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In this episode, we hear from repeat guest Ron Deal, a leading expert in blended family dynamics and co-author of Building Love Together in Blended Families with Dr. Gary Chapman.

We explore how the Five Love Languages apply specifically to blended families, and the importance of these languages in building strong bonds. Ron shares effective strategies for step-parents to bond with their stepchildren as well as common challenges blended families face in building love and connection.

The conversation also delves into tips for identifying and adapting to the different love languages of each family member, and offers valuable advice for new stepfamilies on implementing the Five Love Languages from the outset.

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Ron Deal: With time and with patience, that fist bump might become a side hug, might then become full-blown bear hug, I love you, yeah I love you too, someday with that child. That’s to be determined by the both of you, but today it’s a fist bump.

Laura Jenkins: In The Blend is a podcast series that helps parents and step-parents navigate life in a blended family. Join me as I speak with experts and guests to get practical advice on how to create a more harmonious blended family life. Having grown up in a blended family and now a decade into raising one of my own, I bring a personal perspective to these conversations and we dive deep into the unique dynamics, logistics and challenges of raising a blended family. From new partners to juggling mixed finances, we will help guide you through it. Welcome back to In The Blend and to the launch of our seventh season. I am thrilled to have you join us for what should be another exciting season filled with insightful conversations and more practical advice for navigating life in a blended family. Now this season, we have some fantastic topics lined up, including discussions on being a childless stepmum, more on co-parenting in blended families, mastering emotional regulation, to name a few. Today, we have our first repeat guest to kick off the season, Ron Deal, a leading expert in blended family dynamics. Now, I’m sure many of you are familiar with The Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman. Well, a few years ago, Ron saw an opportunity to co-author a book with Dr. Chapman, focusing on the five love languages in the context of a blended family, resulting in Building Love Together in Blended Families, which they wrote together. Ron joins us to share his wisdom on using the five love languages to build strong bonds within blended families, as well as discuss effective strategies for step parents. Let’s get started. Well, welcome, Ron, it is wonderful to have you back on the show again.

Ron Deal: Well, thank you. It’s an honor to be with you. Thanks for having me.

Laura Jenkins: Wonderful. Now, for those who don’t know, Ron has written a number of books. We’ve invited Ron back today to talk all about his book that he has co-authored with Dr. Gary Chapman, who wrote a book many of you will be familiar with called The Five Love Languages. So Ron, can you start by giving our listeners a brief overview of your book, Building Love Together in Blended Families, and what inspired you and Dr. Gary Chapman to write it?

Ron Deal: Well, Gary and I have been friends for many years. We’ve surrounded one another’s work and we’ve run into one another at conferences and the like. And one, we were having dinner one night and I got to tell you, there’s a little bit of a backstory to this and you’re going to get the inside scoop. All right. You know, I love Gary. He is such an incredibly humble, gentle person. He is every bit what you would imagine from the author who wrote the five love languages that’s had 40 million copies in English alone, and not to mention the 50 other languages it’s been translated to. He’s influenced so many people, and I’m one of those. And so, you know, I’m a Gary Chapman fan. So you can imagine, we’re having dinner one night, and I kind of lean over and say, Gary, I got an idea. I said, I think we need to write a book together for blended families, because you missed something. Okay, now, just imagine how frightened I was. to say to my friend, uh, look, you’ve written like, you know, I don’t know how many applications of this, of this idea, but you missed something. And he said, well, what was that? Tell me. It just goes to show you how humble he is. And he, and I said, well, you have one big assumption in the five love languages. And it’s this, that the person you’re trying to love actually wants you to use their love language to love them. In other words, if you’re talking to husbands and wives, for husbands to figure out that your wife’s love language is quality time means put the phone down, turn the TV off, look her in the eye, and actually have a conversation. And that’s what will speak the loudest to her heart makes total sense, assuming the wife wants the husband to actually love her that way. And he said, well, you’re right, that is sort of assumed in the whole idea. And I said, what if What if you’re a stepparent and you’re trying to love an 11-year-old who’s cute but cantankerous, and this 11-year-old doesn’t want you to love them using their love language? What if loving somebody with their love language actually backfires? And he looked at me and he said, we got to write this book because you’re exactly right. I’ve never thought about that before. And so the bottom line is we took his principles and merged them with my Smart Step family principles. And we wrote a book called Building Love Together that it’s all about getting underneath and behind the motivations that people have toward love or away from love, why that is in a blended family and what you can do about it.

Laura Jenkins: I love it. What a fantastic idea. And I’m so glad you had the courage to broach that idea. So how did the five love languages specifically apply then to blended families? And why are they crucial for building strong bonds?

Ron Deal: Well, let’s just start with this idea. First of all, maybe we ought to just do a quick recap of the five love languages in case somebody is not familiar with them. Gary’s basic idea is that, you know, speaking a language that somebody really understands helps to communicate the love that you feel for them. And he said, you know, people basically have one of five different love languages. One of them is words of affirmation, saying kind things, nice things, compliments, pointing out something you appreciate about the person. That’s words of affirmation. The second one is acts of service. So doing something kind for somebody, emptying the dishwasher without having to be asked. Note to self, I need to do that when I get home. Quality time is, as we talked about, just finding, carving out space and opportunity to just be together and attune and listen and really focus with one another. That’s quality time. Giving gifts is a love language of, I love you, mommy. Here’s my rock. that I found for you. What a great example. And every mother in the world, her heart just melts when her son or daughter gives her a rock because the child is expressing their affection and appreciation, their love for mom. It doesn’t matter what the rock cost. It didn’t cost anything. The point is, it’s the heart that matters, right? So that’s giving gifts, and we all do that to some degree. And then physical touch, and that is touching on the arm, the shoulder, a hug, a kiss, if that’s appropriate for that relationship. Whatever it is, here’s his point. Everybody needs all five. I think sometimes people misquote him. He definitely believes that everybody needs all five from the time you’re born into this world until the time you die. Everybody needs all five. But nearly everybody sort of has a strong preference towards one or two of those five. And when you know what your love language is, that is not an excuse to be selfish and run around and say, everybody, quality time, quality time, quality time, give me what I want. No, the point is you’re supposed to try to find out the love language of everyone around you that you care for, spouse, friends, significant others, children, parents. And when you want it to count, You know, Mother’s Day, we just passed, we’re getting ready to do Father’s Day here in the U.S. You know, you think about this a little bit, you know, that’s an opportunity for me to really show you how much I care about you. We’re thinking all about you on this particular day. Birthdays are another good example of that. But what about every other day of the year? If you really want to make an impression, Show them one of the five, for sure, but on those special moments where you really want it to come through, about how much you care for them. Then pick their love language and do that thing. And it may not be your love language, and that’s the discipline. So you may not really need quality time, but if your spouse does, and you carve that out and make that happen for them, well, they feel it. They perceive it, all right? It’s going to be received on some level, assuming, of course, they’re not really mad at you on that particular day. Okay, so having said that, how does this apply to blended families? Well, let’s just back up for a second and let’s just remind ourselves that there’s different associations of love. We called them in the book, love associations. What do I mean by that? You may have a friend that, you know, whatever that relationship is like with a friend, and maybe you give side hugs with that buddy or whatever it is, that’s the appropriate expression of physical touch in that relationship, okay? You may have a family member that you feel, honestly, like you can’t hug. And even a side hug feels odd with that family member because of something that’s happened in the past. And it’s not really appropriate for that relationship. So every relationship, of course, has its own expression of these various love languages. Some of us have really close friends, brothers, cousins, sisters. Some of us has that weird cousin that we haven’t talked to in 10 years and everybody talks about, and we don’t really show them love a whole lot because we don’t really know them very well. We don’t really trust them. Okay, so you get the idea. That same thing carries over into stepfamilies. On day one, probably husband and wife are showing a lot of affection for one another or they wouldn’t have gotten married. I think we can assume that one. But when it comes time to show expressions of affection for stepchildren, stepsiblings, that’s still to be worked out. It may feel like one of those distant family members And you’re comfortable sort of giving side hugs, but they are not comfortable receiving side hugs. Well, guess what? You really haven’t figured that out. You don’t really know what the appropriate affection or association of love is for that particular person. Let me put another layer on it. Motivations toward love vary within blended families widely. The classic illustration I like to give is adults versus children. On the whole, by and large, on day one, adults have, on a scale of 1 to 10, in terms of their motivation to bond and build relationship and build cohesiveness and harmony within their family, they’re a 9 if they’re not a 10. They have high motivation. They want to make this work. The two adults have fallen in love. That’s why they’re a family now. But the stepparent is highly motivated. to connect with and bond with stepchildren, okay? So they’re a 9 on a 10 scale, let’s say. Well, child A happens to be a 6 on that 10 scale. Not as high as 9, but that’s pretty high. It’s above average, right? It’s above 5. And so here’s this kid who’s open to you. and wants to get to know you and like spending time with you and you kind of make me laugh. That’s kind of cool, you know. So there’s some basic affection for one another and an openness to figuring out more. Child B is a four on a 10 scale. And so they’re like, yeah, you can buy me gifts, but don’t try to tell me to clean up my room. So I let you in a little bit, but I’m just not that motivated towards having you be a big person in my heart. And then child C is a 2 on that 10 scale. So the 9 is what? Bumping up against a wall with the 2. High motivation meets low motivation. Let me tell you, that is just frustrating. Any step parent listening right now knows exactly what I’m talking about. You try and try and try and extend yourself and do for and love and serve and give gifts and go out of your way to make an impression. And that kid still looks at you like you got three eyes and horns on your head, you know, and you’re like, what do I have to do? Well, part of it is just recognizing you have a different level of motivation. And they’re a two. And that being a two may not have much to do with you. I mean, it sort of does, but it may be a whole host of things. I can think of 35-year-olds who have much older parents who are getting remarried later in life. And a 35-year-old adult now stepchild is like a two trying to figure out this new person in my world. Like, this is dad’s wife. This is not my mom. So I don’t even need you to serve me as a mom. I got a mom. Or I have the memory of my mom who’s passed away, whatever that case is. So sometimes it’s adults just don’t need a new person in their life. Maybe it’s a 16-year-old who’s got a big world, lots of friends. I’m really worried about staying in touch with my biological mother. You’re a nice woman, stepmom, but I don’t really need you in my heart for lots of other reasons. It may not even be a rejection of you. It’s just, I don’t need you. Or it could be an eight-year-old who’s just really confused about life. I often tell step-parents, what you think is rejection, often for kids, is awkwardness and confusion. It’s sort of like, I just don’t know what to do with you. I see you. I get it. You’re here. You’re dad’s wife now. But I got a mom, and I don’t need another mom. If I get close to you, I’m afraid my mom will be hurt by that, so I don’t want to hurt her feelings. I want to keep home base, home base. Number one, number one. And I just don’t have a need for a relationship with you. So nine meets two, and that’s frustrating. Let’s just play it out. Let’s say you discover your stepchild’s love language is physical touch. Well, that’s one of the more intimate expressions of love. It’s totally appropriate in a husband-wife relationship. It’s totally appropriate in a father-son-daughter relationship, you know, parent, biological parent and child, totally appropriate for hugs. But if you just walked up on the street somewhere and saw a child and started giving them a hug, somebody’s calling the cops. I mean, that’s like, that’s not appropriate. Like nobody knows what you’re doing, where your motivation is, where you’re coming from. See, a hug in that situation is awkward and confusing. So, nine wants to hug two. Well, two’s like bristling and no, no, no. Well, I thought that was your love language. Well, it’s okay for my dad to hug me that way. It’s not okay for you, stepmom, to hug me that way. And that’s just true. It’s a hard reality. But when step parents see it and go, oh, now I know what’s going on. This is not rejection. This is awkwardness and confusion. So what do I do, Ron? Well, you got to become a two. I know that sounds really strange. You don’t quit. You don’t back up. You don’t say, well, fine, if you’re not going to hug me, I’m never going to hug you. You don’t do that. That’s what kids do. You be the adult. And you now try to come and meet that child whose motivation is a two at a two level. Well, what does that look like? Well, it might mean you give up on hugging for a while. or you go to the fist bump, because that’s the best expression of physical touch you can manage with that child. Now, in the meantime, siblings are hugging that child, biological dad’s hugging that child, biological mom and the other hugs, hugging that child, grandparents are hugging, but you have to fist bump. I know that just feels really weird, but think of it as a metaphor. Any new relationship doesn’t start with hugs. It starts with shaking a hand or a fist bump or standing side by side, watching a video game or playing a video game or going to an event where you’re side by. It’s not a big expression of love. It’s a small expression of love. And that’s where you start. And the hope is, with time and with patience, that fist bump might become, might become, can’t guarantee it, might become a side hug. might then become full blown bear hug. I love you. Yeah, I love you too. Someday with that child. That’s to be determined by the both of you. But today it’s a fist bump.

Laura Jenkins: It’s so true, the situations that you’re describing and can just see those various examples playing out. Ron, would you advise a stepparent in that scenario to experiment with trying some of the other love languages with that particular stepkid?

Ron Deal: Oh, that’s such an insightful question because think about it. Again, this is one of the nuances of the five love languages that normally doesn’t get taught that we had to work into this for blended families. There’s some of the five that are far more acceptable on day one than the others. Physical touch is one of the least accepted, because again, that is an intimate expression of love. The other one is quality time. One of the things we know from studies with stepchildren is that they don’t mind some time with their step-parent on day one, but they don’t want a 12-hour day where it’s just the two of us, right? That is way too intense, and I don’t even know what we’re gonna do with our time, and it’s gonna get weird after about 30 minutes. So what do we do now? So go back to the others, acts of service. I want you to think about this. Let’s just imagine you go and clean up their underwear and do their laundry. That is an act of service on behalf of that child who may not even say thank you, but you are showing them by your actions that you care about them. How about words of affirmation? Saying kind things. Hey, good job in soccer today. I was watching, did a good job. Pretty cool. I like watching you do that kind of stuff. You know, just little words that say, I’m here, I see you, I care. How about this one? Gifts. Now, listen, if you walked up to me on the street today and handed me 50 bucks, I’d take it. You know, who turns down a gift? Like, even if you don’t know somebody really well, and you don’t have to have a great love relationship with somebody in order to receive a gift. So, find little ways of doing things for the other person. Doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. The point is, there’s an idea, an affection there you’re trying to communicate. And let those things just stand on their own. Again, a two on a 10 scale might not say thank you. The six kid on a 10 scale, they will say thank you, right? Because there’s just more openness to you. And so it’s hard sometimes to keep doing the expressions of love for the child when you’re not getting much of the reward or the turnaround coming back. But you do have to lead with love and trust that that will eventually bear some fruit.

Laura Jenkins: Yeah. It’s patience, isn’t it? Yes. It all comes back to the idea of marathon, not a sprint in blended families. Ron, would the same logic apply to grandparents?

Ron Deal: Absolutely. And in our work and ministry that we’re doing at Family Life Blended, we’re hearing a lot these days from later life couples who their son or daughter just married somebody with a couple of kiddos and they just became step grandparents and they’re going, wow, what do we do? A, this kid lives two states away from us, you know, a five hour drive and B, we don’t get to see them that often face to face. We have technology, we can try some. So they’re like, how do we build a relationship with this job? Well, you got to figure out where they are on the 10 scale. That’s number one, right? And then match that and take advantage of every opportunity you have. Use the technology that’s available to you, like we’re doing right now in this conversation. And so, you know, use what you have and do the best that you can and add a double dose of patience. Because if you don’t get to see them very often, you don’t get to hang out and figure out who they are, what they like and what you can share together, then it just slows down that bonding process. It doesn’t mean you’re failing at all. You know, I’m just pretty, Laura, I think a lot of people judge themselves way too harshly and judge children and the whole bonding process way too harshly. And they think they’re failing. They think they’ve done something wrong. They’re mad at the kid because you won’t give me a chance, whatever it is. And all that does is sort of create even more tension between the two of you. Just lower your expectations. This is not giving up. This is just coming to see it for what it is and working within the process as it is and trusting that eventually it’ll become something else.

Laura Jenkins: Yeah, yeah, that’s spot on. Something else I was thinking about, Ron, was sibling rivalry in a stepfamily situation. And if you’re a step-parent giving acts of service, let’s say, to a stepchild, your example, cleaning the room, folding the washing, and then the other stepchild, they have a strong preference towards gifts, let’s say. Should you be mindful of that in terms of not appearing to be favoring, if you like, one child over another?

Ron Deal: Yeah, yeah, no, good question. Yeah, you do want to be mindful of that. And by the way, an overarching principle to just help guide this whole process for anybody who’s going, yeah, but how do I know when to do this? Should I zig or should I zag? I say, be in conversation with your spouse, their biological parent. Have lots of dialogue about this. Hey, I’m thinking I’m going to try that. What do you think about that? Do you think that would go over well? Do it in concert so that you’re getting another opinion. But even more importantly than that, choosing as a couple how to lead forward together. Like there’s some mutuality and unity taking place in the midst of walking through this process. Because there will be moments where you try it and it didn’t work. It kind of backfired. And you’re like, okay, now I got to pull back. And that really needs to happen in concert with your spouse so that they’re aware of it as well on the back end. But yeah. But I want to pull back and say, don’t live in fear of saying, well, I gave a gift to this kid, so I have to give a gift to this kid. But this child number two doesn’t have gifts as their main leveling. Don’t live in paranoia about all that. Go ahead and try to be equitable between the children. But in intact biological families, When you discover that one child is really musically inclined, you give them a guitar, and there’s another child who’s not musically inclined, you don’t have to give that one a guitar, right? I mean, everybody sort of gets that. That’s common sense. So don’t live like you have to be equal in every way with every child. You want to be developmentally appropriately equitable. Equitable is the word we use. Nobody’s equal in parenting children, because they all have different gifts and different interests and different likes, and they’re different ages, and there’s a different level of responsibility you hand to one child that you wouldn’t hand to a younger child. So we’re always making those kind of game-time decisions, and I think a step-parent can be doing the same.

Laura Jenkins: Yeah, makes total sense. You’ve got to use it as your guiding principle. Yes. Any other tips from your book or key takeaways from the book that you’ve co-authored with Gary that we haven’t touched on that you’d like to share?

Ron Deal: Let me just say a little bit more about the rejection thing. I already said it’s not always rejection, often it’s confusion on the part of the child about where to put you. I just want to flesh that out a little bit more. I’m sure on your On your podcast, you’ve talked about loyalty conflicts for kids. But I just want to make sure people hear it through the lens of love, for example. I’ve had a lot of kids in my counseling room say, well, Mr. Ron, actually, I like my stepmom. That’s my problem. I actually like her. And so if I’m giving her some affection, A, I feel a little weird about that because I’m not giving it to my mom. How would mom feel if she were to find out about that? If I ever were to use a term of affection for my stepmom, like, hey mom, or ace mom, or bonus mom, or whatever that term is, and if it has a little bit of affection built into it, Does my mom get wounded over that? Because the last thing I want. So see this as a competition for where love goes in a child’s heart. It’s not always, I just refuse to have a relationship with you. It’s often, I got a big place in my heart called the mom part, and I got a big place over here called the dad part. And those two, I definitely want to fill up with mom and dad 100%. Now I have to figure out how to I put another place in my heart, and that really is confusing for kids. And by the way, when I’m talking with kids, I just kind of say, oh, no, it’s a new spot. It didn’t take away from the mom part or the dad part. It’s a new spot. And the cool thing about love is, you know, I kind of believe that flows from our relationship with God, and God is love. He’s always got enough love. He can give it and keep giving it away, and so can we. We’ve sort of built into us the ability to have more than enough love for everybody in our life. We don’t really have to take away from anybody else. But kids don’t understand that really well. I’m talking five-year-olds, I’m talking 15-year-olds, and I’m talking 30-year-olds. They really don’t fully understand that well. And so they’re reticent or confused about how to like you, how to get along. and it not come at a cost to the biggest relationships that they really prioritize in their life. So again, we as adults have to be the ones who get this, understand it, be patient with it. And does that mean you have to limit your love for them? Nope. Does that mean you have to pull back and just stop and say, okay, I’ll wait till you decide to tell me? No, I wouldn’t do that. You lead with love. You’re always going to be a half step ahead of them, but try to be a two. And then someday when they’re a three and you’re, you go to three. When you’re a four, you go to four. You know, again, I think people get this when you, when you slow it down. Anybody who’s ever been married before gets a mother-in-law and a father-in-law. I ask people, so what do you call your mother-in-law? And, you know, you get a lot of answers, you know, everything from, well, that’s Mrs. Jones, you know, a very formal name that’s distant and sort of removed. Other people will go, oh, well, she’s, I call her mom. Well, I have a lot of respect for my mother-in-law, but mom is not going to be a label I’m going to use with her because we just don’t have that kind of relationship. So while you can honor and respect somebody, it doesn’t mean you want to use a term of affection. Okay, we get that. The same thing applies for kids bonding with you. They may like you, but not call you mom or dad. They may have some measure of affection and trust in you, but it does not mean that you hold the biggest place in their heart. It’s okay. It’s really okay. You can still be family. You can still get along. You can still love them more than they love you. And with that influence, maybe, maybe they’ll move into a greater love relationship with you as they feel more comfortable in doing so. That’s the path and it really is an okay path.

Laura Jenkins: It comes back to the old patience, doesn’t it? Marathon, not a sprint once again.

Ron Deal: And Laura, I just thought of one other thing that we talk about in the book and it has to do with grief. People really need to know loss gets in the way of bonding. Maybe not completely, but partially. It’s always there. And so the losses that a child has experienced in their life, they live with them, and those are developmental losses, we call it, which means they have to grieve again, fresh, what happened in the past in light of my present. So I’ve had people say to me, well, you know, my daughter was two when her mom and I divorced. And so she didn’t really have any memories of us being a family or being together. And so I think she’ll be fine as, you know, I’m marrying this other woman and life goes on. And I’m like, yeah, you know, as a two, three, four year old, five year old, she’s probably going to be wide open to step parent coming into her life and probably be very happy about it. But here’s the thing you got to remember when she’s 11 and she has a crush on a boy in school for the very first time. And that boy says, oh, I think you’re cute, too. But then the next day says, no, I don’t want anything to do with you. She’s going to feel something she never felt before. She’s going to feel some pain. She’s going to feel some hurt on her heart. And she’s also going to rewind life about nine years earlier and go, oh, that’s what you did to mom? And when that young girl becomes 15 and has a pretty significant boyfriend relationship, and there’s tension there and stress and arguments and fights, she’s going to rewind about 13 years at this point in her life. She’s going to go, oh, that’s what happened to you and mom. And when she’s 25 and she’s getting ready to walk down the aisle, she’s trying to figure out how to make room for you and her stepdad in her wedding. She’s got to grieve again what happened when she was two. So this is the reality that kids face. And with that grief also comes this sort of bitterness that gets in the way of the sweet. So you have bitter and sweet side by side pretty much all the time. And sometimes the bitterness rolls out of the way and there’s nothing but sweet going on in your blended family. And every once in a while, there’s something that reminds somebody of the bitter and it bubbles right back to the surface. And now you’re a bad guy because you remind me of the bitter. And that’s just loss and grief and sorrow. That’s the way that rolls. And you just keep that in the back of your mind. And what a gift. Just imagine, again, you want to talk about loving this child. Imagine a stepmom in that little scenario who, on a special day when it rolls around, it’s the child’s biological mother’s birthday, for example. And the stepmom looks at the child and goes, you know what? I just figured out. Your mom’s birthday is this weekend and you’re with us. It’s your weekend to be with us. You’re not going to be able to be with your mom. That stinks. That is so, I’m so sorry that it’s working out that way. And I just want you to know, I hate that for you because your mom’s a special lady and she should be. And I want to help you get a gift. I want to help. Can I make some arrangements for you to FaceTime your mom on her birthday? Whatever I can do, I want to try to help with that. Now, the reason, Laura, that’s so important is because you’re loving this child enough to see their sorrow. And when you see that sorrow and you sort of comment on it, you bring it up a little bit, you’re also saying, I am not in competition with your mom. Your mom is your mom, and that is a good thing in your life. And I can see that it hurts that you can’t be with her this weekend. And I applaud your relationship with her. I will not stand in the way. In fact, I will do everything to support your relationship with her.” All of a sudden, you as a step-parent in that situation look pretty respectable. Not every child has the maturity to see that in you, but eventually they’ll put those things together and go, you know, that was really big of her. She really went out of her way to help me out in my relationship with my mom. And the kid knows you’re not fighting with that. Well, the competition’s over. And when the competition is gone, then you’re somebody that they can move toward. They can like you and it not come at a cost. See, so seeing the grief, stepping into that space, saying a word about it, giving them the gift of your blessing on the relationship with that parent goes a long way towards opening a door to your relationship growing in love.

Laura Jenkins: Such wonderful advice, Ron. And I think it reminded me a little bit, too, of our previous conversation when we spoke about, as a step mum, showing the ex that you’re not a threat as well. The no threat message. I still remember it, Ron.

Ron Deal: Yeah, well, you just got the no-threat kid version of that, no-threat message to the child. And you’re absolutely right to communicate that same no-threat to the biological mother, in this case, or the biological parent. It also goes a long way towards showing you to be somebody worthy of respect. And that’s how love starts. You know, again, if you, If I gave you an assignment and said, okay, hey, you just had somebody move in two doors down from you and you didn’t know it, but while we were talking, somebody moved in. So your assignment is to go and make a friend. All right. So what would you not do, Laura? If you’re going to try to go make friends with your new neighbors, what would you not do? Well, what you wouldn’t do is go bang on their door, make a lot of racket and say, hey, I’m your new neighbor. I’m your new best friend, you just don’t know it, let me in. Like, that’s not going to work. Nobody’s, they’re going to lock the door, they’re not going to open the door, right? Well, you can’t, you don’t build a relationship that way with anybody. Likewise, you don’t build a relationship that way with children. You don’t demand. You don’t insist. You don’t make a lot of ruckus and get critical and angry and look like you’re untrustworthy. They’re just shutting the door on their heart towards you, and you just made things a whole lot harder. Well, what do you do? If you’re going to go make friends with your neighbor, you’d go gently, politely knock on their door. And if they talk through the door and say, who is it? Well, you’d say, well, I’m Lauria. We’re new neighbors and just wanted to welcome you to the neighborhood. And then you’d wait. And maybe they’d open the door and maybe they wouldn’t. Maybe you just have silence and you’re like, I don’t know what that means, but I guess we’re not going in tonight. Not tonight. Maybe they talk through the door to you and say, well, now where do you live? And they just want some more information. They’re just trying to feel out you and the situation and figure out if it’s a safe relationship to step into. And eventually after talking through the door for a while, they might crack the door open just to peek and see who’s standing out there. Well, Laura looks okay. I mean, it’s not like she’s got a knife or a gun or anything. She’s not threatening. So I guess maybe we’ll open the door a little bit more and talk. See, this is the way it works on every level in every relationship. Why would it not work that way with step-siblings, step-parents, and step-children? You’re just standing on the doorstep, talking and being the best person you can be, and being inviting, and as they are ready, They open themselves up to you. And someday, maybe that new neighbor invites you in and gets you a glass of water and says, sit down, let’s talk. But that will be on their time, not your time.

Laura Jenkins: Yeah.

Ron Deal: And you have to work within that.

Laura Jenkins: Such good advice, Ron. And fabulous spot for us to wrap up there today. We are at time here and hopefully we can have you back on the show again soon. We’ve still got more books to talk about.

Ron Deal: That’s right. That’s right. We do. Thanks for having me.

Laura Jenkins: Thanks for listening to the In The Blend podcast. The show notes for this episode are available at And if you like what you heard, be sure to subscribe and please rate and review in your podcasting app. You can also follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.