FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Browsing Your Stepfamily’s Trust Issues: Dr. Darrell Bock

with Darrell L. Bock | April 23, 2024
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Stepfamily life: It's a rollercoaster. Trying to blend different parenting styles, dealing with trust issues, managing finances—it's enough to make anyone's head spin. Is there any hope for relief? Dr. Darrell Bock offers advice on how to patch up those trust issues, get a handle on your finances, and set yourselves up for a brighter tomorrow.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest


  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Stepfamily life’s a rollercoaster: Blending parenting styles, trust issues, finances—it’s overwhelming, right? Dr. Darrell Bock offers tips for relief.

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Browsing Your Stepfamily’s Trust Issues: Dr. Darrell Bock

With Darrell L. Bock
April 23, 2024
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Dr. Bock: The stepparent never replaces the biological parent, even if the biological parent is absent, provided the relationship with the biological parent was present enough to establish itself in the relationship with the child.

Shelby: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Shelby Abbott, and your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson. You can find us at

Dave: This is FamilyLife Today!

Ann: Here’s my question to start our day.

Dave: Okay, here we go.

Ann: What is something a stepparent should never do when trying to bond with a stepchild?

Dave: My first thought is “Don’t take your stepchild on your honeymoon and not tell them that it’s their honeymoon.”

Ann: Because that happened to you!

Dave: That’s what happened to me. I was 12 or 13 years old. We go to Europe with my dad and my new mom—

Ann: —which means you didn’t go to the wedding.

Dave: No, there was no wedding that I knew about. Next thing I knew, we were in Europe, and I was scared to death in a hotel in Italy. I went and knocked on their door, because I was scared and [said], “Can I come sleep in your room?” [Laughter] I didn’t find out for years [that] this was their honeymoon night. Maybe that wasn’t a good move.

Ann: You know what my answer would be? This is probably what I would do wrong: I would want them to love me so much, as a stepparent, I’d [think], “Love me.” I’d put so much pressure on them, and that would make them flee as fast as they could.

Dave: Today we get to listen to a conversation with the director of our blended family ministry at FamilyLife, Ron Deal. He sat down with Dr. Darrel Bock, who is a seminary professor at Dallas Theological Seminary. He’s written a lot of books, and [he] grew up in a stepfamily.

They started a conversation yesterday that was pretty profound about secrets that stepfamilies carry and how those can impact [the family]. They’ve got a lot more to talk about today. But let me remind you: if you want, you can sign up for the Blended and Blessed®Summit, which is a livestream, which is this weekend.

Ann: This weekend! And it’s not too late (and it’s never too late) to sign up because they are livestreaming.

Dave: Yes, you just click, and you can jump right in. If you jump in and miss some of it, you still have the feed, and you can watch it anytime you want. is where you can go to find that.

Ann: Just before ending yesterday’s broadcast, Ron was pointing out to stepparents [the] importance of being trustworthy. If a stepchild doesn’t see you as being that trustworthy person, it’s going to be so difficult for them to bond with you emotionally. Here’s the tricky part: you don’t know how long it’s going to take a child to open the door of their heart to you.

Dave: Longer than you think.

Ann: Yes; but being trustworthy is what you can do to make it easier for them. Today, we’re picking up that conversation, and Ron starts by thinking about a child who didn’t have that strong relationship with their biological parent before the stepparent entered into their life.

[Recorded Message]

Ron: Sometimes that door opens more quickly, unfortunately, if the biological parent had a very poor relationship with the child. But in other cases—I will say this, Darrel—that works in the opposite direction for a child who longed forever to have a connection with that parent, and now they seem to be even further away. “Well, my longing doesn’t necessarily die. I just wish they would come back, and I would finally get what I never had.”

Darrell: I can imagine a situation where, if you’re dealing with a divorce or a case where a biological parent was never around, the dynamics would be very different because of the absence of the parent in the house. But in a case where there was an intact family, the intact family functioned, and the intact family functioned fairly functionally, if I can—[Laughter]—pile words on top of themselves, that stepparent is never going to replace that space that the biological parent had.

To understand that, as a stepparent coming in, is probably pretty important. Then, if you build the right kind of trust, you will get to a point—and maybe this is the analogy; you will get to the point—where you might be like an aunt or an uncle who you like.

Ron: That’s right.

Darrell: But you will never totally replace the space of that biological parent.

Ron: That is the exact language that we use here at FamilyLife Blended and in our stepfamily material. Yes, you are an extended family member who is very near and dear to the child’s heart, but you never—I think that’s the overarching take away to this conversation is, you’re never going to replace the biological parent, living or deceased. Don’t try. That shouldn’t be the objective.

Darrell: Yes.

Ron: You're going to be an additional person in the life of this child. Some people are very close to their mother-in-law or their father-in-law. Some people are very close to an uncle or an aunt, and yet they have other extended family members they're not particularly close to.

It works the same way with stepfamily members. The point is, grow your relationship based on what you have available today and be trustworthy, so that as the door begins to open a little wider for that child, then what they experience in you is something really good.

Darrell, I want to turn the corner just a little bit. We're going to talk about your dad in a minute. I'm also mindful that you gained three stepsiblings that were your stepmother's children. How did your relationship and your siblings’ relationship with them go from the beginning?

Darrell: My relationship with them was pretty good. She had a young son, the youngest of her three, who was really disrupted by the disruption in her own family past, because she was out of a divorce. I ended up, for a while, being like a big brother to this young sibling, and actually enjoyed the role, to be honest, [and] worked at it.

She had a middle son who was pretty normal for lack of a better description, and we just got along. And then the oldest was a daughter, and that was just odd. We were good with one another, but it was a situation where she was family, but she was not my sister, but she was my sister, you know?

Ron: That's right.

Darrell: And that was just confusing for me.

Ron: Yes.

Darrell: Really, she's the only one of the three that I've had some contact with down the road; in part, because we both have come to faith since, and she ended up working at a place that's across the street from where our extension is in Houston. That's a real coincidence.

Those relationships all had to be individually negotiated as well and were. They were very, very different because of, again, where her siblings were in their own life with their own experience in processing, not only what was happening in the larger family from their perspective, but what was happening between us as a result.

Ron: Looking back, how did your dad take all this family adjustment: new wife, new family, and how the kids reacted? And I'm wondering, how did it impact your dad and stepmom's marriage?

Darrell: I don't know if I know that answer to that entirely, but I would say he was well aware of how everybody was reacting. There was no doubt about that, but he was doing his best to manage that. But remember, he was a—I’ve got to say this—a half- absentee dad, traveling a lot. There was an element of day to day in this that didn't exist because of the way his own life was being managed and where my older siblings were. They were involved in their own lives in their own locations.

It was a little bit like Whack-a-Mole, you know? It would show up when everybody was together, maybe a little bit, but then it would go away. I know it impacted their relationship to the degree that my stepmom was very aware that her relationship with my older siblings wasn't what it was, say, with me or even to some degree with my younger sister who eventually did adjust to the new reality.

But it still was something hard for him to process. But he also was very distracted with the fact that he ran a business that put him out on the road so much and was international and the amount of travel that he was doing.

They eventually located and lived in Bermuda. Everything was kind of dislocated. It wasn't a single household under a single roof. And that, obviously, was a very important dynamic to the whole thing. It probably allowed them to function as a couple without the distraction of the variety of responses they were getting, at least to a degree.


Dave: You’re listening to FamilyLife Today. We’re listening to a portion of the FamilyLife Blended Podcast with Ron Deal and his guest, Dr. Darrell Bock.

By the way, if you’re interested, the next Blended and Blessed livestream is this weekend. I know it’s late notice, but it’s a livestream so you can click in right now. It isn’t too late to do that.; go there, and you can find out how you can click in. You don’t want to miss it.

You’re going to hear stuff like we’re just hearing right now. Let’s go back and hear some more of Ron and Dr. Darrell Bock’s conversation.

[Recorded Message]

Ron: Jump five years into the new blended family, up to today. What eventually happened? You're now out of the house; your older two siblings were always out of the house, essentially; dad and stepmom eventually are going to move to Bermuda. How did that impact the evolution of the home over time?

Darrell: What happened, of course, was that my dad passed away of a heart attack when I was 21. He died of a heart attack in London; he was traveling. So, it was my older brother, who was a lawyer, who went to take care of wrapping everything that's required when that kind of sudden event happens.

Then we were dropped into negotiations, given the will, with the remainder of the family situation in which he, as a lawyer, and to some degree, was negotiating on behalf of all of us with this stepmom with whom his relationship wasn't necessarily the best. He was doing the best he could to try and manage being a lawyer looking after our interests and dealing with the way he was feeling about this relationship on the other. That was just a challenge.

Ron: I have to just throw this in there, a shameless plug: our book, The Smart Stepfamily Guide to Financial Planning, outlines this very thing as a big reason why blended families need to have an estate plan. They need to have it in writing and need to have communicated it to the children—

Darrell: —yes—

Ron: —young, old, whatever the case may be; so that there are no surprises—so you don't get to a funeral and people are fighting over the estate. That’s something I want to suggest to people. That couldn't have helped the relationships at that point.

Darrell: No, no. It was very counterproductive in many ways. I will say this: I think everybody, given those realities, did the best they could with what they were facing. We never devolved into an absolute kind of total separation and that kind of thing. That was a challenging period for everybody, because that was challenging people's sense of allegiances all over the place.

Ron: Absolutely; right. Those really had not come together. I'm curious, were there any ripples to that whole funeral estate debacle?

Darrell: Well, we eventually worked it all out. It just took a long time.

Ron: Your relationship with your stepmom, specifically; I'm wondering if there was any damage to that relationship?

Darrell: Not really because, by that time, I was in college and was towards the end of my time at the University of Texas and getting ready to transition into going to seminary. I had come to the Lord in the midst of college, et cetera. So that worked out, I think, reasonably well.

The challenges were more about trying to get through, in somewhat a coherent way as a total family, all the pressure that those negotiations put on everybody. With my brother, very, I think, responsibly dealing with the position he had been put in as a result; doing the best he could, even in some ways despite some of his feelings, to do the best for everybody that he could.

Like I said, that was a challenging time, but we got through it. The result was—just to [share] the longer term—that, basically, the family as it was, to the extent that it was, almost totally broke apart in the sense of, I didn't see my stepmom very much more after that; same true with her three children, that kind of thing. We kept in touch for a little bit, and then it kind of all just dissolved.

Ron: Do you miss your dad?

Darrell: I miss my dad tremendously. He and I were extremely close. We could be extremely frank with one another.

I wrote him a letter at one point, really close to the time when he had his heart attack—probably one of the last meaningful conversations I had with him because of his travel—complaining about the fact that I had been put in this position of being a dad and a brother to my sister, and that it wasn't fair, and that he really needed to own up to being her dad. He took that well. Our relationship was such that we could speak significantly with one another.

And just to show you the quality of this, my dad and my mom came out of a Jewish background. They left Judaism before I was born, so for me to go into Christian ministry on the other end of my story, and for them—well, my mom never knew—but for my dad to understand that's where I was going and why, and why I wanted to serve people, et cetera, and I thought that was an effective way to do it, he got that. That kind of shows you the quality of the relationship I had with my dad. So, yes, I miss my dad.

I miss my mom in a completely different way because I never got to say to her, had I known she was dying, [what] I would've wanted to say, which is, “I know I was a pain in the neck for you growing up, but I love you very, very much, and I appreciate the way you tried to care for me, even in the midst of having to go through what you had to go through.” I never got the chance to say that to my mom and should I see her in heaven, that will be the first thing I will say to her.

Ron: How about your stepmom; do you miss her?

Darrell: I miss her. She’s passed away now. Yes, I think there was a time when I missed her. There's another element of that that was she had her role in my dad's life. She certainly had a role in my life, but I don't—it's not the same as with my biological mom. It's just not.

I appreciated how she helped me through what were very challenging teenage years in many ways, but it was more, like I said, the analogy is she's more like a relative that you confide in than someone who you think of as being in your inner family.

The beauty of what she did with me was, she accepted that space and understood it, I think. We never talked about it, but that's the sense—but I really felt like, at times (at certain points in my life), I could tell her what was going on with my life, and she would process it with my best interests in mind.

Ron: You know it sounds, Darrell, like she got that and understood her place and that's what freed you up to like her.

Darrell: That could be. I was open to it, so that certainly helped; but she reciprocated, I think is actually what you're saying—

Ron: —yes—

Darrell: —and she reciprocated in a way in which she wasn't aspiring to be something she could never be.

Ron: That's right, and that makes a world of difference right there. That's the wisdom that I would want stepparents listening to—there's your takeaway. Pace with the children; meet them where they are. If they're open to you, great! Walk through that door. If the door is shut, stand gently outside; knock and wait and be patient. Don't assume too much about your role in their life.

When you embrace that, and they see that you embrace it—you're not trying to get rid of mom, for example, in Darrell's heart—then, all of a sudden, you just become a safer person to invest in. And that goes a long way toward keeping that door open.


Ann: You’re listening to FamilyLife Today. We’ve been listening to a portion of the FamilyLife Blended Podcast with Ron Deal and guest, Dr. Darrell Bock.

Ron, you’re with us in the studio now. Let me ask you, were Darrell’s stepsibling relationships—were those typical? Is that common?

Ron: I’m going to say, “Yes and no.” Yes, from the standpoint [that] he had varying relationships with his stepsiblings. Some were closer than others. He had one stepbrother where he [Darrell] was older, and he kind of became a caretaker to that brother. Then he had another relationship with a stepbrother that was a little distant, you know? Not as close as the other one. And then, he commented on his relationship with his stepsister, and she was generally the same age as him. That was a little strange, a little awkward for them.

He's not saying this but let me jump off and say, one of the common things we hear in our ministry is from people who say, “We have stepsiblings—a boy and girl, about the same age, going through puberty around the same time,” or whatever. “What do we do if there’s this romantic attraction, or something has already happened? How do we respond to that?” or “How do we prevent that from happening?”

Ann: That is awkward!

Ron: Yes, it is! I’ve got an article on my personal website,, about this. It’s a very popular article because people are looking for answers.

Let me say this: have some common sense about boundaries within your home. Be proactive. You basically have children in the home who are peers to one another, so there’s not this natural taboo against attraction or even passing thoughts about them as somebody that, “Would I date this person if we were not family?”

So, common sense about walking around the house dressed and in clothes, and at night before bedtime, how we handle those little good night hugs and different things. Just think it through. Don’t be naïve. That’s a message that we give people on a regular basis. That way the boundaries uphold the values you have of honoring one another, respecting each other, and that really helps.

Dave: Ron, let me ask you this, because Darrell talked a little bit about when the family sort of dissolved when there’s a death in the family. Like when my dad died, virtually I had little to no relationship with my stepmom after that because I don’t know. I heard Darrell say a similar thing. Is that pretty common?

Ron: It is because in your case, for example, and in his, the connection to a stepparent or stepsiblings is through the biological parent.

Dave: Right.

Ron: When that person is no longer around, everybody loses a little motivation to be together. It doesn’t mean the relationship goes completely backwards or turns off, but it varies case to case.

I think everybody listening can relate to this, because you have experienced or you know of somebody who experienced a relationship where you’ve had an in-law, sister-in-law because you got married, but really, your relationship to them is because you married their brother or their sister. That’s, at the end of the day, what brings you together around holidays, traditions, or what not. If that were to change, people just sort of naturally move away from one another.

Again, it’s not to say it always happens, but it’s fairly common.

Ann: We’re peppering you with questions after this segment; but let me ask you this one: you mentioned some finances as a stepfamily, and you’ve written a book on stepfamily finances. What role does money play a lot of times in these families? Is it a big role?

Ron: Yes, it is a big role. Of course, in any family, money is important (how you handle it). In blended families, in the beginning, money can be something that brings you together or something where you end up doubting one another, and you distrust the other person: “I’m not sure you’re taking care of me and my kids or the future. If I were to pass away, can I really trust you to take care of my kids the way I would want you to?”

All of that is stuff you need to talk through. We’re firm believers—and in our book, The Smart Stepfamily Guide to Financial Planning, we really lay out a plan to help couples come together around these issues, not let them divide them.

But the big thing is, and what was run into in Darrell’s family was, that was not communicated. Whatever the estate plan was, it was not communicated to the now-adult children, so they had to weed through that forest trying to figure that out with Darrell’s older brother and their stepmother. The relationships weren’t necessarily fabulous, so it’s even harder at that point.

We want to help people be proactive, get the plan, and communicate the plan so that it doesn’t end up causing conflict later.

Dave: Alright, Ron, one last question, I promise. [Laughter] This is it: what’s going on this weekend? You’ve got something happening this weekend.

Ron: Yes, we do. Blended and Blessed, our annual livestream. Churches are hosting it for couples, but individual couples listening to us right now can register and be a part of it. It’s a livestream; you can do this last-minute. All day Saturday; think marriage seminar just for blended family couples; new content this year; new speakers.

It’s a great event, and we would love to have you jump in. Just go to This Saturday is an opportunity for you to touch a little of the ministry that we have available to blended families.

Ann: Ron, we always love having you with us on FamilyLife Today.

Dave: Yes, thanks, Ron.

Ron: Thank you.

Shelby: I’m Shelby Abbott. You’ve been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Ron Deal as they’ve been listening to Dr. Darrell Bock on FamilyLife Today.

As Ron was talking about, the Blended and Blessed one-day marriage event is happening this Saturday. You can find out more details at, or you can find all the details that you need in the show notes at

Now, coming up tomorrow, what if you are in a congregation and your pastor confesses that he believes that freedom in Christ is actually a lie, what would you do in that situation? How would you respond? John Elmore was that pastor. He’s going to talk about that coming up tomorrow. We hope you’ll join us.

On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

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