By Bunmi Sofola
WITH the galloping rate of divorce that currently exists world-wide, it stands to reason that second marriages should be as popular as first ones. The snag is second marriages also mean step-children and step-parents surface, resulting in some complications in an otherwise happy ever-after relationship.
“I’m upset because my mum got married again and I don’t like my step father,” a reader’s letter stated. “It was her first proper relationship since our dad left her some nine years ago. I ‘m happily married with children and know her relationship is none of my business since we don’t live together. But my step-father is hostile and I don’t feel comfortable going home.
He lives in mum’s house and has changed the way the house looks, as well as the way my good-natured mother behaves. She doesn’t ring or visit as often as she used to and spends more time with her step-children, who live with her, than with her own children.
“My husband agrees that this man is manipulative but my mum doesn’t know how we children feel because we haven’t confronted her about it. We thought she should enjoy a stable relationship just like dad who has since remarried”. The snag is that a second marriage means time has to be shared amongst other people too. The tendency is for a ‘new’ bride to try and please her new family—the children. It could be nerve-wracking trying to warn your mother off a romance she’s guarding jealously.
“Don’t look at what you’ve lost; look at what you have gained—another adult who might be there for you when you’ve all got used to each other”, counselled a psychologist on how to deal with step-parents. If a step-father is unfriendly, it could be because the children are wary of him when they were introduced. If the children are more welcoming, the step-father might follow suit. Let’s face it. Your mother might not have liked the boyfriends you go out with it in the past, yet she had to put up with them.
“You now have to do the same with your step-father. You will always love her children, but it’s her turn now to be loved, even if she’s entitled to a fulfilling life of her own”.
Benny was planning to go to the university when her mother suddenly announced she was getting married again. “There were only us, two children,” she recalled, “and her news made me decide to go to a university far from home. My younger sister lived with the ‘new’ couple but she didn’t have nice things to say about our so-called-step-father who looked a bit rough round the edges to me.
I avoided him as much as possible I was doing my youth service when they broke up and I’m not ashamed to say that I was jubilant. Who knows, maybe if we’d been more open with our feelings, she might not have married him. Compared to our father, he was a rough-neck. One would expect her to get someone as good as dad if not better! My dad remarried about the time mum did and now has two boys. I don’t feel jealous because his new wife always makes us feel welcomed.”
If you are a parent who’s just remarried, here are some tips experts believe should help:
Don’t be lovey-dovey in front of your children. They may be grown-up but it is still embarrassing for them to see their mother or father acting like a teenager. Don’t expect them to accept your new partner straight away. They’re old enough to make up their own minds. Accept that even if the children don’t live at home any more, they’re still going to find it odd when ‘home’ changes—especially if you move away. Remember, you’re still a mum and possibly a grandma too.
Don’t sacrifice your old family ties for your new found passion. Don’t forget to rewrite your will. Treat everyone fairly and cover all possibilities. For example, what would happen if you died and your new husband remarried?