The driver of tomorrow is not thinking Green...

The driver of tomorrow is not thinking Green...
He's thinking Classic. (click on photo)


Blog Archive

Mar 22, 2010

Advice for 2nd Marriages part 1 - FOTF

Psychologist Bill Meier, with guests Ron Deal, Author of The Smart Step Family and couple Jim & Susan Owens, remarried for over 20 years. The topic is remarriage and how to help children blend in to a new family.

Dr. Meier: What was your experience like when you entered into remarriage? Did you find that it was all hearts & butterflies? (laughter) or did things rapidly change for you?

Jim: Well again you have to understand with our marriage, we had 5 children that were blended instantly. My oldest was 13 and they went down to 5 and she had 2 children that were 2 & 3. And instantly you had little boys and little girls and there is a constant problem area that is lurking out there. I think more than anything the discipline of the children and the step parent syndrome are the things that create the problem. Not to mention there’s another mother and another father out there. When the children would go away for the weekend and come back, we would have to go through a kind of a recycle to start over again, when they were back home.

The 2 little boys, when we divorced, we’d have to drive 2 ½ hour to meet their father to pick them up. We tried several times how to break that up to make it a little bit of fun. We discovered that if both of us didn’t go, it’d always be a situation where one son would be in the front seat, one in the back because we’d have to deprogram them back to our household. Because they would be fighting or angry or upset, there’s a lot of issues.

Suzie: Well the dynamics of living in 2 different houses with completely 2 different personalities is very tough.

Jim: And there would be simple things that we would never think about. If they were going camping or fishing w/their father and we didn’t send the right clothes, the right swimming suit. You know there were a lot of little funny things like that.

Dr. Meier: As they talk you can hear that there’s, all of that complexity brings a level of stress to the marriage relationship. One of the things that is most amazing to realize for most people is that the level of stress that remarried couples face the first 2 years is equal to the level of stress that most people experience the first 2 years after divorce. 3 times higher than the normal level of stress in a biological first marriage home. And so what do they do with that? They have to have good conflict resolution skills, good coping skills, good negotiation skills, because if they don’t the stress builds up and it erodes the marriage.

Jim: It ain’t the Brady Bunch is it?

Meier: No, I like to say the Brady Bunch lied!

Suzie: Big misnomer, that’s not it at all. It was awful.

Now Jim & Susan, I’m guessing with both of you, coming out of the divorce, there were some issues with the exes. How was that process for you?

Susan: Well it’s a very hard adjustment for everyone involved. At the time Jim & I remarried, your happy, while you’re in that dating process, very selfish, very single minded, your not really thinking about all the ripple effects that it has. But then the adjustments are phenomenal. The boys father lost his sons! And we moved 350 miles away from him. On the other hand, the boys lost their father. And it was a very hard process for all of us – and to this day (20 years later) it’s still an adjustment that you really don’t think about at the time. And the girls and their mother. It’s very hard.

Jim: And through the years that we’ve been married, things have gotten better. I don’t know how we decided this, but one of the things we’ve done is we never tried to talk ugly or be negative about the other parent. There were times behind closed doors we’d tear it up, but never in front of the kids. If I come out and really say what I feel about the ex, the son feels like I’m attacking his parent and that creates a wedge between me & my step son. We had issues – the oldest son was 4 when we remarried and he was probably the most difficult for me to blend that relationship. And I think that part of what Ron says in the book is you gotta take time, you can’t rush that, And there are so many little issues like that – discipline, when you’ve been raising your children and you discipline them one way and you blend a family, then you have different issues, different things to do – it’s a constant area that you’ve got to work on and be conscious of. A lot of times we would do something, then go behind closed doors and have to go back and say “I’m sorry”.

Susan: Oh yea there were many times the disagreements you have with children in a christian home, single marriage, you have terrible problems with raising children. It’s a difficult thing. It’s VERY difficult being a step parent. Yea, I can’t tell you how many times we went behind closed doors and I told Jim “I don’t agree with that”. Never did this in front of the children, never – in fact our children are now adults, beautiful children and we still, watch out what we say about their other parents.

Meier: Well I admire you two about that because that is actually quite rare. Ron has experienced that in his work. Many couples can’t put aside that bitterness for the sake of their children. In fact, you have a saying in your book “When two elephants fight, it’s the grass that suffers”.

Ron: When the elephants are fighting, they’re not aware of what’s going on with the grass. And unfortunately, the hurt, anger, bitterness, pain of the past, with the ex spouse relationship, becomes a barrier to the new relationships. And here the couple thinks it’s about them. And the truth is, it is about them but it’s also about parenting & step parenting. It is also about dealing between households with an ex spouse. It is all of that wrapped up in to one. Again, most couples intuitively know that there’s going to be some challenges but they don’t really know how to navigate all that complexity. And that’s what gets them in trouble.

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