Mike and Kim Anderson: Battle for Your Child. Fight for Your Marriage
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Mike and Kim Coaching and co-creators of two online courses: Stepfamilies that Work! and Stepfamilies that Make It!. Mike grew up in challenging stepfamily dynamics and then married Kim in 2001, forming their own stepfamily. They have been coaching and supporting step-couples for over a decade. Their personal experience with stepfamily life and professional coaching background uniquely p...more
Podcasters and blended family coaching experts Mike & Kim Anderson began marriage fighting for their child’s heart eventually galvanizing their marriage.
Mike and Kim Anderson: Battle for Your Child. Fight for Your Marriage
Ann: So did a close family member tell you not to marry me?
Dave: Yes, your dad! Are you kidding me?
Ann: No, he didn’t.
Dave: No, he actually said—do you remember?—he barred me from the house from dating you.
Dave: Because he coached me in baseball, and he knew that I wasn’t the kind of guy that he wanted his daughter to marry. But then, I won him over.
Ann: You did! But what if your mom had said, “Hey, I really have some concerns about you marrying Ann.” Would that have been hard?
Dave: Oh, if anybody wouldn’t have endorsed it, it would have been hard; especially, a family member.
Ann: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.
Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on the FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today.
Dave: We’ve got Ron Deal with us from our FamilyLife Blended® ministry. Ron, welcome to FamilyLife Today.
Ron: Hey, guys! It’s always good to be with you.
Dave: And it sounds like you had a conversation with a couple, who had almost exactly that happen; right?
Ron: Yes; as a matter of fact, they did. I spoke with Mike and Kim Anderson some time ago. We’re going to jump into that in just a minute—I’ll lead up to it—it’s amazing. Kim had her daughter say to her—well, wait a minute—maybe, I’ll just let you hear it from her. [Laughter]
Let me tell you about this couple: Mike and Kim Anderson are founders of Mike and Kim Coaching. They co-host the Blended Family Coaching Show. They’re coaching, and helping, and supporting stepfamilies. We’ve had them speak at our Summit on Stepfamily Ministry® before, so they’re trusted voices.
A quick funny story about them: about 20 years ago, right before they got married, they came to a weekend blended family seminar that I did at a church near where they live. Mike wanted to go to the seminar; Kim was like, “No, we don’t need to go to that.” Mike was like, “No, I had a bad stepfamily childhood experience. I don’t want to repeat that path, so let’s go!”
Coming out of the event, Kim was like, “That was great. We’ve got to learn more!” So they set themselves on this path that has ultimately resulted in them, now, being able to give back and bless other people through their own ministry, which is really cool.
But they attended that seminar one week before they got married. And the night before they got married, Kim’s daughter came up to her and said something—okay, well, let’s just play it—you’ve got to listen to this.
[Previous FamilyLife Blended® Podcast]
Ron: You’re at this event a week before you get married; it's opened your eyes around a few things. Then what happens? Did you get married a week later?
Mike: We did. [Laughter]
Kim: We did.
Mike: Yes, we still got married. Thank you, Ron; I appreciate it.
Ron: Didn’t completely scare you guys away from that?
Kim: No; you know, I had a five-year-old daughter, going in, like I said. She really adored Mike; they had a great connection, and things were going really well there. But of course, the night before the wedding, she pulls me aside and says, “I don’t want you to marry Mike.” I’m like blindsided: “What’s going on here?!”
Ron: Okay, so I imagine that you had a sense that she was going to be okay with this.
Kim: Oh, definitely. She was even affectionate towards him, going into this.
Ron: There was something there; the relationship had developed to some degree.
Kim: There was something there; yes.
Ron: Then she throws you a curve, “Don’t marry Mike.”
Mike: That's right.
Ron: What did you do?
Ron: How’d you feel about that?
Kim: Oh, my heart just sank. You know, that’s that position of wanting to do right by your kid; but what do you do?
You know, I tried to find out what was going on. She was five; so you know, she didn’t have the best communication skills. She kind of hemmed and hawed and thought about it. Then she blurted out: “Well, you know, he talks too soft on our answering machine, so you shouldn’t marry him. He’s a soft talker.”
Mike: That’s right—“soft talker”—“You’ve got to dump that dude.”
Kim: “…soft talker”; yes. So you know, she was filled with some conflict—
Kim: —definitely some mixed emotions—she really cared for Mike and wanted me to have a relationship with him; but of course: “What was to come?” “What was the impact going to be?” and “How was that going to change our relationship?” There were probably some fears.
Mike: To note—that only about six months prior to our wedding, her dad also remarried—
Kim: Her dad had also remarried, yes.
Mike: —so she was also experiencing this in her other home. She’s moving back and forth between these two homes, with big changes, all in a very short period of time.
Ron: One of the things we tell blended families—couples—before they get married is to recognize that, when they get married, it’s a gain for the adults; and on some level—doesn’t mean it’s bad—but on some level, it is a loss for their children.
Ron: Things are changing again. I think adults generally really minimize that.
Kim: I think we were prepared, because we had heard from you not to underestimate the loss that kids experience.
Ron: Now, if somebody’s listening to us right now, and they’re thinking, “Oh no! Should I feel guilty about this? Should I feel horrible that I'm putting my kids through it?” What would you say to them?
Kim: I would say, first, if you’re carrying a burden of guilt, get some help with that; that’s just not something you want to carry around.
But as far as our experience goes, Anika has benefited so greatly from having Mike in her life. It definitely has not been easy, but it’s just amazing.
Ron: There you go: “Keep the long-term view.”
Kim: I can't even imagine where she would be if she didn’t have Mike in her life. I mean, she—
Mike: You’re playing the long game. You know, what I would say, from a stepparent perspective, is: “Do everything you can to get yourself into that child’s shoes,” and “Try to understand the things that they’ve experienced; because every experience they’ve had, leading up to their relationship with you, is going to color the way that they connect with you.”
Mike: You need to understand that before you start heading down the road, assuming that they’re all on board and excited—and “It’s going to be the Brady Bunch experience”; right?—because it probably won’t.
Ron: So youget married. You’ve got a five-year-old, Kim; and you guys get married. Kim, you’re divorced?
Ron: Okay, so you have an ex-husband. Is your daughter moving between the two homes?
Kim: She is.
Ron: Okay; and then you guys get together, and you have two children of your own.
Ron: Okay; somewhere in the story, there became some problems with the other household; yes?
Kim: Yes; you know, we were pretty good—peacefully co-parenting for the first ten years after our divorce—but that’s one of the funny things about co-parenting; is that things can radically change. You don’t have a lot of control over what’s going on in that other house and the attitudes.
I tell you this story, with a big question mark still in my mind as to why it happened—because we don't have the answers around why this shift in attitude occurred—but at some point, my ex kind of got it in his mind that my daughter no longer needed us in her life. He just kind of decided that she doesn’t need to come to our house, and she doesn’t need to have a relationship with us. I’m sure it was around control; but he put her in this position of: “If you want to be loved and accepted by me, you’ve got to reject your mom.”
Ron: Oh, goodness sakes. How old was she when this started?
Kim: She was 12.
Ron: How did that impact her?
Kim: Well, she got lost, honestly—my daughter was gone—she became a robotic puppet for him.
Kim: She would come—when we did see her—we went from 50/50 visitation, which we had done, like I said, for years and years, to down to—what was it at the lowest point?—like maybe—
Mike: It was 11 percent of the time.
Kim: Yes, yes. She would come with attitudes and all kinds of reasons why she shouldn’t be there, repeating things that he had told her to say to the guardian ad litem/to the counselor.
She just wasn’t there—there were a few times/moments, where she would break, where I would see her: “There she is! Ah, she’s still there!”—but then it would all shut down. As soon as it came up, he would, you know, put more pressure on. We didn’t have a clear understanding of the kind of emotional and verbal abuse that was going on.
Ann: Ron, as I’m listening to that, I have tears in my eyes.
Ann: Because I’m thinking, as a mom, this would kill me.
Ron: Yes, it’s so hard on everybody; right?—on the mom, of course—and on the child. I mean, if you were guessing: “What do you guys think the impact would be on Anika?”
Ann: I can’t imagine the turmoil that is going on inside of her, because she’s basically having to pick sides. I don’t know how you would do that, as a daughter or as a son, when you love both of your parents; but one’s siding against the other.
Dave: I mean, in some ways, it makes sense that she’d be acting out. She’s trying to find security; she’s trying to find identity. I experienced that a little bit in my blended family; because I didn’t want to show my stepmom that I loved her, because I knew it would hurt my mom. But this is a situation, times 100, of what I experienced.
Ron: Well, you guys are exactly right. A lot of kids experience the very things that you’re talking about. Let’s jump back into the story and find out what happened with Anika.
[Previous FamilyLife Blended Podcast]
Ron: Do you have a sense of what the cost was for her?
Kim: Complete control from the other household.
Ron: “You’re losing my love and affection.”
Kim: Yes, yes. And control over her whole life: her extracurricular activities, her friends, her everything. At a stage, where she should be venturing out and making decisions for herself, and figuring it out, she was under his thumb completely. It really stunted her growth.
Mike: This was about a three-year period. We were in the family court system for three years—lots of time, energy, resources—everything went into this.
I think what was interesting is: there were times when we would have vacations.
Mike: We would have some extended time with her—it took a day or two—but once that day or two passed, the walls started to come down. She was away from—we would travel somewhere—and all of a sudden, we’re like, “There she is.”
Kim: But it could have just as easily be shut down if she called him, and you would see it. There was a vacation we were on, and she got to go rock climbing for the first time with my brother—he’s a rock climber—and she was just loving it; she’s kind of an adrenaline junkie. She was having so much fun and enjoying herself, and she wanted to call and tell her dad. I said, “Yes, call him.” You could just, physically, see her just slump by his reaction—he just shut her down—didn't want to hear about it; didn’t care.
Ron: That’s the thing! If you’re listening today, and you know someone in that situation—or you are that parent, who’s doing that to your child—you have to have that image in your mind of this girl slumping over, going from joy to complete shutdown.
Have things improved?
Mike: Well, so we’re several years past this whole season now. What happened—essentially, we had these three years in the family court system—and there’s an amazing story of God’s providential hand on this that we experienced.
Mike: But we felt like we had lost. After three years of battle, I think we were at 30-some-odd percent of our time with our daughter.
Kim: She still had the walls up.
Mike: She still had walls up.
Kim: He still had—
Mike: We just absolutely thought, “Why have we been through all of this?—
Kim: We were crushed.
Mike: —“and now it's just over.” That’s how it felt; that’s how we felt.
Kim: We couldn’t believe it.
Mike: Literally, one month later, the most terrible thing to happen happened—but it brought healing and redemption—and that was that her dad crossed the line of physical attack in her home. She went out her window; she came to our home. By the next week, we were immediately back into the court. The judge said, “Now, we’re done.” He said, “I’ve been listening to this; I don't want to hear any more of it.”
The guardian ad litem finally got to a place of saying, “Okay, now we can do something different. We had to let it be her decision; otherwise, she would just keep running back.” Then she called for one last meeting, and she said, “I just want you to know, this young lady has been through all of this. She’s used to a parent, who is very authoritarian. You two are much more authoritative, allowing her to make decisions for herself; and she’s not going to know what to do with that freedom.”
We thought, “Ha-ha!—whatever.” We’re so joyful. We’re going to get time with our daughter. And her walls were down; she was back.
Kim: She was feeling it, yes.
Mike: It was like this instantaneous return of our daughter.
Kim: We were joyous, yes.
Mike: And then, we went through a really difficult time, just in our home, of her making really poor choices.
Ron: The person was right?—that once the thumb of control was lifted—
Ron: Okay; and that makes sense. I mean,—
Mike: Absolutely, yes.
Kim: Yes; because she finally had some freedom/some say in her life, and she didn’t know how to handle it.
Ron: Right; exactly.
Kim: Because in those young and formative years, when she should have been making decisions, and failing and learning, that was removed. So now, she looked to her peers to make her decisions. So whatever environment she was in, she looked for someone else. She just/yes, it was three more years of rebellion.
Ron: She was in your home at that time?
Kim: Yes, full time.
Ron: How old was she when all this happened?
Mike: She was 15.
Ron: So 12 when the alienation process started; 15 at this point, when she’s back in your home, and things were really rough at that point.
Kim: We went from fighting for her—investing everything we had into freeing her from this situation—to, when she turned 18, we had to ask her to leave our home because things were so/we had to set some strong boundaries and do the tough-love thing.
Ron: Okay; so I’ve got to just pause. Let’s talk to that listener for a minute that’s in the middle of all this. Whatever their story is, they are in the middle of hard. I’m thinking about you guys: “How did you protect your marriage in the midst of the stress?” “What did you do to stay alive?” “How did you protect your own kind of wellbeing/your relationship with God?”
Mike: Well, throughout that court battle, we didn’t protect our marriage. We saw it as really noble that we were going to allow some of the energy that we would have put into us to be put on the back burner, because we were after saving this child.
Here this is—near and dear to Kim’s heart, because this is her daughter—and at the same time, it is near and dear to my heart; because of the environment that I grew up in. I got it; I was like, “Man, I know what this poor kid is going through. How could we not fight for her?”
So we didn’t invest in our marriage—it was on the tail end of that—that we almost lost our marriage, because we didn’t make that investment.
Ron: Okay; I’ve just got to say: “I totally get that; like I don’t blame you at all.” I mean, on the one hand, you are 100 percent after rescuing this child from her situation; and I mean, flip around at the other side—“Honey, let’s go out and have a happy dinner, and go on a date and enjoy ourselves,”—while knowing, at the same time, that our daughter is over here, miserable, and sick, and stressed out; you know? “But we can enjoy life.” That doesn't make sense.
Kim: I was in a pit; I was in a pit of depression during a lot of that—just emotionally distraught—there was no way. But I remember that season—of Mike being my whole support—I mean, I was crumbling, left and right.
Kim: And he was just there; he was holding me up. He was my shoulder to cry on; he was the one praying for me constantly, and just in there with me. I mean, we came out of that season as a united team in fighting this battle, but our romance—
Ron: —took a hit.
Kim: There was no romance.
Ron: What about God? I mean, was He distant?—was He close?
Mike: Yes. [Laughter]
Kim: “All of the above.”
Mike: Which day are you talking about, Ron?
Ron: Yes, yes.
Kim: There were times when I was just so angry at God, because we felt Him telling us: “Fight, fight, fight. I will provide. I will carry you through,” which He did.
Ron: And then, but the action wasn’t there in the response.
Mike: It didn’t feel like it.
Kim: No; we just couldn’t get it.
Kim: I also got a little—at my worst points, when I was just done and distraught—God would give me a picture of her heart/of where she really is: “She’s still there,” “She’s still bonded to you.”
Ron: “Don’t give up,” “Don’t be defeated.”
Kim: “She needs you to fight for her. She needs to know that you’re going to be there when she’s ready.”
Dave: You’re listening to FamilyLife Today and a conversation that Ron Deal had with Mike and Kim Anderson on his FamilyLife Blended podcast. I mean, that situation—putting a child in the middle—is the worst thing you can do; right, Ron?
Ron: It is; it is so hard. You’re torn between people who you love, and you always feel like you’re failing somebody; so you’re never feeling like you’re successful. You feel like a failure.
It’s just emotionally, psychologically, spiritually—think about the spiritual influence for a minute—if you’re putting your kid in the middle, and you’re listening to this program right now—if you’re doing that kind of thing to your child—and then you turn around, and expect them to adopt your values—guess what? You’re shooting yourself in the foot with your relationship with the child, and you’re sabotaging your spiritual influence with your child. You just can’t do that, and it’s negatively impacting who they are.
Now, let’s flip this over real quick, because what I also want to speak to is the person listening, who’s going, “I’m fighting for my child; and sometimes, I’m not even sure it’s worth it. I’m not even sure we’re ever going to get anywhere.” Well, I want to say, “No; keep fighting.” I love what Kim said about she had this vision—God just gave her a vision of her child’s heart—like, “She’s still there. We can’t see her, touch her, be with her very much; but she’s still there, and she still needs us.”
Yes! That’s exactly right. Keep pursuing, whatever the cost. One day—ultimately/hopefully—you’re going to connect.
Ann: Ron, as I’m listening to that, too, I’m wondering: “There had to be a fallout with Anika. So how did things turn out with her?”
Ron: Well, let’s listen; we’ll hear the rest of the story.
[Previous FamilyLife Blended Podcast]
Ron: I’m sure people are wondering: “Have things improved with your daughter?”
Kim: Oh, yes! [Laughter]
Mike: Yes, very much so.
Kim: Yes; I mean, she still struggles to set boundaries with her dad, and she’s learning; she’s learned how to have a relationship with him as best she can, which is great. I mean, she needs to have a relationship with him and with his kids; but she’s learned to set boundaries, which is wonderful. But she’s—yes, we have—
Mike: Not only that—I mean, that’s all true; and that’s great—she’s maturing.
She got herself back into school. She’s gotten clean time, which has been incredible, for over three years now. She’s figuring it out—she’s challenged by the things we all have been challenged by, at 23 years old—but she’s figuring it out. She’s wanting to do life well—so that's pretty incredible—the fact that we now have just an easy, loving relationship with her.
Kim: Yes, she invites us in; it’s amazing.
Mike: Yes, it’s just awesome.
Kim: She comes to us for advice, and she lets us coach her. It’s awesome—just with life stuff—she trusts us, and she’s very loving and appreciative. We look back on that time—and we, sometimes, talk about it as painful for both of us—but she realizes what she put us through. [Laughter] At one point, she even apologized, which we never thought we’d get—and we didn’t expect—it was a gift. She definitely understands a lot about what kids go through.
Dave: So you’re listening to FamilyLife Today and a conversation Ron Deal had with Mike and Kim Anderson about their daughter, Anika, and the blended family. I’ll tell you what, Ron: hearing the end of the story warms my heart. I mean, as I was listening to this podcast, I was like, “I don’t know if this is going to ever turn out”; and yet, God shows up. And it just reminds you: “It is worth the fight,” “Stay in!”
Ron: Yes, absolutely; it is worth the fight. Of course, to me, this is a story of a faithful God, who keeps providing, who keeps helping along the way; and the power of one faithful parent and a bonus stepparent, who don’t give up, who are going to continue to fight for the child, and then to fight for relationship with their family.
There’s some complexity in blended families when the other household is not cooperative—that made things harder for the Andersons—and yet, they didn’t give up; they stayed with it. The outcome is really positive for everyone, especially Anika.
Ann: And as you always say, Ron: “Play the long game. Don’t get discouraged today, because we have no idea what God is up to for tomorrow; and the next day; or maybe, the next year or two.”
Shelby: That’s Dave and Ann Wilson with Ron Deal on FamilyLife Today. We’ve been hearing clips from Episode 10 of the FamilyLife Blended podcast, when Ron was joined by Mike and Kim Anderson. You can find the full episode by searching for FamilyLife Blended, wherever you get your podcasts, or by visiting FamilyLifeToday.com.
If you or someone you know is in a blended family, you’ve got to check out FamilyLife Blended. In addition to the podcast, FamilyLife Blended® has books, online courses, videos, as well as live events. One that’s coming up real soon is called The Summit on Stepfamily Ministry. This event is for church leaders and lay people, who want to learn about healthy blended family living and the essentials of local ministry. You can find out more about The Summit on Stepfamily Ministry at FamilyLifeToday.com.
Now, tomorrow, Dave and Ann will be joined by Jenny and Curtis Solomon to tell the story of how their marriage was full of lies, deceit—and on its last leg—due to pornography addiction; that’s coming up tomorrow.
On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We’ll see you back next time
for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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