T

HE

SMART

STEPFAMILY
7

Steps to a Healthy Family
RON L. DEAL
7
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Ron L. Deal, The Smart Stepfamily
Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2002, 2014. Used by permission.
© 2002, 201+ ly Ron L. Dcal
Pullishcd ly Bcthany Housc Pullishcrs
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Printcd in thc Unitcd Statcs ol Amcrica
All rights rcscrvcd. No part ol this pullication may lc rcproduccd, storcd in a rctricval systcm,

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printcd rcvicws.
This cdition pullishcd 201+
Lilrary ol Congrcss Cataloging-in-Pullication Data
Dcal, Ron L.
Thc smart stcplamily : scvcn stcps to a hcalthy lamily / Ron L. Dcal , lorcword ly Gary

Chapman. — Rcviscd and c×pandcd cdition.

pagcs cm
Includcs lilliographical rclcrcnccs.
Summary: “Stcplamily c×pcrt addrcsscs kcy conccrns and practical issucs lacing cvcry

stcplamily”— Providcd ly pullishcr.
ISBN 978-0-76+2-1206-2 (plk. : alk. papcr)
1. Stcplamilics. 2. Rcmarricd pcoplc—Family rclationships. 3. Stcpparcnts.

+. Parcnting. 5. Stcplamilics—Psychological aspccts. I. Titlc.
HQ759.92.D+

201+
306.87+7—dc23

201+003656
Unlcss othcrwisc idcntificd, Scripturc quotations arc lrom Thc Holy Billc, Lnglish Standard Vcr-
sion® (LSV®), copyright © 2001 ly Crossway, a pullishing ministry ol Good Ncws Pullishcrs.

Uscd ly pcrmission. All rights rcscrvcd. LSV Tc×t Ldition: 2007
Scripturc quotations idcntificd NIRV arc lrom thc Holy Billc, Ncw Intcrnational Rcadcr’s Vcr-
sion®. NIrV®. Copyright © 1995, 1996, 1998 ly Billica, Inc.™ Uscd ly pcrmission ol Zondcrvan.

All rights rcscrvcd worldwidc. www.zondcrvan.com.
Scripturc quotations idcntificd Thc Mcssagc paraphrasc arc lrom The Message. Copyright ©

1993, 199+, 1995 ly Lugcnc H. Pctcrson. Uscd ly pcrmission ol NavPrcss Pullishing Group.
All namcs and rccognizallc dctails havc lccn changcd to protcct thc privacy ol thosc who havc

sharcd thcir storics lor this look.
Covcr dcsign ly Lric Walljaspcr
1+

15

16

17

18

19

20

1
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Ron L. Deal, The Smart Stepfamily
Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2002, 2014. Used by permission.
To my wilc and lcst lricnd, Nan
Thrcc diamonds
All my lovc, lor all my lilc
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Ron L. Deal, The Smart Stepfamily
Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2002, 2014. Used by permission.
9
Contents

Forcword ly Gary Chapman

11

Prclacc to thc Rcviscd Ldition

13

Acknowlcdgmcnts lor thc Rcviscd and L×pandcd Ldition

17

Acknowlcdgmcnts lor thc First Ldition

19

Introduction

21
Part One:

Headed for the Promised Land!

1. Through Wildcrncss Wandcrings

29

2. Kcy Stcpping-Stoncs

51
Part Two:

Seven Steps in the Journey

3. Smart Stcp Onc: STLP Up!

73

Discover a redemptive God who loves, forgives, and provides strength

and direction for the journey

+. Smart Stcp Two: STLP Down

85

Adjust your expectations and learn how to cook a stepfamily

5. Smart Stcp Thrcc: Two-STLP

101

Your marriage must be a top priority

6. Smart Stcp Four: STLP in Linc (Part 1)

129

With the parenting team (co-parenting)
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10

Cont ent s

7. Smart Stcp Four: STLP in Linc (Part 2)

169

Parent and stepparent roles

8. Smart Stcp Four: STLP in Linc (Part 3)

199

Unique Parenting Roles and Issues

Adult stepchildren

200

Part-time parenting and stepparenting

205

Birth order changes

207

Stepparenting adolescents

208

Parenting the mutual child

212

Sibling relationships and parenting

215

Adopting stepchildren

218

Legal matters in stepparenting

220

9. Smart Stcp Fivc: Sidc STLP (Part 1)

225

The pitfalls common to stepfamilies

Unrecognized loss and unexpressed grief

227

Being driven by menacing emotions

245

Combining holiday and family traditions

247

10. Smart Stcp Fivc: Sidc STLP (Part 2)

253

Financial pitfalls: managing your money

11. Smart Stcp Si×: STLP Through

277

The wilderness: Overcoming special challenges

12. Smart Stcp Scvcn: STLP Ovcr

295

Into the Promised Land

Rcsourccs lor Stcplamilics and Churchcs

303

Notcs

307
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Ron L. Deal, The Smart Stepfamily
Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2002, 2014. Used by permission.
11
Foreword
N
ot all stcplamilics arc alikc. Somc havc young childrcn, othcrs,

tccnagcrs or young adults. Somc arc thc rcsult ol divorcc, whilc

othcrs comc altcr thc dcath ol a spousc. Howcvcr, thcrc is onc

thing cvcry stcplamily has in common: lamily mcmlcrs havc a history that

involvcd at lcast onc othcr parcnt and spousc. Mcmorics ol thc past may lc

plcasant or painlul, lut thosc mcmorics do influcncc attitudcs and cmotions.
Thc high divorcc ratc in first marriagcs indicatcs that luilding a loving,

supportivc, caring marital rclationship is not casy. Howcvcr, thosc who

succccd find marriagc to lc vcry satislying. Thc lact that thc divorcc ratc

is highcr lor sccond marriagcs indicatcs that luilding a sccond marriagc

is cvcn morc dimcult. Thosc who succccd find it worth thc cfort.
For thosc who havc lccn widowcd, thc first marriagc may havc lccn a

wondcrlul rclationship or onc with many strugglcs. Il thc rclationship was

lulfilling, thcy anticipatc thc sccond marriagc will lc lully as good as thc

first. But without hclp, many ol thcm may lc disappointcd.
Almost cvcry wcck somconc says to mc, “Havc you writtcn anything on

llcndcd lamilics·” (somctimcs thcy say stcplamilics). My answcr is always

thc samc: “No, lut I know somconc who has.” I thcn rccommcnd The Smart

Stepfamily ly Ron Dcal. I rccommcnd this look with confidcncc lccausc I

know thc idcas that Ron sharcs arc practical. Thc first cdition ol thc look

madc a vital contrilution to thc ficld ol marriagc and lamily ministry. Ron

was onc ol thc first to idcntily thc challcngcs ol stcplamilics and to ofcr

a road to succcss. Many pastors and counsclors usc The Smart Stepfamily

in thcir prcmarital counscling lor couplcs who arc gctting marricd lor thc

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12

For ewor d
sccond or third timc. Parcnt cducators usc it in hclping thosc parcnts who

arc lringing childrcn into a ncw lamily sctting.
The Smart Stepfamily has awakcncd thc church to thc nccd ol stcplamily

ministry. I rcmcmlcr thc couplc who said to mc a ycar altcr I had rccom-
mcndcd thc look, “Thanks lor sharing with us Ron Dcal’s look on stcp-
lamilics. It has lccn a lilcsavcr lor us.” I will continuc to highly rccommcnd

this look to all couplcs who arc involvcd in lringing two lamilics togcthcr.
This ncw cdition is packcd with cvcn morc practical tools to strcngthcn

stcplamilics. It also includcs inlormation lor couplcs who arc dating and

contcmplating crcating a stcplamily. Thc rcscarch in thc look has lccn

updatcd and ncw guidancc is givcn on moncy managcmcnt and cstatc plan-
ning, which arc oltcn arcas ol conflict in stcplamilics. Ron discusscs thc pros

and cons ol adoption. You will also find rcalistic ways to approach stcp-
silling rclationships, parcnt alicnation syndromc, and adult stcplamilics.
Onc ol thc rcasons this look is so hclplul to couplcs is that Ron docs

not writc lrom an ivory towcr. For twcnty ycars hc has invcstcd his lilc in

hclping couplcs crcatc hcalthy rclationships. As a counsclor, hc has takcn

couplcs whcrc thcy arc and lcd thcm to whcrc thcy wantcd to lc whcn thcy

got marricd. No onc cntcrs a sccond marriagc with thc dcsirc to rcpcat thc

lailurcs ol thc first. And yct, without hclp, many ol thcm do.
Not cvcryonc can find a counsclor who is cquippcd to dcal with thc

common strugglcs ol stcplamilics. Howcvcr, whcn you rcad The Smart

Stepfamily you will find yourscll sitting in thc omcc ol a counsclor with

grcat c×pcricncc.
No two stcplamilics arc alikc, lut this look ofcrs clcar advicc on how

to solvc thc common challcngcs laccd ly all who cntcr a sccond marriagc

with childrcn. I highly rccommcndcd thc first cdition, and I am cvcn morc

c×citcd alout this ncw cdition.
—Gary Chapman, PhD, author ol The Five Love Languages
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Ron L. Deal, The Smart Stepfamily
Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2002, 2014. Used by permission.
13
Preface to the Revised Edition
A

lot has happcncd sincc 1997, whcn I first startcd writing this

look (which was first pullishcd in 2002). Morc spccifically,

a lot has happcncd with lamilics and with mc pcrsonally,

togcthcr thcsc changcs ncccssitatcd in my mind thc nccd lor a rcviscd and

c×pandcd cdition ol this look. Morc on thcsc changcs in a momcnt.
A lcw things, howcvcr, havc not changcd. For onc, thc corc principlcs ol

this look—which work, ly thc way. Thousands havc writtcn mc through thc

ycars c×prcssing thcir apprcciation lor thc kcy stcps outlincd in this look.
Considcr this post lrom Lisa:
I rcad The Smart Stepfamily lour ycars ago whcn I rcmarricd. It was such a

hclp and truly hclpcd mc to STAY marricd! You hclpcd mc rcalizc how dil-
ficult stcplamily londing would lc and you wcrc right! My first marriagc ol

twcnty-onc ycars cndcd quitc suddcnly. Whcn I rcmarricd, my thrcc daughtcrs

wcrc scvcntccn, ninctccn, and twcnty-onc. My stcpson was ninctccn, and his

dad, my now husland, had lccn singlc lor filtccn ycars lclorc wc marricd.

Onc ycar altcr wc marricd, my stcpson camc to livc with us lor two ycars.

Thcn my youngcst daughtcr movcd in! Your wisc advicc hclpcd mc to lc

c×trcmcly paticnt, and slowly all thc rclationships arc stalilizing.
Lisa, likc many pcoplc, c×pcricnccd multiplc transitions and dynamics

in hcr lamily that shc couldn’t control, lut thc principlcs shc lcarncd in

this look prcparcd hcr to copc.
I could also tcll you ol othcrs who havc lcncfittcd lrom this look. For

c×amplc, I could tcll you alout a widow and widowcr who marricd latcr

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Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2002, 2014. Used by permission.
1+

Pr ef ace

t o

t he

Revi sed

Edi t i on
in lilc and lound marriagc and stcpparcnting lar morc dimcult than thcy

had anticipatcd, lut who now havc a hcalthy, growing lamily.
I could tcll you alout a couplc with a complicatcd history, including

multiplc divorccs, scvcn childrcn, lour grandchildrcn, sulstantial financial

asscts, and a ncw child lorn to thc marriagc, that is strong and loving cach

othcr through challcngcs with c×-spouscs and canccr.
I could tcll you alout dating couplcs who dccidcd to givc morc timc to

dating lclorc jumping into marriagc only to writc mc a lcw ycars into thc

marriagc and thank mc lor hclping to casc thcir transition to lccoming a

lamily. Apparcntly thcir paticncc paid of.
I could tcll you alout dating couplcs who dccidcd not to marry at all—
and thankcd mc lor hclping thcm to “dodgc a lullct.”
And I could tcll you alout a dcdicatcd thirty-ycar-old Christian who

shoutcd cuss words at hcr lathcr whcn hc told hcr hc was gctting rcmar-
ricd, lut who fivc ycars latcr was showcring words ol lovc and amrmation

on hcr stcpmom on a national radio lroadcast. Thcy wcrc all hclpcd ly

this look—and I lclicvc you will lc too, il you apply thc conccpts to your

lamily with wisdom and praycr.
But whilc thc corc principlcs ol thc first cdition ol this look havc not

changcd (I think you’ll lovc thc ncw matcrial addcd to this rcviscd cdition),

somc things havc. From a cultural pcrspcctivc, stcplamilics, lor c×amplc,

havc lccomc cvcn morc prcvalcnt in Amcrican socicty and in culturcs around

thc world than thcy wcrc twclvc ycars ago. Onc study lound that in Amcrica

today, +0 pcrccnt ol marricd couplcs with childrcn arc stcpcouplcs (a tcrm

I will usc throughout thc look to rclcr to couplcs in which onc or loth

ol thcm had a child lrom a prcvious rclationship lclorc thcy marricd).
1

Thc spccific statistics vary ly racc (55 pcrccnt ol Alrican Amcrican, 39

pcrccnt ol whitc, and 36 pcrccnt ol Hispanic marricd couplcs with kids

arc stcpcouplcs), lut thc conclusion is thc samc—stcplamilics arc part ol

thc norm in our culturc, comprising a hugc pcoplc group that must lc

considcrcd part ol mainstrcam Amcrican lilc.
This incrcasc in stcplamilics has also lccn witncsscd in countrics around

thc world. Whcn I first rclcascd this look, I had no idca it would lc pur-
chascd in placcs likc Australia, Grcat Britain, South Alrica, Canada, Singa-
porc, Ncw Zcaland, ctc., or that I would lc intcrvicwcd ly rcportcrs and

radio lroadcastcrs throughout thc world. I supposc, though, I should havc

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Ron L. Deal, The Smart Stepfamily
Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2002, 2014. Used by permission.
15

Pr ef ace

t o

t he

Revi sed

Edi t i on
anticipatcd that thc numlcr ol stcplamilics around thc world would in-
crcasc, and with it, thc dcmand lor practical hclp.
Many othcr social changcs havc occurrcd as wcll:

Thc most common socictal tcrm lor stcplamilics has shiltcd lrom

stcplamily to llcndcd lamily (although in Luropc and Australia thc

most commonly scarchcd tcrm is still stepfamily or a dcrivativc, such

as stepparent).

Blcndcd lamilics and cohaliting stcpcouplcs (87 pcrccnt ol cohalit-
ing couplcs with childrcn arc stcpcouplcs)
2

arc a common prcmisc

lor TV shows and movics.

Thcrc is a national Stcplamily Day (Scptcmlcr 16).

Stcplamily ministry has slowly lccomc a rccognizcd arca ol marriagc

and lamily ministry.
I should mcntion hcrc that thc original cdition ol this look concludcd

with a chaptcr on stcplamily ministry and thc church. My cditor askcd

mc why a look lor stcpcouplcs nccdcd a chaptcr on ministry. I dclcndcd

thc stratcgy ly saying, “You must undcrstand that couplcs in stcplamilics

arc thc oncs starting small groups and tcaching ministrics, not thc pastors.

It’s grassroots at this point. Wc havc to cmpowcr couplcs to do this or it

won’t gct donc.” That was truc at thc timc. Howcvcr, I’m plcascd to say

that thc tidc has shiltcd, now it is pastors who primarily ask lor training,

rcsourccs, or conlcrcncc cvcnts in thcir churchcs. Though I still want to

cncouragc couplcs to ignitc ministry groups in thcir communitics, wc optcd

in this cdition ol thc look to dclctc thc chaptcr on stcplamily ministry

(in part to makc room lor morc contcnt on stcplamily living). Howcvcr,

you can acccss that and othcr lrcc lonus matcrial at SmartStcplamilics
.com/vicw/lcarn.
Thcrc has also lccn an incrcasc in stcplamily rcscarch, wc simply know

morc alout stcplamilics than wc uscd to. Spccifically, wc know morc alout

what makcs stcplamilics work and how thcy can ovcrcomc thcir challcngcs.

I will ofcr thcsc ncw insights throughout this cdition.
Thcrc havc lccn a lot ol changcs in my lilc as wcll that havc changcd

my writing, spcaking, and insight into stcplamily living (anyonc who tclls

you that thc pcrsonal livcs ol authors docsn’t impact thcir writing is sorcly

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Ron L. Deal, The Smart Stepfamily
Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2002, 2014. Used by permission.
16

Pr ef ace

t o

t he

Revi sed

Edi t i on
misguidcd). In lricl, a lamily tragcdy has changcd mc and has opcncd my

cycs to what thc first volumc ol this look lailcd to ofcr.
I’ll sharc morc dctails throughout this look, lut in 2009, my middlc

son, Connor, dicd at thc agc ol twclvc. His lody was attackcd ly MRSA,

a staph inlcction that no onc saw coming. His journcy lrom first symptom

to dcath lastcd just tcn days. My lamily’s journcy through gricl will last

until wc mcct him again in ctcrnity. I’vc sharcd various aspccts ol this

c×pcricncc in othcr looks, The Smart Stepdad and Dating and the Single

Parent spccifically, and I’vc talkcd alout my loss in conlcrcnccs throughout

thc country. Whcn I lookcd lack at thc first cdition ol this look, I rcalizcd

I nccdcd to say morc alout thc impact ol gricl. Loss is a univcrsal c×pcri-
cncc among loth childrcn and adults in stcplamilics. Losing a child is in

somc ways lar difcrcnt lrom losing a spousc to dcath or lor a child losing

thcir lamily to divorcc, lut in othcr ways, it is vcry similar. Throughout

this rcviscd cdition, I will sharc with you my insights and lcssons lcarncd

as thcy pcrtain to loss, your lamily, parcnting, and trusting again.¨
For ovcr a dccadc this look has, to my dclight, ofcrcd practical hclp

to lamilics around thc world. A lcw things havc changcd ovcr that timc, a

lcw things havcn’t. Onc morc that hasn’t changcd is my dcsirc to lring a

llcssing to your homc. I pray that somcthing you rcad ofcrs hopc, promisc,

and practical hclp lor your lilc.
¨ To lcarn morc alout thc nonprofit wc havc crcatcd in Connor’s mcmory and to hcar

his lcautilul voicc, visit ConnorsSong.com.
The following Bonus Material and Deleted Chapters

from the first edition are available free online:

Smart Questions, Smart Answers—Topics include difficult ex-spouses,

the needs of children, co-parenting strategies, stepparenting, military

stepfamilies, dealing with family conflict, stepgrandparenting, and more.

Ministering to Stepfamilies—I estimate that traditional marriage ministry

and parent training are about half of what stepfamily couples need.

Learn what your congregation can do to prevent redivorce and break

the generational cycle of divorce.
This and more is available at SmartStepfamilies.com/view/learn.
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Ron L. Deal, The Smart Stepfamily
Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2002, 2014. Used by permission.
17
Acknowledgments
for the Revised and Expanded Edi ti on
T
hc dcdication ol Bcthany Housc Pullishcrs to cnriching thc livcs

ol stcplamilics is amazing. Whcn I wrotc thc first cdition ol this

look, I had no idca that Bcthany Housc and I would go on to

pullish many morc looks togcthcr or that thcy would comc to mc a dccadc

altcr this look was first rclcascd and inquirc alout a rcviscd and c×pandcd

cdition. Thcy havc takcn many risks on lchall ol llcndcd lamilics and

arc to lc commcndcd. It has lccn a wondcrlul partncrship. To cvcryonc

at Bcthany Housc, I say thank you. Spccifically, I should mcntion Lllcn

Chalilou×, Carra Carr, Brctt Bcnson, Tim Pctcrson, |ulic Smith, Stcvc

Oatcs, and |im Parrish. What a tcam!
To my agcnt, Chip MacGrcgor, again I say, “You’rc thc lcst.” Two parts

coach, onc part counsclor, thrcc parts stratcgist, and lcst-part lricnd.
Nan, nonc ol this would happcn without your support. Thanks lor

tolcrating my fivc a.m. writing schcdulc. And thank you lor giving your

llcssing lor mc to sharc our sacrcd sorrow alout Connor with othcrs.
A vcry spccial word ol apprcciation gocs to all thc lamilics who havc

sharcd thcir livcs and storics with mc through thc ycars. You havc taught

mc much alout thc stcplamily journcy and in turn havc lccn a llcssing

to othcrs.
And finally, to thc Onc who givcs mc ctcrnal hopc and lilc and purposc,

I havc vcry littlc to givc lut my praisc. It’s all yours.
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Ron L. Deal, The Smart Stepfamily
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19
Acknowledgments
for the Fi rst Edi ti on
L
ikc any hcalthy stcplamily, this look has takcn a long timc to dc-
vclop. And likc any hcalthy stcplamily, this look is thc rcsult ol a

carclul intcgration ol pcoplc, idcas, lackgrounds, and rclationships.

I am gratclul to so many who havc ofcrcd thcir cncouragcmcnt and talcnt

along thc way—this look could not havc lccn crcatcd without your hclp.
Spccial apprcciation gocs to Ashlcigh Short Givcns and David and Rollic

Hutchins lor thcir carly rcvicws ol thc manuscript and tcchnical writing

input. You hclpcd this projcct gct noticcd and ultimatcly pullishcd—thank

you. Also, a spccial thank-you gocs to Rclccca Warnick lor hcr admin-
istrativc support and to thc Southwcst Church ol Christ cldcrs lor thcir

cncouragcmcnt. Your vision lor a lamily ministry that c×tcnds lcyond thc

|oncsloro community has rcsultcd in a ministry whosc lordcrs, ly God’s

gracc, arc c×panding daily. I couldn’t havc donc this without your llcssing.
Othcrs whosc lricndship and prolcssionalism havc madc this journcy

possillc includc H. Norman Wright, Stcvc Laulc and thc Bcthany Housc

tcam, Dr. Margoric Lngcl and thc Stcplamily Association ol Amcrica’s

loard ol dircctors and institutc laculty, and thc rcscarchcrs and clinicians

whosc work is rclcrcnccd throughout this look. I must cspccially acknowl-
cdgc thc work and influcncc ol Dr. Lmily Vishcr, whosc lilc has comc to an

cnd, lut whosc inspiration and rcscarch will livc on. This look stands on

thc shouldcrs ol hcr scholarly rcscarch, sharcd writing with hcr husland,

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Ron L. Deal, The Smart Stepfamily
Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2002, 2014. Used by permission.
20

Acknowl edgment s
|ohn, and pcrsonal stcplamily c×pcricncc. Yct cqually impacting was hcr

cncouragcmcnt ol mc as a young writcr and tcachcr. I am c×cccdingly

gratclul lor hcr influcncc and wisdom. Also, to thc original Southwcst

Stcp-ly-Stcp cducation group, I say thanks. You loldly supportcd cach

othcr and sharcd your storics with mc so that I might hclp othcrs. You

havc llcsscd my lilc, I hopc you havc lccn llcsscd in rcturn.
To my dcarcst lricnds and spiritual partncrs, Randy and |udy Lcwis,

Grcgg and Llisa Bardcn, Shawn and Arlcnc Maycs, and |cf and Misty

Floyd—your cncouragcmcnt and laith havc challcngcd mc to lc uscd ly

God through this look and scminar ministry. Lct’s givc him thc glory!
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Ron L. Deal, The Smart Stepfamily
Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2002, 2014. Used by permission.
21
Introduction
H
avc you cvcr tricd to put togcthcr a 3-D jigsaw puzzlc without

instructions and without a picturc on thc lo× to show you what

thc final product should look likc· Try adding a llindlold. Sounds

impossillc, docsn’t it· In lact, it may not cvcn sound lun to try. Attcmpt

to comlinc mcmlcrs ol two (or morc) difcrcnt houscholds and you’ll

cncountcr similar lrustrations.
Putting togcthcr or integrating a stcplamily is onc ol thc most dimcult

tasks lor any lamily in Amcrica today. Intcgration involvcs comlining two

uniquc lamily historics and stylcs, various pcrsonalitics and prclcrcnccs,

difcring traditions, rclational pasts and loyaltics. Yct most pcoplc makc

thc dccision to lring two lamilics togcthcr without consulting any guidc-
lincs or instructions or taking thc timc to dcvclop a sharcd imagc ol what

thc final jigsaw puzzlc will look likc (c.g., how thc stcplamily will lccl,

opcratc, and conduct itscll). Blindcd with a wcll-intcntioncd ignorancc,

couplcs march down thc aislc a sccond or third timc only to discovcr that

thc luilding proccss is much morc dimcult than thcy anticipatcd, cspccially

in thc lcginning.
But hcrc’s thc good ncws that thousands ol couplcs and lamilics havc

lcarncd lrom rcading this look: Takc your llindlold of and lcarn what a

hcalthy llcndcd lamily is and docs, and thc odds ol your succcss incrcasc

dramatically. Whcn you know how to lc a smart stcplamily, intcgration,

or thc mcrging ol your two lamilics, is accclcratcd and thc rcwards to loth

childrcn and adults incrcasc dramatically.
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Ron L. Deal, The Smart Stepfamily
Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2002, 2014. Used by permission.
22

I nt r oduct i on
Working Smarter, Not Harder
Thc purposc ol this look is to givc you a hcalthy picturc ol a succcsslul

stcplamily. And lclicvc it or not, it can lc donc if you work smartcr, not

hardcr. Working smartcr csscntially mcans undcrstanding thc dynamics ol

stcplamily lilc and dcvclopmcnt and making intcntional dccisions alout

how you will grow togcthcr cmotionally, psychologically, and spiritually.
In thc look The Smart Stepmom, Laura Pcthcrlridgc and I tcll thc story

ol a ncvcr-marricd lorty-somcthing woman who lccamc a stcpmothcr

whcn shc marricd a man with thrcc tccnagc daughtcrs. Thc first couplc

ol ycars shc and hcr husland strugglcd with parcnting issucs, no mattcr

what thc suljcct, thcy sccmcd to cnd up on difcrcnt sidcs. Thcn onc day

somcthing dawncd on thc stcpmom. Shc put it this way, “I just figurcd out

that I livc in a stcplamily, lut my husland docsn’t.” What shc mcant was

that hcr husland was a marricd man with thrcc daughtcrs and didn’t scc

his rclationship with his wilc or kids as compcting, nor did hc lccl likc

hc was choosing sidcs il hc sharcd a daughtcr’s pcrspcctivc with his wilc.

Howcvcr, thc c×pcricncc ol thc homc lor thc stcpmom was vcry difcrcnt.

Shc constantly lclt on pins and nccdlcs trying to gain lavor with thc girls

and status as a parcnt figurc, and shc lclt jcalous ol hcr husland’s attcmpts

to gct hcr to scc things lrom thc kids’ point ol vicw.
That insight not only madc hcr smartcr, it causcd hcr to stop working

hardcr. For c×amplc, shc lct go ol thc lccling that shc had to gct hcr hus-
land to scc cvcrything lrom hcr pcrspcctivc (somcthing that causcd hcr to

arguc with him to no cnd). This gavc lirth to a strangc pcacc within hcr

cvcn whcn hcr husland sccmcd not to undcrstand hcr plight as a stcpmom.

How could hc undcrstand· His c×pcricncc ol thc lamily was going to lc

difcrcnt. Didn’t this mcan shc was going to lc isolatcd in hcr c×pcricncc·

Adult Stepfamilies
Later-life couples with adult children, or what we might call adult stepfamilies,

often mistakenly assume that because their children are out of the home the

family won’t have difficulty integrating. They quickly realize that they have

just as many adjustments and challenges as stepfamilies with younger chil-
dren. The specific stressors will vary, but the emotional demands are similar.
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Ron L. Deal, The Smart Stepfamily
Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2002, 2014. Used by permission.
23

I nt r oduct i on
Ironically, no. Oncc shc rcla×cd lrom trying to changc hcr husland’s mind

all thc timc, shc noticcd that hc had lccn prioritizing hcr all along. Lach

smart stcp rcsultcd in anothcr smart stcp that gradually, lut powcrlully,

shiltcd thc lamily toward hcalth. Not cvcry aspcct ol thc lamily lccamc

comlortallc, lut many things improvcd significantly.
Il you arc currcntly marricd and pcrhaps finding that your thrcc-dimcn-
sional puzzlc is rcsting on a lragilc loundation, rcad this look with an cyc

lor what you can changc. Oncc you’vc dcvclopcd concrctc idcas lor putting

thc picccs ol your lamily togcthcr, lcgin working thc plan cautiously lut

with much dctcrmination. You’ll lc amazcd at God’s powcr to hcal your

hcartachcs and turn your unstallc or crumlling puzzlc into an cdificc that

is salc, lcautilul, and luilt on a firm loundation.
Il you arc currcntly singlc, divorccd, or widowcd and arc considcring

marriagc, and il onc or loth ol you havc childrcn, you’vc turncd to thc

right sourcc. Thcrc arc many hiddcn challcngcs in stcplamily lilc, and you

nccd to lc as prcparcd as you possilly can lc. Taking of your llindlold and

sccing clcarly thc journcy ahcad is thc lcst choicc you can makc. Indccd,

your dccision to lorm a stcplamily ly marriagc nccds to lc an inlormcd

choicc, othcrwisc you may rcgrct thc dccision oncc thc challcngcs hit you

hcad-on. Smart stcplamilics can lring grcat joy and lulfillmcnt to thc livcs

ol childrcn and adults. But plcasc undcrstand that a grcat dcal ol work

and dctcrmination arc rcquircd to dcvclop a hcalthy stcplamily. You can-
not aford to go into marriagc armcd only with “lcttcr than last timc”

intcntions. Thc proccss dcmands that you know and undcrstand morc

than that. This look will tcll you what you nccd to know.
Plcasc know that this look has grown out ol thc lclicl that thc homc

is thc primary contc×t in which wc lcarn and c×pcricncc thc charactcr ol

lovc. It is my firm lclicl that stcplamilics, just as liological lamilics, can

lc homcs ol lovc. Comparcd to liological lamilics, a lcw challcngcs will

lc difcrcnt and somc will lc thc samc. But lovc can lc what holds thc

jigsaw picccs ol thc smart stcplamily togcthcr, rcsulting not in a lunch ol

lrokcn, disconncctcd picccs, lut a homc.
I am morc optimistic than cvcr alout thc rcdcmptivc powcr ol hcalthy

stcplamilics. I’ll talk alout this lurthcr in chaptcr 1, lut you should know

right now that God wants to work through your currcnt marriagc, par-
cnting, and lamily rclationships to rcdccm your story ol loss, sadncss,

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Ron L. Deal, The Smart Stepfamily
Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2002, 2014. Used by permission.
2+

I nt r oduct i on
hcartlrcak, and lrokcnncss, to ofcr hcaling, and to turn your homc into

a havcn ol salcty that llcsscs your childrcn. How lilc is now and how you

got hcrc may not havc lccn how you would havc writtcn thc script, lut

givcn that you’rc in thc middlc ol thc story alrcady, God wants to author

a rcdcmptivc narrativc to thc rcmaining chaptcrs. Your lamily story is still

lcing writtcn and thc lcst is yct to comc.
Now, spcaking ol a story, lct mc givc you somc pcrspcctivc on thc typical

stcplamily story . . . lrom lcginning to cnd, or should I say, lrom Lgypt to

thc Promiscd Land.
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Ron L. Deal, The Smart Stepfamily
Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2002, 2014. Used by permission.
Thc pcoplc ol Isracl groancd lccausc ol thcir slavcry

and cricd out lor hclp. Thcir cry lor rcscuc lrom slav-
cry camc up to God. And God hcard thcir groaning,

and God rcmcmlcrcd his covcnant with Alraham,

with Isaac, and with |acol. God saw thc pcoplc ol Is-
racl—and God kncw. ¦Hc was conccrncd alout thcm.]
L×odus 2:23–25
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Ron L. Deal, The Smart Stepfamily
Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2002, 2014. Used by permission.
P A R T

O N E
Headed for the

Promised Land!
C
an you imaginc what lrccdom must havc lccn likc to thc Isracl-
itcs· For somc lour hundrcd ycars thcy had lccn opprcsscd ly

thc Lgyptians, hcld in londagc against thcir will, and lorccd to

livc as slavcs. For ycars thc Lord had hcard thcir crics, and now thc timc

had finally comc lor lrccdom. It’s hard to imaginc thc joy, rclicl, and uttcr

c×ulcrancc thc Israclitcs must havc lclt. Thcy wcrc going homc! But whcrc,

c×actly, was homc·
Moscs, a rathcr unsung hcro at thc timc, through God’s powcr had

lccomc thcir lcadcr. A pillar ol cloud ly day and a pillar ol firc ly night

madc it olvious that God was lcading his pcoplc to thc Promiscd Land.

Yct thc joy and cclclration ol lcing sct lrcc was soon qucnchcd whcn thc

Israclitcs lound thcmsclvcs hcmmcd in ly thc Rcd Sca on onc sidc and an

angry Pharaoh—who had changcd his mind alout lctting thcm go—and

his army on thc othcr. In thcir tcrror thc Israclitcs cricd out,
Is it lccausc thcrc arc no gravcs in Lgypt that you havc takcn us away to dic

in thc wildcrncss· What havc you donc to us in lringing us out ol Lgypt·

Is not this what wc said to you in Lgypt: “Lcavc us alonc that wc may scrvc

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Ron L. Deal, The Smart Stepfamily
Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2002, 2014. Used by permission.
28

Headed

for

t he

Pr omi sed

Land!
thc Lgyptians”· For it would havc lccn lcttcr lor us to scrvc thc Lgyptians

than to dic in thc wildcrncss.
L×odus 1+:11–12
Did you catch that· Isn’t it amazing how quickly, whcn undcr durcss,

thc Israclitcs changcd thcir tunc· |ust a lcw days lclorc thcy had sccn thc

mighty hand ol God work on thcir lchall. |ust a lcw days had passcd sincc

miraclcs had takcn placc to lrcc thcm, and yct thcir joy and cclclration

turncd to scll-pity in a hcartlcat. Certainly we are going to die because

of

our horrible leader, Moses, thcy thought. “What havc you donc to us·”

thcy accuscd. And thcn you’ll scc, in my opinion, thc most lascinating

aspcct ol thcir rcsponsc: “It would havc lccn lcttcr lor us to scrvc thc

Lgyptians.” This suggcsts thcy wcrc longing for the circumstances of

slavery

and oppression over freedom. Frccdom lrom slavcry was what thc Israclitcs

plcadcd lor and yct opprcssion and londagc actually lccamc attractivc to

thcm as soon as thc journcy lccamc dimcult. Thcir trust was gonc, thcir

scll-pity took ovcr, and thcy longcd lor salcty. Thc sccurity ol slavcry was

oltcn morc inviting than thc insccurity ol travcling an unmarkcd road to

an unknown dcstination. Thcy just hadn’t lcarncd how to trust God to

givc purposc and provision in unlamiliar tcrritory.
Many stcplamilics walk a similar path.
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Ron L. Deal, The Smart Stepfamily
Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2002, 2014. Used by permission.
29
1
Through Wilderness Wanderings
“Is it lccausc thcrc arc no gravcs in Lgypt that you havc takcn

us away to dic in thc wildcrncss· What havc you donc to us in

lringing us out ol Lgypt· Is not this what wc said to you in

Lgypt: ‘Lcavc us alonc that wc may scrvc thc Lgyptians’· For

it would havc lccn lcttcr lor us to scrvc thc Lgyptians than to

dic in thc wildcrncss.”

And Moscs said to thc pcoplc, “Fcar not, stand firm, and scc

thc salvation ol thc Lord, which hc will work lor you today.”
L×odus 1+:11–13
D
isillusionmcnt is ncarly a univcrsal c×pcricncc lor thc adults in

stcplamilics, and it oltcn occurs within a couplc ol ycars. Bclicv-
ing that rcmarriagc will rclcasc thcm lrom thc londagc ol divorcc,

loss, lonclincss, and painlul cmotions, couplcs load up thcir childrcn and

posscssions and launch into thc wildcrncss toward thc Promiscd Land ol

marriagc and lamily lilc. Thc wcdding sccms to mark a rclcasc lrom op-
prcssion. At last, thcy think, I am loved and important again. I am free

from the confines of

single-parent living and my children will have the

benefit of

a two-parent family. This is going to be great!
1
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Ron L. Deal, The Smart Stepfamily
Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2002, 2014. Used by permission.
30

Headed

for

t he

Pr omi sed

Land!
But just as with thc Israclitcs, what oltcn occurs lor couplcs in stcp-
lamilics is a shilt lrom cclclration and positivc c×pcctation to scll-pity.

Thc rcalitics and challcngcs ol stcplamily living ovcrwhclm unrcalistic

lantasics, and disillusionmcnt scts in.
Rcmarriagc or a stcplamily marriagc lor most adults sccms to lc thcir

sccond (or third) chancc on lilc. Alrcady lilc hasn’t workcd out thc way thcy

planncd, and to somc dcgrcc or anothcr lilc has lccn painlul. But things

arc looking up—thcy’vc lallcn in lovc again and thc drcam ol a normal

lamily lilc has rcturncd. A ncw journcy ol hopc has lcgun.
Thc journcy, howcvcr, almost always takcs somc unc×pcctcd turns. For

c×amplc, your spousc’s dcdication to his or hcr childrcn was nollc lclorc

thc wcdding, lut now sccms to lc a challcngc to your marriagc, a tccnagcr

living in onc ol thc othcr homcs dccidcs to livc with you, parcnting stylcs

difcr morc than you c×pcctcd, and conflict crupts lrcqucntly. Thc trip is

fillcd with unccrtainty, and couplcs rcalizc thcy lccl lost much ol thc timc.

Likc thc Israclitcs, pcoplc somctimcs think, “Is this marriagc going to dic,

too·” “Who is to llamc lor lringing mc out to thc wildcrncss·” “I lccl

trappcd—maylc it would havc lccn lcttcr to stay in Lgypt.” Mcanwhilc,

thc daily grind ol stcplamily lilc continucs and progrcss is slow. It sccms

likc lcing lost in thc wildcrncss.
Lct mc pausc lor a momcnt and makc a quick prcdiction. Thosc ol you

who wcrc lccling disillusioncd lclorc you pickcd up this look arc now

thinking, “Oh my, has Ron lccn pccking in our windows· How did hc

know I lclt this way·” On thc othcr hand, thosc ol you who havcn’t yct

rcachcd a placc whcrc you lccl caught lctwccn Pharaoh and his army and

thc Rcd Sca—usually dating or rcccntly rcmarricd couplcs—arc thinking,

“What is Ron trying to do, scarc us to dcath·”
Lct mc assurc you, I’m not trying to lc a pcssimist or a killjoy. I am

trying to lc rcalistic. I havc spcnt morc than twcnty ycars as a stcplamily

thcrapist, coach, cducator, and rcscarchcr, and I’vc hcard thc storics cnough

to know what is normal. Thcrc arc somc stcplamilics whosc journcy lrom

Lgypt to thc Promiscd Land is quick and painlcss, lut lor thc vast majority,

thc journcy takcs much longcr than anticipatcd. Bccausc I carc alout your

lamily, I promisc to shoot straight with you—morc important, I promisc

to guidc you through thc wildcrncss. But you do nccd to acknowlcdgc that

lccling lost in thc wildcrncss is par lor thc coursc.
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Ron L. Deal, The Smart Stepfamily
Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2002, 2014. Used by permission.
31

Thr ough

Wi l der nes s

Wander i ngs
Lct mc sharc a difcrcnt situation that is similar in crcating disillusion-
mcnt. Sincc thc dcath ol my son (thc Prclacc providcs somc lackground

to his dcath), I havc a wholc ncw sct ol

lilc issucs and circumstanccs that makc

mc lccl lost much ol thc timc. How do I

gricvc wcll· How do I hclp my wilc and

othcr two sons gricvc· How do I parcnt

my sons—whcn should compassion lor

thcir sadncss modcratc my c×pcctations

and whcn docs sympathy gct in thc way ol

instruction and disciplinc· Whcn will this

gcncralizcd dcprcssion alout lilc go away,

and how do I lunction as a lathcr, hus-
land, and cmploycc in thc mcantimc· Will

lilc cvcr lccl normal again· Do I always

tcll cvcry ncw pcrson I mcct alout Con-
nor, and what do I do whcn thcy quickly

skip ovcr or flat-out ignorc thc largcst piccc ol my lilc story· What do I

havc to do to lccl normal in a crowd ol pcoplc, instcad ol odd and likc

an outsidcr·
It’s my gucss that you, too, havc a sct ol unanswcrcd qucstions likc this.

Thcrc is a ncw normal in my lilc and yours—and much ol it is unwclcomcd.

Much ol it is not within our control and wc havc to find our way through.

Thcrc’s no going lack. With God’s hclp, wc will find our way through thc

wildcrncss. As I implicd, finding our way starts in part ly acknowlcdging

common stcplamily strugglcs and lcclings in thc journcy.
Don’t Look Now; We’re Being Pursued!
|ust as thc Israclitcs lound thcmsclvcs caught lctwccn thc Rcd Sca and

Pharaoh’s army, so stcpcouplcs lrcqucntly find thcmsclvcs caught lctwccn

thc luturc and thc past. Bchind thcm, dclilitating pain and loss lrom thc

days ol londagc (divorcc or dcath ol a spousc) arc quickly pursuing. In

thc prcscnt, lcclings ol angcr, rcscntmcnt, rcjcction, and guilt siphon cn-
crgy lrom pcoplc’s cmotional tanks, whilc losscs too numcrous to count

(cspccially lor childrcn) makc lor cautious cmotional invcstmcnts with ncw

Hold on to Hope
Because “Hope deferred makes

the heart sick, but a desire ful-
filled is a tree of life” (Proverbs

13:12), make sure to hold on

to hope. A common emotional

experience for couples is first

anticipation

and

excitement,

then disillusionment and fear,

then struggle and discourage-
ment,

then

satisfaction

and

safety. Allow hope to see you

through each season.
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Ron L. Deal, The Smart Stepfamily
Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2002, 2014. Used by permission.
32

Headed

for

t he

Pr omi sed

Land!
stcplamily mcmlcrs. In short, thc pain ol thc past makcs lor a trcmcndous

lcar ol thc luturc. Considcr thcsc statcmcnts lrom thc Thomas lamily:
Bioiocit:i mo+nii, Mic:×: “I’m afraid it’s not going to work, and we’ll

get divorced. And then three times I’ve failed. I’m afraid Frank [her new

husband] is going to get aggravated with his stepchildren—my kids—and

he’s going to walk because as he’s already said, ‘There’s only so much I can

take.’ I’m afraid my kids are going to turn against me because they didn’t

want Frank as their stepfather. It would just be another failure.”
Oibii so×, |on× (:ci sivi×+ii×): “I’m afraid of

getting close to anyone.

I’m not very trusting. With all I’ve had to live through, I keep waiting for

it to happen all over again—the constant blaming and getting stuck in the

middle. And I won’t let it ever happen again.”
Mibbii b:tcn+ii, Sts:× (:ci iii+ii×): “I ain’t afraid of

nothing. I’m not

scared of

anything. I mean, if

you broke up, it wouldn’t be the first time. I

might be a little worried where we’d go or something like that. But as far

as you breaking up, I mean, two times gets you ready for it to happen at

any moment.”
Yot×cii so×, R:×bv (:ci ioti+ii×): “I try to get closer sometimes but

then the fear happens and I hide out from doing things with Frank and keep

farther apart from him than I should be. . . . I want to get close, but not too

close, for fear of

something that might happen in the future.”
S+iii:+nii, Fi:×x: ¦rcgarding his marriagc] “I’m afraid to be in another

relationship where I’m nobody and have no say about what’s going on in the

house. ¦Rcgarding thc stcpchildrcn] I’m afraid that if

we don’t change things

right away, they’re going to grow up and we’ll never have a relationship. They’ll

just be stepkids who come and visit at holidays. I don’t want it to be that way.”
It’s casy to hcar that thc pain ol thcir past is driving thcir lcars ol thc

luturc, which, in turn, is lcading thcm to lc guardcd and untrusting in thc

prcscnt. Il thcsc hcartachcs and losscs arc not succcsslully rcsolvcd lor this

lamily (and yours), thc rcsult will lc a tircd, disillusioncd couplc unallc

to draw closc to cach othcr, lct alonc mcct thc cmotional nccds ol thcir

childrcn. Painlul cmotions lrom thc past must lc rcsolvcd in ordcr lor you

and your childrcn to movc on.
(Unpullishcd manuscript—copyright protcctcd Bakcr Pullishing Group)
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Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2002, 2014. Used by permission.
33

Thr ough

Wi l der nes s

Wander i ngs
Facing a Sea of Opposition
Blcndcd lamilics lacc a Sca ol Opposition. Common unchartcd watcrs

includc:

achicving marital intimacy altcr lcing hurt

parcnting and stcpparcnting rolcs and rulcs

qucstions ol spiritual intcgrity and church involvcmcnt

how to intcgratc thc mcmlcrs ol a stcplamily ovcr timc

dcaling with c×-spouscs and co-parcnting issucs

hclping childrcn cmotionally and spiritually

handling sc×ual prcssurcs lctwccn stcpsillings

issucs ol moncy managcmcnt and financial autonomy
Bc carclul not to lct thcsc common issucs changc thc dircction ol your

hcart. It’s not uncommon lor pcrsons to start wondcring, much likc thc

Israclitcs did, il maylc thcy should rcturn to thc londagc ol Lgypt, that is,

divorcc or singlc-parcnt living. Surc, it was miscrallc and unlulfilling, lut

at lcast thcy kncw what thcy had. Disillusionmcnt givcs lirth to grumlling,

complaining, and conflict. Lmotions run high and prollcms cscalatc. Hcrc

is a common story: Thc stcpparcnt, who lrom an outsidcr’s position can

morc clcarly scc and lccl thc disharmony in thc homc, oltcn voiccs this

disillusionmcnt first. Thc liological parcnt, who is still llindcd ly thcir

strong rclationship with thcir childrcn, lrcqucntly discounts thc stcp

parcnt’s

rcqucst lor changc. Slowly lut surcly, this luilds distancc and llamc in thc

Are These Fears Typical?
Not all family members have this much fear. Kids, for example, can some-
times be very excited about the new family, but they can be confused about

it at the same time. Adult fears seem to escalate when dilemmas generate

feelings of uncertainty. Fears are common; don’t panic when facing them.

Recognize them and the actions they lead you to take (these actions are

often problematic). Focus on understanding fears and preventing them from

determining your actions. Fearful responses are often experienced by others

as unloving ones.
(Unpullishcd manuscript—copyright protcctcd Bakcr Pullishing Group)
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Ron L. Deal, The Smart Stepfamily
Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2002, 2014. Used by permission.
3+

Headed

for

t he

Pr omi sed

Land!
couplc’s rclationship. To makc mattcrs worsc, this oltcn comcs at a timc

whcn thcy arc trying to figurc out how to managc thcir lamily and rcally

can’t aford to lc out ol touch.
Thc tcmptation to rcturn to Lgypt continucs: “What havc I donc· Maylc

I should havc staycd singlc. Maylc God has alandoncd mc.” Wrong! Whilc

I doult that thc God ol thc univcrsc will rcvcal a path to you with a cloud

or pillar ol firc as hc did thc Israclitcs, hc has most ccrtainly not alandoncd

you and will providc strcngth and dircction lor your journcy, cvcn whcn

thc path sccms dismal.
Il thcrc is onc mcssagc that stcplamilics nccd to hcar, it’s this: There is

a stepfamily Promised Land of

marital intimacy, interpersonal connected-
ness, and spiritual redemption! God has not abandoned you. If

you will

listen, trust, and continue walking by faith, you will hear him confirming

your journey, ofering guidance and healing, and providing a path on dry

ground. But you must trust him. Don’t lc likc most rcmarricd couplcs who

cnd thcir journcy in divorcc within thc first thrcc ycars, thcy quit lclorc

cvcr crossing thc Sca ol Opposition or finding thc rcwards on thc othcr

sidc. God lcckons you to rcmain pcrsistcnt and scc your lamily through

to thc Promiscd Land. Thcrc is a rcward to lc gaincd. But you must hold

God’s hand and walk through your Sca ol Opposition.
Is the Journey Difficult for All Stepfamilies?
Stcplamilics vary grcatly in composition and complc×ity. Whilc it isn’t

always truc, gcncrally spcaking thc grcatcr thc complc×ity, thc grcatcr thc

lamily strcss. For c×amplc, somc stcplamilics havc childrcn lrom just onc

spousc and involvc only onc houschold. This usually occurs altcr thc dcath

ol a parcnt and a rcmarriagc to a stcpparcnt without childrcn. (This is not

to imply that thc dcath ol a parcnt makcs stcplamily living casy, it is just

lcss complc×.) Othcr stcplamilics arc much morc multilacctcd with “yours,

minc, and ours” childrcn, two or morc c×-spouscs, plcnty ol stcpparcnts

and stcpgrandparcnts, and visitation schcdulcs to multiplc houscholds.
Not all stcplamilics havc a dimcult journcy, lut most will c×pcricncc

unc×pcctcd challcngcs. Somc will lacc a grcat many larricrs. It is impor-
tant to rcmcmlcr that thc numlcr ol larricrs you lacc rcflccts ncithcr on

you nor on whcthcr or not you should havc marricd. Whcn cncountcring

(Unpullishcd manuscript—copyright protcctcd Bakcr Pullishing Group)
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Ron L. Deal, The Smart Stepfamily
Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2002, 2014. Used by permission.
35

Thr ough

Wi l der nes s

Wander i ngs
opposition, somc pcoplc convincc thcmsclvcs that it wasn’t a good idca to

marry in thc first placc. Thcn thcy lcgin looking lor a way out.
Whcn stcplamily lilc gcts tough, rcmain dcdicatcd to your commitmcnt.

A man oncc drovc si× hours to talk with mc alout his stcpchildrcn and

marriagc. Hc hopcd that oncc I hcard him dcscrilc thc Sca ol Opposi-
tions hc was lacing, I would givc him “pcrmission” to lcavc thc marriagc.

I did not (and hc was tcrrilly annoycd). What I did do was agrcc with him

that thc marriagc, in its prcscnt condition, was not hcalthy, nor was God

honorcd ly an angry, rcscntlul rclationship. I suggcstcd that with guidcd

hclp hc could choosc to work on his marriagc and rcmain opcn to how

thc God ol thc impossillc might providc a path through thc Sca ol Op-
position. Furthcrmorc, avoiding divorcc ly simply tolcrating a miscrallc

marriagc, I suggcstcd, docs not honor God. Commitmcnt rcquircs that you

strivc lor a lcttcr lilc togcthcr, cvcn whcn you don’t lccl likc putting lorth

your lcst cfort or havc convinccd yourscll thc marriagc should ncvcr havc

happcncd. Ironically, pcoplc who makc thc cfort oltcn discovcr thc salc

marriagc thcy had givcn up on.
A Quick Word to Dating Couples
To thosc ol you who arc pcrhaps cngagcd or considcring rcmarriagc, I am

so glad you arc rcading this look now. I can’t tcll you how many couplcs

attcnding my stcplamily scminars havc said, “Why didn’t anyonc cvcr tcll

us thcsc things lclorc wc marricd· Wc could havc savcd oursclvcs a lot ol

gricl il wc would havc only known.” May I suggcst you lcarn lrom thcir

c×pcricncc· Kccp rcading with thcsc intcntions:

Usc this look to cnlightcn yourscll to thc possillc strugglcs you may

lacc in your stcplamily journcy.

Lquip yourscll and your rclationship with practical stratcgics to mcct

thc challcngcs.

Usc thc storics and inlormation hcrc to hclp you makc an inlormcd

dccision alout marriagc.
Rcmarriagc and stcplamily lilc can lc fillcd with many llcssings, lut thc

journcy prolally won’t start out that way. You’ll havc to work diligcntly

(Unpullishcd manuscript—copyright protcctcd Bakcr Pullishing Group)
Deal_SmartStepFam_EC_djm.indd

35 3/24/14

1:33 PM
Ron L. Deal, The Smart Stepfamily
Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2002, 2014. Used by permission.
36

Headed

for

t he

Pr omi sed

Land!
to rcach thc Promiscd Land. To that cnd, havc you truly considcrcd thc

costs· Do you know what thc costs arc· This look will hclp you idcntily

thcm. I’vc also writtcn an cntirc look walking singlc parcnts and thosc

dating thcm through thc proccss ol mccting somconc, dating wcll, making

dccisions alout marriagc, and planning lor stcplamily living—all with an

awarcncss ol thc childrcn throughout thc proccss. I highly rccommcnd you

takc thc timc to rcad Dating and the Single Parent so that you managc your

dating and marital dccisions with wisdom.
In addition, I rccommcnd that you find a group ol stcplamilics or a stcp-
lamily couplc in your church or community and ask thcm somc qucstions:

What do thcy wish thcy had known lclorc thcy rcmarricd·

What arc thcir thrcc grcatcst challcngcs·

How could thcy havc lcttcr prcparcd thcmsclvcs lor stcplamily living·

What painlul cmotions lrom thc past did thcy not rcsolvc wcll prior

to rcmarriagc·

What llcssings havc thcy c×pcricnccd at this point in thcir journcy·
Thc lurc ol marriagc is trcmcndous. Finally, you think, someone to take

care of

me. I feel so good when I’m with them. But stcplamily lilc is so

much morc than just your couplc rclationship, it also includcs childrcn, loss,

and a varicty ol lamily complc×itics. In liological lamilics, thc couplc’s

rclationship (i.c., thc marriagc) providcs thc loundation to thc lamily lrom

day onc. In stcplamilics, thc parcnt-child londs prcdatc thc couplc’s rcla-
tionship, oltcn making thc marriagc thc wcakcst rclationship in thc homc

The Wrong Time to Date
Parenting responsibilities should impact the timing of dating. For example,

I discourage dating if one child is struggling with emotional issues (anger

or defiance, depression or anxiety) or is displaying prodigal behavior. These

children need a focused, available parent, not one dividing their time. Plus,

kids don’t need to add to their concerns feeling unimportant or in competition

with a parent’s new love. Help your child through a difficult season, and then

open yourself to romance. This order will also make the child’s acceptance of

a new stepfamily more likely should dating lead to marriage.
(Unpullishcd manuscript—copyright protcctcd Bakcr Pullishing Group)
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Ron L. Deal, The Smart Stepfamily
Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2002, 2014. Used by permission.
37

Thr ough

Wi l der nes s

Wander i ngs
Kids Talk
“I wish she would recognize her

own impulsivity and emotional

roller coaster. She does and says

things without recognizing that

to some extent our whole fam-
ily is dating this guy.” —Rachel,

twenty-two years old
1
and vulncrallc to lamily strcss. Bcing in

lovc with somconc who “makcs mc lccl

good again” is just thc lcginning ol what

it takcs to survivc. In Dating and the Single

Parent, I put it this way: “Couplcncss”

docs not ncccssarily lcad to “lamilyncss.”

Thcy arc two scparatc proccsscs, lalling

in lovc with a pcrson docs not ncccssarily

mcan you can lc a lamily. So plcasc, do

yourscll and your childrcn a lavor—find

out cvcrything you can alout stcplamily

living, and count thc cost lclorc dcciding to marry. Il altcr much praycr

and dating you do marry, givc it cvcrything you’vc got, and trust God to

lcad you through.
The God Who Heals
Shortly altcr cscaping lrom Pharaoh’s army, thc Israclitcs journcycd through

thc Dcscrt ol Shur. For thrcc days thcy travclcd, and thc only watcr thcy

lound was littcr and not fit lor consumption. Again thc pcoplc complaincd,

and again God providcd lor his pcoplc. God had Moscs throw a piccc ol

wood into thc unpalatallc watcr, turning it swcct. God thcn rclcrs to him-
scll as |chovah-Rophc, thc “Loib who hcals you” (L×odus 15:26 ×iiv). In

so doing, God dcclarcs a promisc. Il his pcoplc will listcn to his voicc and

do what is right in his cycs, hc will hcal—hc will makc thc littcr watcrs

ol thcir lilc swcct again.
I lclicvc God is waiting lor a chancc to hcal your past hurts and to

climinatc all that pursucs you. But that’s not all hc ofcrs. Hc will providc

strcngth to kccp your commitmcnts, and hc will providc wisdom to ovcr-
comc thc olstaclcs that lic ahcad. Hc wants you to lc succcsslul. But you

can’t rcly on yourscll. Dcpcnd on him and hc will clcar a path.
Food for the Journey
Watcr was not all that God providcd lor thc Israclitcs. Hc also causcd

manna and quail to rain down upon thc pcoplc. Similarly, I suggcst two

(Unpullishcd manuscript—copyright protcctcd Bakcr Pullishing Group)
Deal_SmartStepFam_EC_djm.indd

37 3/24/14

1:33 PM
Ron L. Deal, The Smart Stepfamily
Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2002, 2014. Used by permission.
38

Headed

for

t he

Pr omi sed

Land!
typcs ol lood to hclp nourish your journcy:

practical inlormation and support lrom lcl-
low travclcrs. This look will providc thc

practical stcplamily inlormation. Altcr lay-
ing down somc kcy stcpping-stoncs lor thc

stcplamily journcy, I will discuss common

challcngcs to thc stcplamily and providc

practical guidancc.
But don’t stop thcrc. I highly rccom-
mcnd you find anothcr couplc or a group

ol couplcs and mcct togcthcr on a rcgular

lasis to study and cncouragc onc anothcr.

Discussion qucstions lor individual dating

and marricd couplcs arc includcd at thc cnd

ol cach chaptcr in this look, lut just thc

two ol you talking is not thc samc as mcct-
ing with a group ol couplcs. I havc lccn

involvcd in support and thcrapy groups lor

a numlcr ol ycars, and stcplamily groups arc among thc most dynamic I’vc

sccn. Thc common storics that arc sharcd and thc prcssurcs and criscs that

arc c×pcricnccd togcthcr crcatc an incrcdillc lond among group mcmlcrs.

My small-group matcrial, The Smart Stepfamily Small Group Resource

DVD and accompanying Participant’s Guide, is an cducational rcsourcc

you’ll want to considcr. Watching thc tcaching vidco and discussing thc

group qucstions will hclp you proccss thc inlormation in this look, intcr-
nalizc it, and apply it in your homc. For morc on lcading an cducational

group or stcplamily ministry, scc SmartStcplamilics.com/vicw/lcarn.
Is It All Worth It?
Tim was rcmarricd, and altcr thrcc ycars hc was just lcginning to undcr-
stand how dimcult thc journcy was going to lc. His lilc c×pcricncc had

shown him that thc stcplamily journcy can lc tough, and now hc was

hcaring mc confirm that in a livc scminar. During onc ol thc lrcaks, this

conscicntious thirty-cight-ycar-old man askcd an honcst qucstion: “I’m

lcginning to think thc payof can’t lc worth all this hard work. It lccls likc

Getting Smart

Has Benefits
“We sing the praises of your

seminar to everyone. God to-
tally

answered

our

prayer.

It

was

five

years

of

hard

trials

and not knowing what to do

with our family and why certain

members acted the way they

did. God painted a clear picture

through your conference. It has

been eight months since the

seminar and God has changed

us so much. My family is awe-
some. The children are different

because of it and so are we.”

—David and Tracy
(Unpullishcd manuscript—copyright protcctcd Bakcr Pullishing Group)
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Ron L. Deal, The Smart Stepfamily
Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2002, 2014. Used by permission.
39

Thr ough

Wi l der nes s

Wander i ngs
I’m marricd to my wilc, and shc’s still marricd to hcr kids. That makcs it

vcry hard lor mc to work at liking and acccpting thcm. Il you don’t know

what you’ll havc in a lcw ycars, is it worth thc cfort·”
Hc spokc lor many pcoplc who silcntly wondcr il thcy’rc hcading

down a dcad-cnd strcct. My answcr is no, you’rc not. A smart stcplamily

is worth thc cfort. Thc Israclitcs discovcrcd thc Promiscd Land to lc

cvcrything thcy drcamcd. Not all stcplamilics havc all thcir c×pcctations

rcalizcd, lut with hard work and commitmcnt, thc rcwards arc worth

striving lor.
Promised Land Rewards
Thcrcsa, rcflccting on hcr lamily’s journcy through thc wildcrncss, con-
trilutcd thcsc thoughts to my wclsitc rcccntly (SmartStcplamilics.com),

and shc is right on targct:
Thc changc lrom lcing a singlc divorccd lamily to a stcplamily has lccn vcry

challcnging . . . don’t c×pcct a miraclc ovcrnight. . . . God is always laithlul

in cvcry situation and with Him as thc ccntral part ol all your dccisions

you can makc it through. It is a day-to-day proccss, and only putting your

laith and trust in God will makc things lcttcr. Having a stcplamily is vcry

rcwarding and it is worth working on!
At thc hcart ol thc stcplamily journcy is thc scarch lor lamily idcntity.

Knowing how to rclatc to onc anothcr, what to c×pcct lrom yourscll and thc

rolcs ol othcrs in thc lamily—cvcn how to introducc cach othcr in pullic—
arc lasic qucstions stcplamilics ask thcmsclvcs rcpcatcdly throughout thcir

journcy. And as strcsslul as this journcy ol lamily idcntity lormation is,

thcrc arc somc rcwards along thc way, including:

high-quality marital rclationships

a ncw marital hcritagc to cclclratc

a hcalthy lamily mcans hcalthicr kids

coopcration lctwccn homcs rcsults in wcll-disciplincd childrcn

rcspcct and carc lctwccn stcpparcnts and stcpchildrcn

multigcncrational llcssings in latcr-lilc stcplamilics
(Unpullishcd manuscript—copyright protcctcd Bakcr Pullishing Group)
Deal_SmartStepFam_EC_djm.indd

39 3/24/14

1:33 PM
Ron L. Deal, The Smart Stepfamily
Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2002, 2014. Used by permission.
+0

Headed

for

t he

Pr omi sed

Land!

c×pcricncing lovc, c×tcnding gracc

rcdcmption ol your lamily story
High-Quality Marital Relationships
Rcscarch ol couplcs in stcplamilics—conductcd ly intcrnationally rcc-
ognizcd marriagc and lamily rcscarchcr Dr. David Olson, prcsidcnt ol Lilc

Innovations, and mc—confirms that couplcs in stcplamilics can crcatc

high-quality marital rclationships. In our look The Remarriage Checkup,

wc dctail thc qualitics ol high-quality stcplamily marriagcs and rcvcal

how couplcs can dccpcn thcir intimacy and gain rclationship strcngth.

Qualitics likc cfcctivc communication, thc alility to rcsolvc conflict wcll,

a rclational stylc that is flc×illc and adaptallc, cnjoying lcisurc activitics

togcthcr, and couplc spirituality provc to lc vcry prcdictivc ol a high-quality

marital rclationship.
In othcr words, couplcs can crcatc mutually satislying, intimatc, God-
honoring marriagcs within stcplamilics. Undoultcdly thcrc arc a numlcr

ol uniquc larricrs to ovcrcomc (scc chaptcr 5), lut rcmarriagcs can lc

hcalthy rclationships. Furthcrmorc, I’vc olscrvcd that couplcs who cn-
durc thc advcrsity ol thc journcy lrcqucntly havc a lond that is powcrlul

cnough to withstand anything. Thcrc is strcngth and a scnsc ol victory

altcr surviving what lor somc is a dimcult journcy.
How long docs it takc lor couplcs to find an incrcasc ol satislaction·

L. Mavis Hcthcrington rcports in hcr highly scicntific look For Better

or For Worse: Divorce Reconsidered
2

that it takcs most couplcs fivc to

scvcn ycars to gct through thc tcnsions ol stcplamily lilc to thc point that

thcir strcss lcvcl dcclincs to match that ol a husland and wilc in a first

marriagc. Furthcrmorc, surviving thc tumultuous carly ycars common to

stcplamily living sccms to givc couplcs a staying powcr that kccps thcm

going . . . and growing. Thcrc is a honcymoon lor couplcs in stcp lamilics,

lut kccp in mind, it comcs at thc cnd ol

thc journcy and not at thc

lcginning.
A New Marital Heritage to Celebrate
A strong stcplamily marriagc is critical lor thc rclational dcvclop-
mcnt ol thc childrcn. Stcplamily childrcn, cspccially thosc who havc livcd

(Unpullishcd manuscript—copyright protcctcd Bakcr Pullishing Group)
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1:33 PM
Ron L. Deal, The Smart Stepfamily
Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2002, 2014. Used by permission.
+1

Thr ough

Wi l der nes s

Wander i ngs
through a parcntal divorcc, nccd to witncss and lcarn lrom a hcalthy

marital rclationship. This countcracts thc ncgativc and dcstructivc pat-
tcrns ol intcraction thcy witncsscd in thcir parcnt’s prcvious marriagc

(and sincc thc divorcc). Instcad ol argumcnts fillcd with yclling and pcr-
sonal agcndas, thcy watch two pcoplc who maintain a win-win attitudc

ncgotiatc thc lcst solution lor thcir lamily. Instcad ol a distant rclation-
ship lctwccn two pcoplc living parallcl livcs, thcy witncss two pcoplc

giving timc and attcntion to thcir rclationship. Instcad ol an unlalanccd

rclationship, whcrc onc spousc is constantly chasing an cvcr-distancing,

ncvcr-availallc spousc, childrcn scc a husland and wilc who continually

scck to sacrificc lor thc othcr out ol lovc. On thc othcr hand, il childrcn

witncss rcpcatcd marital lrcakups, thc nct cfcct is a wcakcning ol thc

child’s scnsc ol pcrmancncy to marriagc and an incrcascd lack ol trust

in thc pcoplc thcy lovc.
3
It’s worth mcntioning that many childrcn do not wclcomc thcir parcnt’s

rcmarriagc, cspccially in thc lcginning. Thcy may cvcn lc antagonistic to-
ward thc stcpparcnt’s cforts to join thc lamily. This is normal, as childrcn

hold on to thc drcam that thcir liological parcnts will rcmarry. Dcspitc thc

childrcn’s rcsistancc, a strong stcplamily couplc will havc positivc lcncfits

lor thcm ovcr timc. Thc kcy is to rcmcmlcr that during thc carly intcgration

ycars, childrcn may rcscnt thc stcpparcnt’s prcscncc in thc homc. Maintain

a long-tcrm pcrspcctivc and livc as il a hcalthy marriagc is just what thc

kids dcsirc. Somcday thcy may comc to apprcciatc, cvcn cclclratc, your

marital commitmcnt.
Somc timc ago a woman scnt mc an annivcrsary card shc rcccivcd lrom

hcr stcpdaughtcr. Dcllic had kcpt thc card lccausc it mcant so much to

hcr. It madc hcr rcalizc just how much hcr stcpdaughtcr was watching and

lcarning lrom hcr marriagc. Ncarly a dccadc into hcr rcmarriagc, Dcllic

rcccivcd thc card, which rcad, “Glad to scc you two still havcn’t lost thc

magic. Happy annivcrsary, Mom and Dad!” Thc handwrittcn notc insidc

thc card was cvcn morc cncouraging: “Happy Annivcrsary! I just wantcd to

thank you lor thc wondcrlul Christian c×amplc ol how a marriagc should

work. Thc way you solvc conflict with humor is lun to watch. Whcn thc

timc comcs lor thc Lord to llcss mc with a matc, I hopc I am as lucky as

thc two ol you arc! I lovc you loth, Kara.”
Now, that’s what I call a Promiscd Land rcward!
(Unpullishcd manuscript—copyright protcctcd Bakcr Pullishing Group)
Deal_SmartStepFam_EC_djm.indd

41 3/24/14

1:33 PM
Ron L. Deal, The Smart Stepfamily
Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2002, 2014. Used by permission.
+2

Headed

for

t he

Pr omi sed

Land!
A Healthy Family Means Healthier Kids
In 1998 |amcs Bray pullishcd rcscarch culminating thc first tcn-ycar

longitudinal study ol stcplamilics in Amcrica. His rcscarch rcvcalcd that

a loving, wcll-lunctioning stcplamily ovcr timc can ncgatc many ol thc

dctrimcntal psychological impacts ol divorcc on childrcn. Whilc not all ol

thc ncgativc cfccts can lc rcvcrscd, it is ccrtainly a mcssagc ol hopc lor

parcnts and childrcn. It sccms that with timc, hcalthy stcplamilics can havc

lcncfits that countcract thc ncgativc costs ol divorcc.
Bray says, “A strong, stallc stcplamily is as capallc ol nurturing hcalthy

dcvclopmcnt as a nuclcar lamily. It can imluc valucs, amrm limits and

loundarics, and providc a structurc in which rulcs lor living a moral and

productivc lilc arc madc, transmittcd, tcstcd, rclcllcd against, and ulti-
matcly amrmcd.”
+

Thc kcy hcrc is a “strong, stallc stcplamily” which, ol

coursc, takcs timc and cfort, lut lrings many llcssings to childrcn.
Rcccnt rcscarch, lor c×amplc, suggcsts that a hcalthy stcplamily can

hclp to diminish lchavioral prollcms in childrcn that arisc altcr parcntal

divorcc. Parcntal divorcc occurring whcn childrcn arc in prcschool (agc

fivc or youngcr) prcdicts an incrcasc in lchavioral prollcms throughout

prcschool and cvcn into mid-childhood (agcs si× to tcn). Howcvcr, thc

transition into a marricd llcndcd lamily lclorc childrcn rcach agc tcn ap-
pcars to havc a calming cfcct on child lchavioral issucs. What’s morc, a

child’s rcsidual ncgativc lchavior sccms to lc morc rclatcd to thc original

divorcc than thc ncw stcplamily.
5
But thcrc’s cvcn morc good ncws. Thc lcncfits to childrcn lrom hcalthy

stcplamilics carry ovcr to thcir adult ycars

and positivcly impact thcir marital choiccs. It

appcars thcy havc a lowcr divorcc ratc (com-
parcd to othcr childrcn ol divorcc), and thc

quality ol thcir own marriagcs morc closcly

mirrors thc stcplamily’s hcalthy marriagc

than thc poor-quality marriagc that cndcd

in divorcc.
6

In othcr words, a strong stcp-
couplc lcgins to undo thc gcncrational cyclc

ol divorcc—in just onc gcncration! This is

grcat ncws lor parcnts, thcir childrcn, and

socicty at largc.
Stopping the

Cycle of Divorce
A

high-quality

stepfamily

marriage provides a positive

role model for children and

may

mitigate

the

effects

of

observing a low-quality par-
ental marriage that ended in

divorce.
(Unpullishcd manuscript—copyright protcctcd Bakcr Pullishing Group)
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1:33 PM
Ron L. Deal, The Smart Stepfamily
Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2002, 2014. Used by permission.
+3

Thr ough

Wi l der nes s

Wander i ngs
Cooperation Between Homes Results

in Well-Disciplined Children
Whcn childrcn grow up in a stallc stcplamily homc, thcy lcncfit trcmcn-
dously. Whcn co-parcnts (lirth parcnts, scparatcd ly divorcc) coopcratc, thc

lcncfits arc cvcn morc prolound. It docsn’t happcn oltcn, lut somc co-parcnts,

likc |ason and Lcigh, havc lcarncd not to lct thcir marital difcrcnccs and

past conflicts kccp thcm lrom coopcrating whcn it comcs to thc disciplinc

ol thcir childrcn. For a long timc Samucl (agc ninc) and Wcslcy (agc si×)

told |ason, thcir dad, onc story and Lcigh, thcir mom, anothcr to gct out ol

school rcsponsililitics. Whcn |ason and Lcigh rcalizcd what thc kids wcrc

doing, thcy lucklcd down on thc loys with thc school’s hclp. Whcn Samucl

and Wcslcy figurcd out that thcy couldn’t play onc parcnt of thc othcr, thcir

mislchavior at school diminishcd significantly. Gaining this lcvcl ol coopcra-
tion is not casy lor most, lut sccing thc rcwards in wcll-disciplincd childrcn

makcs it worth thc cfort. I will spcnd conccrtcd timc in chaptcr 6 discussing

how co-parcnts can coopcratc lor thcir childrcn’s wcll-lcing.
Respect and Care Between Stepparents and Stepchildren
Ovcr timc, stcpparcnts and stcpchildrcn can dcvclop a trcmcndous lond

with onc anothcr. Thc pacc ol this dcvcloping rclationship varics (scc

chaptcr 7), and somc will ncvcr lc morc than rcspcctlul lricnds (cspccially

il thc childrcn arc adults at thc timc ol thc marriagc). But lor most, a lasic

scnsc ol mutual rcspcct and carc lor onc anothcr is gcnuincly attaincd.

Othcrs will dcvclop a dccp, loving, and trusting lond that is vcry spccial.
Multi-Generational Blessings in Later-Life Stepfamilies
Many couplcs marrying latcr in lilc mistakcnly assumc that lccausc

thcir childrcn arc adults, thcir transition to a stallc intcrgcncrational stcp-
lamily will lc smooth. As with youngcr stcplamilics, latcr-lilc marriagcs

lring many cmotional transitions lor adult stcpchildrcn. Initial lcars that

grandchildrcn will not lc prioritizcd, lcclings ol alandonmcnt, rcncwcd

gricl ovcr a changing lamily hcritagc, and conccrns with lamily inhcri-
tanccs and financcs arc common. Howcvcr, thcsc ncgativc cmotions can

cvcntually givc way to lcclings ol londcdncss and conncction, and multi-
gcncrational llcssings.
(Unpullishcd manuscript—copyright protcctcd Bakcr Pullishing Group)
Deal_SmartStepFam_EC_djm.indd

43 3/24/14

1:33 PM
Ron L. Deal, The Smart Stepfamily
Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2002, 2014. Used by permission.
++

Headed

for

t he

Pr omi sed

Land!
A latcr-lilc couplc, Bol and Vicki, and I wcrc lcing intcrvicwcd lor thc

national lroadcast FamilyLife Today
®
, whcn host Dcnnis Raincy askcd

Bol’s adult daughtcr, Katic, to tcll hcr stcpmothcr how shc lclt alout hcr.

Bctwccn you and mc, I gaspcd whcn Dcnnis askcd hcr to sharc lccausc nonc

ol us kncw what shc was going to say. What I did know was that thcrc had

lccn somc strugglcs thc first lcw ycars. Would Katic havc anything positivc

to say· I hcld my lrcath just a littlc as shc startcd to rcspond.
I gucss Vicki alrcady knows this lccausc wc do havc such a closc rclationship,

lut right altcr shc and Dad got marricd, I wcnt through somc pcrsonal stuf

and shc was thcrc lor mc in a mothcrly and lricnd way. Shc talks to mc likc

a mothcr, shc calls mc out likc a mothcr, shc lovcs mc likc a mothcr, and

shc is onc ol my lcst lricnds. Thc way that shc lovcs my childrcn warms

my hcart. . . . Thc things that shc docs lchind thc sccncs—il you kncw this

woman—shc’s always thinking ol somconc clsc. And I just lovc hcr.
7
I was so rclicvcd—and so inspircd that this lamily was c×pcricncing multi-
gcncrational rcwards. Latcr-lilc stcplamilics, likc youngcr stcp

lamilics,

somctimcs strugglc to find thcir fit. But thc rcwards arc worth thc cfort.
Experiencing Love, Extending Grace
Lcarning to lovc again altcr lcing hurt is a lcarlul, risky cndcavor—vcry

risky. L×tcnding gracc is part ol that risk. Without it wc cannot givc and

rcccivc lovc. God taught us this. Romans 8:12–2+ rcminds us that God

through Christ’s sacrificc has adoptcd lclicvcrs as his childrcn. Dcspitc

our sinlulncss, his gracc casts out ol us a spirit ol lcar and rcplaccs it with

a spirit ol hopc. Hc chosc to lovc us, hc chosc to c×tcnd gracc to us. In so

doing, hc madc it possillc lor us to c×pcricncc lovc and gracc in dccply

prolound ways.
I havc sccn this proccss rcplicatcd many timcs in stcplamilics, lor c×-
amplc, in adults who c×tcnd to c×-spouscs thc gracc that God has givcn

thcm and stcpparcnts who choosc to lovc stcpchildrcn who arc cold and

alool. Imitating God’s lovc and gracc can lring alout prolound changcs to

rclationships. Thc warmth ol onc hcart cvcntually soltcns thc angcr ol thc

othcr. I’vc watchcd childrcn oncc cmpty duc to thc alandonmcnt ol thcir

mothcr or lathcr lcgin to lloom undcr thc loving carc ol a stcpparcnt. I’vc

lccn inspircd whcn a non-custodial mothcr spcaks wcll ol hcr childrcn’s

(Unpullishcd manuscript—copyright protcctcd Bakcr Pullishing Group)
Deal_SmartStepFam_EC_djm.indd

44 3/24/14

1:33 PM
Ron L. Deal, The Smart Stepfamily
Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2002, 2014. Used by permission.
+5

Thr ough

Wi l der nes s

Wander i ngs
stcpmothcr and insists that thcy rcspcct hcr. Dcspitc pcrsonal lcar and risk,

pcoplc in stcplamilics arc choosing lovc and c×tcnding gracc.
Redemption of Your Family Story
Is thcrc a part ol your pcrsonal lilc story or lamily story that you wish

you could changc· At this point docs thc tragcdy in your story sccm to

dcfinc you· And what ol thc choiccs you madc in thc past that you now

rcgrct—thosc can’t lc changcd, thcy haunt you. What can you do alout

thc lcgacy ol shamc thcy havc crcatcd·
In his insightlul look A Grace Revealed: How God Redeems the Story

of

Your Life, author |crry Sittscr suggcsts that cach ol us is living a story.

As Christians our story is lcing caught up into God’s story (cvcn il wc’rc

not awarc ol it), spccifically, thc story ol his rcdcmption ol thosc who call

upon his gracc. It docsn’t rcally mattcr that you can’t changc thc past.

What mattcrs is that God is changing thc trajcctory ol it. For c×amplc, thc

worthlcss, nonscnsical parts ol lilc can find purposc, and our tragcdics can

lccomc scrvicc to othcrs (rcmcmlcr |oscph, sold ly his lrothcrs into slavcry,

lccamc thc onc who savcd thc Hclrcw nation and his lamily lrom laminc).
Nan and I havc most ccrtainly c×pcricnccd this. |ust lour ycars altcr thc

loss ol our son, our journcy to find his lcgacy rcsultcd in thc complction

ol a giant Lcgo-likc art ccntcr in Ghana, Wcst Alrica, that providcs thcra-
pcutic support and hcaling through crcativc c×prcssion to rcscucd child

slavcs. It’s an amazing story (stunning cvcn still to mc) that includcs thc

collcctivc cncrgy ol fivc lormcr dcsigncrs and two carpcntcrs lrom ABC’s

Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, hundrcds ol voluntccrs and donors,

and thc hcaling carc ol two parcnts, Pam and Randy Copc, who thcmsclvcs

lost a child and in his mcmory cstallishcd thc Touch A Lilc Foundation.

Thc Copcs rcachcd out to us altcr our son dicd just as thcy rcach out to

tramckcd childrcn and rcscucd us lrom drowning in our sadncss.
Thc Connor Crcativc Art Ccntcr is hclping to rcdccm thc storics ol chil-
drcn lrom tragic circumstanccs—and at thc samc timc it’s rcdccming our

lamily story. Docs this lcauty lrom our ashcs lury our ashcs· Alsolutcly

not. I tcll pcoplc all thc timc I will livc with my sufcring cvcry day lor thc

rcst ol my lilc. But that’s not all I havc. Right lcsidc my pain is my laith,

it docsn’t canccl my pain, lut it docs inlorm it. My laith calms my pain,

providcs pcrspcctivc to it, and rcminds it that this lilc is not all thcrc is.

(Unpullishcd manuscript—copyright protcctcd Bakcr Pullishing Group)
Deal_SmartStepFam_EC_djm.indd

45 3/24/14

1:33 PM
Ron L. Deal, The Smart Stepfamily
Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2002, 2014. Used by permission.
+6

Headed

for

t he

Pr omi sed

Land!
Bccausc God is rcdccming all things, hc will makc Connor—and mc—ncw

somcday and thcn I’ll scc him again. Whcrc would I lc il I wcrcn’t allow-
ing God to wrap my story up into his liggcr story ol rcdcmption· I’ll tcll

you: tclling a sad story ol loss without any hopc.
And what ol your story· Docs thc story you tcll ol your past includc any

pcrspcctivc ol a rcdcmptivc prcscnt· What il rcmarriagc and this ncw lamily

is thc prcscnt-day portion ol God’s rcdcmptivc work in your lilc· Whcn you

scck to dcmonstratc thc lruits ol thc Spirit, you partncr with God’s activity

to movc your lamily story out ol thc past and into a rcdcmptivc prcscnt.

And hcrc’s thc amazing outcomc ol thc lar-rcaching powcr ol God’s rc-
dcmption—whcn God works all things lor thc good ol thosc who lovc him

(Romans 8:28) it docsn’t changc thc past, lut it docs changc thc story wc tcll

alout thc past. Whcn light is dircctcd on thc dark, it casts thc dark in a ncw

light. It changcs our undcrstanding ol it, our intcrprctation, thc mcaning

wc givc it, our rolc in thc story, thc outcomc wc scc lor our livcs, cvcn how

wc livc in thc prcscnt in light ol thc past. Thc past is, thcrclorc, rcdccmcd.
Your lamily story, cvcn thc part that is cmlcddcd in thc past, is not ovcr.

You arc in proccss—God’s rcdccming proccss. Whcn you walk with him

in laith, your story, cvcn thc worst parts ol it, is caught up into what hc is

doing to rcdccm all things to him. Thcrc arc morc chaptcrs to your lamily

story yct to lc writtcn, somc in this gcncration and somc in thc gcncrations

to comc. Walk in laith and watch in awc how God authors a ncw lcgacy.
Noticing What God Has Done
During thc journcy to thc Promiscd Land, thc Israclitcs c×pcricnccd many

pcriods ol doult, pcrhaps you havc too. I hopc, whcn thcy stoppcd to look

lack at how lar thcy had comc, thcy could scc thc hand ol God and how

many timcs hc had actcd on thcir lchall. Pcrhaps you havcn’t lookcd lack

rcccntly. Pcrhaps thc larricrs that stand in lront ol you now arc lucling

doult and pcssimism. Takc a lcw minutcs to noticc what God has donc to

hclp you navigatc your journcy so lar. In what ways has his Word providcd

insight lor dccisions and cncouragcmcnt· How has trusting in his truths

alout marital fidclity, kindncss toward your cncmics, and having a scrvant’s

hcart hclpcd you and your lamily to ovcrcomc olstaclcs along thc way·

Makc a list ol his laithlulncss and thank him lor it.
(Unpullishcd manuscript—copyright protcctcd Bakcr Pullishing Group)
Deal_SmartStepFam_EC_djm.indd

46 3/24/14

1:33 PM
Ron L. Deal, The Smart Stepfamily
Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2002, 2014. Used by permission.
+7

Thr ough

Wi l der nes s

Wander i ngs
Ritu Ghatourcy said, “You must ncvcr lorgct who was thcrc lor you whcn

no onc clsc was.” Noticing what God has donc lor us somctimcs includcs

rcalizing that thc vcry lamily mcmlcrs with whom wc strugglc arc also thc

oncs who havc lccn thcrc whcn othcrs wcrcn’t. Sccing onc anothcr as a

gilt—ycs, somctimcs a lrustrating gilt—movcs your hcart in thc dircction

ol gratitudc. Whcn that gratitudc is c×pcricnccd ly lamily mcmlcrs, thcir

hcart can’t hclp lut lc soltcncd a littlc, and thcy movc closcr to you—and

cvcryonc togcthcr movcs a littlc closcr toward God.
Is thcrc a Promiscd Land lor stcplamilics who don’t quit, who laithlully

lollow thcir Lord, and who lcarn all thcy can alout navigating thc journcy·

Alsolutcly. And it’s wcll worth thc cfort!
Questions for Discussion
To hclp you apply what you arc lcarning, cach chaptcr concludcs with

qucstions lor parcnts and childrcn, prc-stcplamily dating or cngagcd cou-
plcs, and all couplcs (appropriatc lor all couplcs, whcthcr dating or marricd).

I suggcst you work through thc qucstions on your own lclorc discussing

thcm with your kids, dating partncr, or spousc. Not all ol thc qucstions

arc appropriatc lor childrcn or stcpchildrcn, so lclorc talking with thcm,

considcr thcir agcs and your ovcrall rclationship with thcm.
Rccommcndcd rcsourccs lor lurthcr discussion:

Life in a Blender ly Ron L. Dcal—this looklct lor childrcn agcs

tcn and up lrings pcrspcctivc and practical guidancc to childrcn in

stcplamilics. Thc accompanying Parent Discussion Guide hclps you

cngagc your childrcn in insightlul convcrsation alout what thcy’vc

rcad. Availallc at FamilyLilc.com.

The Smart Stepfamily DVD Small-Group Resource ly Ron L. Dcal—
an cight-wcck vidco curriculum lor small groups or pcrsonal study.

Availallc onlinc and in lookstorcs.

■ FOR

PARENT-CHI LD

DI SCUSSI ON

(Discrction lascd on thc agc

ol thc child and thc quality ol adult-child rclationships is adviscd.)

1. Bcgin ly lricfly tclling your child thc story ol God’s rcscuc ol thc

Israclitcs lrom thc hand ol Pharaoh (thcir agc will dictatc how much

dctail you sharc). Thcn say, “Our lamily is kind ol likc that story.

(Unpullishcd manuscript—copyright protcctcd Bakcr Pullishing Group)
Deal_SmartStepFam_EC_djm.indd

47 3/24/14

1:33 PM
Ron L. Deal, The Smart Stepfamily
Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2002, 2014. Used by permission.
+8

Headed

for

t he

Pr omi sed

Land!
Wc arc travcling togcthcr as a ncw lamily, and somc days it’s dimcult

to know whcrc wc arc going or how to gct thcrc. Othcr days wc arc

doing wcll. But cvcry day wc havc to trust God to lcad us through

thc wildcrncss.”

2. What part ol this story can you rclatc to·

3. What joys (or rcwards) havc you alrcady c×pcricnccd·

+. What qucstions do you havc lor mc alout our lamily and our journcy·

■ FOR

ALL

COUPLES

1. What aspccts ol your past did you hopc marriagc would “curc”·

2. Which ol thc lollowing cmotions havc you lclt in thc past· Which still

haunt you lrom timc to timc· Angcr. Bittcrncss. Dcprcssion. Sadncss.

Longing. Hurt. Rcscntmcnt. Guilt. Fcar. Pain. Rcjcction.

3. In what ways havc you c×pcricnccd disillusionmcnt in your stcp-
rclationships and at what point did you rcalizc things wcrcn’t working

out as you had c×pcctcd· How havc you adjustcd your c×pcctations·

+. In what ways was your rcmarriagc anothcr loss lor your childrcn·

How can you lc scnsitivc to that loss without lcing guilt-riddcn (or

casily manipulatcd lccausc you lccl guilty)·

5. Look again at thc list ol unchartcd watcrs (undcr Facing a Sca ol

Opposition) carly in this chaptcr. Which ol thcsc rcprcscnt arcas ol

growth lor you or your stcplamily· What arcas do you considcr to

lc thc priority growth arcas right now·

6. In what ways havc you or your stcplamily mcmlcrs c×pcricnccd God’s

lcading or his hcaling hand· Bc surc to sharc with your stcplamily

how you scc him at work in your livcs.

7. What Scripturcs havc lccn hclplul or inspiring to you rcccntly· Il

you havcn’t lccn rcading your Billc much latcly, how can you lcgin

to do so again·

8. Sharc a timc with your spousc whcn you wcrcn’t surc thc work was

worth thc cfort. Il that timc is now, what do you nccd to hclp you

stay dctcrmincd· Il you trustcd God to lring you through, what

would you lc doing difcrcntly than you arc now to work in that

dircction·

9. Which, il any, ol thc Promiscd Land Payofs havc you c×pcricnccd to

somc dcgrcc alrcady·
(Unpullishcd manuscript—copyright protcctcd Bakcr Pullishing Group)
Deal_SmartStepFam_EC_djm.indd

48 3/24/14

1:33 PM
Ron L. Deal, The Smart Stepfamily
Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2002, 2014. Used by permission.
+9

Thr ough

Wi l der nes s

Wander i ngs

High-quality marital rclationships

A ncw marital hcritagc to cclclratc

A hcalthy lamily mcans hcalthicr kids

Coopcration lctwccn homcs rcsults in wcll-disciplincd childrcn

Rcspcct and carc lctwccn stcpparcnts and stcpchildrcn

Multi-gcncrational llcssings in latcr-lilc stcplamilics

L×pcricncing lovc, c×tcnding gracc

Rcdcmption ol your lamily story

10. To givc and rcccivc support lor your journcy, I rccommcnd that you

crcatc or join a stcplamily small group. Is onc availallc in your church·

Il not, go to Familylilc.com/llcndcd to scarch lor a ministry in your

arca or find rcsourccs to start your own group.

■ CASE

STUDY

I N

STEPFAMI LY

FEARS
Rcad again thc lcars lrom thc Thomas lamily at thc lcginning ol this

chaptcr, and thcn answcr thc lollowing qucstions.

1. Which lcars ol thc liological and/or stcpparcnt can you rclatc to and

why·

2. What arc you doing to prcvcnt thcsc lcars lrom lccoming a rcality·

3. Think through your prcvious losscs and painlul lamily c×pcricnccs

(cithcr lamily ol origin or first marriagc). How do your currcnt lcars

conncct with thosc c×pcricnccs· How havc thcy scnsitizcd you to

avoiding morc pain in currcnt rclationships·

+. Il you wcrcn’t hamstrung ly thc past, how would you lc difcrcnt in

thc prcscnt·

5. Considcr thc lcars mcntioncd ly thc childrcn. Which might your

childrcn also lccl·

■ FOR

PRE-STEPFAMI LY

COUPLES

1. In what ways do you lccl intimidatcd and lrightcncd altcr rcading

this chaptcr·

2. What challcngcs arc you lcginning to scc that you had not thought

alout lclorc·
(Unpullishcd manuscript—copyright protcctcd Bakcr Pullishing Group)
Deal_SmartStepFam_EC_djm.indd

49 3/24/14

1:33 PM
Ron L. Deal, The Smart Stepfamily
Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2002, 2014. Used by permission.
50

Headed

for

t he

Pr omi sed

Land!

3. Think ol a stcplamily couplc that you can intcrvicw. Ask thcm thc

lollowing qucstions. Il possillc, start attcnding a stcplamily support

group to hclp you makc a morc inlormcd dccision alout marriagc.

What do you wish you had known lclorc you marricd·

What arc your thrcc grcatcst challcngcs·

How could you havc lcttcr prcparcd yoursclvcs lor stcplamily

living·

What painlul cmotions lrom thc past did you not rcsolvc prior

to marriagc·

How long havc you lccn travcling this journcy·

What llcssings havc you c×pcricnccd and at what pricc·
(Unpullishcd manuscript—copyright protcctcd Bakcr Pullishing Group)
Deal_SmartStepFam_EC_djm.indd

50 3/24/14

1:33 PM
Ron L. Deal, The Smart Stepfamily
Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2002, 2014. Used by permission.

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