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For years the images of second wives have always wavered from one horrible image to another. If not the gold-digging young tenderoni that the man just wants as a trophy wife; it’s the much younger secretary that the man had an affair with. The woman that the ex-wife claims stole her husband, children and family. Or worst, the second wife is simply viewed as second choice and is perceived as always living in the shadow of his one true love and mother of his children. Perhaps this is the case with some second marriages, but these images shouldn’t be the only ones that we think of when we ponder second marriages. For many men, their second wives are hardly second best, but the true loves of their lives.

My Real Life Love Story

My wonderful husband often tells me that I am his one true love. He says that he didn’t truly know what love was until he experienced it with me. He calls me one of God’s most perfect creations – I love that man!! At any rate, our love definitely doesn’t mirror that of those tarnished images mentioned above.

Wedding Day

We met in high school. I was 14 and he was 15. He played basketball with my brother and some other boys from my neighborhood (he didn’t live in my neighborhood) on occasion. I also saw him everyday in school (between periods) and we would always exchange a friendly ‘hi’ and keep going. He undoubtedly possesed the sweetest, most gentle spirit that you’d ever meet. I immediately felt connected when in his presence and always knew that we would be [connected] in some way. I just didn’t know how and really didn’t give it much thought; it was just something that I keenly felt. We didn’t date in high school, but remained friends. We lost touch, however, for many years after that. I saw him again after college at a local pancake house. I was having breakfast with my mom, cousin and son and he, with his friend. He walked over to me and immediately, that same high school feeling returned. And, he was seemingly the same sweet, gentle individual that I knew long ago. We played catch up for a few minutes and then he walked back to his table. Although I didn’t see a ring and he didn’t mention it, I heard that he was married so that was it – so I thought. As he was getting ready to leave he came back over to our table. He said that he had a son who looked to be about my son’s age, and he would love to get them together sometime. I thought that would be a fabulous idea so we exchanged phone numbers. After playing phone tag for a few weeks, we finally got together, but without the boys! On our first date, he revealed to me that he had been separated for over 2 years and was going through a divorce. Anyway, we literally saw each other almost everyday after our first date, and it felt like we had never been apart.  Our boys got along great! They are only 3 months apart and soon became best friends. To this day, he is still the same sweet, gentle, loving man that I remembered in high school, and after 8 years, it only gets stronger. Our love is not one that was obtained by default; it was by design, God’s design. And, everything that we shared with our past significant others only prepared us to receive and appreciate the true love that we currently share. It’s funny because although I always felt that we’d be connected in some way, even back in high school, I never dreamed that I was passing my true love in those hallways.

I know that there are other second marriage love stories out there. We just rarely hear about them. I want to hear yours. Leave a comment or send me an email telling me about your second marriage love story. In February, BFSO will choose the winning story to post and the winner will receive a gift for sharing.

It is so hard to put into words what I felt when I read J’s entry below because I feel the same way and more. Although, I know that many of you reading this blog  might think “Wow, that is too good to be true…..they must be making this up.” But, we’re not. I have often heard from co-workers and even other friends of mine that my relationship with my husband’s ex-wife is odd, peculiar, too close for comfort and even weird. That how could I be best friends with my husband’s ex-wife. Some of you may be thinking the same way. My answer to all of these is this…. Why shouldn’t we? I think other people are the weird, peculiar and odd ones to NOT have a good relationship with their current husband’s ex, especially when there are children involved. I believe that a lot of mothers and step-mothers have insecurity problems and that is the root to a lot of broken marriages and failed friendships. For those of you who try hard to establish good relationships with your husband’s ex’s or current wife with no good return, then that is the other person’s loss, for sure, but keep trying. No good deed goes unnoticed in the eyes of God.

In our case, I couldn’t be more proud of the relationship that J and I have. Before my husband and I married, we all decided to be on one accord – one family. As we often say, “We don’t do steppers in our family.”  The most important person between the four of us is our daughter. She is the most caring, loving, kind-hearted little girl that I have ever met, and all of those qualities are a reflection of her mother. She is the exact same way. Our daughter has 2 little sisters by way of her mother’s current marriage. Those girls are my girls too, and I don’t care what people say. If you don’t get anything out of our story, get this….CHILDREN LIVE WHAT THEY LEARN. I believe we are teaching and bringing them up the way God would want us to. We are showing them that just because divorce has been one part of their lives; it doesn’t have to ruin their lives or their relationships with their parents and step-parents. Step-parents don’t have to be the enemy and our daughter doesn’t have to be pulled between us or feel guilty for loving all of us. I know that I am not her mother. I know that I would never ever try to fill those shoes. But, I also know that I am what God wants me to be in her life, and I will be there for her as a standing rock to which she can depend on, no matter what. I will always do what is best for her. I believe if mothers and step-mothers will allow themselves to open up and know these things about one another, they too can have what we have. Of course, there are those few crackpots out there that shouldn’t have children or be around children and those we cannot change, only pray for.

I have three boys. Two of which are over 18 and one who is 9. When I was pregnant with my nine year old, I lost my children’s biological father/my husband in a motorcycle accident. God led me to move away to a new city to start my life anew. I met my current husband when my little boy was 8 months old. We didn’t marry until he was 5.  Although my son knows that his biological father lives in Heaven, he has only known my current husband to be daddy. My step-daughter is only 14 months older than my little boy so they are very close. I used to worry in the beginning that she would feel like my son gets her daddy all the time and she doesn’t. My worries were for nothing. She shares her daddy with an open heart and open arms. She is so unselfish. She is the big sister that my little boy needed. She watches out for him just as she does her own little sisters at home. She is a brilliant young lady and God has DIVINELY blessed me by putting her in my life.

I came from a broken home. My parents were selfish at times for whatever reasons, i.e., my dad was young and my mom was bitter. They divorced when I was 6 years old.  I will never forget my father seeing us off at the airport in Alaska because my mom was taking us to live with my grandparents in Atlanta, and he was crying while waving goodbye.  My dad later married a lady named Carol and she was a horrible step-mother. She emotionally battered me from the time summer started until the day it ended. It may not have seemed that bad to my Dad but, his mind was clouded. To a 10 year old, however, it was more than bad, it was horrific!  Needless to say, the last time I saw her was thankfully that summer when I was ten.  She only thought about herself and not the children she was affecting. She would say bad things about my mother, she was abusive and she made it clear that my father was her husband and now her childrens’ step-father.  We were just visitors and she made sure we knew it.  She caused a lot of the kind of drama that I see happening all the time in my adult life with my other friends who are divorced, and some of you readers have experienced the same.  THANK THE LORD IN HEAVEN, my dad divorced her but unfortunately, my mom alienated us from my dad after that, and I didn’t see him again until I was in the 8th grade. However, in my mother’s defense, she was doing that with the premise that she was protecting us and always did the best job she could.  So, I can relate to a lot of issues that children of divorced parents go through.  A shining light, however, is that my dad married a wonderful woman years later, named Dean, and I now have a step-mother that I cherish.  She is a strong woman and has taught me a lot about being a step-mother.  She is a quiet teacher.  She let us come to her on our own terms and didn’t force herself on us.  That was a great lesson and one that I implement with my step-daughter.  I vowed that if I ever had a step-child, I would NEVER become that kind of person like Carol.  I never want my step-daughter to ever feel about me the way I felt about Carol.

You know, I guess my final words would be that I hope our story has inspired some of you moms and step-moms, dads and step-dads to do your best to try to make your children’s lives better instead of more complicated. It’s all about RESPECT. I respect my step-daughter’s mother and her husband. I respect my husband. I respect MYSELF and by all of us having respect for one another, it makes life for all of us less confusing and teaches our children humility.  Most importantly, if our children ever become step-parents one day they will have a great example to go by.

I am not saying that our family’s road map doesn’t have bumps and bruises along the way. We aren’t perfect. There are times when we disagree, but work really hard to see each others’ point of view.

I guess I also would say try not to judge so harshly if you are a step-mother or a current wife of a man who has an ex-wife or baby’s mama. Try to put yourself in her shoes and see through her eyes. How would you want your children treated, if you were in the same situation? How would you want to be treated? If you are an ex-wife of a man who is remarried and you two share a child together, don’t automatically think that the new wife has to be the enemy. She will be the one taking care of your children when you aren’t around. How you see her in your eyes means more than you think it does. She can really end up being an ally, a comrade to you. She may even end up being your best friend……Be blessed.

 

 

I recently asked an attorney and fellow blogger, to shed some light (from an attorney’s perspective) on the topic of mediation. I’m sure you’ll find it insightful!

 

 

What is Mediation?

 

Mediation is the process by which two (or more) parties attempt to settle a legal dispute with the assistance of a neutral third party (mediator) whose job is to help the parties work out points of agreement and reach a “fair” result that they both can live with. More and more, mediation has become the preferred means of legal dispute resolution, and has become particularly popular in resolving domestic relations disputes (divorce, child custody, visitation, etc.) because it frees up courtroom dockets and tends to produce results that are more agreeable to the parties. In fact, most judges will now order men and women to participate in mediation before he/she will hear and decide issues in dispute in a divorce or child support/custody situation.

 

Mediation Process

For anyone who has never had the joy of going through a mediation, this is basically how the process works.  The parties agree (or a judge orders them) to meet with a mediator.  Mediators are specially trained individuals (often former practicing lawyers and judges) who are familiar with the law, but whose job is guide the parties toward agreement.  Mediators are paid by the hour, and usually the parties split the cost of the mediator (but are still responsible for their respective attorneys’ fees).  There is usually a three room set up; one room for all parties and their respective counsel to initially meet together, and then two rooms where the parties will stay in for the duration of the mediation.  After the initial meeting of the parties and “opening statements” where the parties state their issues and positions, each party goes to their respective rooms.  The mediator meets with each party in turn, discussing the demands of the parties, the strengths and weaknesses of their respective positions, and ultimately tries to get the parties to reach a middle ground.  The key principal that the mediator is working from, and attempts to get the parties to realize, is their BATNA — Best Alternative to Negotiated Agreement.  Basically, the BATNA is what is most likely to happen if the parties are unable to reach a settlement, and typically is a worse outcome than one that the parties arrive at on their own.

 

Why Mediation?

So why mediation instead of just letting a judge make a decision?  The truth of the matter is that judges don’t like making decisions for people. But that seems like their job, right? Yes and no. Yes, judges can make decisions by applying the letter of the law, but it’s preferable that the parties reach an agreement/settlement on their own and the judge merely approves such an agreement. The reason for this is that strict application of the law often times leads to a situation where you are splitting the baby. This is even more so the case where domestic legal disputes are involved because often times, the parties aren’t just fighting over who gets the kids on what holidays or what school the child should go to….. the issues are much deeper, more intangible, less rational, and a judge just does not have the time to deal with all of those issues.  Mediators, on the other hand, are trained to deal with these issues, particularly family law mediators.   In fact, family law mediators are required to go through special training in addition to the regular mediation certification course so that they know how to deal with the unique issues that arise in family law disputes. 

Does it Work?

 

So does mediation actually work?  Yes and no.  In theory, both parties will be rational participants and the mediator will assist them in sorting through the emotional baggage to help them determine what the real issues are in the situation….. separate the wheat from the chaff.   Ideally both parties will compromise so that the result is a win-win situation.  Anyone who has been through a divorce or dispute with child custody/support knows, however, that this is the last place to look for rational people.  Because reaching a decision in a mediation is entirely voluntary (contrasted with arbitration, where the arbitrator does have the power to make a binding decision) a party can continue to drag his/her feet, be difficult, and basically stick to his/her agenda of making the other person’s life as difficult as possible.   In the non-family law setting, the primary consideration is money, so the avoidance of litigation costs serves as effective leverage.  When there are feelings involved, however, creating excessive costs of litigation may be a motivating factor.  Rationality goes out the window, and with that the potential efficiency and benefits of mediation.

Keep in Mind…..

 

One key principle that parents and ex-spouses should keep in mind is that the legal system is not the place to deal with hurt feelings.  The purpose of the legal system, including the mediation process, is to provide resolution to true legal disputes, not to avenge wrongdoing, seek validation, or keep the other party in a person’s life (as dysfunctional as that involvement is).  Mediation has the potential to produce positive results, but both parties must have the desire to compromise and come to an amicable conclusion in order for it to work.  It is somewhat of a self fulfilling prophecy– if the parties believe it’s not going to work, then it’s not, and vice versa. 

 

  

 

 

Blending a family isn’t easy and it can present a unique set of challenges when discipline is concerned. Co-parenting requires not only cooperation between the responsible parents, but it also requires consistent discipline. Often times even biological parents will have differing views when it comes to disciplining their child. But, these differences are usually magnified times 10 within the blended family unit. They can sometimes destroy a marriage, if they aren’t properly dealt with from the beginning.

*Co-Parenting means that with one another, together, both parents should parent all the children in the household.

Initially, I would suggest that the primary role of disciplinarian be awarded to the biological parent. Keep in mind that the child has had years of dealing with one parent’s approach to discipline and will need time to adjust. Therefore, issues such as: room cleaning, bed times, homework time, curfews, etc., should be left up to his/her biological parent. Having said that, there are certain behaviors that should not be tolerated by either parent, from the very beginning. For example, if little Tiffany is mouthing off, rolling eyes, talking back or being plain old disrespectful, her stepfather shouldn’t have to wait until her mother gets home before reprimanding her. If she was doing this at school or anywhere else that respect for adults and authority figures is expected, there would be consequences. And, that teacher would not wait until mom or dad showed up to enforce those consequences. As stated in my other articles, “it is essential that you demand the same positive behavior that the child had prior to the divorce.” Otherwise you will be giving the child an excuse (the divorce) to act out. She shouldn’t be allowed to be disrespectful because she doesn’t like her new stepparent and/or is still bitter about the divorce. The adults in the house should always retain their roles as adults and should never reverse those roles out of guilt.

At any rate, during the “grace period,” parents should develop a co-parenting policy that should help decrease conflict when it comes to discipline and other issues of the household. The policy should contain the following: bed times, homework time, dinner time, curfews, household chores, allowances, etc. It should also contain mutually agreed upon rules and consequences. This policy should be discussed, in depth, with each child of the household. This will ensure that each child knows what is expected of them and the consequences of broken rules. Therefore, it is essential that both parents stick to the policy at all times. In the blended family, you cannot rely on spontaneous reaction to the child’s behavior problem. This policy will also help you, as parents, present a unified front when it comes to discipline, thereby decreasing conflict between you when these issues arise.

More Tips

  1. Don’t expect your step-child/ren to instantly love or even like you. Children need time to adjust to the loss (in a way) of a parent as well as a world that they have always known. Be respectful of their feelings and try to avoid forced relationships.
  2. Keep parental conflict, disagreements and inconsistent discipline away from children. Being exposed to the above can cause emotional and behavioral problems. Children begin to think that they can do whatever they want. When this happens, they begin to implement their “divide and conquer” strategy by telling the other parent, grandparent, aunt, or whoever will listen, what the mean old stepparent did to them.
  3. Always remain a parent and never reverse those roles out of guilt. Mostly moms have a difficult time with this one because they don’t want anybody scolding (even if necessary) their baby. As such, they will begin to make excuses like, “she just cursed you out because she’s hormonal.” When you make excuses for what you know to be bad, inappropriate and/or unacceptable behavior, you are no longer being the parent.
  4. Don’t try to replace the child/ren’s biological parent. Although it may be difficult at times, children need to have their relationships with their biological parents supported by you. You are to act as an additional parental figure, but not attempt to totally replace the other parent.
  5. NEVER EVER allow any and everybody to come in and discipline your child/ren! Matters of discipline should only be entertained by individuals who you will be in a committed marital relationship with. Doing anything else will be creating an unstable environment for your child/ren. That person may not even be around tomorrow. This will not only help to build resentment towards you, but for any future mate whom you do decide to actually tie the knot with.
  6. Before you even think about allowing someone else to step in and co-parent with you, ask yourself these questions:
  • What kind of expectations do you and your potential spouse have of each other?
  • How do you view each others’ roles in your new family?
  • How will decisions, regarding your family, be made?

Finally, don’t take everything too personally, and don’t always assume that your child’s behavior issues are due to your new blended family. I often made this mistake myself, but I’ve learned that children are going to be children. Just because your child stomps out of the room acting as if you tore his or her whole world a part, doesn’t mean that they literally feel that way. It also doesn’t mean it’s because you remarried. My parents were married for nearly 30 years prior to my father’s passing, and they were both my biological parents. Yet, I can remember stomping out of the room; saying (to myself) I hate you; and feeling like they were both so unfair when consequences were enforced. As such, be mindful that these things would likely happen if you were married to your child’s biological parent, and don’t beat yourself up about it. Remember, that your job as parents is to attempt to raise responsible adults. It is not about getting them to approve of all of your choices.

As a person who has experienced blended family issues for nearly a decade I would have to utter a resounding NO! I love my husband with all of my heart, but it has been and still is a challenge to put up with all of the dynamics of our blended family. We not only have to deal with the unique (that’s my nice way of putting it) personalities of our respective children’s other parents, but we have to deal with their new spouses as well. In addition to that, we have to deal with trying to maintain a relationship with our own children; trying to integrate both of our children into our household; and oh yeah, at some point we actually have to try to work on building our marriage.

I must admit that I was so naive prior to dating and eventually marrying my husband. I thought that as long as we loved each other everything else would be okay – NOT! Love, life or marriage just does not work that way. The fact of the matter is that it takes a whole lot more than love to make a relationship of any type work.  As a matter of fact, most “traditional” marriages, meaning those who come together to form a union and don’t have kids, end in divorce. This alone should prove that love definitely does not conquer all. So, if it is difficult to make a relationship with just two people invovled work, how do you expect it to get any easier when you involve 6 other people? And, at some point, you might even want to have your own children!!!

Having said that, I am already engrossed in my own blended family, and after 7 years there is a lot more binding my husband and I together than tearing us apart. Although our blended family issues still exist they are not an issue for our marriage any longer. We have finally formed a bond that can not be broken by ex-wives and ex-lives.  Now, every time his ex attacks it only makes us that much closer. But, we went through many ups and way more downs in order for us to get to this point.

I know I must sound like a hypocrite because I had a child entering into my current marriage, but this is why I can offer the best advice for people considering the blended family. I will end by saying the best advice I can give is to: 1) Don’t have children prior to marriage – it complicates things. 2) Don’t marry someone that you can’t see yourself being divorced from! Check out your potential mate prior to marrying him or her. How does he or she deal with conflict or disagreements between you two? What are his or her views on parenting? If they have children, how do they get along with their ex-spouse? You need to ask yourself these questions and many more before seriously dating, marrying or having kids with anyone.

What about you? Would you date or marry someone with children? I want to know. Vote now on the left-hand side of this page.

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