Remarriage & Stepparenting
Basic Tasks for Surviving Divorce
During this process, divorced persons may encounter:
Griefwork: Coping with Loss and stopping the "train of negative
emotions. Grief = psychological distress due to a personal loss.
Intensity of feeling: comes and goes and is proportional to the
degree of identity devoted to spouse role. Those who really want out of
a marriage will suffer less than those who want the marriage
Duration: some say it takes about as long to get over a lost love
as it does to endure one in the first place. Depends on a person's frame
of mind - three months to couple of years.
Avoiding Self Pity: The difference between Understanding what's
happened and Wallowing in remorse or sadness.
Reunion fantasies and Anniversary reactions.
These are culturally based - we are supposed to be sad during all this.
Facilitation of griefwork with the help of others such as self-help groups
in church or community. Don't forget friends.
Dealing with Depression, Anger and Guilt
Re-Evaluating One's Past Marriage:
Depression = sadness, self-blame, hopelessness. This is not Clinical Depression,
but is Event Precipitated and gradually lessens over time
Anger must be resolved in order to be dispatched. Directed toward the person
one is angry with - this means further communication with the Ex.
Guilt - over having hurt someone - reasonable amounts of guilt are signs
of a healthy conscience. Unreasonable amounts of guilt only prolong the
Rational measures are appropriate: - write down the pros and cons of the
marriage - try to understand what has happened.
Such Questions As: Anxiety about the future? Will I ever find love again?
Did I find it the first time and lose it? Why do people hate me so much.
I will never have sex again.
In order for a successful remarriage to begin, the divorced person must
come to grips with the issues surrounding the divorce. Write it all down.
Keep a journal!
Re-evaluating Oneself in the Past Marriage:
Combating Loneliness = a feeling of unconnectedness with others.
The Situationaly Lonely = being lonely was precipitated by an event - a
death, a divorce, or other.
The Chronically Lonely = lack social or interpersonal skills necessary
to make others feel comfortable.
Loners = those who are at home with themselves, comfortable with their
Loneliness Traps: -viewing loneliness as a weakness -clinging and hanging
on -meaningless sexual episodes -love and marriage on the rebound
Coping with reality demands - life goes on - walk it off! The nice thing
about life is it continues with you or without you.
Realistically taking stock of one's abilities and deficiencies. Here's
a little counseling trick that illuminates personality development in general
(it'll help with adjusting to divorce too!).
A. Establishing a New Identity - People suggest that events sometimes
change them - "The War Changed Him" or "My divorce embittered me. "Perhaps
people are simply unaware of some of their capabilities or deficiencies
in the skills area prior to these "life changing events"
You learn how to Love Again - > By resolving old problems, one comes closer
to being able to love - maybe for the first time. What were the consequence
s of the breakup? Write it all down - Keep a Journal!
A "New Identity" may really mean completing the old one that was never
finished in high school.
Repairing damaged self-esteem. One thing marriage can to, especially
to women, but to both genders is gradually - insidiously - wear away at
their self-esteem. If divorce devastates one's self-esteem:
Getting Out into the mainstream and Meet People. = Aerobics class, college
courses, community centers, singles meetings, environmental protection
Overcoming any Fear of Dating (when the time is right).
Coming to grips with Sexual Feelings - Look! You know what you know
and what you want. Figure out a way to deal with your sexuality until ->
Remarriage - Factors in selecting a new mate
Realistic self analysis - know yourself better Know your good points and
the stuff you need to work on.
Go through the whole selection process again - Remember? Stimulus - Value
- Role Fit ????
Evaluate Potential relationships on your new information.
Make Sure You are Ready and Jump Right IN - No reservations.
Remarriage is at least as unstable as 1st Marriages - maybe more - Remarriages
account for about 40%. But, as Butch Hancock says, "Statistics don't
make much difference as long as one person changes their mind!"
Remarriage Factors in need of attention:
Emotions and Commitment P
Psychic (feeling) Remarried
Successful Blended Family Living
Money - sometimes stem from the left over responsibilities of the 1st Marriage.
Sex - be good to yourself and good to your sweetie pie Emotions - 2nd guessing
a spouse based on your 1st experience
Stepparenting = automatic families are not easy.
Complex Kin Relations and Ambiguous Roles Step parent - child relationships
can make or break a remarriage.
Relating to the ex-spouse
Complexity of relationships
Ambiguous Family Boundaries
Normative Ambiguity Guidelines for a happy remarriage and stepfamily
clear up as much unfinished business and emotional garbage as possible
from your previous marriage and divorce
don't make comparisons between your present partner and your ex-spouse
avoid guerilla warfare with your ex-spouse
don't try to forget to allow time for things to develop
make effective use of what you have learned from your previous marriage
The Divorce rate for 1st marriages is about 50% in the U.S., and about
60% for 2nd marriages. Further, remarriages have an average duration of
about 10 years. One of the main reasons for this is that couples underestimate
the complexities of living in a "blended" family situation.
About 20% of U.S. kids live in stepfamilies. Another 20% (roughly) shuttle
between divorced bioparents, many of whom will re/marry. Around 2 of 3
stepfamily re/marriages eventually split up now, vs. about half of first
unions. Most of these re/marriages followed a prior divorce for at least
Where 1st marriages have family trees, blended families have family
For example, typical 3-generational stepfamilies have: from 3 to 6+
co-parents managing 2 to 3+ linked homes, co-raising 3 to 6+ minor children
with 40 to 100+ extended kin.
Full stepfamilies have up to 30 roles (like "step-grandmothers"
and "step-cousins"), compared to 15 roles in normal 3-generational biological
There are now few informed social norms to guide all these adults and
kids in figuring out to conduct normal, daily life. They have to invent
viable new family rules to go with the roles. While their goals are similar,
the personal, family, and social environments for average stepparents often
lead to transitional confusion, stress, mistrust, and strife in and between
linked co-parenting homes, at the very least.
Typical minor stepkids have special developmental tasks to master that
their peers in intact, 1st families don't have. There is typically little
informed community help available to guide co-parents and others in helping
stepkids with these vital emotional tasks.
Uninformed co-parents often expect their multihome stepfamily to act,
feel, and be like a 1-home biological family. This expectation often comes
from one or all co-parents wanting to avoid identifying themselves as a
stepfamily, because of the negative associations ("evil stepmothers", etc.).
Actually it was our children who began using the prefix "step" in front
of brother, sister, dad and mom.
If these challenges are faced creatively, members of the "blended" family
can help build strong bonds among themselves through: Redefining their
losses as simply having new arrangements; Developing new skills in making
decisions as a family; Fostering and strengthening new relationships between
stepparent-to-stepchild and between stepsiblings; Supporting one another
in maintaining original parent-child relationships.
-Stepfamily members have experienced important losses.
-They have no shared family histories or shared ways of doing things.
-They may have very different beliefs.
-Children may have "loyalty conflicts" between the parents he or she lives
with, and the "divorced" parent who lives somewhere else.
-Newly remarried couples may not have enough time alone to adjust to their
While facing these issues may be difficult, stepfamilies should attend
to an array of feelings of: Loneliness in dealing with the losses; Loyalty
conflicts between two parents or two households; Exclusion and isolated
by feelings of guilt and anger; Confusion about right and wrong; Awkwardness
with any member of the original family or stepfamily.
Some very serious indications of a need for intervention: A child vents
his or her anger upon a particular family member. A stepparent or parent
openly favors one of the children. A child resents a stepparent or parent.
Any member of the family gets no enjoyment from normally pleasurable activities
such as learning, going to school, working, playing, or being with friends
Stepfamily Child Discipline ("SCD")?
A fundamental difference is that discipline with stepchildren involves
"your child" or "my child" (or grandchild), rather than "OUR child". This
inevitably breeds stressful loyalty conflicts;
Normally, bioparents discipline their children without fear of being lastingly
rejected by them.
Remarrying adults choose each other, primarily - especially if the remarrying
bioparent is non-custodial. Normally, the children's' opinions about bringing
a new adult into their family aren't given equal weight ("unfairly", from
their point of view). The reality is that a stepparent may not like their
stepchild - or vice versa.
Remarriage often requires an "instant" merger of CD rules from adults'
prior families (including single-parent families), vs. the gradual evolution
of rules in biofamilies. This can be particularly stressful if one of the
adults has never parented before;
The act of remarriage often causes significant changes in adults' and children's'
expectations. For example: "Yesterday, I was your Mom's boyfriend, but
today, I'm your stepfather. Now I have both the responsibility and right
to discipline you - but I didn't, yesterday."
If child visitations are involved, kids and adults may experience 3 conflicting
sets of disciplinary rules: prior family, custodial family, and non-custcldial
family or household. This gets even more complex, considering the added
CD rules in grandparents', stepgrandparents', and step/relatives' homes;
If relations between divorced parents remain hostile, arguments or behaviors
may become a vehicle for them to continue their pre-divorce fighting.
Booth, A., & Edwards, J. (1992). Starting over: Why remarriages
are more unstable, J. Family Issues, 13. 179-194. Remarriages are more
likely to have attributes that affect the quality and stability of marriage,
all of which were increased when both partners were in a remarriage. Remarriages
were more likely to be less integrated with family and friends. Women were
more likely than men to feel that they could comfortably leave a remarriage.
Men in remarriages are more likely to have lower SES. Partners are more
willing to leave a remarriage with less dissatisfaction than those in a
Coleman, M., Ganong, L., Goodwin, C. (1994). the presentation of Step
families in Marriage and Family Textbooks. Family Relations, 43, 289-297.
MacDonald, W. & DeMaris, A. (1995). Remarriage, stepchildren, and
marital conflict: Challenges to the incomplete institutionalization hypothesis.
JMF, 57, 387-398. The impact of stepchildren depends on the length of marriage.
Couples with both step and biological children do not experience more conflict
than those with only biological children.
Montgomery, M., Anderson, E., Hetherington, E., & Clingempeel, W.
(1992). Patterns of courtship for remarriage: Implications for child adjustment
and parent-child relationships, JMF, 54, 686-698. Children of cohabiting
couples were more socially competent throughout the two year period following
remarriage. The longer the amount of time spent in a single-parent household,
the more difficult the relationship between stepfather and stepchildren.
Zeppa, A., & Norem, R. (1993) Stressors, manifestations of stress,
and first-family/stepfamily group membership. J. Divorce & Remarriage,
Forward to Marriage as a Struggle
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