Courtship Marriage and the Family
Topic 18 -
Remarriage and Stepfamilies
During this process, divorced
persons may encounter:
- Grief-work: Coping with Loss and stopping the
emotions. Grief = psychological distress due to a personal loss.
- Intensity of feeling: comes and goes and is
degree of identity devoted to spouse role. Those who really want out of
a marriage will suffer less than those who
want the marriage to
- Duration: some say it takes about as long to get
as it does to endure one in the first place. Depends on a person's
of mind - three months to couple of years.
- Avoiding Self Pity: The difference between
happened and Wallowing in remorse or sadness.
Reunion fantasies and
These are culturally based -
supposed to be sad during all this.
Facilitation of grief-work with the help of others such as self-help
in church or community. Don't forget friends.
Depression, Anger and Guilt
- Depression = sadness, self-blame, hopelessness. This is not
but is Event Precipitated and gradually lessens over time
- Anger must be resolved in order to be dispatched. Directed
one is angry with - this means further communication with the Ex.
- Guilt - over having hurt someone - reasonable amounts of
of a healthy conscience. Unreasonable amounts of guilt only prolong the
- Rational measures are appropriate: - write down the pros
marriage - try to understand what has happened.
- Such Questions As: Anxiety about the future? Will I ever
Did I find it the first time and lose it? Why do people hate me so
I will never have sex again.
In order for a successful
begin, the divorced person
come to grips with the issues surrounding the divorce. Write it all
Keep a journal!
in the Past Marriage: Realistically
taking stock of one's
abilities and deficiencies.
a little counseling trick that illuminates personality development in
(it'll help with adjusting to divorce too!).
- Combating Loneliness = a feeling of unconnectedness with
- The Situationally Lonely = being lonely was precipitated by
a death, a divorce, or other.
- The Chronically Lonely = lack social or interpersonal
to make others feel comfortable.
- Loners = those who are at home with themselves, comfortable
- Loneliness Traps: -viewing loneliness as a weakness
on -meaningless sexual episodes -love and marriage on the rebound
- Coping with reality demands - life goes on - walk it off!
about life is it continues with you or without you.
Establishing a New Identity - People suggest that events sometimes
change them - "The War Changed Him" or "My divorce embittered
people are simply unaware of some of their capabilities or deficiencies
in the skills area prior to these "life changing events"
Remarriage - Factors in selecting
A "New Identity" may really mean completing the old one that
finished in high school.
B. 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:
C. Get Out into the mainstream and Meet People. = Aerobics class,
courses, community centers, singles meetings, environmental protection
D. Overcome any Fear of Dating (when the time is right).
E. Come 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
F. You learn how to Love Again - > By resolving old problems, one
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!
Those who remarry must go
through the processes of dating and
mate selection again. Dating when one is older may be
divorced people intend to remarry eventually, and dating is
instrumental toward that end. While there is no set amount of
that is ideal in every situation, in general, a period of three to five
years before remarriage seems optimal. Most people do not wait
to five years. An important way of preparing
for any marriage,
including a second one, is for the couple to discuss significant issues
and potential problems. People remarry for many of the same reasons
they married initially; in particular, people wish to establish an
intimate relationship. The most frequently given
reason that “it was time” probably reflects the felt need for intimacy.
Many people enter a
marriage holding on to certain
mythical beliefs that can be detrimental. As in the case of
first marriages, those who remarry may act on the basis of myths.
- Emotions and Commitment
- Parental Responsibilities
- Psychic (feeling) Remarried
- Community Ties
- Economic Responsibilities
1.People who are remarrying
things must work out.
an individual may believe that
success this time
demands that he or she put personal needs secondary to those of spouse
feel that they should be an
individual first and a
couple second, based on their experiences in a first
remarry focus on the positive and
believe that they need to remember
mistakes made in the first marriage and avoid
6. For some
remarry, happiness becomes even more
of an imperative in the second than in the first marriage.
There are certain challenges
complex kin relationships and ambiguous roles.
problematic relationships, there
may be unresolved emotional issues from the first marriage and the
continue to nag people and affect their relationships.
perhaps the biggest problem to a
issues are likely to loom almost as
large as children as a source of stress in remarriages.
5. There are
laws specific to stepparent-stepchild
relationships. The legal issues involved with remarriages reflect
Problems: The same
factors that lead to satisfaction in a first marriage
are also important in any subsequent marriage.
Failure in a first
marriage has no necessary bearing on the quality of a second
The quality of remarried life differs. Remarried
couples may not
deal with conflict as effectively as the first-married. If there
special challenges, there may also be unique strengths in second
marriages. In sum, the marital relationship of the remarried can
satisfying as that of the first-married.
Money - sometimes stem from the left over responsibilities of the 1st
Sex - be good to yourself and good to your sweetie pie Emotions - 2nd
guessing a spouse based on your 1st experience
Step-parenting = automatic families are not easy.
Complex Kin Relations and Ambiguous Roles Step parent - child
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
Successful Blended Family Living
- clear up as much unfinished business and emotional
from your previous marriage and divorce
- don't make comparisons between your present partner and
- avoid guerrilla 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
There are many ways to
couples. At the time
of remarriage, the man and woman each were in
one of five different
conditions: single, divorced or widowed with no children, divorced or
widowed with custody of children, divorced or widowed without custody
of children, or divorced or widowed with custody of some children but
not others.. Of the more than two million Americans
each year, the majority will eventually remarry. Half of those
remarry after a divorce do so within about three years. The
probability of remarriage varies by a number of different
general, the rate of divorce for remarrieds is slightly higher than
that for first marriages. Children are an important factor in the
stability of a remarriage. One other type of remarriage that is
unstable is the serial marriage pattern, in which three or more
marriages that occur as a result of repeated divorces or widowhood. 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
the complexities of living in a "blended" family situation.
A stepfamily is built upon
loss of the earlier family with
its unique identity, history, and shared expectations. There are
many challenges posed by the stepfamily life cycle, by the
structure of the stepfamily, and by the troublesome
stepparent-stepchild relationship. The first phase of the stepfamily
life cycle involves the
“turbulent first two years.” An important source of trouble in this
phase is the unrealistic expectations that people
bring to the
stepfamily. In the second phase, from the third to the fifth
stepfamilies are in the “golden period,” or a kind of tranquil
From about the sixth year on, the stepfamily enters
the phase of
“singing in the rain.” Some things get better, while others get
Stepfamilies function somewhat
differently than other families
because of certain structural differences.
- Stepfamilies are more complex because of the
number of relationships.
- Family boundaries - rules about who is a member of the
how much each member participates in family life - are likely to be
ambiguous in the stepfamily.
- There are different ways of defining
family: in terms of retention, substitution, reduction, and
- Fewer cultural norms exist to deal with life in the
than in the intact family, so there is more normative ambiguity.
- About 20% of U.S. kids live in stepfamilies. Another 20%
between divorced biological parents, many of whom will re/marry.
- Around 2 of 3
stepfamily re/marriages eventually split up now, vs. about half of
unions. Most of these re/marriages followed a prior divorce for at
Where 1st marriages have family
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
with 40 to 100+ extended kin.
Full stepfamilies have up to 30 roles (like
and "step-cousins"), compared to 15 roles in normal 3-generational
families. There are now few informed social norms to guide all
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
the personal, family, and social environments for average stepparents
lead to transitional confusion, stress, mistrust, and strife in and
linked co-parenting homes, at the very least.
Typical minor stepchildren have
developmental tasks to master
their peers in intact, 1st families don't have. There is typically
informed community help available to guide co-parents and others in
stepchildren with these vital emotional tasks. Uninformed co-parents
expect their multi-home stepfamily to
feel, and be like a 1-home biological family. This expectation often
from one or all co-parents wanting to avoid identifying themselves as a
stepfamily, because of the negative associations ("evil stepmothers",
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"
can help build strong bonds among themselves through: Redefining their
losses as simply having new arrangements; Developing new skills in
decisions as a family; Fostering and strengthening new relationships
stepparent-to-stepchild and between stepsiblings; Supporting one
in maintaining original parent-child relationships.
- -Stepfamily members have experienced important losses.
- -They have no shared family histories or shared ways of
- -They may have very different beliefs.
- -Children may have "loyalty conflicts" between the parents
with, and the "divorced" parent who lives somewhere else.
- -Newly remarried couples may not have enough time alone to
While facing these issues may be
difficult, stepfamilies should
to an array of feelings of: Loneliness in dealing with the losses;
conflicts between two parents or two households; Exclusion and isolated
by feelings of guilt and anger; Confusion about right and wrong;
with any member of the original family or stepfamily.
Some very serious indications of
for intervention: A child
his or her anger upon a particular family member. A stepparent or
openly favors one of the children. A child resents a stepparent or
Any member of the family gets no enjoyment from normally pleasurable
such as learning, going to school, working, playing, or being with
Stepfamily and Child
- A fundamental difference is that discipline with
"your child" or "my child" (or grandchild), rather than "OUR child".
inevitably breeds stressful loyalty conflicts;
- Normally, biological parents discipline their children
lastingly rejected by them.
- Remarrying adults choose each other, primarily - especially
remarrying biological parents is non-custodial. Normally, the
about bringing a new adult into their family aren't given equal weight
("unfairly", from their point of view). The reality is that a
may not like their stepchild - or vice versa.
- Remarriage often requires an "instant" merger of CD rules
prior families (including single-parent families), vs. the gradual
of rules in biological families. This can be particularly stressful if
adults has never parented before;
- The act of remarriage often causes significant changes in
and children's' expectations. For example: "Yesterday, I was your Mom's
boyfriend, but today, I'm your stepfather. Now I have both the
and right to discipline you - but I didn't, yesterday."
- If child visitations are involved, kids and adults may
3 conflicting sets of disciplinary rules: prior family, custodial
and non-custodial family or household. This gets even more complex,
the added CD rules in grandparents', step-grandparents', and
- If relations between divorced parents remain hostile,
or behaviors may become a vehicle for them to continue their
Increasing numbers of people
experience stepparenting so attitudes
may be improving. But students generally tend to react negatively
to the very terms step-parent and step-child. These negative
perceptions may be rooted in experience. Older children may pose
more problems for a stepparent than do younger
- Because of custody arrangements over the past few decades,
step-fathering with custody of the child has been more common than
step-mothering with custody. Stepchildren themselves report less
support, control, and punishment from stepfathers
than do children from biological fathers. The
difficulties notwithstanding, many stepfathers are satisfied with their
roles and experience a positive parenting experience. Discipline
of stepchildren is a particularly problematic
- Mothers reported themselves responding as positively to
stepchildren as to their biological children. Despite the “wicked
stepmother” stereotype, step-mothering isn’t necessarily a painful
- Stepparents are more likely than biological parents to
strains on their marriage from the parenting experience. Wives
are more likely to see their marital relationship
affected by their husbands’ relationships with the children than vice
versa. There are a variety of reasons stepchildren can adversely
affect the marital relationship.
- In spite of the problems that can arise, the majority of
in stepfamilies are satisfied with their stepparents and are
well-adjusted. Children in stepfamilies do exhibit more behavior
problems of various kinds, but these children are not lower in
self-esteem, psychological functioning, or academic achievement than
those in intact families.
Stepfamilies tend to have less
closeness between members and less
ability to change when confronted with stress than do intact
families. This does not mean that all
stepfamilies are in trouble; they also have a number of
strengths. In stepfamilies, new people with new ideas and skills
are encountered, which are sources of new opportunities for
children. In sum, stepfamily life has both advantages and
marriages, including those involving stepfamilies, can work out
well and be stable and satisfying. The same factors that make a
first marriage work well also apply to a second marriage.
Stepfamilies work well to the extent that they confront and adequately
respond to a number of challenges and tasks. In sum, remarriage
and the stepfamily represent another effort to create meaningful
intimate relationships after the first effort has failed.