If you are in a blended family or know of one (and these days that’s just about all of us) pick up Ray and Debbie Alsdorf’s book, Beyond the Brady Bunch. It’s an in-depth look at how stepfamilies form and the myriad of difficulties that have to be overcome or endured. What I appreciated most about the book was that it stripped away the fairytale ideal that the new, blended family is going to mesh magically without any problems.
I also particularly enjoyed the sections written from the Alsdorfs’ now grown children. Their perspective on what it’s like to be a child in a blended family was invaluable.
Honest and open about their own experience, and drawing on the experiences of other blended families, the Alsdorfs give a thorough look at what to expect and how to deal with the difficulties that are sure to come up.
Happily Ever After
Beyond the Brady Bunch
An excerpt from Beyond the Brady Bunch by Ray and Debbie Alsdorf.
©2010 Cook Communications Ministries. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.
It is ludicrous to believe our lives won’t be touched by blended families. We need to take their needs seriously. They are in our workplaces, our churches, and our neighborhoods. They are our friends.
—Hugh Downs, 20/20
Because you have picked up this book, you or someone you love is probably in a blended family and trying to figure out how to live happily ever after again. Most likely there is loss in the backdrop of the story. In that, we have much in common. We wrote this book because we know the pain, confusion, frustration, and hopelessness that can occur in a blended family, and we want to encourage people toward a commitment to making this new family work—no matter how hard it seems at times.
Many remember The Brady Bunch, the popular television show from the 1970s that detailed the adventures of a happily blended family. She had three little girls, he had three boys, and together they became the Brady Bunch—complete with Alice, the lovable household help. But the Bradys, as much as we enjoyed them on television, were not reality but fiction.
In today’s reality version there would be tears, threats, misunderstandings, and a whole lot of messy loose ends—and there would certainly be no budget for an Alice! The Bradys were Hollywood’s representation of a newly reconstructed family, a family unit that we have come to call the stepfamily or blended family. We like the term blended family because the merging of two families, two histories, two flavors is an ongoing process—a means to an eventual blend. A significant portion of our population is the New American Family, better described as the blended family.
Before becoming the modern-day Brady Bunch, we had high hopes. We hoped that our new family would be the answer to our future and the new lifeline to our happiness. We never stopped to think about the loose ends and fragmented pieces that make up a new family merged by a remarriage. We were two completely different families with different backgrounds, different traditions, different likes and dislikes. We had different rules, different habits, and even different dinner menus! In the blush of a new relationship, many
questions went unexplored until we were forced to face them when this new family hit a wall. You know you’re in a blended family when you hit that invisible wall and find yourself related to people you don’t know, referring to children that you didn’t give birth to as “your” children, and spending energy making financial ends stretch to meet growing obligations.
You know you’re in a blended family when your time is no longer your own, and you’re dancing around calendar dates to make everyone happy. And you know you’re in a blended family when you feel like a stranger in your own home, don’t know how to play by the rules anymore—because they keep changing—and feel criticized and confused more than appreciated and understood. Sometimes it seems like the reality of being in a stepfamily is being stepped on!
This book is for couples like us who have hit a wall or think they are heading toward one. Or for couples like us who have felt stepped on by the pain of this new life and dare to hope that God is in the serious business of fresh starts, renewed hope, and restored lives.
Our reality has led us to hope in a power bigger than ourselves, because on the flip side of the pain, we have experienced God’s grace, love, and forgiveness at work—and over twenty years we have indeed become a blend of two sets of different people committed to trusting God to work His idea of family into our lives. With the mistakes we have made and the hope that God can redeem our mistakes, we are committed to encouraging others in blended families and have worked with many couples over the past several years.
Couples who are trying to navigate their new lives have asked us many questions—lots of why and what if questions like:
• Why didn’t someone tell us it would be this hard?
• What do I do if my kids have a deadbeat dad?
• What if I, as a man, feel like a stranger in my own home?
• Why can’t his ex-wife just move on and leave us alone?
• Why can’t her ex-husband work together with us to make things better for the children?
• Why is discipline such an issue? Who is supposed to do it now—the “real” parent or the stepparent? The man? Or the woman?
• What if I (the stepmother) can’t work with an overcontrolling ex-wife and biological mother?
• Why does the other parent insist on overindulging his or her children?
• What if the rules are different in the other house?
• What if you run out of money after paying all the court-ordered obligations?
• What if the children reject me?
• As a stepparent, what is my role?
• Will we ever truly be a family?
We are not stepfamily experts, but we have the experience of walking the streets of life in blended-family shoes. Ours are a different size and style than yours, but they are the same brand: stepfamily, bonus family, blended family—whatever you want to call it.
C. S. Lewis said, “Think of me as a fellow-patient in the same hospital who, having been admitted a little earlier, could give some advice.”1 This quote describes why we are writing this book. Think of us as people like you, people who have walked the road ahead of you and are going to spend the next several chapters coaching and cheering you on to your place of victory. We are not going to give you quick fixes, but hopefully we will cause you to think, to learn, and most importantly to trust God’s redeeming grace as you endure trials that can turn into triumphs.
It is our aim to keep this book both practical and spiritual. We have found that what helped us the most was regaining and keeping a spiritual focus. We will be vulnerable about our misconceptions and mistakes in the hope that you might see yourself in some of our shortcomings and desire change. We pray that this book will give you hope in the power of Jesus Christ, hope in the truth that He wants to live in and through you, making life more abundant than you ever imagined it could be—especially in a blended family!
This new family, often viewed as second best, can be richly blessed. By the grace of God, every blended family can become an opportunity to see His redeeming and restoring love at work. In the twenty years we have been together, we realize just how blessed we are. God has taught us valuable life lessons that can be learned only as we surrender our will to His. Anyone can love those who love them and are related to them. But loving those you aren’t related to, people who sometimes reject you, takes us far beyond the Brady Bunch and into the realm of God’s love.
Praying God’s presence in your blended family!
Ray and Debbie Alsdorf
Livermore, California, 2010
Beyond the Brady Bunch: Hope and Help for Blended Families by Ray & Debbie Alsdorf
David C Cook/August 2010
ISBN: 978-1-4347-6645-8/240 pages/softcover/$14.99
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