131 Conversations For Stepfamily Success: How to Grow Intimacy, Parent as a Team




Conversations For

Stepfamily Success


How to Grow Intimacy,

Parent as a Team,

and Build a Joyful Home


Jed and Jenny Jurchenko









© 2017 by Jed Jurchenko.


All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced,

stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review distributed through electronic media, or printed in a newspaper, magazine or journal.


Scripture quoted by permission.

All scripture quotations,

unless otherwise indicated,

are taken from the NET Bible®

copyright ©1996-2006

by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C.

All rights reserved.






This book is dedicated to the multitude of stepfamilies committed to growing from past mistakes, connecting deeply, and building a joyful home!


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Secrets to a Joyful Stepfamily

God Loves Stepfamilies

Making Room for Messy Feelings

Relaxing the Righting-Reflex

131 Stepfamily Conversations

Redefining Happily Ever After


End Notes

Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down

About the Authors

Secrets to a

Joyful Stepfamily


Stepfamilies and circus plate-spinners have much in common. Both execute a fragile balancing act. Our relationships with our spouse, children, and stepchildren are delicate, like fine china and precious beyond compare. Connecting with these important people, amidst the hustle and bustle of life, is tricky. Sadly, like an overloaded circus act, far too many stepfamilies come crashing down.


Research suggests that stepfamilies have the odds stacked against them. Older data reports that 50% of first marriages, 67 % of second marriages, and 73% of third marriages end in divorce. 1 However, a newer study proposes that the divorce rate is actually between 20%-25% for first marriages and at 34% for remarriages 2. Though the numbers differ, both statistics make it abundantly clear that remarriage is more difficult than marriage.


Stepfamilies are sometimes referred to as blended families, and the two terms are used interchangeably throughout this book. Stepfamilies are more common than many people realize. They account for nearly 40% of the married couples living in the United States. 3 Although remarriage is the primary reason that families blend, it is not the only reason. Blended families also form through foster parenting, adoption, and grandparents raising grandchildren. Whatever your circumstances, Jenny and I are thrilled to support you and your spouse in teaming-up to defy the odds.


Stepfamily Obstacles


Stepfamilies are complex and each one comes with its own set of nuances. Nevertheless, every stepfamily must overcome four specific obstacles.


Obstacle #1: Past Trauma


When it comes to stepfamily obstacles, trauma tops the list. All stepfamilies are acquainted with pain. Some know the ache of divorce. For others, it is the death of a spouse. Children hurt too. Feeling caught in the middle of the conflict between mom and dad, and the frustration of having to divide their time between two homes, are some of the common wounds of children.


Trauma is a life-organizing event. Like a pair of dark glasses that envelops the world in a gloomy haze, unaddressed pain diminishes the light of joy in life.


Obstacle #2: Family Overload


A second challenge stems from having too many cooks in the kitchen. Stepfamilies have a multitude of relationships to manage. In addition to parents and grandparents, there are stepparents, step-grandparents, as well as bonus aunts, uncles, and cousins. Although family is a blessing, additional members mean more opinions. This creates further opportunities for conflict. Balancing these relationships in a healthy way can be exhausting and time-consuming.


Obstacle #3: Shame, Blame, and Guilt


Nearly everyone in a stepfamily feels badly about something. Children frequently assume the responsibility for the divorce of their parents. Of course, it is irrational for a child to believe that he or she caused the divorce. Nevertheless, their guilt is real.


Parents feel badly about the chaos that preceded the breakup and about the impact of the separation on their children. Stepparents feel guilty about entering into another parent’s role and the disappointment of missing so many firsts in their stepchildren’s lives. Finally, the countless foster parents I spoke with expressed feelings of insufficiency. It was as if a nagging voice in their head continually whispered, “You should be doing more.”


Obstacle #4: The Pressure to Blend


Lastly, there is the pressure of blending itself. In stepfamilies, cohesion happens slowly−taking much longer than it does in traditional families. Yet, the pressure to unite is ever-present. Undue stress may come from friends, family members, or self-imposed ideas about how a family should be.


This pressure to blend is problematic because it produces the opposite effect. In many ways, uniting a stepfamily is like falling asleep. When we attempt to force things, the process feels impossible. However, when we patiently calm ourselves, the desired outcome naturally transpires.


As you can see, stepfamilies carry additional burdens that traditional families never know. Truly, the odds are not in our favor.


Defying the Odds


This book is for parents who long to defy the odds. It is for super-moms and dads-of-steel who believe that their family is worth the effort. Although stepfamily life is challenging, it can also be good−incredibly good! Jenny and I know because we live what we teach. Our stepfamily is packed with joy, love, and a host of challenges, all at the same time!


Jenny and I are acquainted with guilt, and know the pressures that society places on stepfamilies to blend quickly. The two of us understand how difficult it is to parent effectively amidst a host of outside opinions. We are also acutely aware of the complexities of remaining connected to each other while navigating each of these obstacles. Yet, in spite of all of this, our home is filled with love, laughter, and copious amounts of joy. Jenny and I want you to know that stepfamily success is possible, and it is within your reach!


Stepfamily Joy


Jenny and I believe in Stepfamilies. We want you to understand that challenges are normal, and want you to know that you are not alone on your journey. In this book, we present practical solutions to common stepfamily problems, while simultaneously providing a glimpse of how wonderful stepfamily life can be.


The primary goal of this book is to support you and your spouse in connecting deeply, because parents are the foundation of the home. When parents unite, the family is strong. On the other hand, when a solid bond between mom and dad is missing, the rest of the family crumbles.


The Psychology of Connection


Years ago, psychology focused on helping couples improve their communication skills. During couple’s therapy sessions, spouses would practice parroting back what their partner said in order to assure that each person was heard correctly. It was assumed that good communication led to a healthy relationship. Couples were taught to manage their tempers, communicate clearly, and to create compromise. In short, couples were taught how to argue better.


On the bright side, this did lead to a moderate increase in happiness in some homes. However, for other couples it simply created a calmer, colder war. Marriage researcher John Gottman discovered that majority of marital arguments are rooted in fundamental differences in values that are nearly impossible to change−which is why couples return to the same arguments throughout the course of their marriage. John’s research reveals that even happy couples argue, and may do so passionately.4


The primary difference between happy and unhappy couples is not the ability to communicate clearly, nor the absence of relational friction. Instead, happy couples have learned how to connect and re-connect well.


Connecting like Velcro


If you examine a strip of Velcro closely, you will notice a system of many minute hooks and loops that allow it to fasten together. Happy couples connect like Velcro. Their attachment forms through a multitude of positive interactions. A warm smile, tender kiss, empathetic ear, and an attitude that continually looks out for the best interest of their spouse, are some of the simple actions that construct this tight bond.


Velcro can also be unfastened, and happy couples have their moments of disconnect too. A fascinating thing about Velcro is that it is nearly impossible to place two strips in close proximity without them beginning to reconnect. It is as if these tiny hooks and loops reach for each other. Similarly, happy couples reach out for one another too. They excel at what Gottman calls repair attempts. That is, happy couples are good at finding excuses to reunite after their connection has been broken. This could happen through a shared joke, a gentle look, a soft touch, or a kind gesture. In happy relationships, disconnection never lasts. Instead, couples are quick to forgive, connecting and reconnecting like Velcro.


Bonding in Scripture


Scripture teaches that in marriage, two individuals are united as one.5 The idea of a close connection−or marital oneness−is God’s idea. Human beings are miserable in isolation, which is why solitary confinement is the harshest form of punishment within our prison system.


Sadly, some couples feel as if they live in isolation. The connection to their spouse is lost, and this is agonizing. A favorite seminary professor used to say, “The loneliest people in America are not the single adults. They are the married couples who fall asleep, back to back each night, thinking to themselves, ‘When is this pain going to end?’“6 Do not be this couple! Instead, team-up with your spouse by connecting closely and connecting often.


Men and women are God-designed for relationships. This is why frequent connections, fun connections, and deep connections are the primary focus of this book.


Making Time to Connect


With four children and fulltime jobs, Jenny and I know what it means to be busy. Yet, no matter how hectic life gets, we always make time for each other. The credit for this goes to Jenny, who implemented an ingenious idea early in our marriage. In the Jurchenko home, 8pm is bedroom time for the kids. Our oldest daughters listen to music, and read. Our younger girls drift to sleep. Jenny and I pause from the hustle and bustle of life, unwind, and connect. This strategy works well for us and leads to much joy in our home.


From Intimacy to In-to-me-see


We define intimacy as in-to-me-see. Intimacy is sharing your inner-world with your spouse while simultaneously drawing out your spouse’s joys, hurts, dreams, and fears. To be intimate is to know and to be known.


The conversations in this book are designed to help you connect with a bond stronger than any superglue. However, before diving into the questions, Jenny and I want to introduce you to three core principles for stepfamily success. If you allow them to guide all of your conversations, then you and your spouse will bond like never before.


p(((((<>{color:#000;background:#fff;}. First, embrace God’s incredible love for stepfamilies.

p(((((<>{color:#000;background:#fff;}. Second, make room for messy feelings.

p(((((<>{color:#000;background:#fff;}. Third, relax your righting reflex.


Yes, moving in a positive direction really is that easy! The next three chapters hone-in on each of these principles. You will discover why each one is essential, learn how to put it into action, and as a result, draw closer together than ever before!


Warm-up Conversations


Warm-up Conversation #1

Which of the common stepfamily obstacles mentioned in this chapter−past trauma, feelings of guilt, having too many cooks in the kitchen, or the pressure to blend quickly−is a current struggle for you personally?


Warm-up Conversation #2

What obstacles not mentioned in this chapter are your family facing?


Warm-up Conversation #3

Although stepfamily life is difficult, it can also be incredibly good. What motivates you to put in the work needed to make your home a joyful one?


Warm-up Conversation #4

How good are you at making time to connect with your spouse? How will each of you make time for the conversations in this book?


Warm-up Conversation #5

Before Jenny and I married, the two of us worked though a number of conversation starter books in coffee shops, during dinner dates, and while relaxing at the bay. What date activities will the two of you enjoy as you engage in these conversations?

God Loves Stepfamilies


To say I was nervous would be a colossal understatement. It felt as if every butterfly within miles had found its way into my belly, and each one was fluttering its tiny wings at full force. To understand why I felt this way it is necessary to rewind to a few months earlier. Our seminary dean had invited me to speak at our college’s family conference, and initially I was honored. Then, she spoke the dreaded words, “Jed, I would like you to speak on the topic of stepfamilies.”


I tried to mask my horror by replying with all of the confidence that I could muster. “Sure,” I said, forcing a smile. “I would be glad to.” However, what I actually meant was, “I would be glad to speak on any topic except for stepfamilies!”


Every stepfamily comes with baggage. Ours is no different. First, let me make it abundantly clear that I adore my family. Yet, I never imagined that divorce would be a part of my story, and I saw no need to broadcast this to the world. In my mind, presenting this workshop was similar to fastening scarlet “D” to my chest, as it would highlight parts of my past that I would much rather forget. This was the reason for the butterflies.


Thinking quickly, I suggested alternative topics. However, our dean would not have it. She responded, “Sure, you can speak on those topics too, but I can’t wait to hear your insights into stepfamilies. I think your message will resonate with a lot of people.”


Stepfamily Guilt


After reciting their vows, the bride and groom are supposed to ride into the sunset and live happily ever after. Every good fairytale reinforces this. Presenting a workshop on stepfamilies meant owning that I did not live up to this ideal. In addition, as a follower of Jesus Christ, I felt like I had let God down.


Although part of my shame was self-inflicted, I also received plenty of help from others. Churchgoers reserve especially potent venom for specific failures. Although the Bible has a lot to say about the sin of gluttony, one would be hard-pressed to find a congregation that turns its obese pastor away from the buffet line. On the other hand, couples in marital distress are habitually chided with the words, “God hates divorce.” I know, because it happened to me.


This statement comes from Malachi 2:16, and is one that I heard often. Although I listened respectfully, I wanted to scream, I know that God hates divorce. I hate it too. Do you really think that I planned for this to happen?!?!


It was not the phrase itself that so triggering, but the tone used and the unspoken implications. With these words came a pressure to fix circumstances that were beyond my control. The motives may have been pure, but what I heard was, “Jed, you better find a way to repair your relationship now, because God is not happy with the direction that things are headed.”


Eventually, my interpretation of this passage became harsher. I would hear, “God hates divorce, and because you are divorced, God hates you.” Of course, this was never actually said, but it is important for church leaders to understand that the mind of a wounded person excels at playing dark tricks like this one.


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131 Conversations For Stepfamily Success: How to Grow Intimacy, Parent as a Team

Grow your marriage, team-up with your spouse, and create a happy, blended family home. This this conversation starters book for blended family and stepfamily success will guide you on the journey! Stepfamilies face difficulties that traditional families never know. These challenges increased disconnect between spouses, additional heartache, and a significantly higher rate of divorce. Yet, in spite of this, stepfamily success is still possible. This book is for parents who long to defy the odds by building a joy filled home. In this book, you will discover: - The four unique obstacles that all stepfamilies face. - The single most important ingredient for stepfamily success. - Three specific actions you can take to connect with your spouse and team-up on the journey ahead. Then, take action, with 131 creative conversation starters that foster intimacy, teamwork, and joy. This book is not filled with idealized theories that do not work in real life. Instead, it is written by a husband and wife team who are well acquainted with all of the challenges and delights of stepfamily life. Jenny and I are firm believers that God loves stepfamilies! We know that−regardless of past and current messes−God is willing and able transform your family into His masterpiece! Stepfamily Conversation Starters Include: - Statics report that, 66% of remarried couples break up when children are involved. What are some of the steps that you and your spouse will take to be in the 44% of couples who defy these odds? - Imagine that you have the ability to assign each family member a superpower. What extraordinary ability would you give to each person, and why? - Imagine you have the ability to peer ten years into the future and preview the life of your stepfamily. Describe what you see−or hope that you see−ten years from now.

  • ISBN: 9781370610976
  • Author: Jed Jurchenko
  • Published: 2017-07-20 01:20:11
  • Words: 12857
131 Conversations For Stepfamily Success: How to Grow Intimacy, Parent as a Team 131 Conversations For Stepfamily Success: How to Grow Intimacy, Parent as a Team