Parent well in a stepfamily.  Seek a balance between the love and energy you give your children with what's necessary to sustain and build your marriage.  If you're a biological parent, gradually pass authority onto the stepparent and help your children build trust in him or her.  If you're the stepparent, move into the relationships with your stepchildren gradually, and discipline them only after you've earned their trust, respect, and honor.  Try to work together with your spouse to lead in unity and support each other in front of the children.

Use your personality differences to work with (not against) each other.  Rather than focusing on the ways you wish you were more alike or the parts of each other's personalities you'd like to change, ask God to help you learn how to understand, appreciate and work with your personality differences.  Keep in mind that those differences can benefit your marriage as you both bring unique abilities and perspectives to the relationship.  Consider how you can best work together to manage differences like these: extroverted versus introverted, open to change versus conventional, conscientious versus less organized, agreeable versus forceful, and calm versus reactive.  Also, work to change unhealthy attitudes and behaviors that can sabotage your marriage.  Avoid being moody, critical, negative, controlling, depressed, withdrawn, stubborn, or hot-tempered.

Communicate well.  Create a safe environment with each other that allows for open, vulnerable communication.  Listen carefully to each other's thoughts and feelings.  Don't criticize each other. Speak kind, encouraging words to each other whenever possible.  Make time for focused, meaningful conversations with each other every day.

Resolve conflicts well.  Manage conflict wisely so it won't harm your marriage but will help it grow as you work through issues.  Avoid blaming each other; take responsibility for your part in problems.  Don't bring up old issues; stick to the facts of the current issue you want to discuss.  Work together to find solutions that benefit both of you. 

Enjoy an active, shared leisure life.  Make plenty of time for fun and romance in your marriage so you both will feel more willing to work through life's stresses together.

Manage money well.  Find a financial management system that reflects each of your core values and works well for both of you.  Adhere to a budget while paying off existing debt and avoiding new debt.  Live simply, spending more time acquiring experiences, insight, and relationships than you spend acquiring things.  Save and give all you can.

Enjoy a healthy sex life.  Work on building the emotional intimacy that supports sexual intimacy.  Communicate with each other honestly and often about your wants and needs, and respond by lovingly trying to meet those desires and needs.  Don't compare your current spouse to your former one, and don't let insecurities from your former relationship spill over into your remarriage.

Enjoy a healthy spiritual life.  Share each other's spiritual values and orient your marital life around them.  Pray together, worship together at church, work together to serve others in need, and talk often about your spiritual journeys.  As you each grow closer to God, you'll grow closer to each other in the process.

February 13, 2010

Adapted from The Remarriage Check-Up, copyright 2010 by Ron L. Deal and David H. Olson.  Published by Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, Bloomington, Mn., www.bethanyhouse.com.