In the book Dating and the Single Parent Ron Deal walks the single parent through the process of dating again. This book is broken into three sections. Section one has five chapters and is titled “Getting Past the Butterflies and Warm Fuzzes.” In the beginning Deal starts with “Dating in a Crowd: Dating with Purpose.” (29) With this in mind the reader begins to understand you will be dating the entire family. Deal describes different types of daters, and warns the reader against the “Consumer daters who want guarantees” (44) about the dates. These consumer daters want the dates to be their all in all and meet their every need. Deal also describes the thought of “Mirror, Mirror on the Wall; Am I Ready to Date? (47) This section describes “the impact loss has on you, and your willingness to surrender to God’s direction regarding divorce and remarriage.” (58) While determining if you are ready to date; Deal lists the readiness factors: can you handle being alone, trusting in God, looking at past issues, and asking the questions like, “What in my past can I not shake?” This is getting yourself and kids ready for dating.
While thinking of fear as the main hurdle in beginning to date, Deal suggests you not “sidestep” (83) your fear but “acknowledge it.” (83) Not only your fear but how to handle the kids’ fears and concerns in the dating world. Deal explains “When a parent dates, kids feel the shift in direction away from them and the family; this ignites their fear of more loss.” (98) The second section of the book is called “Going Fishing” (115) and talks about finding love. “Finding love in all the right places …and in all the wrong ways” (117) talks about defining the relationship or the DTR; there are three ways to look at relationships; we need to learn when to yield, stop or run with yellow, red and green lights. “Going deeper” (163) reminds us to think of where we are in life.
Deal states “Single people need that perspective so that won’t overvalue getting married, and married people need that perspective so they won’t lose sight of their purpose in being together.” (165) “Marital Commitment and Stepfamily Preparation” (181) is the topic of the third section of the book. It is about getting re-engaged and making decisions about getting married. Guidelines are given about what things to look for such as commitment and trust issues, how to be open with the children (young and adult).
Some key steps in how to become a blended family are listed. Deal suggests exercises on how to be introduced, recognize loss in your child, planning the wedding and including the children, and telling the ex. This book takes you through the processes of wanting to date again, dating, and choosing the right type of person to date. The next steps are about the engagement, telling families and children you’re getting married and creating a happily blended family.
Potential Use for Christian Couples
The chapter on “Yellow Light. Red Light. Green Light.” (141) is a chapter that most pastors need to share with their clients in the premarital counseling. This chapter and the concepts to be taught and learned can save couples from a lot of pain down the road and give additional skills for making a marriage more compatible. “Yellow lights saying slow down” (143) warm that things are great for now, however when you get married and the honeymoon is over rough times are coming. When you are trying to carefully blend families you need to make sure no one has on “rose-colored glasses” (145) or is ignoring the bumps in the road that will turn in to mountains later on if not dealt with before the couple gets married. A counselor needs to advise a couple to slow down if “loneliness or desperation” (146) are detected in the counseling sessions. This could indicate an underlying problem that will come out later in the marriage.
The person with one of these disorders may demand that the other person in the relationship try to be their all in all, and no one can be everything to someone. Counselors should consider a postponement of a marriage if one of the clients comes in with any character traits like: “quick temper, intimidating, anger reactions, chemical or physical abuse, can’t say no, constantly blaming others, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, problems staying calm, financial problems, disengagement with family, hiding previous relationships, or diagnosed personality disorder.” (147-148) If a person has experienced or is experiencing one of these challenges, this counselor will strongly suggest that it is dealt with before the marriage takes place. One of these problems will cause too much stress for most marriages to overcome. Deal suggests there are red stoplights. If you “have extreme differences in parenting styles” (151) you need to stop dating. This counselor would agree.
Raising children is a very hard job when you agree; however, when you disagree children tend to play one parent off the other causing conflict between the parents. You need to remember you are not only marrying the person, but also the children. Another red light could be the ex-spouse. If he/she causes constant trouble, you will be in constant turmoil in the new marriage and will need to consider canceling your plans to marry. Deal suggests other red flags such as cohabitation. This counselor would agree with Deal that cohabitation leans toward persons “who have negative attitudes toward marriage, increase their divorce risk by 50%, are less sexually trustworthy, have lower religious commitment, and are tempted to slide into marriage.” (154) Cohabitation is not biblical, in Genesis 2:24 gives us the standard for all marriages and in Matthew 19:5 Jesus tells us marriage is a legal and binding relationship.
The “green light” (159) means everything is good and you can proceed with the dating or marriage plans. In the “green light” stage you can define your relationship. At this point Deal suggests you can share your relationship with your children. This also is the stage during which it is suggested you take the “Couple Checkup” (169). There are two advantages to doing it in this stage: first “it provides you and your partner an objective X ray of your relationship health.” (169) Second “learning about your weaknesses helps you as a couple target specific ways to improve.” (169) This counselor will encourage couples in the red light zone to take a break and consider not dating any longer. If they are in the yellow light zone this counselor will encourage them to consider looking deeply at what the problems are and working through them before proceeding with the relationship.
In the green light zone this counselor will encourage them to be willing to talk about issues when they arise, to be willing to talk about them, and to work on a compromise. Deal states: “Confidence calms the heart and reduces anxiety”. (194) This counselor could not agree more, and knowing where you stand in a relationship is the most important element. Solidifying the relationship so both persons know how each other feels and what to expect keeps the green light going. Telling the children if you have children will be important. A plan needs to be made about how to tell them and expect the unexpected. One needs to expect them to be happy and for them to be angry about the decision. Letting the children know what will happen will help them through the fear and anger.
Deal does not go into depth about what to do if the families do not want this marriage. What if the families do not like the person you want to marry? This counselor agrees the spouse that was married to the ex ought to tell him/her before the wedding day. Once the wedding day has taken place often times the children are going to be stressed out by this and misbehave. Deal suggests often times when things settle down from the wedding the child parent relationship will work itself out. This is a relationship neither party has had to handle before and it will be new challenges to both the parent and the child. Deal encourages parents to have a united front with the children. (206) If they do not have a “unified team everything will begin to crumble.” (207)
Deal speaks about “commitment and trust” (187) issues with couples. He explains that marriage is complicated and requires a couple to not be selfish. “God in his infinite wisdom ask each person to make a covenant that binds them together throughout life,” (187) or “until death do us part.” (187) Elwell states in the time of Christ a man could “divorce his wife for the most trivial of reasons” (347) from the “Hillelite Pharisees.” (347) This would suggest that if you take the side of the Hillelite Pharisees, our no fault divorce laws have been around for centuries. It is a delicate dance to get someone to commit to marriage to you when you are ready to commit to marriage and they will not.
Deal gives several ideas: “Patiently continue dating, wrestle with your impatience, identify any specific concerns, give time for the hesitant person to find resolution, and at some point, the higher desire person will grow weary of waiting.” (188) Deal does later in the book suggest a time line of five years is a reasonable time to wait on someone. If you have waited for five years and they still have not made a decision but you love them and cannot imagine life without that person do you walk away? Would it not be like a divorce? This counselor would not suggest anyone stay with someone for more than the five years unless they can make a decision to marry or not to marry.
Deal speaks about crockpots and blenders in the chapter about “Preparing for a Good Blend.” The crockpots are those couples who move slowly with low heat,” (208) while the blender couples are those who “move quickly with high velocity.” (208) Deal states: “It is far wiser to adopt the crockpot cooking style.” (208) Otherwise slow and study is a much better way to blend a family than trying to quickly trying to force them to be a blended family. In this chapter he gives ideas about how to create stepfamilies. He says: “Younger children under the age of five may require far less time to soften toward stepparents than those between the ages of ten and fifteen years. Also, on occasion, a stubborn ingredient may resist softening and retain a sour taste. In either case, keep cooking.” This counselor would whole heartedly agree with his wisdom. The younger children are when stepparents arrive into their life, the easier it is to accept them.
Deal also gives ideas about how to handle situations like: “getting married, calling a stepfather Daddy, combining holidays and other special-day traditions, and taking pictures as a family.” (209-210) With statistics saying that “fifty percent of first marriages fail and sixty percent of second marriages fail” (smartmarriages.com) this counselor believes Deal has made great recommendations in his book about how to blend families. Blended families will take work and Deal says that many times in this book. This book is an easy read with thought provoking topics. Some of the topics have a different way of looking at them than traditional thoughts. This book is a must read if you are thinking of remarrying or marrying someone who has been married before.
Deal, R. (2012). Dating and the single parent. Bloomington, MN: Bethany House Publishing. Eller, W. (2001). Evangelical dictionary of theology. 2n ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House. Marano, H. E., Divorced? Don’t even think of remarrying until you read this. www.smartmarriages.com. Accessed November 8, 2014.