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Marrying … with Children

How do we build a healthy blended family?

I have two children and I'm about to marry a man who also has two children. I'm concerned about blending our families. Any advice?

You're facing a challenge, but you can be successful. Creating a strong blended family actually involves principles similar to those used to create a strong marriage—mutual respect and consideration.

When two people marry, they bring together their differences to forge a common life. Likewise, a blended family brings together many people and their differences to create a common family life. This process involves both loss and gain. What you and your fiancé had in your previous marriages is gone. But the good news is, you're on the brink of creating a brand-new marriage, family, and home.

Making something new requires an interest in and respect for what's important to each member of your blended family. It may help you to ask each family member (even the youngest one) what he or she would like to see as part of this new family.

Remember, you and your husband will also have to be deliberate about building your marriage. It's easy to hit the ground running because of all the children involved, but don't let your marriage take a back seat. Make sure you spend some couple-only time so you can work together as a team. If you don't, your stress will keep you functioning independently, and you'll end up having two separate families living under the same roof.

Why not read some books on blended families and parenting with your husband? That way, you can begin to formulate how you want your family to look and how you want to work together. Respect each other's needs and hopes, and consider how your choices will impact the others. If you do this, you'll build a healthy family and model good relationships for your children.

My husband is gay

My husband left me—for a man. Apparently he's been gay all his life and decided to come out now after 16 years of marriage and three children. I'm having a difficult time coping with this emotionally, and I'm concerned about my kids. I don't know where to turn for help.

I've sat with other women whose husbands left them for men, and the shock is enormous. It's incredibly disorienting to realize you don't really know the person with whom you've lived and slept for so many years. The feelings of betrayal go deep and involve not just the fact he's gone, but also the fact he kept this huge secret from you.

There are two things that will be important for you in the coming weeks and months. First, you need to contact a Christian organization that ministers to women in your situation. The one here in Philadelphia is called Harvest (215-342-7114), and there are others around the country, including Exodus International (888-264-0877). They can connect you with women who have already gone through what you're experiencing and help you with the task of explaining these developments to your children.

Second, you need to be part of a good church. Surround yourself with a community of believers who will love and support you and your children. You need friends who will sit with you as you grieve and help you in practical ways as you adjust to life as a single parent. Your children also need support and examples of responsible Christian men and healthy marriages.

I want to assure you your husband's decision to leave isn't about you. It's not a reflection on the kind of wife you've been, nor is it about some inadequacy, sexual or otherwise, on your part.

If you find yourself stuck in your grief or anger over a long period of time, or if you get depressed and find sleeping, eating, and daily life troublesome, then seek out a Christian counselor.

Looking for love

I'm in my 30s, never married, and overweight. I have a hard time finding men to date or even just to do fun things with because of my size. But the more I get concerned with my weight, the harder it is for me to control. What can I do to find that special man for me?

I sense you're struggling with two different issues: your weight and your sense of loneliness. Regarding the weight issue, I'm struck by your statement that the more concerned you get about your weight, the harder it is to control. I wonder if part of what drives you to eat is anxiety or negative feedback from others. People sometimes eat excessively as a way of comforting themselves when they feel unhappy. I encourage you to seek professional counseling to help you assess what's driving you to eat too much.

As to the issue of how to find "that special man," I'm afraid I can't answer that question for you. If I could, I'd have lots of single women standing outside my door looking for that information! What I can do is encourage you to get involved in activities that interest you both inside and outside the church. Join a Bible study or volunteer with an organization that helps the homeless or foster children. Book discussion groups, adult education classes, hiking, and many other activities put you in contact with new people who share similar interests. You'll develop relationships with men and women, expand your knowledge of the world, and round out your life. I don't know whether or not you'll meet a "special man" in the process, but I suspect involvement in such groups will increase your chances and ease your loneliness at the same time. tcw

Diane Mandt Langberg, Ph.D., is an author and licensed psychologist in private practice. You can e-mail her questions at tcwedit@christianitytoday.com.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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