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Julie, from Michigan (submitted March 22, 2010)

 

Name:  Julie
State or Country: Michigan

My family is living proof that "dysfunction breeds dysfunction."
I was 5 years old, (in 1973), when my parents remarried.  I am the youngest
of 10 in a combined family - 9 out of 10 of us children, (including me),
have been divorced and remarried - some more than once!  I have grown up
watching my parents argue over "yours & mine."  And at 41 years old, I still
witness it once in a while.  My parents did the best they could for what
they knew at the time.  Back then, my siblings and I were the minority, in a
divorced household.  Through the years, I have watched many of my nieces and
nephews hurt, abused and literally kicked out of their homes by
step-parents. And, now many of them are following the same destructive
patterns as their parents.  I have always felt powerless on how to help
them.  Our family has suffered all of the ill-effects of divorce;
alcoholism, drugs, dropping out of school, etc.  I am thankful for books
such as The Smart Step-Family and the fact that step-families are being
evaluated and helped.  It really is an epidemic and people need help - if
not for anything else, but to end the cycle of divorce generation after
generation.  

I was 18 years old when I married the first time and had two children.  I
never intended to subject my children to divorce.  But, after 7 years of
marriage to a mentally abusive and controlling man, I realized this was not
healthy for me or my children.  I struggled w/the sin of divorce for many
years, and have just recently forgiven myself and I am at peace knowing God
is a forgiving God. A few years after my divorce, the good Lord blessed me
with a kind, loving man and we were married.  He had two children also from
his first marriage of 6 years. Growing up in a step-family, I wanted our
children's life to be as "normal" as possible.  I told him that I did not
want to fight over them, and that we need to raise the children as "ours" to
the best of our ability.  I didn't want them to endure what I did as a
child.  When we met, my daughter was 7 and my son was 3 years old, and my
husband's son was 8 and his daughter was 7 years old.  Four years after we
were married, we had a son.  Which made 5 children, w/yours, mine & ours.
The first four, (yours & mine), were in our wedding, 2 flower girls & 2 ring
bearers.  We were either blessed or lucky, because the children have always
gotten along fairly well.  They were typical kids and fought periodically,
but "blended" quite well.  I consider my husband and I soul-mates in many
aspects, but mostly in our parenting style.  We both realized that it wasn't
our children's fault that their parents ended up divorced.  So why should
they have to suffer needlessly?  We put our marriage first and stood united!
We worked hard at being fair w/the children and treating them as equal as
possible.  It does take a conscious effort w/step-children.  God instills in
us a natural bond and patience w/our own children.  I think it's the truest
form of unconditional-godlike love here on earth.  Oh, we've had our fair
share of "heated" conversations about the kids, (in private of course)!
When it got to the boiling point, we knew we had to cool off and work
through it.  

And, yes we've had our fair share of dealings w/the ex-spouses!  My
ex-husband and his wife were usually the biggest instigators w/my two
children.  My daughter packed up and secretly moved out of our house to live
w/her father on her 17th birthday.  My heart was absolutely broken!  I had
to council w/our pastor and it took a lot of prayer to get through it.  It
also took a lot of tough-love to teach her that she could not manipulate the
family just because she wanted her own way.  Her father and step-mother
tried to undermine our rules and discipline.  She was gone five months, and
she realized that was not where she wanted to be.  She missed the loving
stability in our home.  And yes, she even missed the discipline! Because she
was given too much freedom in the other home and was not making good
choices.  While she was gone, I prayed for her safety and I knew that "God
took her away from me for a reason."  Well, let's just say it was a learning
lesson for all involved, including her father and step-mother.  It did
improve our co-parenting relationship, a little.  Then, my son did the same
thing when he turned 18.  And, after being punched in the face by his
biological father, he moved back home after 7 weeks.  This did cause some
resentment from my husband w/each of them for a while, due to the pain that
it caused me.  Time and repentance, on their behalf, healed all.  

My husband did a better job of co-parenting w/his ex-wife, so there weren't
any major incidents w/his children.  They knew they would have to answer to
both their mom and dad if they misbehaved!  Overall, my husband and I are
close to all of our children.  My children are closer to my husband, (and
view him as "Dad"), than I might be with his children, due to the fact that
my children lived w/us full time.  And, after reading The Smart Step-Family,
it made sense why it's harder for step-mothers to get close due to the
loyalty children have for their biological mothers.  And, I'm okay w/that -
we have a good relationship, a mutual love and I'm the "second-mom."  They
have a good mom, and I'm glad of that.     

The only church/prayer-life that any of the children had was in our home.
Neither of our ex-spouses encouraged any spiritual growth.  I knew that
leading them to God was the best, (or only) chance our family would have to
get through the "broken-home" life.   With each heartache or challenge that
we endured, I asked God, "What do you want me to learn from this, Lord?"
His answer would come in time.  By focusing on solving the problem or
learning and growing from it, you're less likely to get "lost in the
problem."  

Our first four children have since graduated.  No more child support, no
more visitations, no more dealing w/the "ex's" - The Promise Land?!
Bittersweet, to say the least!  Because, this also means our children are
grown, and we just plain loved being parents and enjoyed our children
tremendously.  The Promise Land : "our naughty" daughter is married to a
wonderful, Christian young man and we have a beautiful grandson, with
another grandchild on the way.  She uses our marriage as a model for her own
marriage.  The other three are going to college, working and starting out
adult-life as "normal" young adults.  And, our youngest will have an
advantage that the others did not have - he will be raised by both of his
biological parents.  And in our maturity, we have made our relationship
w/God more of a priority then when we were younger parents.

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