When's the Honeymoon?
- Tuesday, February 03, 2004
Starting a Stepfamily can quickly turn into chaos.
I will not do it wrong again. This time I know what was missing, and I know what my children and I need in a marriage. This time I will do it right, and my next marriage will last a lifetime.
Fact: The divorce rate for 2nd marriages exceeds the divorce rate for 1st marriages
Fact: Remarried couples with children are twice as likely to divorce than remarried couples with out children
Most marriages begin with some type of honeymoon. Even if the couple doesn't go somewhere exotic, there is almost always a period of time filled with fun, attention, excitement, and consideration. However, marriages that blend existing families can prove to be quite different.
Many couples begin these marriages with unrealistic expectations like the ones listed above. Let's step back and look at their courtship. At first, the courtship with their new friend goes along well for both them and their children. The kids profess to like the new friend, and all seems well when everyone is together. Although it is not uncommon for children of divorced parents to resist new relationships, most are open to someone new, as long as the adults remain in the dating stage. However, let the relationship turn serious and things can quickly change.
Most parents are caught off guard by their children's reaction to this change. By this time most divorced parents have not only put their past marriage behind them, but also their past mate. Unfortunately many parents fail to take into consideration the secret wish of not only their children, but of almost all divorced children. And that is the wish that their biological parents will someday reunite. Actually, it is not unusual for therapists to council adult children who still express the same wish many years after their parents have divorced.
Once the marriage takes place, it is common to see stepfamilies explode. Multiple unexpected issues begin to surface, and surface quickly. Problems with territory, and fairness most often top the list. New members of the family are now sharing bedrooms, bathrooms, televisions and telephones that were once private territory. Time with the live-in parent that was private and uninterrupted becomes rare or hard to get. Rules imposed by new members of the family highlight issues of fairness and change, creating resentment and defiance from the children. The list goes on as often, even small changes like a different menu can cause problems. Schedules change, attention changes, along with freedom, and responsibilities around the home. If these problems were not addressed before the marriage, they will certainly be addressed quickly after the marriage begins, and guaranteed, it's no honeymoon.
Children can become very powerful and play major roles in the upheaval experienced in the home. They will play parents against each other, become defiant toward the stepparent, fight with their stepsiblings, and manipulate situations that force parents into confrontation or arguments. The age of the child plays a big part in how these problems will appear. Younger children will use "space" as a means of interference. In other words, they will physically get between you and your new spouse. Sometimes they will act sick or use other methods to draw the attention of their real Mom or Dad. This will be most visible when you and your mate are having time together. Older children are more obvious and combative. They use their independence and intelligence to manipulate and cause difficult problems, sometimes-serious problems between family members.
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