As many of you are preparing to re-marry, you probably have expectations of what life will be like with your new spouse and new family. You’re thinking something along the lines of “happily ever after” perhaps? Sorry to burst your bubble but let’s take time out for a quick reality check.
People rarely have a clue what a relationship with a step-child will be like. It’s not because we’re stupid. It’s just that there aren’t any guide books for step families. We just assume it’s ok to play by biological family rules. This leads to many false assumptions. Today, I’d like to look at some of the most common and present a more realistic view of what you’re likely to experience.
1. I get along fine with the children now, so our relationship will only improve once I’m married to their parent.
Children view their relationship with you VERY differently once you are married to their parent. Things are permanent now. Any hopes they may have been holding onto about mom and dad reconciling are dead, and you’re a part of that death. This quite obviously can cause serious resentment.
2. The kids are only over every other weekend. That shouldn’t cause much of a disruption to our home life.
Just because a child is over every other weekend, doesn’t mean they can’t wreak havoc on your home and life. I receive tons of questions from fledgling step-parents struggling with what to do to manage what they view as the “disruption” to their lives when the kids come to visit. It’s not that they don’t like the kids, it’s just that their usual schedule gets turned topsy turvy.
3. My partner loves me, so naturally the kids will too.
Nowhere does it say that just because a child’s parent loves you, that they have to. Many kids have the opinion that they already have 2 parents and they aren’t interested in having any more. Your goal should be for a civil, friendly relationship rather than one full of love. If you get love, great! But, don’t count on it.
4. I’m an adult… How tough can it be to win a kid over?
It can be VERY difficult to “win over” a step-child. The problem is your attitude. It’s really a manipulative one. Rather than “win” them over, the focus needs to be on being present in their lives and slowly trying to build a relationship with them.
5. I won’t have to be the “bad guy” with these kids. My spouse will take care of all the discipline.
While this SHOULD be the way things go, it rarely does. Most of the time single parents are so happy to have another adult in the house, they expect that person to step in and share the responsibility of discipline.
6. My new spouse will make sure the kids treat me with respect.
This is another one that SHOULD happen, but unfortunately a lot of parents are still wrestling with a sense of guilt over breaking up the family. The guilt continues as the parent feels that the children are being forced into a new and different family. A lot of times this guilt plays out by parents not requiring their children to treat the new member of the family (that would be you, by the way) with the respect they deserve.
There are a lot of factors that determine what your relationship with your step-child will look like. Today we looked at the most typical of reactions. Want to find out other differences to expect in a remarriage? If so, I’d like to invite you to visit www.RemarriageSuccess.com/e-course.htm to register for our free 5 day e-course focusing specifically on what the differences are. You can also visit www.RemarriageSuccess.com for additional information and resources on how to prepare as a couple and a family for remarriage. Alyssa Johnson, MSW, LCSW is the founder and CEO of Remarriage Success. She may be reached through her website at www.RemarriageSuccess.com/contact.htm where she encourages your feedback and suggestions.