This is an article written to a church to help small group leaders who have not experienced remarriage, understand remarried couples in their group.
My husband Gil and I have seven children, but I didn’t give birth to all of them. We’re happily remarried. We’re two families, blended together. There’s a good chance you have couples like us in your Life Group. You may even be one of them! If you aren’t, or you didn’t grow up in a stepfamily, there are some things you should know about remarried couples. Imagine this. Tim and Fiona join your Life Group. Eventually, you realize they’re remarried with a blended family. What makes blended, or stepfamilies, astronomically different? How can you come alongside and encourage people like Tim, Fiona, Gil and me?
1. Most blended marriages are created through the pain.
Either through a divorce or a spouse passing away, pain and loss are part of the new marriage. 58% of people who remarry have not dealt with their past pain.
Remember: Whether a couple has been remarried 2 months or 20 years, it’s still okay to grieve the loss of their first marriage.
2. There is built-in stress in a remarriage.
In the first 2 years, a remarried couple’s stress level is equivalent to the first 7 years of a first marriage. Think about it. They’re not only dealing with new communication styles and financial issues, but also the exes (or phantom of a deceased spouse), old marriage habits, ex-in-laws, and wounds from the previous family.
Remember: The couple is trying to find their own rhythm and identity. Share with them that the average stepfamily takes anywhere from 5-7 years to blend. That may help reduce their stress.
3. Remarried couples often feel shame. Be thankful if remarried couples built up the courage to join your group. These fragile marriages need a healthy, safe environment to thrive. Feelings of failure and shame are common in a remarriage. In their eyes, they may feel like they ended God’s perfect plan. This is especially true if your group is full of healthy, first-time marriages.
Remember: Encourage them where they are. Focus on their future. It’s probably not just about them as a couple anymore. They probably share children who are part of this new family. And it doesn’t matter if the kids are two years old or 35! Help them focus on restoring and rebuilding a new legacy.
4. There are at least 72 differences between a first and second marriage. Here are just a few.
- First marriages have one set of kids all the time. Second marriages often have two sets, plus a court-advised visitation schedule.
- First marriages have one financial household. Second marriages often pay alimony, child support, and help provide for various expenses along the way.
- First marriages know everyone in their family. Second marriages share their family with the influence of the spouses, children, relatives, and friends of their exes.
- First marriages get to create the memories and history that bond them together. Second marriages have to contend with those memories and history in their new reality.
This may feel like a lot. Don’t be intimidated. As I said, Gil and I are happily married. God is a God of restoration. He chose your group for couples like us on purpose. “Tim and Fiona” want to know that you care before they’ll care what you know. They’ll need to know you’re not judging them. So, don’t get quiet about their remarriage. Keep asking them questions, keep an open communication, and continue to contextualize your conversations to their situation. Finally, remember their marriage may be astronomically different from yours, but you both serve the same God who created the Universe and knows how to heal it too.
For more help and Life Group ideas for remarried couples, visit from Gil and Brenda Stuart’s website at restoredandremarred.com.