I’ve just been reading a book called ‘Your Child’s Divorce’ by Marsha Temlock. (2006). It takes the parents of the divorcing child’s perspectives and starts with the agonising phone-call you get with the dreaded words, Mum, or Dad, – “I’m getting divorced” right through to the “I’m getting re-married”, conversation. What might seem like an individual journey for every family isn’t. It turns out that everyone goes through similar phases. The book’s 200 pages start with ‘how to accept the decision’ ‘how to rescue’, ‘the finances’, ‘dealing with change’, ‘taking sides’ ‘supporting your child’, ‘supporting your grand-children’ and more. The whole process takes years, not just a few months. Everyone changes, it’s an arduous process. The last chapter in renewing your family life for a divorcee is ‘When you re-marry’. That’s the starting point for you.
Then……. you arrive on the scene as a step-parent and a whole new change process needs to start again. What everyone has got used to has to be re-worked. You might have thought everyone would be pleased with your arrival, and be bouncing for joy and looking forward to the new family. However, this can’t be true for many. It can seem like more endless change, and “when will this journey ever finish?”
What’s interesting me today, is the parents of the parent who is marrying again perspective. When your child first announces their intended first marriage often there have been close links with the new son or daughter in law as everyone is younger, the young adult getting engaged has probably close links with home. Parents welcome them in and begin to treat them as ‘family’, which they are. Sometimes of course parents aren’t so pleased, but nevertheless over time, a relationship builds, especially if children come along.
When the divorce happens the grand-parents have often taken a bigger part supporting their child, and looking after their grand-children. It all gets quite intense. One of the things the book says is not to forget to let go again when your child finds their feet again.
For parents of adult children announcing their re-marriage there is a whole spectrum of feelings from sadness and worry that this new relationship replaces the old or may not last, to welcoming the new in-law in as they are much better than the first.
However it is difficult to accept all the changes for parents. For them too, their child’s choice of partner is not anything to do with them. Yet the new parent’s in law can be one of the biggest obstacles to settling down and starting afresh. The new parents in law can be hell. However it may be worth sparing a thought for what they have been through with their child since they last announced they wanted to get married.
What to do:
Make sure the introductions are well planned and timely. First impressions count.
Look and listen before blazing a trail. If possible build good empathy by showing the ways you may be similar, or think similarly.
Be prepared to listen, but challenge them too. Don’t let them come away with false impressions.
Be prepared to listen, they will have some insightful information about the family.
If you show yourself to be not against the first partner, then they will show you what they really thought, warts and all. If you criticise, they will feel more like defending the first partner.
Set boundaries. There are some things that should be respected, and your sanity is one of them.
Try setting boundaries rather than saying you don’t want to see them again.
Help them help you with your step-children, Grand-parents are one of the greatest ways you can get yourselves a few days off.
Help them to help you manage the step-children, they may be a voice of reason that even your new husband or wife may listen to.
Everyone is different. Work out what their strengths are and use them.
If the situation is untenable then do as one has to with all people you can’t stand, cut or loosen ties. But better to try everything in your power to talk it out with them.