Category Archives: Christian Counseling

An exploration of the positive impact of Christianity on mental health, and also the negative impact of misunderstanding Christian beliefs.

Redemption Story: Blending Families

By Dan Blair Marriage Counselor and Family Therapist

The challenges of remarriage and blending families after the wounds of divorce or the death of a spouse are more difficult than you may initially think. Many hungering for a second chance are yearning for intact family stability. Loving your biological family is automatic and natural; learning to love a new family take an extra “step,” a choice to treat non-biological kids as you would your own. Another difference between the original biological family and the blended family can also occur. With biological families, the best thing you can do for the kids is love the other parent, and that does not change even when divorced or after death. With blended families, loving the new spouse may be difficult for the kids, and may cause a sense of loss and possibly resentment. Protecting time between the biological relationships can provide relief to counter natural feelings of jealousy, inadequacy and resentment. Finally, another difference between the two kinds of families are indicated by the stressors. For the original parents, security is threatened most by financial or intimate issues. For blended families, parenting issues are the top problem reported. Being aware of the issues unique to blended families can save years of struggle due to unrealistic expectations.

Blended families are complex, and complexity is stressful. Stress can strengthen biological bonds and weaken other bonds. Over time as blended families forge a new identity they remain vulnerable but are strengthened by overcoming opposition together. This takes flexibility, adaptability, and a sense of humor when needed. The key to building new bonds is low pressure, giving kids all the time in the world to connect, and finding middle ground when there is a culture clash. Bonds are built best when there is no demand for it. Susan Papernow, a renown researcher on step-families, uses the terns “insider” and “outsider” to reflect biological bonds, and step-bonds. Ron Deal, in his book “The Smart Stepfamily,” refers biological bonds has having auto-responses, like auto-acceptance, auto-access (my space is your space), and auto-patience and grace to one’s own kids, and that an extra step may be needed to provide that in step-relationships. In step-relationships, three weeds can prevail: jealousy, inadequacy, and resentment. These weeds are fed by a sense of loss. These feelings of loss, including loss of time with biological parents and kids, appear throughout life especially at major life events. When there is uncertainty, fear or resistance in new step-relationships, kids are often feeling the loss. It must be acknowledged and expressed. Step-parents have to learn to not take it personally. The other biological parent may have to give some kind of permission to develop a step-relationship. Respecting that step-bonds are different than biological bonds, but both kinds can grow strong, and are often the strongest after the kids are grown.

Since a healthy marriage is crucial for a healthy family, the best thing you can do for your kids is invest in your marriage. The top-down trickle effect impacts kids. Kids will benefit from a secure marriage. That means the marriage comes first, but biological bonds are not neglected, and step-relationships benefit from these prerequisites. Kids don’t want to be in the middle of a contest for a biological parent’s attention.

When it comes to parenting, biological parents are the most effective, but declaring your loyalty to your spouse can enable the step-parent to back you up. The biological parent has relational authority and the step-parent has positional authority, but is ineffective without the biological parent taking the lead in family routines and discipline. Since there probably is some sort of family culture clash, meeting in the middle when it comes to parenting decisions is probably the best. The toughest time reported by Deal to start a step-family is between the ages of 10 and 15. Error on the side of protecting your marriage to limit the struggle.

For more information: What to Expect When Blending a Family and Blending Family Myths.

The challenge to build new relationships with a new spouse and new kids and parent together in a blended family is hard enough but some feel out of place or even ostracized by their religion when faced with divorce and remarriage. The Bible, though, is marked by dysfunctional people and families even in the “faith hall of fame” (Hebrews 11). Also, God divorced Israel at one point and Christians refer to His remarriage to the Church. Even Jesus had a step-dad. When feeling trapped, choose trust. God may not always be seen, but we know from the Bible that he does not forget. Throughout Scripture we see the gradual unfolding of God’s plan, even though like any good movie there are times where hope is lost. Hanging on to your faith is sometimes all you got. God is in the business of redeeming all our pain.

What Does the Bible Say about Divorce?

By Dean Whitfield

I believe in the inspired inerrancy of Scripture in the original manuscripts and all that implies; which includes that (1) Scripture does not contradict itself (Luke 16:11), (2) Christ fulfilled the Law (Matt. 5:17), (3) our God is a god of logic, not confusion (I Cor. 14:33), and (4) the truths of Scripture are available to everyone without prior need of special education or intellectual capabilities (II Tim. 3:16-17; Jas. 1:5).

Any discussion concerning the divorced and the church must of necessity begin with an understanding of God’s position on divorce. Continue reading What Does the Bible Say about Divorce?

Making Marriage Work

By Dan Blair, a marriage counselor and family counselor.

Conflict between man and woman standing on either side of a doorAs a marriage and family therapist I have learned techniques to help marriages and family relationships work. Continue reading Making Marriage Work

Christian Mindfulness

By Dan Blair, a marriage counselor and family counselor.

Christian Mindfulness“More than 100 million American adults who describe themselves as Christian contend . . . they are still searching for clarity regarding their purpose in life (George Barna, Maximum Faith).” Is there a connection between awareness of God and self-awareness? As one form of awareness goes up, does the other go down? Or does awareness of God and self-awareness work together? John Calvin writes, “The knowledge of God and that of ourselves are connected. Without knowledge of self there is no knowledge of God. Without knowledge of God there is no knowledge of self.” Continue reading Christian Mindfulness

Support for Pastors at No Cost

By Dan Blair, a Christian marriage counselor and family counselor.

The burdens that pastors carry are many. Dr. Greg Smalley reports that 80 percent of pastors leave the ministry within five years of graduating seminary. He adds that 1500 pastors a month leave due to burnout or moral failure. According to a Barna Group study released in 2017, 26% of pastors have faced significant marital problems. And 48% agree their current ministry is difficult on their families. Pastors give so much to others, but the pressures are heavy enough to hamper their availability to their families, or self-care.

Continue reading Support for Pastors at No Cost

No Pain, No Gain?

By Dan Blair, a marriage counselor and family counselor.

The anguish we encounter in life is immeasurable at times. It’s big. Too big. What do you do with anger and the impulse to express it without a satisfying outcome? What do you do with fear/shame that reveals our vulnerability at its core and that our worst fears can come true? What do you do with sadness so profound, so far-reaching that it drains our ability to cope?

Continue reading No Pain, No Gain?

Using Grace to Change

By Dan Blair, a marriage counselor and family counselor. What if instead of judging yourself, you fully accepted yourself as does God? The Christian concept of grace is based on the finished work of Jesus as a completely effective mediator between God and man. Depression, anxiety, and addictions all depend on a negative cycle and sense of inadequacy that is fed by stress, fear, and shame. Continue reading Using Grace to Change

Attachment Patterns and God

By Dan Blair, a marriage counselor and family counselor.

To say that a parent’s attachment to his or her kids is strong may be a negative statement. Attachment is described as secure and insecure, so it is possible to have a strong attachment that is insecure. Continue reading Attachment Patterns and God

Church Conflicts

Research by the Barna Group uncovered two surprising facts: (1) the majority of the nation’s non-churched are comprised of people, not who say they are not Christians, but who say they are, and (2) about 4 out of 10 of these stopped attending due to a “painful” or “negative” ordeal. Barna projected that at the current drop-out rate attendance nationally will be half of what it is today in 15 years. Continue reading Church Conflicts