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Maintaining Your Blended Family Marriage

Did you know that the divorce rate among second marriages is higher than that among first marriages? One would assume that if a person has a second chance, he or she would be sure not to mess it up. However, there are some  second marriages that breakdown under financial strain; second marriages that are torn apart by children; and second marriages that never had a chance to begin with. Then, there are those that actually do survive and eventually thrive despite the chaotic world of the blended family.  These couples work through their communication issues in order to create a marriage that is more solid than their first.

In order for your second marriage to work I believe it’s essential to consider what went wrong in your first. Many times divorcees will get on their “high horse” by insisting that their marital problems were soley their ex’s fault. However, there is hardly a divorce where fault falls exclusively on one person. Because far more challenges will present themselves in your second marriage (children, unresolved feelings, bitter ex’s, etc.), it is necessary to examine your own mistakes in the past so that you are less likely to repeat them in the future.

Nurturing Your Second Marriage

It is so very important to nurture your second marriage!!! Often times remarried couples make themselves the LAST priority by putting the problems with their respective children, exes, finances…first. Remarried couples need to spend time nurturing and building their relationship together just as any “traditional” marriage, without children, would. Schedule date nights together, and take vacations without the children, sometimes. Take every moment that you can to remember and remind each other of why you fell in love in the first place. Remember, that when the children are grown and gone, and there are no more exes to fight with, you will be left with each other. You can not grow old with your children or problems with your former spouse. As such, you shouldn’t spend ALL of your time in these areas. Of course, you have to raise, love and nurture your children. And, you have to work on resolving your issues with your former spouse so that you can co-parent effectively. But, these areas can’t take priority over your marriage. Any good marriage needs to be nurtured and loved if it’s expected to survive. Besides, taking these actions will only benefit your children because you will be building a strong, stable, loving environment in the process.

My husband and I made the mistake of putting everything before our marriage, and honestly, it almost FAILED!! At several points in our relationship we were both ready to throw in the towel. The stress of both of our children not immediately adjusting (this is a unrealistic expectation that most remarried couples have) along with dealing with the exes, almost tore our marriage apart. All of our communication, and I mean literally ALL of it, centered around the kids, his ex or my ex. Naturally, it just wasn’t good for our relationship. We didn’t put as much effort or time into our relationship as we did those other things, and it showed. We realized this one day on a rare occasion when both of our children were gone. Not only did we not know what to do with ourselves, but we began talking about…problems with the children and/or the exes. It wasn’t until my husband said, “We spend way too much time talking about our problems, let’s talk about something else.” The only problem was that we literally did not know what else to talk about. At that point, we had our light bulb moment…ding, ding, ding…WE HAD BEEN SERIOUSLY NEGLECTING OUR MARRIAGE AND THAT’S WHY WE HAD BEEN HAVING SO MANY PROBLEMS, duh!! From then on, we decided to rediscover why we fell in the love in the first place. We scheduled date nights together, even if the kids were in the house. They were not allowed to bother us during our special time. We created a standing rule that we would only talk about our problems with the exes and children if absolutely necessary. We decided that WE are the king and queen of our household, and we would ALWAYS respect each other as such; even when it came to our respective exes. Once we set this foundation our communication issues were a lot smaller than they really were.

Finances

Second time newlyweds often bring their own financial resources and obligations into their second marriages; making finances a touchy subject in second marriages. Ideally, it is always best if the couple combines everything together instead of creating the definitive boundaries of yours, mine and ours. Once you do that, you begin to see everything as yours, mine and ours; your children vs. my children; your money vs. my money; I’ll pay for this for my children vs. you pay for this for your children, and we’ll pay for this for our children. As you can see, it becomes way too complicated. As such, it is always best if you view your newly made family as a whole instead of in parts. Having said that, when it comes to each child’s respective child support; that money should be earmarked for that child, alone. For example, we do not use M’s child support money on K. M’s child support money is for taking care of his needs. Just like M never uses K’s child support money. But, the money that my husband and I make is for taking care of everybody in our household. So, when we go on vacation I don’t only pay for my child and my husband only pays for his. It is the same when we go out to dinner or buy Christmas gifts, etc.

It is important to remember that whenever one marries or remarries he or she does so in entirety, not in parts. As such, whenever possible, the remarried couple should view themselves and their family as a single unit instead of divided. It should never be a yours, mine and ours…just ours; our marriage, our children, our money, our family.


Do you guys remember when I told you, in some of my earlier posts, that you’ll get nothing but complete honesty from me? And that this blog will be comprised of insightful posts, some of my published articles and ocassionally, a rant or two or three or four or five or ten??? Well, I need to vent so here it goes.

My husband and the ex had another pointless mediation session yesterday. During which some very disturbing, but not shocking, things were revealed. Fortunately, this time the mediator began to see right through her little “I’m only trying to protect my son” routine. Thank you Jesus! The mediator asked her what she sees as a problem, and she told the mediator that my husband isn’t an involved father. She neglected to mention, however, that the reason he hasn’t exercised his visitation rights is because she got a court order preventing him from doing so. 

At any rate, she started spitting out accusations such as; “I always invite him to school plays (during the day), but he never comes.” My husband immediately fired back by saying that his school plays are during the day, and we live almost 3 hours away from each other. I don’t get to attend that many day time plays of the son that I am raising BECAUSE I HAVE TO GO TO WORK! Not to mention that the last time we were all in same vicinity as each other it ended up in an ultimate fighting championship brawl. She went on to say that she always invites MY HUSBAND (not his family, mind you) to their state for activities, but he never wants to come. My husband said that going to their state every weekend isn’t realistic or affordable because he doesn’t know anybody, but them there. So, he would have to get a hotel every other weekend to see his son. So, get this, she told the mediator that she offered to pay for HIM to come to their state as often as he would like to spend time with their son. My husband, myself and the mediator are still wondering why K (son) just can’t come to his father’s house to spend time with him. Why does visitation ALWAYS have to be on HER terms? We also began to realize that she just really wants me and my son to go away. Even to the extent that she’s willing to pay my husband to only have visitation with them – now that’s crazy!!

She also has a funny way of twisting words (she’s an attorney). She told the mediator that I was trying to label K as a bad kid because I said that he’s a distraction and disruption in our household, and that’s why I don’t want him here during the summer. Are you kidding me? Now let me tell you what was really said, and some of you probably remember from earlier posts. Our visitation was originally set for June and July (we get 8 weeks in the summer) and she had August. Well, she decided that we were too happy with that arrangement so we had to go back to court, AGAIN, to play her little game. She said that she wanted July so that K could go to summer camp (not summer school) with his friends. Well, M (my son) starts school in our state at the beginning of August, but K doesn’t start in his state until the beginning of September. I said that having K return after being gone for a whole month would be a distraction for M, at the very beginning of a new school year. Not only that the situation is a disruption to our household because there is literally no where for him to go. One summer I had to take K to work with me (for a month), which is very unprofessional and not to mention inconvenient.

But she thinks that only she and my husband need to make decisions for K. Who in the hell does she think does everything for him? Don’t you guys think I should be apart of the decision making process if I’m going to be the one responsible for him? How in the world are they going to decide what I am going to do?  But as soon as I even voice my very logical opinion, I’m labeled the ‘evil stepmother.’ Are you serious?

 Anyway, I suggested that K have visitation with his father when both children were out of school. She left all of that information out. Instead, she decided to make me look like the evil stepmother by only telling the Judge and the mediator that I said that K was a disruption and a distraction.

Whoosa Whoosa…. Num yo ho ray hay key hoooooooo….I’m chanting to release the anger!

With all that said, I understand why she’s hurt, for lack of better words. My husband was an excellent husband to her and excellent father to his son. For those who know him, know that he went above and beyond to take care of her and their son, even after the divorce. It’s partly his fault because he must have known that he couldn’t continue that behavior (taking care of her even though she had a boyfriend way before the ink was dry on the divorce papers) when someone new came along. You just can’t be the man of two households. I always tell my divorced dads that how you start off is how she is going to expect you to end up. So, don’t start something that is going to cause problems later. I’ll admit that my husband was “stuck on stupid.” Every time she called, he jumped, even though it had nothing to do with their child. When she moved, from state to state, he moved too! But, they weren’t together at this point.  They were divorced, but he was clearly still very much apart of HER family. She had the best of both worlds: a husband who still acted like one and a boyfriend. Well, this was all before he met me. He fell in love and he no longer wanted to do those things for her. He wanted to do them for me, and she wasn’t and isn’t happy with that. I changed the game!!! I redirected his attention from her, to me, and that is when our problems began.  She told him that she was moving to the state that she lives in now and he said, “BYE.” This took her by surprise, of course, because this wasn’t what she was used to. In her mind, no one comes before her! WRONG! I do – I come before you.

Whoosa Whoosa…Num yo ho ray hay key hooooooo…

In any event, all I feel now for her is pity! She has tried so hard and for so long, to get rid of me, but I’m still here. And, I am more in love with my husband every single day!!! All of the trials and tribulations that we have faced because of her have only made us stronger. Most days, we just sit back and laugh at her because she really thinks she’s doing something. Other days, we pray for her because it must be hard for one to live their life that way. Always consumed with what someone else is doing. Always spending your time trying to make other people unhappy. You just can’t be happy with yourself or your situation, if you spend all of your time doing these types of things. It is impossible!!

And so, I will keep this in mind every time she tries to attack. I feel sorry for her. One day I hope that God saves her soul. I just hope it isn’t too late, and she hasn’t completely ruined her son before that point.

Thanks for listening.

I am one who firmly believes that dialogue, positive or negative, promotes change. If I want to resolve an issue, then it is important, to me, to find out what’s on that other person’s mind. I want to know why he or she has made the decisions that they’ve made. I want to know how that other person is feeling. I want to know how we can try to understand each other to resolve our issues. It may not lead to achieving consensus, but it certainly can shed some light on what that other person is thinking.

I recently had the opportunity to put my theory (dialogue promotes change) to the test. I posted my Wives War article on my Charly Magazine blog (www.thecharlymag.wordpress.com) and it gave me the opportunity to have a conversation with an ex-wife. She wasn’t too happy about the content of that article. She felt as if it gave ex-wives a bad name and she let me know. What started off as a tongue lashing between her (representing the ex-wives) and I (representing the second wives) ended up as what I’ll call a “change experience.” She began to listen to me and I to her and it sparked a bit of understanding on both of our parts. It also raised many questions that I hadn’t even thought of. 

 I posted some of our conversation below. As you read these very real thoughts and opinions regarding blended families, try to figure out who you might identify with. Perhaps you understand both of our positions.

A conversation between an ex and a second wife!

Amy Says:
August 11, 2008 at 2:56 pm e

I always enjoy reading perspectives, but I hate the bouncing back and forth of control. It seems we can find a justification for our actions around ever corner and it changes with every new perspective. Come on, I am all for step-parents, but when it comes down to it and the decisions need to be made….Step-up or step-aside! I am a pretty open minded woman, I divorced my husband, NOT my kids. She married my husband, NOT my kids. Kids are an extra bonus, but they are not and never will be her children. IF she is lucky and treats them with respect and kindness, they will love her and she will be a welcome adult in their life, but that is it.

WE all have to work out something that works so the kids can have the best chance at growing up well adjusted, but that does not mean that the ex-wive should just step aside and let step-mom take over or that step-moms should be treated with kid gloves. We are adults here. I keep hearing how we, as Bio parents, made the choice to divorce so we should just take responsibility for our choice, well ya know what, step-parents CHOSE to marry a man with children and all the mayhem that comes with hit. Child like or not, it is reality. I am the mom, I was here before, during, and I will be here after, I am not going away, and if you want life to be okay then WE need to work things out, not just ME or YOU… WE. If she wants to be included, fine and great, but it is a voice, NOT the final say. If she wants to argue her point well then get ready for a brawl. STEP. Step-up or step-aside

Amy

blendingin Says:
August 11, 2008 at 7:19 pm e

Hi Amy,

While I completely respect your opinion as it is something that I have heard before from ex-wives, I must say that I don’t totally agree. It seems to me that you are assuming that (like most other ex-wives that I know) that stepmothers are trying to replace you when this is not the case at all. I wish that more of you would stop viewing us as some sort of threat instead of viewing us as an added bonus. No matter what you choose to think; we are the ones taking care of YOUR children when they are in OUR home. By default, this makes us automatically included in most decisions. Not to mention that we are married to your ex-husbands!! Don’t you expect your husband to include you in all of the decisions that either affect your household or will affect you?? Well, it is no different with stepmoms and second wives. We don’t expect you to step aside, believe me, we know that we are going to have to deal with you for the rest of our lives. It is a decision that we made prior to marrying our wonderful husbands. I just wish those dealings could be a little more pleasant. Just like you aren’t going anywhere, we aren’t either!! Just like we better get used to you, you better get used to us! Do you see how it works both ways??

And for you to say that YOUR children will never be her children is unfortunate; because you are automatically cheating your children out of the love that us step parents can give. We are just as much their parental figures as you are. Visit http://www.blendingin.wordpress.com and read some of my posts that were submitted by step children! These children think of their step parents as PARENTS and nothing less. Please don’t cheat your children out this opportunity because of something that you may be feeling. YOU MUST SEPARATE THE TWO! Often times when we try to speak for our children, we turn out to be totally wrong. Allow them to speak for themselves!

We are fully aware that you divorced your husband and not your children. But, when you make that decision, you must know that there is an enormous possibility that your ex will remarry; when he does, you must make room for someone else. She is his wife and expects that same out of him that you did when you were married to him. Just try to put yourself in her shoes. If you are really interested in EVERYBODY WORKING TOGETHER, then the first step is to rid yourself of this childlike mentality that keeps you believing that everything is about you – it’s not! It is and should continually be about the children. It’s disheartening to always hear ex-wives talk about how it’s all about the children, yet all of your complaints regarding second wives are about how they make YOU, NOT YOUR CHILDREN, feel!

Final thought – most of us have stepped up. We make a choice to love and care for your children. Instead of continually trying to degrade us, try actually working with the step mom in your life so that you can raise healthy, well-adjusted children.

Amy Says:
August 12, 2008 at 1:17 am e

Our son loves his step-mom, I would never ever get in the way of that. I just get sick of hearing it one way or the other. It has got to be BOTH, not mom or step-mom alone. To be honest in my case after seeing dad move 2 or 3 woman in and out of his home, it was a GOD send when this last woman decided to stay. It takes time though to realize that it is forever. In our case it had a lot more to do with DADs immaturity that poor step-mom just happen to walk in to a volitile relationship. I don’t even know if it was her “choice” Dad didn’t even know her on and off for a year while dating other woman and got her pregnant and moved her in within 3 weeks and married her a month later. Sorry if I don’t see that as permenant! It is going to take time.

I guess I look at it as any TEAM. If I were the Starter and go to person on the team and some freshman popped in all cocky and started trying to push her weight around and exert her authority, I would have a problem. now if this freshman came in and quietly introduced herself and then performed well for the team, I would have little problem, as it is for the bettermeant of the team, but I’ll be damned if I would just role over for some kid that is all talk.

Each situation is different. In ours it started out rough, but through MY patience and understanding of her position, things are calming down. I was put down like you wouldn’t believe, by both my ExH and her; for absolutely no reason other than wanting to know who this woman was who was moved into our son’s life. Our son was crying to come home all the time, how the hell was I supposed to know she was okay, and then she started in on me. Oh I was furious!

Like I said with the annalogy, if she had come in with an air of cooperation and allowed time to take it’s course I would have been fine, I was thrilled a the thought of the line of women in and out ending! But she pushed herself in and I did not respect that! Believe me, i would rather have a woman in that houselhold! At least I have some peace of mind!

So before you go generalizing about my thoughts, please Know my situation. I just sat through two wonderful performances of our child, with MY parents… where were Dad and Stepmom?

And as far as how our child feels, he is a happy go lucky well adjusted kid. He loves his dad and I have encouraged his relationships with both dad and step-mom and his new little brother and will continue to do so.

I work with her as much as she will allow me to. She is included in everything. Just because I state an opion does not mean I do not do what is right. Talk is talk. Doing what is right is a whole other story. I walk the walk every day.

So don’t get on some high horse acting like all ex-wives are the evil vilans and you might want to switch the name son your own post, as if it were from me, and rethink who is childish. I think I could agree we both are, but I am definiately not alone here.

Amy

blendingin Says:
August 12, 2008 at 1:58 am e

Hi Amy,

I certainly didn’t mean to generalize, but I when it comes situations such as this (blended family) it kind of becomes personal. Like you don’t know mine, I don’t know your situation. I can only go off of personal experience. In my experience, I was and am continually beat down as a second wife and step mom. My husband and I have known each other since I was 14 years old. We dated for nearly 3 years prior to getting married, and we’ve been married for 4 years. In my case, it certainly wasn’t a sudden marriage that caught her by surprise. But like you mentioned in your first comment, she automatically thougth that I was trying to replace or even nix her altogether. I was just trying to convey to you that this often times isn’t the case with step moms. The days of the “evil stepmother” have withered away. Just because we desire and deserve to build a relationship with our husbands and children (including stepchildren) that are independent of you, doesn’t mean that we don’t recognize your presence and position in all of our lives.

Let me also say that I am also an ex (I have a child with someone who I spent 6 years with), so I completely understand (to a certain extent) the position of some ex-wives. It’s painful because you have to view apart of your child’s life from a distance. You have to allow him to have his time with the other side of his family, without you. It’s difficult because you are used to and always thought that you’d share every thing and every moment with this child; but not you have to let go a little earlier than you thought. And you have to trust these other people with your child. I KNOW FROM EXPERIENCE HOW HARD THIS CAN BE! But, it is something that must be done. When I realized this, stepped back and allowed my son to develop a relationship with his stepmother, I was overjoyed with the outcome. I would never tell her that he will never be HER child, especially if she’s willing to take that position in his life. I nearly cried when he came home for the first time, professing his love for his new mom. I breathed a sigh of relief because I knew he was okay over there. I didn’t accuse her of trying to take my place.

Having said all that, Amy, I completely understand where you’re coming from, too. Mainly because my situation with my ex and his new wife didn’t start off that way. Like your ex, he only knew her for a short time (3 months) before they got pregnant and married! My son also called crying to come home on several occasions and I went to pick my baby up – EVERY TIME! Like you, the new wife and my ex tried to accuse me of probably the same thing that they accused you of. But it didn’t matter because my main objective was protecting my son, and at the time, I didn’t feel like it was their main objective. Needless to say, we didn’t start working together as parents until I felt that they both had his best interest at heart, and not before. I felt as if this was my responsibility as his parent.

And so, I am not on some high horse at all, Amy. I don’t think I am being or have been childish at all. My article is a reaction based on my experience. This is MY personal testimony (just as your story is yours). If it doesn’t apply to you, then so be it. But like me, I know plenty of step mothers who can relate to my testimony.

I’m glad that your child is happy and well-adjusted, and I hope that you continue to put your feelings (no matter how justified) aside in order to work with your exH and his wife.

Amy Says:
August 12, 2008 at 1:44 pm e

okay, so you are not child like at all ) I apologize for my rant. Thank you for sharing your story.

I do want to let you know, that I am also trying hard to change the role of blended families… where and when it is safe to do so.

Do you think that the whole mom/step-mom debate takes responsibility away from dad? Sometimes it seems as if it is all about mom and step-mom and we end up raising the child, while dad kicks back and watches.

Honestly I think my own beef with “step-mom” comes from the father’s rights and shared parenting initiatives. As much as I agree all parents being involved can be a wonderful thing, I have seen a lot of hurt come from these initiatives. Almost the reverse. It seems like we are turning the tables… It seems that right now, there is little about the benefit of moms, but here is so much literature on how important dads and step-partents are in the kids lives.

I am just wondering if I am alone in seeing the trend. It always seems like the best way to change things is through action, by simply being a good mom/dad/step-parent/etc and giving each realtionship time.

I believe in empowerment as long as it is not power over. I don’t believe anyone has an advantage on parenting, but I do belive that a child has the right to have a permanent schedule that will not have to be taken back in to court every other year to change. If it is working, why change it?

Anyway, thanks for the responses, I have a lot to think about.

Amy

blendingin Says:
August 12, 2008 at 2:38 pm e

You know what, Amy, I completely agree with you. Little emphasis is placed on what dad needs to be doing; which is why I try my best to draw attention to these issues as well through my personal blog – http://www.blendingin.wordpress.com. I am on both sides of the fence, and believe me, I have PLENTY of issues with my ex and his approach to parenting.

I’m not so sure I agree, however, that giving each relationship time works – it hasn’t for me. I have been with my husband for 7 years and his ex is still bitter about something. When I initially came into this relationship, I tried to take a backseat, but it was hard to do so. Especially since I was the primary caregiver for HER (continually reminds me of this) child when he was in my home. My husband was at work all of the time. When I took a back seat, I was seen as being cold and insensitive. But, when I tried to take a more active role, I was trying to replace her – I couldn’t win and still can’t. She only wants my husband to be involved with her and her son, but I am his wife; and I am not going anywhere. I am more than just an adult figure in her child’s life. I AM THE ONE WHO TAKES CARE OF HIM WHEN HE’S WITH US. I feed him; I am chaffeur; I am nurse; I am a confidant; I tuck him in when he’s sick. Overall, I am the same mother to him that I am to my biological child. Give respect where respect is due. I am not trying to take over. I am simply running my household.

By that same token, as an ex, I know that I have certain rights as my child’s mother. As I stated in my previous comment, it is my responsibility to be involved (to a certain extent) in my son’s life, even when he is with his bio dad. However, I still continue to try and remain mindful and understanding of my son’s stepmom’s position, too.

It truly is a difficult situation, but I think the first step towards change is open, honest dialogue. It is so important to avoid assumptions and really try to understand where the other person (ex wife, second wife, divorced dad and children) is coming from.

Thanks so much, Amy, for sharing your thoughts, opinions and story with me. It has been nice chatting with you. Let’s keep this dialogue going – DIALOGUE PROMOTES CHANGE!!

Kela

The stepmother generally has the most challenging role within the blended family. We are expected to bear most of the responsibility of running the household, yet receive less respect. Ex-wives must know that we are the ones who take care of their children when they are in our home. They so graciously allow us to feed them; take care of them when they are sick; and tuck them in at bed time. Yet, we can’t discipline them or follow our own house rules because we must follow theirs.

Often times it’s a no win situation for stepmothers. At one point in my own blended family when I saw things were getting way to tense between the ex-wife and I; I tried to take a backseat, thereby lessening the interaction with my stepson. But, when I did so, I was seen as cold and insensitive. So, then I tried to take an active role and be the good mom that I am to my biological son. It didn’t feel natural taking a backseat (where my stepson was concerned) as a parent. But, when I did that, I was seen by the ex-wife as trying to replace her. Like I said, you can’t win so why try? I finally had to realize that I just couldn’t be the one to please and/or fix everyone.

Furthermore, some ex-wives are simply not going to change. Some times I believe ex-wives want to think that second wives are horrible people as an excuse to continue bickering. I think it’s easier for them to believe that their ex-husband married an ax murderer because it makes her look like the damsel in distress. So, second wives/stepmothers need to stop trying be the only one that keeps the family together and husbands need to step up and lend more support. SW’s don’t try to create a home that is more pleasing to your stepchildren and/or their mother so that they will accept you. Instead, you and your husband need to decide upon a way to run your household in a manner that you both see as fit and the children and ex-wife are the one’s that need to adjust, not the other way around. From experience, I know that this is a difficult challenge because not only will you and the ex-wife have different views about parenting, but you and your husband may have different views as well. However, you must always, always, always realize that you and your husband are the individuals who took vows before God. Therefore it is most important that you two agree! Everyone in the blended family will not agree on everything, especially parenting, but you must focus on the two people that count and that’s you and your husband. Neither of you need to spend time trying to get the ex-wife to see it your way because this takes time away from you and your husband achieving consensus.

My hat goes off to second wives and stepmothers because they certainly aren’t given enough credit; face many battles with all members of the blended family; are blamed for everything and bear most of the responsibility of running the household. But, there is hope! Be sure to check out my blended family co-parenting tips post that should help bring some order to your blended family.

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