No one likes to makes mistakes, especially publicly. This is why a divorce is such a humbling experience, and yet eventually with time most will come to accept that they made the best choice for a spouse at the time with the information available then. Moving forward (since none of us can go back in time) all we can do is hope to be more cautious while remaining optimistic about the future. And this is how over 60% of those individuals that divorce will eventually remarry, hoping to get it right the second time around.
Unfortunately, second marriages have a fail rate of 70% or more, and sadly not enough is done to really prepare these couples for the major challenges they will face early on, unlike first marriages. Here are 4 major pitfalls I would encourage step-families to avoid:
1. Don’t expect to act like an intact family. You guys are not coming in with a clean slate- probably one or both of you will have a pre-existing obligation to a former spouse, such as child support or alimony, and there will be different custody schedules that have to be worked around for vacations and holidays with your new spouse. Coordinating priorities about time and money is bound to be tough.
2. Don’t think the kids will share in your joy. While they may be happy to see their parents are content with their new found love, that doesn’t mean they accept the situation or want to participate in the formation of a new family structure. Indeed, according to “Stepmonster” by Dr. Wednesday Martin, only about 20% of adult children actually feel close to their stepmother. People will tell you not to take it personally, and they will all feel sorry for the children, but that is of very little comfort to the partner that is being shunned or slighted on a regular basis– especially when that child’s parent fails to be supportive or understanding because s/he is too busy defending his/her offspring.
3. Don’t blur the lines between marital and pre-marital assets. Those assets that existed prior to the marriage are going to be treated differently, not just in divorce court but even in your marriage. Most people will feel territorial about wealth accumulated prior to saying “I do,” and they may set aside the property and funds that are non-marital for purposes that you don’t agree with, and you will have to learn to deal with your emotions and politely voice an objection when it really matters.
4. Don’t expect someone else will love your child like their own. While this may happen over time, it’s simply not possible to have this occur within a short timeframe– especially the older and more resistant a child is to new members of the family. It is simply human nature that we would do for our own children we would never do for anyone else, that is the beauty of a parent’s unconditional love.
If you want to make sure that the odds are in your favor, then accept that blended families will require an extraordinary amount of work, especially in terms of emotionally processing these 4 major pitfalls. Navigating the complexities of a re-structured family is a complex process that will necessitate a lot of patience and compassion. Rarely do families just “blend” despite the fact that we use that term quite often, and when things don’t go smoothly fewer and fewer individuals seem to have the skill set required to sail the high seas, which is why the majority simply choose to abandon ship.
By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.