§ Are you determined to make your second marriage/partnership last a lifetime?
§ Are you keen to understand the common challenges presented by second life-partnerships?
§ Do you believe that forewarned is forearmed?
§ Do you want to be well-equipped to build a successful second family?
§ Would you like to get some helpful tips on how to most effectively deal with common second life-partnership challenges?
If your answer to any of these questions is ‘yes’ then this booklet is for you.
Congratulations! You’ve taken the plunge a second time. You are in love, are filled with high hopes and great expectations. You’ve learnt a thing or two from the experience of ending your last marriage or de-facto relationship. You are as determined as can be that this time things are going to be different.
Good for you! Love and determination are a wonderful start that will see you through many of the challenges your new relationship holds in store. To build a marriage that lasts a lifetime, however, you need to recognise, understand and work with the many differences a second marriage (that involves children from a first relationship) presents.
Whether it is you who brings children into the new relationship or it’s your partner, one thing is for sure - second families come with baggage.
The good news is that baggage isn’t something to be afraid of but something that needs to be explored. So, let’s take a look at some of the most obvious baggage that accompanies ‘doing it a second time round’.
Second families are birthed as a result of a significant loss.
Either you or your partner has been through the experience of losing someone you once loved. Sometimes this is due to a partner’s death, more often it is due to separation or divorce. If the person you once loved has left you, they will also have left a legacy of pain. Even if it was you who made the leaving decision, you did not escape unscathed. Separation, and especially divorce, is never easy. The difficult process tends to cause deep wounds of rejection, resentment, insecurity and guilt. Whether you are aware or not, these wounds – even if they are healed by the time you repartner – leave scars that have an influence on your thoughts, feelings and actions. This is not only true for you but also for your children. Whether they live with you or your former partner or they spend lots of time with both or either of you, they also have been scarred by experiencing their parent’s divorce or separation.
Whilst the pain you feel is quite different if you lose your partner to an untimely death, the reality is that both you and your children undergo significant suffering.
In order to build your new relationship on a healthy foundation it is vital that you acknowledge your grief, take a good look at your baggage and determine to deal with it.
What can you do?
Taking the following steps will help you with this process:
Step 1 - Be aware of your feelings
If you find yourself reacting rather strongly and in out-of-proportion ways to certain happenings in your life, ask yourself: “What does this remind me of?”; “What am I afraid of?”; “Why does this cause me to feel so uncomfortable, angry, furious….?”; “What is this really about?”
Step 2 - Give yourself permission to feel your feelings
Whether you are feeling sad or mad, give yourself permission to feel. Trying NOT to feel is just as futile as trying not to think of the pink elephant in your lounge room. You cannot control or stop your feelings. What you can control, however, is whether and how you act on those feelings.
Step 3 - Express your feelings
Sharing your feelings with an appropriate person (your partner, your friend, a mentor or a counsellor) is taking a very important step in the right direction and usually helps take the ‘sting’ out of those feelings. It also means that once talked about, your urge to act on them will generally diminish greatly.
Step 4 - Give your children permission to express their grief
Children who have experienced the breakup of their parent’s relationship suffer just as much as you do but rarely have the maturity to appropriately express these feelings. Instead they may give them a ‘voice’ through their behaviour. Don’t assume that your children are simply rebelling against you or the new circumstance if you find them behaving in an unbearable way. Try to get them to talk about what’s going on in their heads and hearts. When they tell you, be sure not to judge, minimise or attempt to jolly them out of their feelings. They, like you, have every right to whatever their feelings may be. If they can talk about what’s going on for them without the fear of disappointing, angering or making you sad, their behaviour is likely, in due time, to become far more manageable.
If you can think of your feelings as a barometer that shows you when your internal temperature rises beyond the healthy range, you’ll understand that they are there to alert you to areas in your life that need your attention.
Excerpt from Repartnered With Kids. For more info, just click on the title.