Shows Main Idea – I have greatly benefitted from your ministry. I am divorced after my wife left our marriage. We currently share custody, but it is very distressing to me as she walked away from Christianity and is training our children with a different worldview. How do you rear children in a two-family home? I wonder if you have ever spoken about what happened to your children from your first marriage? You made mention to them, but it’s not clear if they somehow are not a part of your life at all anymore? If so, how did that happen, and how do you cope? – Supporting Member
I flattened out and slightly altered the email above, but kept the primary idea and question in place. I wanted to protect the name of the person who wrote it, but answer the question because it’s a common one. In this scenario, the wife committed adultery and obtained the divorce. The husband did not dissolve the marriage.
All deadbeat dads are not deadbeat. The problem with maintaining a two-family home is more complicated than folks think.
My older children: I do not speak of them publicly to give them their privacy.
You live in two worlds—yours and hers/theirs, and it will become harder to care for you and your children because your everyday world—where they should be, is not where they are. You have to create two different worlds, which no individual can maintain well.
You paint a picture for them to see and experience. Make sure yours looks like Christ. Their mom’s portrait will contrast the life you live and the possibilities you hold out to them.
You’re playing the long-game, not the short one.
You must accept the loss of the traditional family. You will never have a traditional family with these children or your ex-wife. Part of playing the long-game is to hope your children come back to you when they are older, assuming they have worked through their issues that this family disruption causes.
You don’t speak critically of your ex-wife. You can talk about sin but not with a sinful attitude. Know the difference.
You parent out of obedience, not out of fear of their resistance to your lifestyle or rejection of you.
If you parent biblically, your children will respect you for it. Remember, you’re painting a picture for the long game.
Resist bitterness toward God or your ex-wife.
In anger, do not reject God by choosing to sin in relationships or revenge toward your wife—don’t “get her back.”
You may build another family, which will strain the current two-family dynamic.
As your children become older, they will feel the tension and frustration about being with you. They are moving from dependence, to inter-dependence, to independence. Making time with you more challenging as they grow into their adult relationships.
Parent the best way that you can while trusting the Lord.
The hardest part is the sacrifice of your dream of marriage and family—to this wife and children. Guarding against bitterness or the victim-mentality will be hard.
Become a solid sovereigntist. You don’t neglect your parental responsibilities, but what you do is the not vital thing. It’s 1a and 1b, with God’s sovereignty as number one and your role second.
Do not become a legalist: “What I do or do not do, or what she does and does not do will determine the outcome for our children once they become adults.” It’s true that what you do matters, but what you do does not determine outcomes: for by grace we are saved.
Rick Thomas leads a training network for Christians to assist them in becoming more effective soul care providers. RickThomas.Net reaches people around the world through consulting, training, podcasting, writing, counseling, and speaking.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology, and in 1991 he received a BS in Education. In 1993 he was ordained into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University in Santa Clarita, CA. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).