The Unblended Family

Sarah Cruz

Steve and Deanna Kaech know what it looks like to try to blend together two families. But they wouldn’t call it “blending.” According to Deanna, the “blended” family is a myth.

Deanna’s first marriage ended when she discovered that her husband had been unfaithful. Two days after she found out about his first affair, she found out she was pregnant. Steve’s story was similar. After trying to make his marriage work for five years, his wife left him.

Steve and Deanna had been family friends, and when they both ended up divorced, realized that there was a spark between them. They began dating, and a year later got married. Deanna had a two-year old daughter, and Steve had three daughters, ages 15, 12, and 9.

“It was great before we got married,” said Deanna. “The kids were excited...all they knew was that they wanted to buy new dresses.” But on the day of the wedding, Steve and Deanna realized that it was not an easy road they had decided to walk. Steve’s ex-wife moved with his three daughters to Arizona, leaving on his wedding day. “The day we got married was bittersweet. We had this joyous wedding, and then we went into a room and I had to say goodbye to my daughters.”

And that was just the beginning of the problems they faced in trying to bring two families together. Deanna’s fractured relationship with Steve’s middle daughter weighed so heavily on her heart it often made her physically ill.

“There were times when I would get sick. I would cry...I was frustrated,” recalls Deanna. “All I could do was throw my hands up and say 'God I can’t do this.' I had to learn surrender.”

“It was never rocky between Deanna and I,” says Steve. “It was rocky between our two homes. While our marriage stayed strong, we had to navigate and deal with some tough issues.”

“I think most people think that, when they get married,you’re going to be  one big happy family. But you’re not. I hate the term blended family because you don’t blend,” says Deanna. “I will only ever be the girls’ stepmom. A stepparent can’t replace the parent, even if the parent has passed away.”

It was the Saddleback Church Stepfamily Life ministry that helped Steve and Deanna navigate the traps and pitfalls of bringing together their two homes. They joined the ministry, and eventually became its leaders. It was ‘on the job training’ as they learned and practiced the principles in their own family, creating a secure marriage, learning to love their children, and create healthy relationships.

“Seventy percent of stepfamilies will divorce within the first 24 months of marriage,” says Steve. “That’s a horrid statistic. But after people go through our Stepfamily Life class, the divorce rate drops to less than 2%. It’s not us, it’s people being willing to do things God’s way.”

The Stepfamily Life class and small groups offer people a chance to connect with others in the same situation. The class is attended by single parents, engaged couples, and married couples. “A high percentage of single parents will remarry,” says Steve.

Steve and Deanna learned how to create a healthy foundation for their kids. “A healthy marriage is the foundation for kids,” says Steve. “When you divorce, the foundation crumbles and the kids fall through the cracks. As we come together as a new husband and wife, we’re trying to rebuild the foundation. The kids will test it, push it and pull it, because the old foundation fell apart. But if they can see stability in us, they themselves become more stable.”

The greatest joy Steve and Deanna have found is seeing the payoff of their hard work to create a stable family for their children. Steve’s middle daughter asked he and Deanna to be the guardians for her child. “She looked us in the eye and said, ‘I think my marriage is good because you guys showed me what a good marriage was.’ That has been my greatest joy.”

“Stepkids are so hard on the parents because they’re testing the foundation. But if you can create a solid foundation, it will affect the kids and their ability to have healthy relationships.”

Statistics say that stepfamilies have become the predominant family type in America, surpassing nuclear families. That means in our church, more than 50% of families are stepfamilies. That is why the Stepfamily Life ministry exists, to serve this great need in our church. Click here to learn more about the Stepfamily Life ministry.