After a divorce, there comes a time that you may want to get involved in a serious relationship again. In fact, 75 percent of people do and decide to remarry. And, though the upside is that you meet someone and fall in love, the downside tends to be worse if you have underage children.
A whopping 66 percent of remarriages with children fail, according to the Step Family Foundation. I’m sure if you’re reading this and are considering plunging into a second marriage, you do not believe it will happen to you. I know I didn’t think so, but it did.
My second marriage ended in a divorce and it was extremely contentious for us all. When I remarried my two sons were eight and five, which would be close to the “perfect” age by all accounts, but numbers do not tell the whole story.
When reading statistics, you hear the so-called facts, but you don’t hear the whole truth. The truth is, remarrying while your children are under 18 is detrimental to their healing, your parenting and your relationship with them. That’s not to say that over age 18 becomes a magical time to remarry since there will still be struggles and growing pains, but it is far better since you will have raised them with your beliefs.
Of course, there are exceptional people that can overcome all odds. but for us mere mortals I recommend dating for fun until the kids are up and out.
For us mere mortals I recommend dating for fun until the kids are up and out of the house because remarriage with underage children can end in disaster.
1. Inherent obstacles. Second marriages with children face obstacles that first marriages don’t. First, there is the obvious that a lot more players are instantly involved — but more than that you will often be forced to change a behavior of your own or your children’s simply because your spouse has a problem with it. If you don’t “give in” to your spouse he/she will have an attitude with you and your children making the home life stressful.
2. Compromise overload. We all know that compromise and open communication are the cornerstones of any good relationship, but when you must compromise because your spouse doesn’t like how your child holds his fork or doesn’t believe you should still be making their school lunches while they are in high school, where do you draw the line? This will become a bone of contention and resentment will fester.
3. No private time. We marry because we want to be with the person we love. We want to be with him/her and get naked a lot. With young or school-aged children that can be a daunting task. This new family configuration can cause stress and tension for new spouses who need private time for intimacy and for just having fun. It’s common for newly married couples to crave time alone, but when weekends with the ex-get canceled or re-routed, it oftentimes leaves little alone time and lots of room for arguments.
4. When the ex- doesn’t feel like an ex? The constant presence of an ex, in person or in an inbox, is a dynamic unique to blended families. Couples without children typically don’t interact regularly with their partners’ former lovers. Those ghosts don’t attend sporting events and birthday parties. Regularly having to interact with an ex can cause stress for both parties, even if the overall relationships are positive. When a former relationship is high conflict, the stress grows exponentially.
5. You bought your kids more stuff. Financial issues are a big stressor for all married folks, but it is magnified 10-fold in step-families. If there are hers and his, both parents should set spending boundaries or it will get combative. If one parent gets quite a bit of child support and sees nothing wrong with splurging on high-end clothing and accessories on their children, while their step-children are getting clothes from Target, resentment will flourish. Or, if your spouse doesn’t have kids he/she may still not approve of the amount being spent on your children.
6. The kids just left and you’re already on the phone with them. If your children go with their bio-parent for a weekend or a long trip, there will be many times they will miss you and want to talk or text depending on their ages. Your spouse will be overly excited that the children are gone and it is finally time for the two of you. This is understandable, but he/she may get resentful if one of your kids feels the need to constantly call or text while they are away. How will you handle your pouting spouse and your crying child simultaneously?
7. Difficulty putting your children first. Children’s needs should come first. That holds true even if you are married to their father or mother. In intact families, the marriage must take precedence to preserve it for the sake of the family staying together happily. However, when a divorce occurs children go through a very difficult period and need to know they are the number one priority. That is not possible if their parents are self-involved in a new marriage, while their children are still needy and are underage. Sadly, new marriages can leave children feeling neglected and tossed aside.
8. Your kids don’t like him/her. If you or your spouse feel left out of conversations regarding yours/their kids, or, no matter what you do you know they do not like you, you are not alone. The arrival of a step-parent is not what your child bargained for, in fact they never asked for the divorce either. Do not expect miracles, cozy family moments, and high-fives anytime soon. In fact, you may find your new loving spouse start to get nasty and lose patience with your children since they don’t believe they deserve the treatment they are getting from your kids.
9. The punishment doesn’t always fit the crime. It’s normal for men and women to view parenting and discipline differently. Your new spouse oftentimes may not agree with your discipline style and demand that you “do something” that they want you to do to discipline your child. Are you ready to compromise on your beliefs?
10. It feels like my every action is being analyzed. Being a parent is tough under the best of circumstances, but when you bring a relative stranger into your children’s world, it tests your loyalty and your love. Your every decision will be scrutinized and analyzed by your new spouse until your head spins. You will be judged and pushed to make changes you will not be comfortable with. It will change the way you parent and your Mama Bear gene will kick in big time. The person you thought you were marrying, who you thought would be the perfect fit for your little family, will suddenly become a person you do not recognize at times.
From someone who lived it, my advice is to put your kids first until they are adults and then your life is your own. If you plan on remarrying anyway, remember it’s important to be realistic about your expectations, as well as patient and kind to one another. And remember that I warned you, those pesky resentments tend to take on a life of their own.