I’ve done a great deal of reading about stepfamilies. In the early days, I think I thought that if I just did enough research this would be easy. I have probably read at least 20 books on the subject. In the early days, I have heard many theories about what makes a stepfamily more challenging than a first family, but when listening to a radio program recently, I heard (for the first time) a concept that made sense to me.
One of the main differences between a first family and a second or subsequent family is who is on your team. When you get married for the first time, everyone wants you to succeed. You parents want the marriage to work, your friends want the marriage to work, and when you have children they are more invested than anyone in having the marriage work. Many, many people are on your team.
When you get married for a second time, the picture may look very different. Your parents, in the best of circumstances, may be skeptical and reluctant to embrace the new spouse for fear he or she will end up leaving the family like the first spouse did. In a worse scenario, the parents may actually prefer the first spouse and therefore have some loyalty issues making it difficult to accept the “new” spouse.
Friends who used to be couple friends during your first marriage may have the same kinds of challenges. Will accepting the new spouse be a betrayal of the first spouse who was at one time their friend too?
And children from previous marriages more likely than not are rooting for your marriage to fail in those early years. You and your spouse having a strong marriage threatens rather than strengthens the family they know and with which they are familiar and comfortable. So, at least in the beginning they may be rooting against your success.
So, who is on your team? Who is rooting for you? Other people who are in stepfamilies – that’s who! They are invested in your success because they understand your unique challenges and in some small way your success bodes well for their success.
In time, hopefully, your parents will come around. Your friends will too, and if they don’t, you will find new friends who are used to you and your new spouse as a couple. With any luck, even the children from your first marriage will eventually adjust to this new family and start rooting for you to succeed. Until that happens, find other stepfamilies when you need a cheerleader to build you up and encourage you through the rough patches.