Unlike the end of a marriage, parenthood lasts until our final breath is taken. Fitting those parental traditions and responsibilities into the context of a new marriage is worthy of considerable discussion and planning right from the start; but it’s never too late to make changes.
The increased probability of divorce for second marriages is largely attributed to the inability of new partners to agree on the appropriate levels of time, money and influence devoted to children from a previous relationship. Adult children seem to present a greater conflict and adult children with their own children (one’s grandchild) offer even more significant opportunities for disagreement. Couples unable to reach consensus on matters pertaining to the interaction with the children will soon find a space opening up in their relationship large enough for a wedge.
As it relates to marriage, the function of a wedge is to separate or isolate an issue and turn it into an obstacle. People faced with an obstacle are inclined toward a negative attitude about the prospect of its removal. Eventually, these negative views give way to pessimism about the relationship in which the problem exists. To take the idea a step further, pessimism often leads to a premature and unnecessary defeat. Ultimately, if we accept defeat we surrender.
What we surrender is power…both as an individual and as a partnership. External pressures and perceptions are allowed to wear down our resistance and constantly giving in to other people’s wants and needs eventually strips us of our personal power. When we have no power in a relationship we are insecure and our value is diminished.
Internalized guilt, unrealistic expectations and a distorted sense of obligation are but a few of the things that cause us to view what should be our choice, as our responsibility; and the sad truth is that we allow it. It is said that we teach people how to treat us by our tolerance of their behaviors. Accepting malicious actions or abusive words and assuming responsibilities that clearly belong to our adult children becomes our stamp of approval.
Couples who are guided by what is right and best for their marriage will soon recognize the fear and cowardice in choices driven by guilt or the manipulation of others. Nobody can or should try to be all things to all people…especially their children. The stakes keep getting raised as the power shifts and control is relinquished. The goal of raising self-confident adults who are able to care for and manage their lives can easily be destroyed by our own doing.
Whether you are in the midst of a crisis or seeking to avoid one, together with your spouse determine what your levels of tolerance and acceptance will be. In addition to the unique situations you have already encountered, develop a position on lending money, child care or moving back home. Stand together when these limits are challenged or questioned and make exceptions only when they are mutually agreeable. Establishing a new order for our lives may take some work but unlike the choices of our adult children, the security of a solid marital partnership is within our control.