Imagine life as a teen, and you know your parents are distanced. Your Dad is away a lot or your Mum works late. This is the way life is, then gradually a new awareness dawns. Your Dad or Mum could be seeing someone else. The first sign may come as a bit of a jolt, you could find your Mother in tears, or she may talk negatively about your Dad in a way that’s different from before….. Or it may be your Dad complaining about your Mum. He or she’ll be low, and life takes on a heaviness. If your Mum who’s found a new friend, You may be alone in the home a bit more than you used to and your Mum makes excuses to be places not with you. You may inadvertently be privy to something your other parent shouldn’t know, a friendly phone call, a text, an email, a slip-up that tells you for sure there is someone else around, you may find yourself keeping a secret.
The teen may hope they are imagining things, they may trust that their parents have this under control and it will all go back to normal. The teen hopes that it may not be important or will go away, – people bust up, there is no reason why this relationship will last…. Or will it?
Things can go into limbo for long periods of time, holidays and family times can become strained. Dad or Mum isn’t around even when they normally should be. Maybe one parent almost feels as though they’ve moved out without telling you.
The heaviness persists. There is an emptiness about life. Nothing seems to make Mum or Dad happy, yet the parent with the new partner may seem different, more up-beat, buoyed.
When eventually it becomes clear that Dad or Mum has a new person in their lives and divorce is on the cards a whole new process of bereavement and grief needs to start and be completed. The first stage is denial, and then there is anger. “I’m never going to meet them” a teen will say out of denial and defence of their parent left behind. “I hate them already”.
This new person this parent has met is you. You are going to become the step-parent. However these children have not met you, yet they already know so much. You are changing their world.
Yet, where one wants to get to in the end, the goal is for everyone to understand that relationships sometimes don’t last forever, that whilst one person leaves, they may not be totally at fault. Stuff happens, and life isn’t always straight, or easy. Children have two parents and even if those parents aren’t together they can still be a good Mum and a good Dad. The children need what it takes to bring them up, like boundaries and love, but part of moving on is that their Dad or Mum may have a new partner. That person is you, and you can be a helpful addition to their lives.
However, you can see how this journey could be a long one to get from seeing the left behind partner sad and the child saying Why are you doing this to my Mum, (or Dad), to yes we are all one big extended family and can happily and welcomingly co-exist.