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All relationships have their complications, but stepfamilies create a web of relationships and inter-relationships that make the average spider’s overnight spinning look simple in comparison.
Consider these possible variations: the woman may be wife, ex-wife, mother and stepmother. Her relationships might include her husband, her ex-husband, her children and her stepchildren, and her stepchildren’s ¬mother who is her new husband’s ex-wife. If her ex-husband has ¬remarried, then her relationship circle also includes his wife who is now her children’s stepmother. And, his new wife might have children of her own.
Change the genders and the man/husband/father’s roles are just as complex…
Considering that each individual relationship comes with its own set of potholes, it isn’t any wonder that the blended family might be in for a bumpy ride. For example:
• Feelings of loss and grief, guilt, anger, jealousy, loyalty conflicts, resentments, hurt and betrayal, rejection — these are just a few of the feelings family members may experience. Parents who are undergoing the stress and tension of divorce and remarriage may have less time and stamina to deal with their own feelings let alone the children’s emotional turmoil.
• New and different ways of doing things. When a family is forming, the members have no shared family histories or shared ways of doing things. From the way the table is set and how the holidays are celebrated to ¬discipline and chores — everything must sorted out, discussed, and agreed upon.
Breaking Up Is Hard to Do (But You Can Lessen Its Distress)
Nobody enjoys a break-up, but you can take certain steps to minimize harm.
Whether children are involved or not, ending a marriage or partnership challenges us like nothing else. The term “good divorce” can seem a contradiction in terms. And yet, there are things we can do, practices we can bring into our lives that will help us navigate the big waves and the roiling waters.Take care of yourself. Attend to your physical and emotional needs, taking time to rest and heal during this stressful period. Minimize change for yourself and your children. Whether or not you have custody, whenever possible, keep your routines, rhythms, and habits the same. Discipline the children and maintain the rules that always have been in force.
Good parenting can be even more challenging after divorce; what is it that children need during this time?
To be a good parent demands untold commitment and requires that you make countless decisions every day—about babysitters, schools, friends, bedtime and homework routines. It’s not a glamorous job, but it promises the greatest reward one could ever ask for: a child’s love.But when separation, divorce or remarriage occurs, parenting becomes co-parenting, and what is a tough job can seem unbearable. Everything is more complicated and you are likely, at times, to feel overwhelmed and exhausted. Co-parenting can be a breeding ground for hostility and conflict. Feelings of anger, sadness and bitterness can be intense. With all the extra juggling, it’s easy to forget that, at these times, children’s needs intensify. They have been robbed of security and stability, their loyalty is being tested, and they are often bewildered, frightened and distressed.
How Well Do You Part Ways?
Breaking up is hard to do. But it doesn’t have to be devastating.
Whether there are children involved or not, ending a marriage or partnership challenges us in ways that not much else does. The term “good divorce” seems a contradiction in terms. And yet, there are things we can do, practices we can bring into our lives that will help us navigate the big waves and the roiling waters. Take the quiz below to see how many of them you have employed and to gain ideas for how break-ups might go better.
1. I don’t hesitate to express my feelings. I just don’t always communicate them to the other person. For example, if I’m angry, I might pound my bed or a pillow. Or I might journal or paint furious red canvases.
2. If I’m feeling hopeless or discouraged about this new phase, I seek support from a counselor, clergy member or friends.
3. I don’t encourage others to take sides against the person with whom I’m ending a relationship.
Special Delivery: Talking to Kids About Divorce
Research shows that children of divorce can suffer serious emotional consequences, some of them long-term. But parents can help mitigate the potential trauma. Here are ways to begin.
When families are separating, the wife and husband can be very absorbed in their own emotions and out of touch with what’s going on with their kids’ feelings, leaving the kids to cope for themselves with the tremendous upheaval in their lives.
It can be a huge emotional weight on children. Numerous studies have shown that children of divorce experience high levels of depression, anxiety, aggression, lower academic achievement and trouble forming personal relationships.
But it is possible for people who need to get divorced to do so in a dignified manner that won’t cause trauma to their children and to address the emotional hazards of divorce in children before problems manifest themselves.
Here are some suggestions for divorcing parents:
Deal with the divorce in a “common language.” Come up with wording that both of you will use to talk about the divorce. Doing so will help reduce confusion and upset.
The Do’s and Don’ts of Dating After Divorce
When most of our communication is spent defending ourselves, there’s not much room for meaningful contact. This quiz helps identify the problem and offers alternative perspectives.
Angie is 47 and recently divorced. She married her high school sweetheart and hasn’t been on a date in 25 years. Toward the end of her marriage, there certainly weren’t a lot of romantic sparks, so she feels completely out of touch with her sensual side. She’s dabbled in online dating and been on a few fix-ups, but couldn’t enjoy herself. She felt so nervous about doing or saying the wrong thing, she was convinced she would never get a second date. Her low self-esteem showed, and she wasn’t able to make a strong connection with anyone.
Whether you’re male or female, if you can relate to Angie’s struggles with dating after divorce, try these tips to dip a toe back into the dating pool. Before you know it, you may be diving right in.
DO Explore Your Playful Side
After divorce, your self-confidence may be low and you may not feel attractive. A great way to reawaken your senses is to explore your playfulness. Put yourself out there, engage with your social network in a light way. Focus on eye contact and open body language. Laugh readily and re-learn how to have fun.