Ironically, living through a bad marriage and painful divorce is not a deterrent to seeking happiness with a new partner. However, statistics suggest that divorce rates of second marriages exceed those of first marriages. In order to avoid repeating mistakes that undermined the success of the previous relationship, certain precautions should be taken.
- Wait at least a year before entering a new relationship. Use that time to become stable, happy and contented as a single person.
- Understand your part in the failure of your previous relationship before becoming involved with a new partner. Counseling may be the best way to gain this insight.
- Improve your communication skills to ensure a better outcome for a long-term relationship.
- Avoid remarrying a person with similar problems as your previous spouse. Choose a partner who is stable, independent and able to compromise.
- Go slowly. Give your relationship time to mature before rushing into marriage.
Get pre-marital counseling from a therapist trained and skilled in guiding couples in their search for a healthy, rewarding relationship. Go to the Marriage and Relationship Center on this website to select a therapist.
Couples marrying for a second time often have children from a previous relationship that must be taken into consideration before the vows are exchanged. No matter how much you love each other, if you are unprepared for the challenges of effectively handling stepchildren, your relationship is in jeopardy from the beginning. The following guidelines may help potential stepparents avoid certain disaster.
- Understand that the stepfamily will not function the same as a biological family. Do not impose your expectations of a harmonious family unit onto others who may not share or want to cooperate with those expectations.
- Recognize that step-children are not yours and they never will be. You can never be a replacement parent. The biological mother or father, for better or worse, has the child’s allegiance in most instances. However, you can still play a significant role in the development of the child.
- Try not to try too hard. Allow your relationship with your stepchild to unfold naturally.
- Agree ahead of time about how to effectively discipline the children. Discuss what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior and how misbehavior will be handled. Ideally, the biological parent should take responsibility for disciplining his/her child. Jointly, parents should clarify expectations about chores, behavior, responsibilities and manners.
- Know that unrealistic expectations doom everyone for failure and foster resentments. Patience, flexibility and the ability to apologize are essential components in the successful blended family. For all, it is uncharted territory.
- The ex-spouse will never be an ex-parent. Learning to effectively deal with your spouse’s ex is essential.
- Conflict of loyalties must be recognized from the beginning. Mothers tend to side with their biological children, as do fathers. Stepchildren have mixed feelings if they begin to feel genuine affection for their stepparent. They may retreat if they feel they are being disloyal to their biological parent. The stepparent may experience this push-pull relationship as frustrating and confusing. Be gentle and understand the tender, immature feelings of a child struggling to maintain balance in a constantly shifting emotional environment.
The complexities of transversing the unsteady terrain of blended families can not be over stated. Most require the guidance and support of an experienced therapist to successfully blend diverse personalities over the course of time. Refer to the Marriage and Relationship Center on this website to find a competent therapist to assist your blended family to establish a healthy bond and stable family unit.