Every marriage contains unique issues. Many couples - in attempt to prepare for the challenges of remarriage - attend pre-marital counseling, read books and online articles, and seek help from friends and family. Individuals that are contemplating remarriage already know that the relationship will have its “ups and downs”. They know that everything won’t always be “peaches and cream” and they understand that relationships aren’t easy. They know this because they have been married before. It is mistakenly believed that people, who have been married previously, know what to expect in the remarriage. However, it is the unmet expectations that an individual carries into their remarriage that can lead to their marriage’s demise.
Getting a candid response from friends and remarried relatives can be difficult for some individuals to attain, for more reasons than I can list. However, a candid friend or relative would tell you many things about their remarriage experience, and would probably want you to know the following:
1.There is unspoken pressure to make the relationship “work”. Many couples want their current marriage to redeem them from the previous failed marriage (or string of failed marriages). Therefore there is a lot of negative pressure in many remarriages. Remarriages with children are usually under a lot of pressure due to the fact that there is an “instant family” of sorts. Couples may also be fearful or have anxiety concerning the appearance of success in their relationship. They may act like things are better than they are. Embarrassment may keep them from seeking help for issues in the relationship. The amount of pressure that remarried couples feel varies by couple.
2.You might argue on auto-pilot. Some couples approach disagreements with the same passion and temperament that they used with the previous spouse. Ever get the feeling that she is overreacting when you argue? Are you ever confused when he begins to list the things that you “always” do to upset him; because there are not many things on the list that you can actually claim? This is sometimes what happens when individuals have baggage from previous relationships. Couples sometimes argue on auto-pilot. Whatever happened in the current marriage hit a “button”, triggering a response that was, until recently, reserved for the previous spouse. This automated response is usually negative.
3. At some point in the remarriage you will sincerely believe that you have “discovered” the reason why your mate’s first marriage didn’t work out. Not to worry; your mate is making the same “discovery” about you. Do not declare this discovery to your spouse - regardless of how tempting it is to do so. Instead, write in a journal or find a positive way to deal with your feelings. These feelings are usually fleeting, and are often forgotten until the next disagreement.
4. In a blended family 50/50 is the exception, not the rule. While splitting everything equally may fit our childhood definition of fairness, it is often not feasible in a blended family. There will be times when a stepparent will bear the brunt of the marital, familial and/or financial responsibilities. A stepmother may end up in a situation which requires her to be the predominate caretaker of a stepchild. A stepfather may end up in a situation which requires him to carry the majority of the household expenses - including any expenses incurred by a stepchild. Any stepparent could, at any time, be in a situation where they bear the majority of the financial responsibility for the household while simultaneously being the predominate caretaker of a stepchild. This ebb and flow happens in many marriages. Due to baggage from previous relationships and/or financial over-exertion, couples in blended families may find the 50/50 concept to be a contentious “hot spot”.
5. When it comes to raising children/stepchildren; couples may share the burden equally, but not the success. A stepparent that helps their stepchild with homework, attends their extracurricular activities, and/or does other things that are advantageous for their stepchild; does not always get the “pat on the back” for their efforts (as they would for their biological children). It is uncommon to see a stepparent honored at a special function that acknowledges parents – such as an awards ceremony, or a wedding. However, good stepparents nurse their sick stepchildren back to health, take on the financial responsibility of parenting, and do many things that biological parents do - even if no one says “Thanks” because that is what they would do for a biological child.
6. It’s not easy to deal with a person’s ex. While there are many remarried couples that get along with their exes, there are just as many that do not. When exes don’t get along, things can become difficult. A stepparent can find themselves as the object of scrutiny, the reason for parental alienation and the solution to their mates back child support issues. This can be emotionally draining. A stepparent in this situation should try to find emotional support for themselves. Support groups, marriage counseling and stepparenting education/training courses and a decent lawyer are all great things for stepparents in this situation.
7. Your stepchild may like you while you are dating their parent, but could change their mind about you after the wedding (or on the actual wedding day). When you are dating their parent, your stepchild thinks of you as just a “nice adult”-one similar to a friend or a favorite teacher. Once you marry the child’s parent they may see you as a threat. They may feel like they have to compete for their parents attention, and/or they may be sad because your marriage to their parent means that there is absolutely no hope of their birth parents getting back together. Your stepchild may be grieving. During this time it is important to realize that their behavior isn’t a reflection on you as a person. This could happen to any stepchild with any stepparent.
What experiences would you share with someone who is contemplating remarriage?
No blended family or remarriage is exactly the same. Each person brings a unique history and a set of experiences that help to shape how they will respond in their blended family and remarriage. During the first year of remarriage, it is in the couple’s best interest to join a marriage support group and/or attend marriage enrichment classes after completing any regular counseling sessions.