(Even if you don’t have to deal with ex-wives and stepchildren please read on as it applies to you and people who are difficult for you to love.)
I run into marriages all the time where wives are involved with ex-wives and children from their husband’s first marriage. I want to lay down a few foundational truths for any of you that are married to men with ex-wives or children from another marriage. Beware: icy water ahead.
Life is messy, as you know, and ex-wives and stepchildren are about as messy as it gets.
Repeatedly, women complain to me about ex-wives and stepchildren. The chorus is shockingly the same and it is this: “They are trouble and I’d rather not deal with them.” I get that. I understand that. That is the natural way to feel.
But Friend, you are not to be normal. You have been jerked out of darkness into His marvelous light. You are a child of the King and now you are expected to think and act like heavenly royalty.
I will discuss a few anchors as far as how to think about ex-wives and stepchildren.
One foundational truth is that your husband loves the stepchildren as much as he loves your own children. It is horrible (!) horrible (!) for you to treat your kids better than his kids. I heard of a couple—a woman married to a man with kids from a previous marriage—that doesn’t include the children of his first marriage when they go on vacation. Of course, you’d rather not take those kids. They belong to another woman and you just want your sweet blood kids to go. But look at the situation from the perspective of the kids from the first marriage. They think, “Dad is going on vacation and I’m not invited. He loves his new family more.” Friend, that is plain mean and selfish of you to not consider those children. You married the whole man and his kids from his first marriage are now to be treated like yours. You must love them, help them, care for them, and include them. I know a teenage girl who was devastated because her dad and new wife took the “new kids” to the beach. How she wish she had been invited. The pain that this young girl felt burned a hole in me.
Again, when you marry a man, you marry his past. And if his past includes children, then you are to treat them as yours as far as being kind to them. The children from the first marriage didn’t ask to come from a broken home. You, as a Christ-follower, must understand that those children are due your love and acceptance. They need access to their dad and you are the gatekeeper. You know that. You know that what you say affects your husband. You know that you control a lot of your husband’s relationship with his first set of kids. Men don’t like to go against the wishes of the person they are counting on to get sex from!
I understand the first wife might be a psycho (she is always accused of that, for sure). However, Jesus said, “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you” Luke 6:27. (See also Matthew 5:44 and Romans 12:14, 19-21 on how to respond to “your enemies”.)
Another woman told me her husband was still dealing with the grief and pain of the divorce from his first marriage, and also the difficult relationships that have evolved with the children of that marriage. The new wife told him, “You should be over this by now! Why don’t you just go to our hunting cabin until you figure it out!” Wives, when you marry a man, again, you marry the whole package. If he needs healing, then you are to help him find healing. Just because you are sick of something doesn’t mean beans. You are crucified with Christ and now, it’s about how you can represent Christ to others, not about you being comfortable all the time.
Yes, you might have to set boundaries with a crazy ex-wife, but there is never a place for yelling, slander, malice, rudeness, or meanness. You always deal with everyone by “returning a blessing”. That is what you signed up for when you said Jesus was Lord in your life. I know it’s hard. I know it’s next to impossible to love those who mistreat you. But that’s why we are grafted into the Vine, so that God’s sap, the Holy Spirit, runs in our souls. That’s why we linger in prayer, so that His will can be downloaded to us. This is merely the Christian life, my Friend.
So, figure out how to bless the children of his first marriage. They are from his loins and they are equal with your darlings. The children have been wounded and now, even though that was not your fault, you are part of the solution.
I am sorry this is such hard information. But let God change your heart. Let God break the anger and resentment you have toward his first family. Don’t be normal. Be Christ-like!