By: Susan Adams, M. Ed.
Remarriage may seem unlikely shortly after you divorce. Actually, 75% of women and 80% of men do remarry--usually within 5 years.
Of these, 80% divorce again. Why?
I certainly don't want to discourage remarriage. In fact, remarriage and the stepfamily, is the gift that the stepfamily gives the kids.
That is, the chance to live in a working and loving family and to see things hold together.
There are factors which make stepfamilies at high risk, however. It is important to know what they are.
Before I go into those, let me also point out that therapy with a good relationship person post-divorce is also very important. That is because it is important to learn what each of us has done to contribute to the failure of the marriage. This hopefully, helps us learn from our mistakes.
Second, it helps us learn how to interview in the dating game to pick someone the next time around who has the skills it takes to be married as we need to learn them as well.
So, you have picked a relationship therapist and now you are looking at the possible pitfalls ahead.
The first is money. Because money symbolizes power and success, and is such an important element in most people's lives, it can be used to control an ex-spouse. Added to the usual stress on finances caused by divorce and the need to support two homes, a second marriage and its inherent obligations can burden everyone involved.
To deal with the issues of money, it is important for someone marrying someone with a former family to recognize emotionally as well as intellectually, that there will be less overall because resources must be shared overall with a former family.
Ex-Spouses are another pitfall. There are many weapons an ex-spouse can use to wreak havoc on a subsequent marriage. The ex-wife or husband who won't let go is still emotionally involved with the ex-spouse and often uses the children, guilt, and money to beat down the ex-spouse. Often one partner is obsessed with the idea that they have been mistreated during the marriage and can't bear the fact that the ex-spouse would leave them.
Often marriages break due to infidelity (98%) and the anger runs high and the jilted spouse wants to get even even if the children are punished in the process.
There then is hassle over how the ex-spouse is dealing with the children, denying visitation rights or support, and all of this keeps the two former partners involved with each other and the fight goes on into the second marriage. Sometimes it is very difficult to keep an ex-spouse from turning a new marriage into chaos.
Then there is the issue of the children. Stepchildren can and often do break up remarriages. Children know how to aggravate and punish adults. They can make life miserable. Therefore, if you allow guilt and fear of losing a child's acceptance to rule you, you have lost the battle. Instead, act firmly and warmly and be patient. Ultimately the odds are with you to win the child's respect.
When stepparents are successful it is because they have faced a period of testing and readjustment and patiently won the friendship of their stepchildren by not pushing and by taking their side whenever possible.
The relationship with stepchildren is a friendship, slow to build. There is no instant parenting. You need to get to know your stepchildren before trying to tell them what to do.
You need to take a look at whether your future partner has grown close to the children over time when he or she was alone with them. If it has been a very close relationship, the kids are more apt to resent you.
Be attuned if the children are kept in the background during courtship and if they have an over-idealized view of their mother or their father.
At the other extreme, be wary if the children are hostile or mistrustful because one parent or the other treated them badly.
Take the children on outings with you on your own. However, be wary that marriage changes everything. A good relationship before marriage may collapse when you become permanent and dreams of their parents reconciling become clearly only dreams.
It is possible to make a remarriage work. especially if you remember that the remarriage is for the partners and not for the kids, at least at first. Everyone needs to parent their own kids, build a relationship with the stepchildren, and demonstrate what a real partnership looks like.
There are MANY rewards of step parenting if one can be patient as the family re-forms and moves ahead.