Building a Blended Family Doesn't Come Easily

illustration of angry stepdad and teen stepdaughters
Jojo Ensslin

Deb was trembling as she closed the door and dropped to the floor of her bathroom. As she held herself tightly, tears began to pour down her cheeks. How much longer can I do this? she thought as she wiped her eyes. I want this family to work, but I cannot keep living like this. Once again, a quiet evening at home had exploded into a burst of angry emotions, accusations and power plays between her new husband and her teenage daughters.

Steve and Deb had been married less than a year. While she had expected challenges, she had not expected this. When Steve moved into their home, he brought rules that didn't make sense to Deb or her daughters, Kelly and Katie. Deb worried about the effect on her daughters, yet she loved her husband and wanted them all to become a family — quickly.

Many experts say it takes five years or more for a blended family to begin to feel cohesive. There's really no way to force a family to bond quickly, but with continued faith and persistent effort, families can grow closer.

Feeling desperate on that cold floor, Deb breathed a prayer. "God, only You can save this family."

That simple prayer of relinquishment led to changes. Deb and Steve decided to go to counseling. "The therapist helped me examine the promise I'd made after my ex walked out on us — that no one would ever hurt my girls again," Deb says. "I came to realize that was not only impossible, but it wasn't even the best thing for them."

Steve learned the importance of discussing his expectations with Deb before he made parenting decisions. He had sons from a previous marriage but had never parented girls. At a fathering conference, Steve gained valuable insights about parenting daughters.

Deb says, "We took advantage of anything our church offered, like retreats and seminars that would help us grow as a couple and as a family. It seemed like the whole atmosphere of the family calmed down and started going better." 

Today, Steve and Deb have good relationships with all four of their kids. Steve and the girls can laugh now, and often do, about those tumultuous first years.

One important lesson we learned," Deb says, "was to just hang on."

This article first appeared in the March/April 2013 issue of Focus on the Family's Thriving Family magazine and was originally titled "So Not What I Expected."
Copyright © 2013 by Cyndi Lamb Curry. Used by permission. From the Focus on the Family website at

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