Statistics say that the divorce rate in America is between 45-50%, but the remarriage divorce rate is even higher. Stepfamily expert Ron Deal says that while there are a number of reasons for this, what it boils down to is unexpected family dynamics.

“There are certain dynamics that take place in blended families that catch people by surprise. As we like to say, love and hope has brought a couple together. They certainly have a vision for merging their families, blessing the children in the process of that merger, and yet, once they start the merger, real life is complicated.”

These complications create stress – and that stress begins to pull against the marriage. Ron shares an example of a unique parenting dynamic for blended families.

“Being a stepparent is different than being a biological parent. You have some built in authority and relationship when you’re a biological parent because these are your children; they’re all you know, you are all they know, there’s built in authority to that. You’re the mom or the dad, period, end of the story and everybody gets that.”

“But when you come in as a stepmom or stepdad, they don’t know you and you don’t know them; you’re trying to figure out how to get along, how to like each other, what you have in common, etc., let alone figure out how to have authority in their life.”

“When couples get caught off guard by that, they’re just not sure what to do, that leads to a high degree of distress and that contributes to a higher divorce rate.”

If certain parenting dynamics are not handled properly, it can create a ripple effect and begin to inflict stress on a marriage. Ron wants couples to learn how to make sense out of these types of dynamics, work through them wisely, and protect themselves from going down the path of divorce.


Ron Deal, M.MFT., is the founder of Smart Stepfamilies, Director of Blended Family Ministries for FamilyLife Blended™, and an expert in remarriage and step family relationships and therapy.

Navigating stepfamily dynamics
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