Jump directly to the content

The Challenging Journey for Stepfamilies

How to avoid divorce as you learn to blend your family
Average Rating:

Happily ever after. It doesn't sound like too much to ask for. But there is a significant gap between those who seek and those who find. A quick look at marriage in America reveals that nearly half of all marriages don't survive, let alone become safe, supportive, and loving relationships. An additional 25 percent of all marriages that don't end in divorce are dissatisfying—unhappily ever after. Certainly these couples didn't marry with the expectation of divorce or distress. So what went wrong? And more to the point, what will keep you and your spouse from crashing and burning beside them?

In general, remarriages (where one or both partners have been married before) with or without children have a 60 percent or greater chance of divorce. Specifically, second marriages have a 60 percent divorce rate and third marriages a 73 percent chance of divorce (U.S. Census Bureau). Remarried couples who bring children to the wedding have an even greater risk of divorce; to be specific, they have a 50 percent greater chance of divorce than remarried couples without children (E. M. Hetherington and J. Kelly, For Better or for Worse: Divorce Reconsidered). As it turns out, happily ever after is tougher to achieve in remarriage, even more difficult when one of you brings children to the marriage, and especially challenging when you both do. That's why we conducted this specific study on remarriage and why we wrote this book—to help you beat the odds and break the cycle of divorce for you and your children. Before you get too discouraged, know that the qualities of successful remarried and stepfamily couples are identifiable—and you can learn them and use them in your marriage.

Every journey will have a few surprises along the way. If you've ever experienced an airline delay or cancellation, you know exactly what we mean. If bad weather rolls in or your plane is missing a wind-shield wiper, you're stuck in Timbuktu for the night. But the difference between people who become overly stressed by unforeseen circumstances and those who thrive in them is the ability to adapt. Such persons are able to discern what they cannot change from what they can control and then make the appropriate adjustments. Others, however, get plowed over by the out-of-control circumstances and fall apart. No doubt you've seen people scream at an airline ticket agent because their flight had been cancelled due to inclement weather. The agent couldn't be held responsible, but he or she nevertheless ended up the target of someone's frustration.

No First PageNo Previous PagePage 1 of 5Next PageLast Page

Sign up for TCW's free Marriage Partnership e-newsletter for weekly updates and encouragement through the joys, trials, and tribulations of marriage.

not a subscriber?

Subscribe for only $9.95 yearly!
Start here for complete access to Today's Christian Woman—a mentor to help you love God more deeply and live fearlessly.

Next Steps

Downloadable resources to go deeper

Surviving Divorce

Walking forward in strength and faith

Dealing with Divorce

What happens to a child's soul when his or her world is ripped in two?

ratings & comments

Average User Rating:

Displaying 1–3 of 6 comments


February 10, 2014  11:31am

Thank you for the thoughtful and informative article. Stepfamilies need all the support they can get! To that end, here's a site with more resources that stepfamilies might find helpful: http://www.myfairystepmother.com/step-family-resources/

Report Abuse


April 05, 2012  11:52am

My wonderful husband & I have been married for 13 years, and we brought 7 children with us. The first 5-6 years were miserable. We had no idea the complexities and special dynamics that occur in stepfamilies...and I was angry. Then God led me to Ron Deal's book, "The Smart Stepfamily," It opened my eyes and God started transforming ME. I realized that much of what we were going through was "normal" for stepfamilies, that our children were experiencing much change & loss (from both the divorce & remarriage), that my expectations were too high, and it takes TIME!! Ron's ministry is not about condoning divorce and encouraging remarriage. God's way of one man & woman marrying for life is still the best (the healthiest, least complicated, etc). But, we are imperfect people and either through sin or circumstances, may find our selves in a position to remarry. Ron's ministry is about preventing another divorce! I praise God that He is a redemptive God, and am thankful for Ron's ministry!

Report Abuse


March 31, 2012  1:36am

Thank you for addressing these concerns. People with great marriages, "Christian Marriages".. should not project their ideas and marriages on to other people and expect them to have the same kind of marriages. All marriages are unique. God's grace, will, and plans are more sacred than any one of us will ever know. I say prayers for all marriages and trust God's omnipresence not to judge other couples marriages. There are so many variables within marriages that are never addressed publically that prevent having an authentic Christian marriage. Rape, Spousal Abuse, Child Molestation, Drug Addiction, Criminal Behavior.. PTSD, Mental Illness..not being equally yoked. Difficult Children, cruel in laws, death of a child.. The day that Christians stop judging other peoples marriages and mind their own, trust that God is working perfectly in all relationships, will be the day the statistics drop and more authentic Christian marriages will be created from Joy. I wish people were kinder.

Report Abuse

Rate and comment on this article: *



1000 character limit

* Comments may be edited for tone and clarity.

More For Women
Gifted for Leadership

gifted for leadership

The Leadership Journal blog inspires and connects women leaders in church ministry
Her Meneutics


The Christianity Today  women's site provides news and analysis for evangelical women