The40% survival rate for second (and subsequent) marriages is staggering. The fact that success is less likely than that of first marriages defies the wisdom that practice causes perfection. An obvious contributor to the higher failure rate is the immediate presence of children. In a traditional setting a couple spends years developing their own relationship and planning new additions but the creation of a step family is instantaneous. Even though statistics also indicate the number of stepfamilies to be almost equal to that of nuclear families in America, there is no one-size-fits-all method for creating and maintaining a successful blend. Just as two unique individuals decide to come together as a couple, the children they introduce bring their own uniqueness to the mix. A major difference, however, is that they are often thrust into membership in this new society without consent. The circumstances that ended the union of their biological parents and the conditions of their lives during the interim between remarriages will surely impact the future.
The process of setting up your home with items you or your spouse may have brought from your past and blending them with things acquired specifically for your new life is similar to the challenge of incorporating people, personalities and behaviors. What if your new husband plops down a hideous plaid recliner in your perfect Victorian-era living room? Your tact and interpersonal skills in this matter may indicate how well you handle style differences in parenting your children.
Every member brings their personal baggage to the new home. How and when those bags are unpacked is uncertain, but the contents will be revealed. Perhaps when least expected, anger, denial, fear or depression will be released from its container and send your vision of a wonderful future into a tailspin. This is not an exhaustive list of potential contents and there is no statute of limitations.
Change is difficult. The impact of divorce, remarriage and relocation is at the top of any stress measurement scale. Defining new roles weighs heavy on still-fragile structures and the danger of collapse increases when there is no coping mechanism in place. Conflict and struggle lead to despair and left unchecked will destroy hope. Hopelessness causes us to surrender in self protection. Surrender can come in the form of accepting a life resigned to misery; or escaping reality with harmful choices such as drugs, alcohol or infidelity. Ultimately it may mean walking away from yet another marriage.
In the coming weeks we will consider ways to prevent hopelessness and despair. We will encourage and support your valiant efforts to parent another woman’s child while maintaining a strong relationship with your own children. In agreeing to become a step parent we signed up to take an often rocky but rarely impossible road.
The Bible guarantees that this life will bring painful times. What will define our uniqueness will be whether we choose to give up or to take the high-road of growing our own character as a woman, mother and wife.
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