Blended Families Part 13: Differences Between Households
If you missed last week’s post on the importance of seeking forgiveness for your part in any conflict, I would encourage you to read it. It’s so important that we do our part to live at peace with everyone, including our ex-spouses.
This week in “Blended Families Part 13: Differences Between Households,” we’ll look at how to deal with the different rules and expectations between your house and that of your ex. We’ll also talk about how God can use it all for good.
Different Rules & Expectations
Struggles over different rules and expectations from one household to another are some of the biggest and most frequent problems blended families and single divorced families face. If you’ve been divorced for any length of time, you’ve probably faced challenges in this area.
While parents may feel very strongly about their own rules, differences are not necessarily sinful, or even wrong, they are just different. If something is clearly immoral or illegal, you should involve the proper authorities. Otherwise, you should seek to accept one another’s differences.
Surprisingly, children can adjust to differing sets of rules. And since Philippians 2.3-4 says that we are to prefer others rather than ourselves, it’s wrong to insist that our rules be followed at the other parent’s home.
So on a practical level, how do you deal with differences in a God-honoring way?
Suppose you ask you son to turn off the TV and do his homework and he responds, “Dad lets me watch TV first.” You can just gently and firmly say, “That’s at dad’s house, now turn off the TV and do your homework.” No commentary needed.
Your ability to do it in a way that glorifies God will depend on your thinking. If you immediately think, “I can’t believe my ex is that irresponsible!” or “Why doesn’t he respect my rules?” it will show up in your attitude both with your son and your ex.
1 Corinthians 13.7 says, “love believes all things.” It might be better translated “love believes the best.” You can choose to believe the best about your ex. Watching TV first doesn’t mean he doesn’t care about your son’s homework, it just means he’s handling things differently.
We also have to learn to recognize the difference between our rules and God’s commandments. While you may think doing homework first is wiser, it’s your rule, not God’s commandment.
Choose Your Battles
We’ve all heard the saying, “Choose your battles.” In the case of children who spend time in two different households, this is just as important. Even when you believe a problem needs to be addressed, it should not be done pridefully or with a win or lose mentality.
Begin by deciding, “Is the issue at hand commanded by God or not?” Things that are commanded by God are issues like:
- Do not lie.
- Do not steal.
- Children obey your parents.
Things that are not commanded by God might be:
- Go to bed by 9 pm.
- Homework before TV.
- Room must be cleaned before leaving the house.
- Take a shower every night.
When things are not commanded by God, one of the first things we should ask ourselves is, “In light of eternity, how important is this?”
If your kids spend three nights with their other parent and don’t bathe the whole time, you might feel pretty strongly that it’s wrong, but bathing every day is still not commanded by God. On the other hand, responding in anger and showing disrespect to the other parent is sin.
If you believe you need to address an issue, pray and ask God for wisdom. Go with a humble heart attitude not blaming or condemning.
So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God (Rom. 14.12).
For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you (Matt. 7.2).
Remember you don’t want to be judged harshly for your failures and you will give an account to God for how you think, speak, and act in this and every situation.
Plan what to say and how to approach the situation.
If you plan to do evil, you will be lost; if you plan to do good, you will receive unfailing love and faithfulness (Prov. 14.22 NLT).
Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone (Rom. 12.17-18 NLT).
4 Don’t sin by letting anger control you.
Think about it overnight and remain silent.
5 Offer sacrifices in the right spirit,
and trust the Lord (Ps. 4.4-5 NLT).
Think and pray about how to talk to your ex wisely and kindly. Take time. Go with the right spirit or attitude. The NKJV says “offer sacrifices of righteousness” (Ps. 4.5). The sacrifices God requires are treating others with kindness, compassion, and forgiveness when we’re tempted to be angry (Eph. 4.31-32).
Finally, trust in the Lord. Too often we take matters into our own hands by responding our way, getting sinfully angry, blaming our ex for all the parenting issues, and returning evil for evil. When we do we are trusting in ourselves and not trusting in God.
And when we go pridefully, we are not going in the power of God. In fact, God will resist and frustrate our efforts to deal with problems in that kind of sinful way.
God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. (Jas. 4.6b).
It might be helpful to write out your plan. You can include things like:
- The effect the issue is having on the children.
- Some possible solutions to the problem (but avoid thinking your solution is the only one).
- A list of benefits for everyone involved.
- A willingness to listen to the other person’s point of view.
- Choosing to believe the best.
What if your ex is not willing?
Your first reaction might be to return evil for evil or at least to withhold any good. Remember that is not a God-honoring option (Rom. 12.17-21). Remind yourself that God will not allow you to be in any situation that you cannot handle in a righteous way (1 Cor. 10.13) and that He promises to use every situation for our good and His glory by helping us become more like Christ (Rom. 8.28-29).
Next week we’ll talk about some more specific ways we can seek to live at peace with our ex-spouses.
*Some information in this series was developed from a Bible study by Jeff & Amy Baker.
Some of the subjects I’ll cover in future blogs:
Blended families in the Bible
Damage control—healing the mistakes
Dealing with in-laws and out-laws
Helping your child be part of the “other” blended family
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