Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Ron L. Deal and David H. Olson's book, The Remarriage Check-Up, (Harvest House Publishers, 2009).

All married couples face pressures that can harm or destroy their marriages.  But spouses in remarriages are even more vulnerable. More than 60 percent of remarriages end in divorce, recent studies show.  Adding stepchildren increases the risk still more to 50 percent higher than the risk for remarried couples without children.  

So if you're remarried, it's vital to check the health of your marriage regularly.  Just as avoiding medical or dental exams can be hazardous to your physical health and skipping regular oil changes can break your car, neglecting marriage checkups can lead to an unhealthy relationship - or even divorce.  But regularly checking the health of your marriage can lead to better decisions that make it stronger.  

Here's how you can check the health of your remarriage:

Identify your strengths and weaknesses as a couple in key areas.  Consider whether you and your spouse are doing well or need to improve in these key marriage areas: expectations, communication, conflict resolution, financial management, affection and sexuality, spiritual beliefs, roles in your relationship, and family and friends.  Identify and discuss where you are now in your relationship.  Talk about issues and where you'd like to be.  Then develop an action plan to get there.  Keep in mind that your goal is to turn stumbling blocks into strengths.

Get close.  Couples with close marriages: Feel confidence and trust in each other and feel secure with each other; Include each other in important decisions; Share leadership within their relationship; Have a mutual respect for each other; Have similar likes and interests; Are committed to spending time together on a regular basis and intentionally plan ways to be together; Feel the freedom to ask each other for help; Choose to be loyal to each other; and balance the time with family and friends so as not to take away from their relationship.

Be flexible.  The more flexible you and your spouse are, the happier your marriage can become.  Handle differences creatively, being open to exploring new solutions with each other.  Compromise and seek win-win solutions, consider the other's opinions, and be open to being influenced by each other.  Work together to organize your daily life, schedule, and household.  Work as a team to make decisions and seek unity in leading your household.  Be humble and willing to change when necessary.

Adjust your expectations.  Identify any unrealistic expectations you or your spouse may have, and change them to better reflect reality. 

  • Expect that it will be stressful to live in a remarriage and stepfamily; work together to find the solutions to the dilemmas that will arise. 
  • Expect that it will take time for your stepchildren to adjust and grow close to their new family members. 
  • Expect that your former spouses, extended family members, and children from previous marriages will impact your remarriage, and you'll have to adjust your family life accordingly. 
  • Expect that both you and your spouse will have to deal with emotional baggage from your previous relationships, and make time to pursue healing. 

But don't let these realities cause you to act in fear.  Ask God to give you the confidence you need to overcome your fears and work to create a strong marriage in spite of the stresses you must face.