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Why Stepcouples Get Into Trouble

September 23rd, 2009

All right!  I’ll be honest with you.  SOME REMARRIAGES DON’T WORK.  57441053They’re painful and often they don’t last long.  The divorce rate for remarriage where children are involved is probably over 60%.  (It’s hard to get a consistent statistic on this.)

There are many things that push stepcouples to early divorce. Marrying too quickly due to loneliness and fear of being alone is a common mistake.  Some marry people they had affairs with, therefore going immediately from the frying pan into the fire with no recovery period.  Most of the experts say it takes from two to three years to recover from a separation and divorce.  People need time to unravel from the previous relationship. They need to understand what went wrong.

People need to recognize and deal with the sadness, guilt and anger over the previous marriage failure. This period is an emotional roller coaster. They also need to build new relationships with their children as single parents. These are all the necessary tasks and challenges in moving from divorce to a successful stepcouple relationship… later on.

Unfortunately people make precipitous, uninformed decisions about remarrying.  Love, of course, is a powerful drug.  People get wrapped up with new partners in many ways – love, power, sex, looks, intellect, money, beautiful house, good cook, good dancer…you name it. It all feels so good. They have no idea what they’re getting into. They make promises they can’t keep.

I’ve seen many such stepcouples.  When they finally come to my office it’s clear that they have little in common.  They’re struggling with stepkids, there’s resentment and guilt all over the place, and they’re blaming each other for all of it. It’s like her and her kids VS him and his kids in one house.  I’ve seen houses partitioned off – his kids stay in the basement rec area, her kids can come upstairs and hang out with Mom.  The stepcouple is either actively fighting or exercising the silent treatment.  They SAY they love each other very much, and during their weekends off with no children, they get back together and have a swell time.   But their styles, values, and relationships are clearly in conflict.

It’s my belief that stepcouples’ overwhelming attraction with each other (aka blind love) can keep them from talking honestly and openly, asking important questions, and really learning about each other in deep and important ways.

Note: For those of you out there who can relate to this article, it’s not too late to start talking and listening to each other.  Be curious and be respectful.  See what happens.  You might be surprised.

Post your comments.

Susan Wisdom, LPC
September 2009

Joan Kennedy At The Funeral

September 4th, 2009

I was touched but not surprised by Joan Kennedy’s appearance at her ex-spouse’s funeral. She was, after all, married to this man for 25 years and raised 3 children with him. They’ve been divorced for many years – it’s hardly fresh. Hopefully time heals hurts and wounds.

Re: relationships between spouses and ex-spousesA developmental process

As a counselor I’ve seen everything over the years from complete hostility …don’t even MENTION the exes’ name… to almost communal living of first and second families. It depends on the players, the circumstances and timing.

I believe there’s a developmental process of first dealing with the stress and grief of a failed marriage and then regrouping and restructuring the boundaries. It happened to me. After the shock of my first husband leaving me alone with my kids, it took me a while to GET IT and ADJUST to it. I was deeply hurt and furious with him. I hated him and the woman he left me for.

Then I met David. We fell in love. I was young, naïve and totally idealistic that I could move right in and easily raise his and my kids together. (Thank God, no one today is as naïve and uninformed as I was!) My three stepkids were reeling from the loss of their mother, and they took it out on me. I hated her for dumping her three angry kids in my lap.

The wounds have healed over the years. And yes, I can greet and spend time with our two exes…chat with them, get caught up about old friends and family etc. And yes, I can imagine us both at our exes’ funeral services for our kids’ sake as well as history that started and ended a long time ago. It’s a developmental process.

Susan Wisdom
September 2009

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