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Surprised by Remarriage, Part 1

with Ginger Kolbaba | September 5, 2006

Today on the broadcast, Ginger Kolbaba, editor of Marriage Partnership magazine and author of the book Surprised by Remarriage, encourages those considering remarriage to ask the hard questions in order to find out if they're ready for the challenges a blended family presents.

Today on the broadcast, Ginger Kolbaba, editor of Marriage Partnership magazine and author of the book Surprised by Remarriage, encourages those considering remarriage to ask the hard questions in order to find out if they're ready for the challenges a blended family presents.

Surprised by Remarriage, Part 1

With Ginger Kolbaba
|
September 05, 2006
| Download Transcript PDF

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Bob: Ginger Kolbaba was single, she had never been married when she met and began to fall in love with a man who had been previously married, a man who had a teenage daughter.  She knew she needed to be cautious as she began praying about whether this was the person God would have her marry.

Ginger: I dated him for six years, and so I watched how he was as a father, and the way he treated other people.  It so impressed me.  I think that was the first thing.  And the second thing was really how he treated me, and I could see that he was really acting out Christ through the way he treated me, and that is the most romantic thing.  It's a very engaging kind of quality.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, September 5th.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  It's important to approach every marriage but especially a remarriage with your eyes wide open.

 And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us.  We're going to deal with something that as we were talking earlier has been a growing phenomenon in the culture.  It's something that we've watched over the history of development of FamilyLife.  We've seen growth in this segment of society, and it's something that has got to be addressed.

Dennis: When we started out with our Weekends to Remember in 1976, everybody who attended at that point was either contemplating marriage or engaged.  We wouldn't even let married people come to the conference.  But as we began to allow married folks in the back door and slide in the side door, we were overwhelmed, and it's now about 90 to 95 percent married folks who are at our Weekend to Remember Marriage Conferences, and, Bob, I remember back, like, 20 years ago, less than 10 percent of the audience were remarrieds, those with perhaps a blended family.  And then about – oh, I'd say seven or eight years ago we began to watch as the percentages began to creep up, and now about 30 percent, almost a third of those who attend the Weekend to Remember Marriage Conference are those who are in a remarriage situation.

Bob: And it's interesting, the engaged couples who are coming, it seems like about half of those who are in that engaged session are coming because they are headed toward a second marriage or a third marriage, and many of them want to make sure that this one goes differently than the one that they were in previously.

Dennis: There's no doubt about it, and there's good reason for that.  About 65 percent of all remarriages end in divorce.  So that means if you were a gambler, just looking at the stats – first of all, marriage is a risk, and it sure is.  I like what Erma Bombeck says – "If you want a guarantee, marry a car battery."  But even then it's only good for three or four years.  But 65 percent of all those who remarry see their marriages end in divorce, and we have a huge number of listeners here to FamilyLife Today, and that's why we've asked Ginger Kolbaba to come into FamilyLife Today and spend some time with us.  Ginger, we're glad that you're here, and we're glad you wrote this book, "Surprised by Remarriage."

Ginger: Thanks, it's great to be here today with you.

Bob: And I’m guessing when you were growing up as a little girl you didn't think to yourself, "Boy, I hope that someday I'll grow up and meet a guy, and he will have been previously married, and we'll go off and live happily ever after."

Ginger: Right.  I think I was probably like most women when they were growing up they imagined the wedding and all of that, but they imagined it on the first children, first in-laws, first financial issues, first sexual experience, first house, first everything, and so, yeah, when I married a man who was divorced, that was a brand-new adjustment period for me.

Bob: You were not previously married, right?

Ginger: No, this is my first marriage.

Bob: So when you met Scott, and there started to be an attraction between the two of you, you were obviously aware that he was previously married, right?

Ginger: Right.  I was aware – actually, before I met him, I knew that he was divorced, and on our very first date he sort of let the cat out of the bag right away, and he laid all his cards out on the table, if I can mix the metaphors there, and he told me everything, and he said, "If you want me to turn around this car and take it back, I understand."

Dennis: Now, when you decided to go out with him, you already indicated you knew he was divorced at that point?

Ginger: I knew at that point.  I was, at the time, working in theater, and I was directing a show, and one of the gals that I had cast in the show, she decided that she was going to set me up with her brother-in-law.  And she knew that I was a Christian, and he is a Christian, and so she decided, oh, this would work out really well.  And when she finally said, "I would like to fix you up," she told me the story, and my first question was, "Well, why did he get divorced?"  And she kind of laid out the whole story for me, and so I was aware, going in, that he was divorced.  I knew that he had a child, I didn't know how old the child was until our first date.

Bob: Now, let me set a context here, because you grew up as a preacher's kid, right?

Ginger: Yes, yes.

Bob: And so you'd been in church all your life, and you're a Christian, you've got your Christian convictions.  Now you hear about this nice guy who is previously married and has a child.  Was there anything in the back of your mind going, "Do I even want to go out on a date with this guy?"

Ginger: Oh, sure, there were lots of the ding-ding-ding, danger, danger, dangerous territory ahead.  But I listened to what his story was and really tried to find out his heart before I got to know him and really felt like he had a love for God, he had a lot of the same values that I had, and so I decided that I would take that first date and really get to know him for myself, and it was the best date.  It lasted 16 hours.

Dennis: Wow. 

Bob: I hope it started early in the morning.

Ginger: No, it didn't.  He took me to the theater, he took me out to dinner, and then we went to O'Hare International Airport and walked around all night, and at that point you could still get into the terminal, and so we spent all of this time talking, and what impressed me was he was asking really difficult questions of me, and at the time I just was so impressed with that that a guy would be asking me all these questions, but then I really realized he was doing that because he didn't want to get into a situation again like he had been in before.

Bob: So the first date goes 16 hours.  You go home and think, "He's a really nice guy."

Dennis: No, she goes home and sleeps for a couple of days probably.

[laughter]

Bob: But you were both attracted to one another, and there came a point in all of this where you had to call home and say, "Hey, Mom, Dad, I've met a guy.  He's a great guy.  By the way, Mom, Dad," Mr. Preacher Dad, he's been divorced, and he's got a kid.  Tell me about that conversation.

Ginger: Oh, I was so nervous with that conversation because I admire and respect my father.  I think he's just one of the wisest men I've ever known, and so I desperately wanted him to accept this relationship.  I wanted him to bless it, in a sense, and I didn't even tell him about until I knew that this was something that I was interested in.

Bob: And how long did it take from first date until this is something I'm interested in?

Ginger: It was probably about a month.

Bob: Okay, so a month in you say, "I've got to call Mom and Dad."

Ginger: Yeah, and I got Dad on the phone, and I said, "Dad, I've really met this neat guy, and I think that there is some possibility there," and I said all of these great qualities.  I sort of set it up, you know, like, "Wow, this guy is really great."

Dennis: You're doing some selling.

Ginger: You bet.

Dennis: I'm a dad, I know how this works.

Ginger: Yeah, yeah, it's, like, "Oh, he's got to say this is okay."  And I said, "There is just one thing."  And my father, being so wise, that's all I got out of my mouth, and he said "He's divorced."  And I was, like, "Yeah."  And so we started to talk through that, and he said – he asked some very probing questions about how long was he married, what was his relationship like, why did he get divorced, how is he dealing with that now, how is he taking responsibility for himself, and the issues that he would be responsible for, and I answered those questions, and by the end of the conversation he said, "You know, Ginger, if that's the direction you want to go in, and you really love this guy, and you really feel like God has brought him into your life then you have my blessing to pursue this."

Bob: Let me put your story on pause for just a second and let me ask you, as a father, Dennis – you still have one daughter who is unmarried.  If you got a call from Laura, and she said, "Dad, I've met this wonderful guy, there's just one thing."  How would you respond as a dad?

Dennis: Well, I think I'd listen carefully to what my daughter was saying about the man, and then I'd say, "Can we call just a brief timeout here for you and me, as father and daughter, to have a little bit of a conversation."  And at that point I'd just want my daughter to know that I'm going to have to have a few conversation with him.  Now, depending upon what I found out about some of the issues of biblical justification for a divorce, and whether there's freedom to be able to remarry or not, then and only then would I give the freedom for that relationship to move forward and encourage my daughter in that relationship.

Bob: And I assume it would be the same if you had a son, an unmarried son, who was interested in a previously married young woman.

Dennis: Of course.

Bob: You're really just trying to say, "Let's do a little exploration, a little digging, and let's see what's here."

Dennis: And hear me on this – I think it's regardless of whether there's been a divorce.  I think when you get two people together today, there's so much baggage, so many issues, so many temptations in this culture that we bring into a marriage, I want to have some conversations with a man about pornography, his use of money, debt and credit, and his sexual history.  I want to know who he is and his own faithfulness and spiritually to follow Christ and grow as a follower of Christ.  So there's a lot of issues I'd want to talk about in the process.

Bob: But given that somebody has been previously married, there are a few extra …

Dennis: … no doubt about it …

Bob: … extra issues that get added to the agenda.

Dennis: Yeah, and at the top of those is the word "time."  How long ago did it occur and tell me about the process that you've been through.

Bob: Well, Ginger, in your case, you had this conversation with your dad after you and Scott had been dating for a month.

Ginger: It was probably about a month.

Bob: All right, and then after you had the conversation with your dad, you and Scott continued to date for how long?

Ginger: Six years.

Bob: Six years.

Ginger: Yes.

Dennis: Did your dad have any conversations with Scott during those six years?

Ginger: Absolutely.  He talked to him and got to know him and got to see his heart, and, you know, it was that big thing with I'm daddy's little girl, and so I wanted, right up front in the relationship, to know that he would be on board with me, because if he said "I'm not really comfortable with this," then, to me, there was just really no reason for me to continue the relationship.

Dennis: Ginger, if you were advising a woman in your situation, all right, I want you to think back with me – are there any non-negotiables that you'd say, "Be sure about this, don't miss this, and, for goodness' sake, don't avoid this."

Ginger: That's a great question.  The first thing is, where is he spiritually?  If he kind of talks God language, but he's not living it out, then I cannot say fast enough, "run away."  That, to me, is an absolute non-negotiable.

Bob: And how did you know with Scott that you were on safe ground there?

Ginger: We talked a lot about our faith, and so I watched how he lived out his life, and I watched how he was as a father, and the way he treated other people, it just – it so impressed me.  I think that was the first thing.  And the second thing was really how he treated me, and I could see that he was really acting out Christ through the way he treated me, and that is the most romantic thing, it's the most seductive thing, if I can say that.  It's a very engaging kind of quality, especially if a man has that.  And I knew that was not something that he was just sort of putting on.

Dennis: And I want to move from that to your other non-negotiables of what you'd say to a young lady who is about to marry a divorced man.

Ginger: You know, the other thing is, I would ask her to ask him, "Why did you get divorced?"  And if he can't take any responsibility for the demise of that relationship, I would be really concerned, because the reality is it doesn't matter why the divorce happened, two people were involved and, you know, one might not have dealt the death blow to the divorce, to the marriage, but the other one contributed in some place.  You know, they were not the model of grace in Christ during that marriage, and so I would just ask some probing questions to find out what part of the relationship do you take responsibility for?  What were some of your weaknesses?  What were some of your shortcomings?  What were some specific things that you did that you wish you could have done differently? 

 And if that person comes back and says, "Well, I think that I probably did some things, but it's all my ex, boy, that's a big signal to you that when you get married to that person, you would become the scapegoat, because that person can't take responsibility for his or her own actions.

Dennis: And one of the things, I think, that's most important to look for in a mate after you've established the spiritual growth and the following of Christ in obedience to the Scriptures is teachability.

Ginger: Absolutely.

Dennis: And that's really what you're talking about here.  What did you learn?  How did you fail?

Bob: Is there some humility?  Is there some ownership for things that you did wrong other than blamecasting?

Dennis: Yeah, I'm going to tell you, I don't care whether you've been divorced or not, you're going to need teachability when you get married, because there will be mistakes that are made.  Is there a third non-negotiable that you would encourage a young lady with?

Ginger: Well, I could get in trouble for this one, but I honestly thing finances is a huge one.

Dennis: Now, why do you say you could get in trouble?

Ginger: Well, I'll give you an example.  A friend of mine was dating this man who had been divorced twice, and they were engaged, so this is going to be his third marriage, in debt up to his eyeballs, and I said, "You know, I really think that he needs to get his finances in order before you get married.  So I'm not saying don't get married, I’m saying just wait, and she chose not to.  They got married, and now they're really, really struggling because, all of a sudden, the government is coming along saying, "We may be taking some of the money out of your paycheck to pay for things because" of the ex-wife wanting more money and more this.  And it's just been a very ugly situation.

Dennis: And, I'll tell you, Ginger, I'm glad you mentioned that one, because we live in a culture today where usually the parents, me, as a dad, going back to Bob's question of me – what would I do if I was a dad – where the parents, for the most part, don't know the other person their child is about to marry.  And this issue of finances is a biggie.  It is really a big one, and I don't think 10 years ago I would have ever believed I would make this statement, but I believe to the degree you don't know the young person or the young man or woman that your son or daughter is about to marry, I really think you need to consider doing a little background check, taking a look and finding out what's going on behind the scenes.  Because I have heard more than one situation like you just described, where the young man didn't tell his fiancée about the debt, brought the debt in, and it was an immediate, an immediate crisis in the marriage, like you describe, from day one, and that doesn't tend to be great circumstances to grow a relationship.

Bob: Here is what happens – somebody who is lonely, longing for relationship, longing to be loved, thinks to himself or herself, "Those things will all take care of themselves.  I just want the loneliness to end, and I want to have somebody who loves me like this."  And then they get married, and all those real issues start to become very real, and they're not sure what to do with it.

Dennis: And, I'm telling you, it's at those moments they need to listen to the words of Jesus Christ who spoke very authoritatively in Matthew, chapter 7, verse 24 – "Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and acts upon them may be compared to a wise man who built his house upon the rock, and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew and burst against that house, and yet it did not fall for it had been founded upon the rock."  Now, that's the picture of what a marriage is to look like, and that house stood because the builder had heard the voice of Christ and had built his house on the rock.  When you don't build it on the rock, and you don't do what Jesus Christ commands you to do, it's the second half of the verse. You've got the same wind, the same floods, the same rain.  It's all coming against the house, and you know what it says – "and it fell, and great was its fall."  And that's not what we need more of today.  We need houses that are still standing after the elements have come against it.

Bob: And I think building your house on the rock means being sober-minded, being alert, paying attention, going in wisely not naively, asking a lot of questions, looking at what the Scriptures say, getting the counsel of others – there are all kinds of things involved in this process.  It requires understanding the biblical blueprints but also understanding who you are and your background and your potential spouse's background.  I think it's important that individuals who are considering a remarriage get wise counsel and read up on a subject like this. 

Get a copy of Ginger's book, "Surprised by Remarriage," and read through it, learn about her experience, get together with some other couples, go through the Homebuilders study that we've created called "Making Your Remarriage Last," and together, as you go through that, hear them talk about their stories of challenges they've experienced.  These kinds of things are the things you ought to look at hard before you say "I do" in a remarriage situation, and then after the wedding is over, make sure you continue to build into the foundation of your marriage, because you've married in an area where the storms are likely to come a little more often than they might in another situation.

We've got resources in our FamilyLife Resource Center, like Ginger's book and like our Homebuilders study, "Making Your Remarriage Last."  Go to our website, FamilyLife.com.  In the center of the screen, you'll see a red button that says "Go," and if you click on that button, it will take you right to a page where you can get more information about these resources and more resources that we have available here at FamilyLife designed to help you build a strong marriage and designed to help you think through the realities that come with remarriage.

Again, the website is FamilyLife.com, click the "Go" button in the center of the screen or call us at 1-800-FLTODAY for more information about the resources that are available.  Again, it's FamilyLife.com, that's the website, or you can call 1-800-358-6329.  That's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, and if there is any way for the two of you to get to one of our Weekend to Remember Marriage Conferences before you decide to remarry, let us encourage you to do that as well.  A lot of the couples who are coming to the conference today are couples who want to make sure that this time they have a better understanding of what marriage is supposed to be as they head in.  They know how to build their marriage on the rock, and there is more information, again, on our website at FamilyLife.com about the Weekend to Remember conference, and the conference season is kicking off this month, and it's going to be in cities all across the country. 

We hope you can plan to attend one of these upcoming conferences whether you are engaged or married, whether it's your first marriage or a second marriage, this is a great weekend getaway, where you'll learn together the biblical blueprints for building a stronger marriage relationship.  Again, there's more information online at FamilyLife.com about the Weekend to Remember or call us at 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY.

You know, the day after Labor Day is kind of the traditional start of the fall.  For a lot of us, school is now back in session, if it hasn't already been back in session for a couple of weeks.  The kids are back in their routine, life is getting back to normal after summer break, and the schedule is maybe getting a little more crowded than it has been. 

One of the issues that many of our listeners have asked for help on here at FamilyLife is the whole issue of priorities and time management.  We've come across a helpful, very practical resource designed to help couples get control of their schedule, get their priorities established.  It's a small booklet called "Priorities – Mastering Time Management," and we'd like to send it out this month to any of our listeners who can help with a donation of any amount to the ministry of FamilyLife Today.  We are listener-supported.  We depend on donations to be able to keep this program on the air in this city and in cities all across the country, and so we want to come to those of you who have been listening for a while and say, "Can we ask you to help us with a donation of any amount?" 

You can donate online at FamilyLife.com or you can call 1-800-FLTODAY to make a donation, and if you're interested in getting a copy of this booklet on priorities, we're happy to send it to you as our way of saying thank you for your financial support.  If you make your donation online, when you come to the keycode box in the donation form, just type the word "time" in there, and we'll know that you're requesting a copy of this book, or if you call 1-800-FLTODAY to make your donation just mention that you'd like the book on time management, and we'll be happy to send it out to you.  Again, our toll-free number is 1-800-FLTODAY, or you can donate online at FamilyLife.com, and we appreciate you considering your support of this ministry.

Well, tomorrow Ginger Kolbaba is going to be back with us, and we're going to talk more about some of the challenges that accompany couples where one or both of the spouses has been previously married.  I hope you can join us for that.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.

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