with our listeners about trying to navigate that from your point of view?
Terry: It’s important; and was important for me to understand: “What were the expected traditions around certain holidays?” And then, not disrupt that; but try to come alongside and be part of that, where also, then, looking for opportunities that may bring in something that may be an important tradition for me; and “How we can make that an ‘us’ tradition?” It’s just really being mindful of and being intentional—and not upsetting the apple cart: and making everything has got to be my way; or it’s got to be all your way, and I don’t feel like my traditions are important, or nobody cares about what I feel/what I think—instead of that kind of animosity developing, just find ways to try to integrate and cooperate, and then come up with something that may be even a new tradition.
Carol: Yes; for me, I want the boys to know that he’s always going to be their dad and that I didn’t expect to come in and take him away. So if I’m seen as an addition—that he’s just not mine—he is ours. I want them to know that I’m here to walk alongside of him. Like we said before, it’s our kids and it’s our children; and we love them equally. I want to be seen as an addition, not as taking him away from them.
Ron: That’s good.
Terry: And then, are they welcome to come home for holidays? [Laughter]
Carol: They’re welcome. [Laughter] Oh, they know I love—and love the grand-boys and just—I don’t want this looked at as if it’s chaos or something that makes them nervous. Because I know that, when Brandon first baptized one of the boys—and we finally all came together as a family; and his mom was there, and I was there, and the other grand-moms—I just know that was just the beginning of nervousness as us coming together as a family. So I just/you remember that, Brandon?
Brandon: Yes. [Laughter]
Carol: And how you felt with this new person coming in. I just want to come in as an addition and validate their feelings; that’s very important. This has to grow, organically, not forcefully.
Nina: Mom, you just took the words out of my mouth—just allowing things to happen, organically, and to where things don’t feel forced at all—and just knowing/having the love for my mother and knowing that her feelings and her emotions are being nurtured the way that they should be was everything. Especially with my dad coming into a relationship or a marriage with a disabled child, and never really having to have dealt with that before, that was something I know I personally appreciated; because my brother meant the world to me. It was just like: “Who was this person going to come in?”—and Shandell looked at him, as well, like, “Oh, Dad,” or “Moss,”—I love those moments.
So just being able to nurture everyone’s personal feelings and allowing it to happen, organically, was what I appreciated the most.
Dave: So we’ve been listening to our FamilyLife Blended podcast with Ron Deal interviewing Terry and Carol about their blended family. I tell you what, that’s a great ending.
Ann: Yes; I think these stories are so encouraging, because it just shows us the power of conversation and really conveying and expressing what we feel. Because so often, in families, especially in families that are blended—maybe that you’re feeling a lot or there’s a lot of emotion involved—and that’s happening in every family, not just blended.
Ann: But to have those conversations—of saying what we feel, what we hope, and what we love—I think that’s really nurturing for our relationships and for our souls.
Dave: And I think it’s hopeful. As you listen to this—you hear the pain; you hear the struggle; you hear the hurt—and yet, at the end, you also hear God shows up and God heals.
Ann: —and healing; yes. So good.
Bob: With all of the joy and emotion that surrounds a marriage and two becoming one, we can sometimes lose sight of the fact that, especially in a blended marriage, there are going to be some unique challenges. We’ve heard about that today from the Mosses and from their adult children.
One of the things we’re committed to, here at FamilyLife, is providing practical help for people who are in blended relationships for whatever reason. We do that through resources like the podcast that you’ve heard. If you’re not subscribed to the FamilyLife Blended podcast, that’s a great resource to be subscribed to; you can find that wherever podcasts are available.
And then mark your calendar, now, for Saturday, April 2, for our Blended & Blessed® one-day event that is both a live event in Houston, Texas, or a livestream event that you can tune into and participate in all around the country/all around the world. In fact, it’s going to be available both, in English and in Spanish, in the livestream. This is, as I said, a one-day event designed to equip and encourage and to cheer on couples, who are in a blended marriage/who have a stepfamily, and who want to see their marriage and their family thrive and succeed.
You can find out more about the one-day Blended & Blessed event. Again, the day is Saturday April 2. There’s information about this event on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com, so go there and check it out. You can start registering for the event now. And if you’d like to do this as a group event in your local church, again, there’s information available there about how you can host the simulcast in your local church. If you live in Houston, plan to join us that day, Saturday, April 2, at Houston’s First for the Blended & Blessed one-day conference that is coming up this spring.
Quickly, let me again say a word of thanks to those of you, who are regular listeners to FamilyLife Today, and who over the last couple of weeks, rallied and called us or went online and made a yearend contribution to support the ongoing work of FamilyLife Today. Our team is busy tallying all of the numbers to see if we did, in fact, meet the matching gift that had been made available to us. We’re hopeful and encouraged by what we’ve seen so far.
So thank you, again, for your support of FamilyLife Today—and not just at yearend—but throughout the year. You guys are so generous and so kind, and we know that the reason is because you believe in the importance of marriage and God’s design for marriage. You believe in the power of family, and we do as well. So thank you for helping us advance our work in the year ahead. On behalf of the millions of marriages and families that will be impacted in 2022, we just want to say, “Thank you for helping to make that happen with your yearend gift.”
And we hope you can join us tomorrow when we’re going to talk about what happens in every marriage. This happens without fail; marriages drift away from oneness and toward isolation. So what do we do when that happens, and what can we do to help keep that from happening? David and Meg Robbins join Dave and Ann Wilson tomorrow to talk about that. I hope you can be with us for that.
On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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