Families have complicated dynamics, even when it’s as simple as mom/dad/child. Everyone has “stuff” that complicates how we react to situations, or interact with one another.
Now you’re in a blended family, where the dynamics include the hurts caused by divorce, plus ever-changing agendas of ex-spouses, kids with abandonment issues, child support regulations, parenting and step-parenting roles… and the list goes on.
With so many obstacles constantly in your path, how do you keep your marriage on track?
Before I offer suggestions for staying on track I must first confess that there are times our family feels like a train wreck, so if that’s what you’re feeling please know you’re not alone. As one of my favorite songs from Casting Crowns says, “people never crumble in a day, it’s a slow fade”. React quickly when you feel things pulling apart and you can turn it around. Which brings me to my first point for keeping your marriage on track.
1. Don’t put it off. In this world of distractions in which we live, it’s easy to find many other things to do besides dealing with uncomfortable relationship issues. We can make excuses like, “I don’t want to start a difficult conversation when he had such a bad day at work”. You will never find the perfect time to have a difficult discussion. You just have to do it. Put aside your temptation for avoidance and deal with what’s right in front of you.
2. Don’t keep secrets. This is one that trips us up sometimes. I’m not talking about big, obvious secrets that you know you shouldn’t keep from your spouse. What I’m referring to are the little details we might “accidentally” leave out. When I catch myself not mentioning to my husband that I bought a new shirt because I worry that he’ll tell me it was a frivolous purchase, or when he doesn’t tell me he’s made plans to play golf because he’s afraid I won’t want him to go…. those are the little secrets that cannot go unchecked. Taken one at a time they may seem harmless enough, but they add up quickly and can become a habit. You need to ask yourself what’s really behind your reluctance to communicate and then get to work fixing the root cause.
3. Don’t compare. Generally speaking, when something in your life isn’t measuring up, it’s because of your measuring stick. You can’t compare your marriage to anyone else’s. You don’t know what goes on behind their closed doors. In our home we have to be careful not to compare how we deal with one kid-related situation to another. It can quickly become a minefield of “you ask more of my son than you do of your own,” or “you’re making your own children more of a priority than mine”. The best way to handle any situation you’re facing is to focus only on that one situation. Comparing it to anyone or anything else just makes it appear bigger and more challenging.
Like I said, you are not alone if you do any or all of these things from time to time. I know I do them all. What I’ve found to be the most effective way to stay on track is to stop immediately when I notice one of these behaviors and pray. I ask God to take over the situation and soften my heart. I ask him to deal with my pride, my unforgiveness, my stubborn attitude. He, in turn, gives me grace which humbles me and reminds me that if our Father can love and forgive me despite all my shortcomings, then who am I not to do the very same for my husband. None of us is perfect.
Accepting grace in our imperfection is what will keep our marriage on track.