Paul is senior pastor of a large metropolitan church. He had a wonderful 27-year marriage to his first wife, Karen, who tragically died of cancer. Brenda was married for 25 years to Terry who also died of cancer. Six months after Karen’s death and 18 months after Terry’s death, Paul and Brenda began dating. Paul had four children ranging from their early teens to mid-twenties, and Brenda had three children in their late teens and mid-twenties. After dating for less than a year, Paul and Brenda got married.
Five years later Paul and Brenda were giving a dating couple, Pamela and Allen, some advice about the decision to become a blended family. “We love each other dearly, but if we had it to do all over again, we might not have gotten married at all.” Their 20/20 hind-sight advice to their friends was direct and straightforward: Don’t rush into marriage, make sure you are ready to marry the entire package that comes along with the person you have fallen in love with or don’t marry—and even if you are ready, keep in mind that there’s no guarantee that doing so is best, convenient, or a blessing for your kids.
I can hear someone shouting as they read this: But can’t blended family living bring blessings to children and couples? Can’t everyone receive love and experience family harmony? Absolutely! Without question, stepfamilies can be redemptive mechanisms for everyone involved. I’ve been blessed over the years to hear from thousands of readers about the rewards they have experienced after implementing the strategies they learned from my ministry—and I praise God for all of it. But I’ve also heard from those, the Paul and Brenda’s of the world, who have tried on their own and struggled to move from dating to a successful blended family.
This brings me back to Pamela and Allen. They took their friends advice to heart and had delayed a wedding for well over a year so they could be more sensitive to the needs of their children and more adequately deepen their couple relationship before deciding for sure whether to marry. Later, Pamela shared, “Allen and I both affirm that waiting has enriched our relationship and allowed time for valuable relationship bridges to be built with our kids. This has also given our kids time to get used to the idea of our families eventually merging.
“I must say, the waiting time has allowed us to move beyond the euphoric infatuation stage into the nitty-gritty hard places of loving one another. Facing those things before marriage is certainly healthier, enabling us to move forward without rose-colored glasses.
Now that’s dating wisdom.
Adapted from the book Dating and the Single Parent by Ron L. Deal. Used with permission. All rights reserved.
Ron L. Deal is president of Smart Stepfamilies™, director of FamilyLife Blended™, a popular conference speaker, and author/coauthor of a series of DVD’s, books, and curriculum for stepfamilies including The Smart Stepfamily, The Smart Stepmom, The Smart Stepdad, Dating and the Single Parent, and the book The Smart Stepfamily Marriage. His one-minute radio feature FamilyLife Blended can be heard daily on stations nationwide and online. Tune in to his weekly Periscope broadcast (follow “Ron Deal”) on marriage and blended families. Learn more at FamilyLife.com/blended.
The Life of a Single Mom is a national, faith-based, nonprofit that exists to see that no single mom walks alone. To date, we have worked with more than 1,500 churches & community groups to start or improve a single mom’s support group in cities throughout the U.S. and beyond. We have a large array of books, curriculum, training materials, and online instructional videos to support ministry leaders who lead single moms. Our single mom programs focus on empowering single moms to grow spiritually, emotionally, financially, and parentally through a number of projects including: Single Mom University, Single Moms Across America, the National TLSM Single Moms Conference, and a variety of programs throughout the U.S. For more information, visit www.thelifeofasinglemom.com