Surprised by Remarriage, Part 2
About the Guest
On today's broadcast, author Ginger Kolbaba, editor of Marriage Partnership magazine, offers a refreshing perspective on the adjustments of remarriage.
Ginger Kolbaba offers a refreshing perspective on the adjustments of remarriage.
Surprised by Remarriage, Part 2
Bob: Ginger Kolbaba was marrying for the first time a man who had been previously married. She knew that going into her marriage, but she didn't know exactly how that was going to feel. Here's Ginger.
Ginger: One day I had a conversation with him, and I sort of told him how I was feeling, and I was a little afraid of what he was going to say. I wasn't sure if he'd say, "Oh, well, you know, buck up, you're married now," and, you know, kind of deal with it. And he listened, and he nodded, and he said, "You're right. You're not the first, but you're the first one who has gained my trust, you're the first one I've known that I can love unconditionally who will love me back."
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, September 6th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. There are realities that come with a remarriage that couples need to consider before they say "I do."
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us. We're talking about something kind of risky today, as we talk about couples considering remarriage, and you described it already this week as working against the odds. It really is a case where when somebody considers a remarriage, they're placing their bet on something that the odds say is not a good bet.
Dennis: And we're not promoting gambling here on the program, we're just admitting that the statistics are not in your favor if you're thinking about remarriage.
Bob: It doesn't mean it can't work, it doesn't mean that there aren't remarriages that are healthy, it just means that the odds are you're headed into some treacherous water.
Dennis: Some authorities believe and say that 76 percent of second marriages end in divorce; that 87 percent of third marriages; and that 93 percent of fourth marriages will fail within five years. Overall, 65 percent of remarriages end in divorce. And I was at a Weekend to Remember not too long ago in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and a had a couple come up in the engaged session. The man had been married once, and the wife confessed that she'd been married five times. And I looked into her face, and I saw the weight of years of hurt. I mean, it really was painful, and she said, "You know, I've done it every way imaginable. Now I want to do it the way Jesus Christ said to do it." And I thought, "You know what? You've come to the right place."
Even with Christ, however, and it's not minimizing His power, but the issue of remarriage needs to be entered into very soberly and with, I believe, a good deal of training. That's why I'm glad we have, really, a great new book to recommend to you called "Surprised by Remarriage," and we're joined today by the author of that book, Ginger Kolbaba. Ginger, welcome back to FamilyLife Today.
Ginger: Thanks, it's great to be here.
Dennis: Ginger is the editor, newly promoted, I might add – editor of "Marriage Partnership" magazine, which is a publication of "Christianity Today International," and she has written this book, "Surprised by Remarriage," which is a guide to the happily even after, and already this week, Ginger, you've shared with us about how you met a young man by the name of Scott and how the first date lasted 16 hours, count 'em, where he spilled his guts – pardon me for the earthy illustration, but that's really what he did is he shared with you about his divorce.
You then told your dad, who is a preacher, and that was a big, big deal to you, but you then went on a six-year dating process with him.
Bob: And I've got to ask – six years.
Ginger: Six years.
Bob: What was going on here?
Dennis: And she's smiling about six years. Can you believe that?
Bob: Was it six years because it took him a while, it took you a while, it took both of you a while?
Ginger: I think it took both of us a while. You know, I'm smiling about six years because it was the best six years in training us to get married, because we dealt with a lot of stuff before we walked into marriage, so there were not as many surprises as there could have been.
But, you know, with Scott, he really needed to deal with the issues of what went wrong in his marriage. He really needed to sort of get over the hurdles of betrayal, he really needed to learn how to trust again, and so he needed that six years to be able to see that there was a woman out there who he could trust, which happened to be me.
Dennis: And there was a daughter involved.
Ginger: There was a daughter involved.
Dennis: Which complicated it even further.
Ginger: Right, and he had full custody of her, and so as we talked about our dating relationship, he wanted her to go through high school without having to introduce a stepmother into the situation.
Dennis: But even as you dated, you did things together because he wanted his daughter to meet you and see your relationship and its health, right?
Ginger: Right, absolutely. He wanted her to see me and how I would react to him, and he really wanted me to see her, to see if this relationship could blossom, if there could be a family possibility there. And so he introduced me into his family in a way, I think, that was much more respectful to her.
Bob: That's a very tricky part of the equation, because with kids in the picture, there's the question of how kids will relate to someone new, and let's say they don't get along. Then what do you do? What do you do if you're in love with somebody, and the kids don't get along, and then the kids who aren't at a level of emotional maturity yet to really be acting in adult relationships, and they can be playing one against the other. I'm sure there were times in those six years when you scratched your head and said, "Can this really get to where we think we want it to go?"
Ginger: There were, although with his daughter she really accepted me. I was, frankly, really surprised at the level of acceptance I felt from her, because that's very unusual. Now …
Dennis: I was going to say that doesn't normally happen.
Ginger: Right. Now, after the marriage it became a different issue.
Bob: And that is often the case, too, isn't it?
Ginger: Often the case, right, because it's not a threat so much, you know, okay, Dad's dating someone, but there is still the possibility that Mom and Dad could get back together. But when a marriage takes place, then there are some adjustment issues. She was older, and so I think a lot of our adjustment issues were just having two older women in a very small house together and trying to figure that out. But one of the things I tried to make sure to do was when we had our wedding ceremony, I asked her to be my maid of honor, because I really wanted her to be a part of that, and she was delighted by it.
Bob: Dennis, I have to ask you this, because I've heard it over and over again from couples who are blending a family. Before the marriage, the kids love Daddy's girlfriend or Mommy's boyfriend. In fact, the relationship just seems wonderful. After the two are married, all of a sudden, the kids feel completely different about Mom's new husband or Dad's new wife. What's going on there?
Dennis: Well, I think there's a combination of a number of factors. One is competition. I think all of a sudden now someone has taken my Daddy's heart, and I am now in competition with him or with her, and I no longer have his undivided attention. Secondly, I think there could be anger. I think to realize that, yes, the marriage that I came from as a child of divorce is truly over and is dead, and there is no chance of reconciliation, no chance of resuscitation of that marriage, and the anger that may have been stuffed when they dated now can come out in some really pretty inflammatory words and some real fits of anger.
But I don't think young people can process their emotions like we, as adults, and so they're pretty much what you see is what you get, and that's why, after you get married, you start seeing some things that you didn't see before you were married.
Ginger: And the other thing, to be fair, is kids deal with guilt. If I like my stepmom, am I betraying my mother? And unfortunately, there are ex-spouses out there who will feed into that and will sort of use the children as pawns or will kind of allow that guilt feeling to rise. And so kids are kind of the innocent victims there.
Dennis: I think there's one other thing, too. I think after the marriage, again using the ex as an illustration, there can be some real competition put in place by the ex really using the children, poisoning them against their replacement. And so the child doesn't realize what's taking place, but they're being manipulated towards anger and towards resentment of the new mommy or daddy.
Bob: Ginger, at the start of your dating relationship with Scott, did both of you know that this might be a six-year process because you wanted to have his daughter get through junior high and high school?
Ginger: We didn't know it was going to be that long. We knew that it was going to be at least several years. We had talked about at least two, but we weren't in any sort of hurry, because I really wanted to make sure that he was as healed as he could be. And conversations we would have about "I'm not going to be a rebound wife."
Dennis: You really pressed that issue. You write about this in your book. You really pressed that into him hard, didn't you?
Dennis: On numerous occasions.
Ginger: Exactly, because when you look at so many couples who get remarried, they get divorced, and then within a matter of maybe a couple of months they've met somebody, they're moving on, they're getting remarried, and they've never processed what has happened in the past, and it only turns up in their current relationship, and it does harm.
Bob: What kinds of things was Scott doing to process this? How could you tell he was working through it?
Ginger: He talked a lot about it, and I think that's really the most important thing is that he would just talk and talk and talk and, you know, it became sort of this joke where I'd say, "Okay, enough, already. You're really talking about it." But I think the more someone can talk about what happened and the pain they've dealt with, that means they're not pushing it down, and so when they're talking about it they're, in essence, doing therapy and they're healing, you know? And I think that was what was really good, that I consciously tried to be a safe place for him, to know that he could grieve and he could mourn, and I wasn't going to judge him, and I wasn't going to go tell the other side, and I wasn't going to think less of him.
Bob: We've had Steve Grissom on our program. Steve is the guy who put together "The Divorce Care Program" that a lot of churches are using and, certainly, there are folks who can go through divorce care and never really get to the issues that it brings up. But it's one of those good programs that does try to bring the issues up and help folks deal with some of the things that they might otherwise avoid.
Dennis: And one of the things that is generally avoided is a word that you just mentioned, Ginger, it's grieving, grieving the loss of what's taking place, the loss of the ideal, the loss of a companion and a friend for life. How did you help Scott grieve his loss?
Ginger: Well, I think the first thing that's really important to understand is I knew he wasn't necessarily grieving the person, the loss of the person. He was grieving the loss of that dream, that expectation. And I think that's where a lot of new couples can go in, and they can feel insecurity because if you're grieving, you must still love your other spouse; you must still want to be in that marriage; you're sorry that you married me. I mean, it can just sort of snowball. But he talked about how I grieve the fact that my daughter doesn't have an intact family anymore; I grieve the fact that she has to deal with holidays where it's not just one family; I grieve the fact that when I grew up, I was going to get married once, and I was going to have a relationship with someone I was going to grow old with; I grieve the fact that I don't have that.
Dennis: Well, you know, a sheet of paper can illustrate this – Jesus said when He talked about divorce that "the two shall become one, and let no man divide it." Well, a sheet of paper is one until you – I just attempted to rip a piece of paper, and what do I have – jagged edges on both halves. It's not a clean severance, and divorce – you hate to trivialize it with a sheet of paper, but divorce is the severing of what once was one to now become two with all kinds of jagged edges and missing pieces and parts that aren't in place, as you were mentioning, Ginger.
Ginger: Right, my husband used to say it feels like, when I got divorced, she ripped off my arm. And when the two become one become two again, there is a death of that relationship, and with any death there is loss.
Bob: You had some grieving in this process, too. You were becoming the first runnerup.
Ginger: You bet. In high school I was Miss Akron Teen.
Dennis: Miss Akron Teen?
Ginger: Woo-hoo, bouffant hairdo and all of it.
Dennis: But that's a pretty good-sized town. So you won the competition in the state of Ohio.
Ginger: In the state of Ohio.
Bob: As Miss Akron Teen.
Ginger: As Miss Akron Teen.
Dennis: So you competed then in the state?
Ginger: In the state, I did. But what no one understands or what no one knows is that I won by default. I was actually first runnerup, and so I stood and watched the winner get all the photo ops and get to walk down the runway with the music going and the tears flowing and waving and, "Thank you, thank you."
Bob: And you stood with that phony smile, clapping for her.
Ginger: Yeah, exactly, with my feet killing me. And several months later I get a phone call that she had to give up the crown, and I was now Miss Akron Teen, and there was no applause, there was no me walking down the runway, there was just a banner and a crown mailed to me. And I got to go on all the parades after that, and I became officially Miss Akron Teen, but I knew that I wasn't the first winner. And I never realized how much that came into play until I got remarried, and, all of a sudden, I realized that I get sort of the trophy husband, I get the parades and the photo ops, but I'm not the first one. It sort of came to me through the mail, so to speak. And so I didn't get to experience a first anything with him. And that really began to sort of settle in on me and make me sad because it was sort of a loss of my dream.
Bob: Well, in fact, when you got married, didn't you move into his old house?
Ginger: Moved into his old house.
Dennis: Where she had been?
Ginger: Where she had been and, you know, you've got the ghosts of spouses past. But one day I had a conversation with him, and I sort of told him how I was feeling, and I was a little afraid of what he was going to say. I wasn't sure if he'd say, "Oh, well, you know, buck up, you're married now," and, you know, kind of deal with it. I was hoping he wasn't going to say that, and he listened, and he nodded, and he said, "You're right. You're not the first, but you're the first one who has gained my trust, you're the first one I've known that I can love unconditionally who will love me back," and there were other options that he listed out of firsts that I hadn't thought about but, really, when it comes down to it, trust is so much more important than a first car, you know? And that really helped me be able to process the grieving that I had felt.
Dennis: You know, Ginger, as you were talking about that, I thought, "Yeah, and trust – first trust is better than a first agreement."
Ginger: You bet.
Dennis: There's no doubt about it, and does God in His redemptive work of grace and mercy take things that are broken, things that are less than ideal, and does He bless them? Well, that's what this book, the Bible, you know, this book is so cool, because it's not a varnished, flawless story of a bunch of perfect characters who lived out lives in total obedience to God and Jesus Christ. They're people who failed, who denied Christ, and who needed to experience grace and mercy, and so do people who are entering into remarriage.
And I was thinking of Proverbs 24 where it says in verse 3 and 4, "By wisdom a house is built and by understanding it is established and by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches." And our God is such a gracious God to take rooms that could be filled with all kinds of imperfection but instead He goes, "You know what? If you'll build your house with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge, it can be, even if it's a remarriage situation, it can be filled with precious and pleasant riches, with peace and harmony and resolved conflict and forgiveness and love and romance." And is it going to be the ideal? Well, maybe it won't be able to go back to that first that you wished you'd had, but you know what? If it has the blessing of God, it will experience His favor, and that's plenty good enough.
And, Ginger, I want to thank you for your book and for your work and for sharing your story about you and Scott and how God used you guys to really create some hope within the Christian community. Thanks for being on FamilyLife Today.
Ginger: Thank you for having me.
Bob: You know, you talk about the ideal marriage, and I think if you want that ideal, you've got to go back to the garden before the fall, because that's really the only time there has been the opportunity for the ideal because it's the only time two people who weren't sinners got married. And while there are unique challenges experienced by couples in a remarriage, all of us experience challenges in our marriage, and it's one of the reasons why we encourage couples to spend time at a Weekend to Remember conference.
I ran into somebody recently who said, "You know, I never thought about going to one of those conferences, because our marriage was fine." And I just want to make sure our listeners understand, the Weekend to Remember conference is not just for folks who are in trouble in their marriage. It's for folks who want to make sure their fine marriage continues to be fine a year from now or five years from now or 10 years from now. It's preventive maintenance for your marriage.
So take some time together. Get away for a weekend and enjoy it, talk to one another, relax. Whether you're engaged, married to one another for the first time or maybe you're in a remarriage situation, spend a weekend with us at one of our upcoming Weekend to Remember conferences. Go to our website, FamilyLife.com, and there's more information about the upcoming season of conferences on our website.
There's also information about the book that Ginger has written called "Surprised by Remarriage." It's in our FamilyLife Resource Center and, again, go to our website, FamilyLife.com. You'll notice there's a red button in the middle of the screen that says "Go," and if you click that button it will take you right to the page where you'll find information about Ginger's book and other resources for couples who are in a remarriage.
There's information about Ron Diehl's book on a successful stepfamily. There's information about Jim Keller's Homebuilders study called "Making Your Remarriage Last," and I'll tell you one of the things that will help your remarriage is to get together with other couples who are experiencing some of these same challenges and talk together with the Scriptures at the center about some of those challenges and how different couples have dealt with those. Again, go to the website, FamilyLife.com, click the red button that says "Go." If you're interested in getting a copy of Ginger's book along with the Homebuilders study called "Making Your Remarriage Last," we'll send you at no additional cost the CD audio of our visit this week with Ginger Kolbaba.
Again, the website if FamilyLife.com. The toll-free number is 1-800-358-6329. That's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY. Give us a call, and we'll get these resources out to you.
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Many of our listeners have mentioned to us that one of the challenges they experience in their marriage relationship has to do with time management and priorities and a crowded schedule. And we came across a booklet that we have found very helpful on this subject called "Priorities – Mastering Time Management," and it won't take you long to read it. It's only 17 pages long, but it's got some very practical wisdom in it. It's got some assessment tools you can use to see how you can get control of your schedule and, again, we'd love to send it to you as our way of saying thank you for your support of this ministry during the month of September. When you make a donation online at FamilyLife.com, you'll come to a keycode box. Just type the word "time" in there, and we'll know that you want the booklet on time management or request it when you call 1-800-FLTODAY to make a donation. Again, it's our way of saying thanks for your ongoing support of this ministry.
Well, tomorrow we're going to hear some very practical wisdom from Pastor Tommy Nelson who has suggestions for you on how to make sure that the person you're considering marrying is the right person, whether it's for the first time or in a remarriage situation. I hope you can be with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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