Blending two families into one is no easy task. Often, to make the household run smoothly, each family member is asked to make compromises. The parents set new rules that the kids must adjust to while dealing with emotions that are still a bit raw. It takes time, patience and sometimes trial and error, but John and Angela Dempsey of Windermere say it is well worth the effort.
The couple met while in line for the go-carts at Fun Spot in 2005 because their kids started talking to each other during the wait. They had no idea they were about to venture onto one of the happiest rides of their lives. John and Angela are still going strong on the marriage rollercoaster 11 years later.
A new romance can raise powerful emotions, and when you meet the right person, it can be full of promise. “I went into it with stars in my eyes,” Angela says. “We got married quickly.”
As with any marriage, there is an adjustment period. When each spouse brings children into it, the challenges during that period can at times be overwhelming. Blending John’s children from his previous marriage, Megan and Kaitlyn, into one cohesive family with Angela’s children, Bryce and Alexis, presented a series of tests for the couple’s differing parenting styles.
John’s previous household was easygoing whereas Angela’s had a more regimented vibe. “The biggest challenge is that we have different parenting styles,” John says. “Angela is more structured.”
Angela adds, “John is a relaxed person, so that made it more challenging than I anticipated.”
For John, he also had to adjust to being a new father for Bryce, the only boy in the house. “At the time, I was trying to figure out exactly where my place with Bryce was,” John says.
Because there were so many bumps in the road at first, some of the kids became disheartened. In fact, one of John’s daughters even wanted them to get a divorce.
Transitioning to a different house is also a difficult adjustment. “Megan and Kaitlyn were now dealing with three households,” John says. “Mine with the two girls, then one with their mother, then one with Angela and I. There was a transition time coming into the family. Plus, there were sacrifices that had to be made. I felt I had two separate families. It didn’t mesh easily.”
Besides having a new house with additional family members, the family also dealt with the stress of untimely heartbreak when Angela’s ex-husband passed away three years into her marriage to John. “After that, I adopted Alexis,” John says.
“Blended families will never be a perfect Brady Bunch scenario,” says Pastor Troy Schmidt of the First Baptist Church of Windermere, where the family attends church. “They are born from conflict, such as death or divorce, but cooperation, forgiveness and compassion are key. John and Angela are definitely those kinds of people.”
Another low point occurred when they were married for less than a year. They were in the process of building a house and dealing with that mortgage while they were still in a house with mortgage payments due. “It was a painful period financially and emotionally,” Angela says. “I thought, I’m going to have to figure out how long I can persist in this. But then I heard God’s words: ‘You made this promise to me.’ It was my belief that God had something good for me.”
Keeping the promise in mind, Angela approached John with a request. “I said to him, ‘I want you to promise me that you will never leave me. That you are all in,’” she says. “He said, ‘Yes, I’m all in.’ This is the ultimate key.”
Being able to share this commitment with their children made all the difference. “Once the kids understood this, a lot of the waves started to subside,” John says. “All the hard work we put in had really paid off.”
One big payoff was when Kaitlyn asked John if it was okay to call Angela mom. “She thought perhaps she would be a traitor if she called her mom,” says John.
Another was that the children quickly accepted John as a father figure since he was in the home full time. “Alexis was calling me daddy,” he says. “That was wonderful.”
After successfully navigating their own ups and downs, John and Angela chose to mentor other stepfamilies at their church. “John and Angela have experienced all the ups and downs of blended families and yet they continue to trust the process,” Pastor Schmidt says. “They know that everyone is operating at a different pace, so patience is key. They have mentored other couples and give them direction and hope.”
When asked what their advice to other stepfamilies would be, Angela says, “Love and respect – accept changes and take your time.”
John adds, “We don’t fight. Angela taught me that the way we are approaching any problem is that we are trying to make our relationship tighter. There is no name calling, no accusations. There is no effort by either one of us to be superior to the other. Even when we have disagreements, as all couples do, it is out of a desire to strengthen our relationship. With that understanding, it makes it easier to hear the problem.”
They also continue to trust their faith. “I do not think that there is any way that we would still be here if we did not have the faith in God we have,” Angela says.