I was married to my first husband for 10 years. He was my high school sweetheart. We later reunited after college. Together we brought two wonderful children into this world, Jason and Sara. Today they are both happily married with children—all of which I am extremely grateful for. However, when they were two and four, their father left me. I was devastated and forced to take on the role of single motherhood.
Five years later I married Rich, who had two children. It’s hard to believe that we’ve been married for more than 26 years. Looking back during our dating years, however, we agree that we did a number of things both right and wrong in preparation for marriage. This I know: Joining two families together is NOT an easy task, but if you pursue godly wisdom in the dating process, you’ll have less regrets to work through on the other side of “I do.”
If you have not read Ron Deal’s book Dating and the Single Parent, you must. He discusses pertinent topics concerning long-range planning during the engagement period. I wish Rich and I would have read similar material years ago. Doing so would have saved us from a number of sleepless nights.
There’s much to consider when joining two families. For a long time, it’s two families living under the same roof. So let me share a few tidbits that will aid you during the dating process and help ensure second marriage success on down the road (if the Lord wills, of course).
1. Emotional pain doesn’t just go away with time.
Dealing with your pain is critical for well-balanced living. Before you marry again, or if you’re a single mom who’s never been married, be real about issues of bitterness or wrong motives. Ask others for advice about your blind spots. Be sensitive to your own harassing pain that won’t go away, and seek to find the root. Don’t use marriage as an escape out of your own discomfort, and don’t rush the process.
2. Take time for personal inventory.
I love Ron Deal’s quote, “You must deal with you long before you try to get someone to deal with you.” So how do you deal with you? Have you defined the extent of your own loss? Have you addressed the past without passing blame? Or have you suppressed it? Ron adds, “A buried past is usually buried alive—and easily resurrected.” I discovered in my second marriage journey that rather than burying the past, it’s more practical to face it while reflecting on it with humility and surrender to God. Over time, it was God who out of His grace gently buried the heartache of my past. God is a faithful healer when we give Him all the pieces and wait.
3. Consider the children.
This topic swarms with questions as it addresses more than a multitude of scenarios. But these guidelines hold true in most of them. First, know that many children fear (whether spoken or not) that if their parent marries again, they will become second place. Or they’ll feel like they’ve been abandoned. So beware. Don’t ignore what your child is not saying, and don’t push away their sadness. Allow them to express their emotions by following up with words of affirmation and spending time together.
Secondly, don’t expect the child initially to accept the potential new stepparent. Take it slowly. Find ways to gradually consider “What would life look like if...” questions together. Listen to their viewpoint, and don’t assume just because they’re not talking that they are “all good” with the plans. I made that mistake with one of my children by not asking enough questions.
And finally, comfort your children by telling them that no matter what, you will always be their mom and no one can take their place.
4. Define the purpose of marriage.
Is it to give the children a father figure so you can feel like you have a “family” again? Is it to help pay the bills? Is it to fill the void of loneliness? Is it to satisfy other issues: sexual reasons, peer acceptance, guilt, or worry? These are hard questions to face, but running over them with a bulldozer only temporarily crushes them. Then like a buried, forgotten seed, they’ll sprout up again—only this time taller and more difficult to cut down.
So what is God’s purpose in a marriage? It’s to enter into a covenant with the Father in order to serve Christ and be a model for the kids. Ron further advises, “Marry someone, not as a replacement parent, but because you love them and believe they will help you raise your kids in the Lord. Don’t marry someone unless you are convinced they will bring emotional, spiritual, psychological, and relational blessings to your children.”
Friend, these suggestions are only a few to consider when reorganizing your family unit. One thing I can assure you: Without marrying a man who shares your faith and without much pre-marital guidance as to what a second marriage looks like, you will struggle. I look back over my 26 years of marriage with Rich and thank God for the lessons we’ve learned.
God is good. God is faithful. And God desires marriages that reflect Him. Are you and your potential new partner ready to start that journey?
Pam Kanaly, selected as National Mother of Achievement – 2015 - in Washington, DC, and best-selling author of The Single Mom and Her Rollercoaster Emotions, remains one of the nation’s leading advocates for single mothers. She is the co-founder of the global organization Arise Ministries bringing encouragement to single mothers in every state in the US and over 140 countries through their online education center: EQUIP. Pam is a favorite in Oklahoma having been nominated by the Governor for Oklahoma Mother Making a Difference. Pam and her husband Rich reside in Edmond, Oklahoma. Visit Pam at ariseministries.net and download the FREE Arise Ministries app.
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