The Smart Stepdad: Are You Ready to Remarry? - Ron Deal

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FamilyLife Today® Radio Transcript
References to conferences, resources, or other special promotions may be obsolete. Are You Ready to Remarry? Guest: Ron Deal
From the series: The Smart Stepdad (day 1 of 3)
Bob:
Ron Deal says he has talked with a lot of people who have been through a difficult first marriage that came to an end, and have been in too big a hurry to find someone else and marry again. Ron: “You know, we met on eHarmony, and we‟ve met face-to-face once. We live on opposite sides of the universe, but that‟s not going to be a problem for us. We‟re in love! eHarmony says we‟re a match.”
Wait a minute, wait a minute. Slow down. That hurried, desperate need to be together with somebody is telling you something about yourself. You need to come to terms with that, and get objective about it so that it‟s not driving you into a decision that wouldn‟t be a wise one. Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for W ednesday, June 1st. Our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I‟m Bob Lepine. Marrying a second time, becoming a stepdad, is a huge challenge. Today, Ron Deal helps you think through whether you‟re up to the challenge, or whether you need to press pause for a little bit. And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us.
I‟m wondering why Ron Deal put Doc Martins on the front of his book? A pair of loafers, but I think they‟re Doc Martins. Isn‟t that yellow stitching around the top characteristic of the Doc Martins? Dennis: Ron? Ron: I don‟t have a clue! (laughter) Dennis: You‟ve got to be careful around Bob. I‟m telling you, he‟s tough on you. Bob: Did you pick the shoes for the cover of the book? Ron: I did not pick the shoes. I influenced. I know which ones I did not p ick.

Dennis:
Every author knows about that! All the covers you reject. Bob: Is the idea here that if you‟re going to be a smart stepdad, you‟ve got some bigshoes to step into? Is that the idea here? Ron: That, yes. And, in a way, you‟re also stepping into someone else‟s shoes, but that person‟s already in their shoes. It gets a little confusing. Dennis: You challenge a step-dad with “Steps to Help You Succeed.” You really havea heart for stepdads. By the way, welcome to the broadcast. Ron: Thank you. It‟s great to be back. Dennis: Sorry we critiqued your cover right off the start. Ron: That‟s alright. Bob: It wasn‟t a critique. I was just curious. Dennis: You were critiquing it, Bob. Bob: The shoes do look a little scuffed up, too, I think. Dennis: Ron Deal is the founder of Successful Stepparents. He is an author and a speaker. He and his wife Nan and their sons live in Amarillo, Texas. He has written the book The Smart Stepdad. I didn‟t realize this, Bob, but 16.5 million men are stepdads today.
Bob: That‟s a big chunk of the population. Dennis: Sixteen percent of all men will bear this title. So you‟re talking to millions of men who step into these shoes. They‟re going to find this much more difficult to do this thing of being a stepfather than they ever imagined. Ron: Many of them have the biggest hearts in the world. They come in and they want to be the hero, you know? They want to do a good job. God bless them for having the heart for that.
Sometimes what they experience when they get there is like the first day on a new job, and people didn‟t know you were showing up. They really would rather have the other guy there instead of you. His name is still on the door, and you‟re moving into his office. You‟re really unclear what performing well on the job would look like.
How do I hit the bull‟s-eye in my new job? It‟s really unclear. Some people are telling you it looks like this, and other people are telling you it looks like this, and you‟re thinking, “W ho‟s on my team and who‟s not on my team?” All of that confusion hits stepdads pretty quickly.
Bob: And you add to that, maybe in your last job things didn‟t go so well and there were challenges, and there‟s still some anger and bitterness from the previous place you used to work, that left you feeling a little insecure about your role in the first place. Now, here you are stepping into the new assignment. You‟ve got to acknowledge when you step into a role as either a stepmom or a stepdad that ther e‟s some stuff in this pot of stew that you‟ve been cooking up here that is going to have be dealt with. Ron: Yes, and an application of what you just said about the former job: many stepdads are biological dads. They have their own children and they m ay live with them or they may not. They may be with them on a part-time basis.
So, really, you kind of have two jobs. One of those jobs is very clear. It‟s very clear what it is to be the dad. But it‟s just not so clear what it is to be the stepdad. That‟s what we want to do with this book is offer them direction. Dennis: As human beings, we tend to be idealistic. W e enter into this new relationship– there‟s a honeymoon. Maybe we did go through something where we experienced divorce in the past and we‟ve got that set of bags that we bring into the marriage relationship like we‟re talking about here, but don‟t you find that as couples formblended families, that they have some unreal expectations about how it‟s going to work? Ron: Absolutely! Absolutely. The expectations are built on the fantasy. Really, we need the fantasy. W e need the dream. There are a lot of risks in life that we wouldn‟t take if we didn‟t have a dream wrapped around it. I think that‟s often true about remarriage, about becoming a stepparent.
The dream isn‟t necessarily bad or wrong. I want stepdads and stepparents to holdonto that dream. But, at the same time, it needs to be tempered with reality; it needs to be tempered with truth about their circumstances. Then, as they step this out, they‟re going to make better choices. Bob: W ell, if you grew up in the generation that watched The Brady Bunch, is that not the quintessential, definable stepfamily?
Ron: Absolutely. Bob: Or you rented the movie Yours, Mine, and Ours, and you thought, “So, they make it work.” You forget that someone had to write lines for them, and someone had to create scenarios for them, and that it‟s fiction. Real life can be a little more complicated and a little more confusing.

Dennis:
And the storyline isn‟t over in two hours. Bob: That‟s right. Ron: W e believe in love in our culture. I‟m glad that we do. W e really do think love is going to conquer all, and that if our love is pure enough when a man and woman come together, that the children will come together as well around that. And sometimes that‟s true, and sometimes – more often – it‟s true eventually, but not true immediately. It‟s that period of disillusionment that really is a barrier for a lot of people.
Bob: I want to take you all the way back to the headwaters of somebody who isconsidering a remarriage situation. I‟ll give you the scenario: This is somebody who was previously married, and for whatever reason, with their best intentions, things did not go well. His spouse left. He‟s spent a couple of years, and it‟s been hard, lonely, hurting. Then he met a gal and fell head over heels, thought hecould never feel this way again. He comes to you and says, “I‟m at the point where I‟mthinking about whether this should go further. My first question for you is, am I ready? Have I gone through everything I need to go through so that next time I can do a better job than last time?” How would you coach a guy like that? Ron: W ell, one of the things I would say to him is, “I love your heart. I love your caution. I love the fact that you want to learn and grow and understand and get perspective before you make decisions, and not make them rashly.” The other thing I would say to him is on the other side of that is a truth that I have come
to believe and that is that “nothing really gets you ready for marriage. Marriage gets you ready for marriage.” And, unfortunately, what that means is that we make our commitments and then life teaches us what we committed ourselves to. So, on some level, we‟ll never know exactly what is going to be required of us. There is a step of faith. There is a point of saying, “There‟s a risk here and I‟m willing to meet that risk. Therefore, I choose to step in.” That choice, as it turns out, is incredibly powerful. It‟s kind of like the choice of following Christ? Do we really know what‟s going to be required of us? No, we don‟t know. But we step in with faith, and then we say, “God, teach me. Take me where I need to be.”
Dennis: That‟s what I was thinking about as you were kind of unpacking that. I was thinking, “You know, it seems like Jesus‟ words about Him saying, „What man that wants to be my disciple does not first count the cost and think about whether he‟s able to take on this weight, this responsibility?”
I think to that person Bob is describing here, who is still on the front end of this, another thing I would encourage him to do is to ask God for wisdom as he moves into this relationship with this woman. Secondly, as he moves into these multiple relationships with children, some of whom are already his, some of whom aren‟t his, and some of whom in the future may be theirs. I mean, the dynamics of this thing!
Bob: You stop and pull it all apart. Statistically, he‟s stepping into something that‟s more fraught with danger than his first marriage was. Statistically, there‟s more chance that he‟ll be divorced from the second wife than there was that he get a divorce from the first wife. Not only that, but the degree of difficulty has just been increased by virtue of all of these relationships that Dennis is talking about.
So, I‟m going to do something harder, that is fraught with more difficulty, and it didn‟t go so well my first time out. You can see how a guy would say, “I need to think this through pretty clearly.” Ron: Right. Absolutely. Slow down. Slow the pace of the courtship phase. That‟sone of the words that I would like to give to any couple. You may be ready as a couple, but it‟s a much more difficult thing to be a family than it is to be a couple. So, you have to say, “This is a package deal. Let‟s pause. Let‟s prolong our courtship. Let‟s really get to know each other well. Let‟s also get some perspective and information about the blended family and what this might look like.” I think it‟s hard for couples to hear this, but there‟s wisdom in this – if you don‟t think that you are cut out for the stepparent journey, it ought to be a deal -breaker for a couples‟ relationship. That‟s hard to hear. “W e‟re in love. W e took our online couple check-up profile and it says we‟re compatible. There‟s so much going for us in our relationship.”
Dennis: Yes, but let me stop you right there. I can almost picture a guy who‟s about tobecome a stepdad saying, “I just like her. I like the way she makes me feel.” I wouldn‟t say he would lie to her, but love does tend to make us a bit dishonest. W e tend to put our best foot forward. So, what would you say to that guy who has a gnawing feeling in the back of his mind thinking, “I don‟t know if I can do this thing or not.”?
Ron: Yes, those are just kind of some of the realities that I would want him to really own with himself. To have the courage to take that to her. Dennis: To discuss it as a couple. Ron: And say, “This is where I‟m at; be patient with me as we try to move forward.”

Dennis:
W hat about the distance between when the divorce has occurred and whenthis dating relationship started? Any cautions or red lights that you‟d want to . . . ? Ron: Absolutely. Men marry quickly after divorce or after being widowed. Bob: “It is not good for man to be alone.” (Laughter) Ron: Men tend to marry more quickly than women do. I do think that‟s a caution. A man listening to us right now should stop and think, “OK. W hat is driving me to push this relationship forward? In my thoughts, I‟m obsessed with this woman. She‟s great. She‟s wonderful. I‟m kind of saying this stuff with the kids will be fine, and I‟m minimizing that stuff as if it‟s nothing, when really Ron‟s telling me it‟s something. W hat is that about within me?” And if a woman is listening right now and she‟s dating a guy, or she knows someone who‟s dating a guy, who says, “W e met on eHarmony, and we‟ve met face-to-face once. W e live on opposite sides of the universe, which, by the way, I‟m hearing from these couples all the time, but that‟s not going to be a problem for us. W e‟re in love!eHarmony says we‟re a match.” W ait a minute, wait a minute. Slow down. Slow down. That hurried, desperate need to be together with somebody is telling you something about yourself. You really need to take that to heart, and get objective about it so that it‟s not driving you into a decision that wouldn‟t be a wise one.
Dennis: A number of years ago, Bob and I interviewed Gary Richmond who had a very vibrant ministry to remarrieds and blendeds at First Evangelical Free Church inFullerton, California. I remember that he used to say for every five years you have been married, you should allow one year to recover after a divorce. So, in other words, if you‟ve been married for twenty, you should take four years to recover before really considering remarrying. Bob: I want to dive in there, because it seems to me that there‟s some significant spiritual work that needs to go on in a person‟s life in that period from the end of a first marriage to the point where they‟re thinking about a second marriage. Some issues that need to get unearthed spiritually, and be dealt with spiritually, but I‟m not sure I could put my finger on exactly what those were. W hat would you point somebody to in the midst of that?
Ron: W ell, in general, let me just say I do recommend that people really have a period of grieving and of coming to some resolution about a previous relationship, especially if it comes to an end through divorce. This is also true for somebody who loses a spouse through death.
You do need to grieve. You do need to give yourself time and space to do that. And new relationships short-circuit that grieving process. How much time? That‟s so difficult to say. A rule of thumb for every so many years. . . Early in my career, I gave people time limits. I said, “You need to wait this long.” And now I‟ve learned that life‟s more complex than that. It‟s difficult to know. For example, David Olson and I did a research study on remarriage relationships. W e wrote a book called The Remarriage Checkup all about this, and one of the things we found was that the couples‟ relationship can actually be just as strong six months into dating as it can be three years into dating. Now, that does not take into consideration the children, or the ex-spouses, or how that‟s going to create stress on the couple once they get married. So, there are a whole lot of other factors here, but amount of time in courtship doesn‟t seem to be a real big factor in terms of quality of couple relationship.
Having said that, though, I still think the more time people spend coming out of a relationship, especially a divorce, and allowing themselves to grieve and work through and resolve and ask those tough spiritual questions and get their heart right with God; if there‟s a sin issue that led to the divorce, they need to deal with that and not just skip over it and try to move onto the next relationship. They need to deal with that.
And then, once they enter into a new relationship, they ought to spend a couple of yearsat a pace that allows them not only to develop “coupleness,” but, if you will, “familyness.” And then there‟s confidence when you move into the next relationship. You see, confidence is huge, because people who go into blended family marriages most of them have been through something that was pretty devastating.
They‟ve been through hurt. They‟ve been through hearing the pastor say, “Marriage is forever.” But life has taught them that it‟s not. So, how do they gain confidence about this new marriage instead of living in fear? That‟s what that courtship – that extended courtship – time helps to build.
Bob: Let me take you back, though, kind of to the spiritual unearthing that needs to happen in somebody‟s life. How do you do an inventory to figure out whether your walk with God is at the right point where you can begin to do marriage right? As we tell people all the time, if you don‟t have your relationship with God right, your relationships with one another aren‟t going to work out. W hat kind of spiritual process does somebody go through just to say, “OK, I just want to make sure that having gone through something that I never expected or hoped for, that I know, “God hates divorce,” and I‟ve been through one. . . how do I deal with all of this and make sure I‟m good with God before I go forward?” Ron: I think it‟s a multi-faceted thing. By the way, since we‟re talking about stepdads today and you‟re wanting to have that spiritual integrity coming out of the divorce to be able to go in and be a leader in the new marriage and family – this makes your question
even more critical. So, multi-faceted. I think he needs to get one or two accountability buddies that he can really talk turkey with and they‟ll speak into his life about what they have seen in him, and how he‟s lived, and his choices. Even now, how he‟s co- parenting with his ex-wife and whether that‟s showing integrity or not.
I think going through some kind of structured program such as Divorce Care or a divorce recovery ministry in his church that allows him to listen to other people and see some experts talk about things; to study and really give time and energy to resolving, reflecting, looking in the mirror. And, then, certainly that personal walk and talk with the Lord – listening to the Spirit‟s leading in his life.
I think all of those things together would help bring somebody to a place where they feellike, “OK, I‟ve learned what I need to learn and I think I‟m ready to carry that into the next season of my life. If that happens to be a new relationship, great. And if it‟s not, then that‟s OK, too.” Dennis: OK, Ron, I want to make sure I‟ve really gotten your advice down here, because I think this decision is of the utmost importance, alright? Number one – first of all – seek God and ask Him for wisdom. You‟ve just been through something really tough, and it must begin in your own relationship with God. That means also a ruthless examination of your own life; of what wasn‟t right, perhaps, in the previous relationship if that‟s how you ended up at this point.
Secondly, seek wise counsel. As you‟ve mentioned, accountability partners that will tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. And then listen carefully. It‟s interesting: when the love bug bites, it just completely short-circuits our brains. Ron: It does. Dennis: W e just filter everything through it and we think, “It‟ll be different. It‟ll be different next time. I‟m going to learn the lessons and. . . .” Bob: W e just think, “This feels so good.” Dennis: It does, it does! Third, discuss expectations together. I hear you saying that is extremely important, as a stepdad coming into a new relationship - talk about what that means, what that‟s goingto look like, how you relate and all the variables that surround that relationship. And, finally, fourth – you didn‟t mention this word, but you talked all the way around it. You talked about moving forward what‟s going to create safety and security, and that is the word “covenant” and “commitment.” Marriage is a covenant between three: a man, a woman, and their God.
I talk about when it gets tough, what are we going to do? Is the “D” word ever going to be used in this relationship? Because I promise you, however tough the previous relationship was (and this goes back to Bob mentioning that it‟s more difficult to make the stepfamily work and go the distance than it is the first marriage) – I promise you, there will be challenges - and you‟re going to need to stick by the promises you make to one another and your God. Bob: Yes, and I think there‟s a tendency that all of us have to locat e our problems outside of ourselves instead of inside of ourselves. To see whatever the challenge we‟re facing as a problem with how someone else has reacted and minimize our own part in the issue. That‟s why as you step into a stepfathering assignment, the wise manreally pulls back and says, “OK, what are the things I did or didn‟t do in my first marriage that may have been a factor here?” Your spouse may have done a ton. I‟m not discounting that. But it‟s likely that there was some part you played as well, and if you don‟t address that, that can come back to bite you. I think to have a guidebook like the one that Ron has put together in The Smart Stepdad is just a part of that process to help you look first at your own life, your own heart, before you ever start to dig into some of the challenges that stepdads face.
I want to encourage you, if you‟ve taken on the assignment of being a stepdad, or if it‟s something you‟re thinking about, get a copy of Ron Deal‟s book The Smart Stepdad. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com. W e‟ve got copies in our FamilyLifeToday ResourceCenter. FamilyLifeToday.com is our website. You can also call to request a copy of the book, 1-800-FLTODAY is the number. 1-800-F as in “family,” L as in “life,” and then the word “today.” W hen you get in touch with us, we‟ll let you know how you can get a copy of Ron Deal‟s book The Smart Stepdad. And, then, let me encourage you whether you‟re a stepdad, thinking about being a stepdad, or whether you‟re just parenting your own children, one of the most important, significant things you can be doing as a dad is praying for your children. Our friend and colleague John Yates has written a very helpful book called How a Man Prays for His Family.
Here, during the month of June, we want to make this book available to FamilyLifeToday listeners, along with a couple of audio CDs that feature conversations we‟ve had with John on this subject, and a couple of FamilyLife prayer cards that you can keep tucked in your Bible or alongside your computer monitor so that you can be praying for your children. You can request a copy of the book and the CDs and the prayer cards when you make a donation this month to help support the ministry of FamilyLifeToday. W e are listener- supported; we depend on those donations to keep FamilyLifeToday on the air. So, this month, when you make a donation, just ask for the resources on praying for your family.
If you make your donation online at FamilyLifeToday.com, just type the word “PRAY” in the key code box on the online donation form. Again, we‟ll send you the book How a Man Prays for His Family, a CD that features a conversation we had with John Yates on that same subject, and two of our prayer cards for parents on lifting up your children in prayer. Let me just say thanks in advance for your financial support of FamilyLifeToday. W e do appreciate it and it is greatly needed, especially here during the summer months, so thanks for getting in touch with us. W e want to encourage you to join us back tomorrow, when we‟re going to talk about some of the very specific challenges stepparents face as they step into that new assignment. I hope you can join us.
Bob: I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our ent ire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. W e will see you back here tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today. FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas. Help for today. Hope for tomorrow.
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