The Challenging Journey for Stepfamilies

How to avoid divorce as you learn to blend your family

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.

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