Press On!
While on a recent flight to Chicago, the pilot of my (Ron’s) airplane came on the loudspeaker to caution the passengers: “As you can tell, we’re experiencing some turbulence,” he said. “We’ve turned on the Fasten Seat Belt sign for your protection, and we want you to know that if you get out of your seat and break your arm, it’s on your nickel.” While the passengers didn’t appreciate his tone, we did value the caution. Anyone trying to build a marriage in a stepfamily should heed these words of caution: “Buckle your seat belts and remain seated. The ride ahead may be bumpy for a while, but it will smooth out as you go. Press on, and don’t jump out of the plane!”

Where are you NOW? (Identify and Discuss Your Results)

a. Make a list of everyone in your “stepfamily forest.” Be sure to include ex-spouses and members of the other households, i.e., anyone who has relational influence with you or your children (adult and minor children included).
b. Which relationships are difficult to manage? Which ones are assets to your marriage?
c. If married, share with each other how you think your marriage has changed since the wedding. How is life more complicated than you anticipated? How have stepfamily matters increased or decreased your couple satisfaction?
d. For those not yet married, what is your reaction to learning that couple satisfaction is more influenced by stepfamily matters after the wedding than it typically is before the wedding?

Where would you like to be? (Discuss Issues)

a. What strengths do you not possess right now? Don’t try to resolve any issues yet, but envision how your relationship might look once this aspect is stronger.
b. In what ways do you feel overwhelmed when you think about what could be improved in your relationship?

How do you get there? (Develop Your Action Plan)

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a. Continue to build on the strengths that you identified in chapter 2 — keep doing the positive things you are doing well.
b. Develop your action plan: What might be a first step toward making your vision for a better relationship a reality? Decide what the first step for each of you might be and begin living it out very intentionally. Don’t worry if it feels phony or contrived; just take the first step toward change and evaluate the results later.
c. Revisit your plan: In another week or so, set a time to review your progress.
d. What is your plan to get educated regarding stepfamily development?

Want to learn more about stepfamily living? We highly recommend you read Ron’s book The Smart Stepfamily: Seven Steps to a Healthy Family and check out the DVD series, available at

Remember, the goal is to turn your stumbling blocks (issues) into stepping-stones (strengths).

Excerpted from The Remarriage Checkup: Tools to Help Your Marriage Last a Lifetime by Ron L. Deal and David H. Olson. Copyright © 2010  Published by Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Used by permission. Unauthorized duplication prohibited.