I’d like to ask Frank Sinatra, who’s crooning voice made this lyric popular, “Then why is the divorce rate much higher for second and subsequent marriages?”
Our culture is still trapped in the unrealistic assumption that stepfamilies are no different than a first family. That belief is a weak, untrue foundation on which to try to start building a strong marriage and family.
It’s a shock when you thought you had another chance at love. A chance to do it right this time. A chance to heal, not only for yourself but for your children. After escaping one nightmare, you didn’t expect to find yourself in the midst of another.
The truth is second marriages never start out the same as the first one. To begin, for many, the honeymoon is very brief. Most are immediately thrown into the turmoil of resentful kids, new, unknown relationships, crazy Exes who refuse to co-parent with respect, leftover “issues” from the previous relationship, sometimes crippling financial demands and legal battles.
How can a new marriage and children be nurtured and grow in this toxic atmosphere? It IS possible, but it requires two things that most second marriages don’t get in time to save them and their children from painful mistakes:
- Education about the unique dynamics of new stepfamilies and the strategies that get them successfully through those first few fragile years, (and beyond) and
- Good, effective communication skills: speaking with respect, listening with understanding, conversations that lead to agreement, and ways of handling anger when you want to take your frustrations out on any creature unfortunate enough to be in your immediate force-field.
The average length of time for a stepfamily to stabilize is 5-7 years. I spoke with former clients this week who have finally reached the stepfamily honeymoon stage. They’ve been married for six years. She said the first year was “hell.” He said, “1000% of the stress came from my crazy Ex. She’s still crazy, but we’re handling it better.” Their kids are doing well considering the chaos in their Mom’s home. And this couple knows they are giving their kids the example of a stable, respectful, loving marriage and home life that will inform their belief that a loving, lasting marriage is possible.
I’ve been there. My husband Jim and I survived the catastrophe caused by our poor communication and anger management skills. We finally adopted a sane stepfamily strategy that stopped the constant fighting. We found a coach that taught us how to talk to each other…say what we needed to say…but say it without attacking each other. She taught us how to vent our anger safely in a journal, or by hitting a bucket of balls, or pulling weeds in the garden so that we could then have a sane conversation about our “issue.” We learned how to share our feelings rather than our opinions. We developed empathy for each other’s difficult roles which made resolving “the issue” much more possible.
You can learn the skills and stepfamily strategies that work for most. The communication and anger management skills can be learned by my online program called the Millionaire Marriage Club. It’s relatively painless. All you need is a computer and 30 minute blocks of time combined with your determination to exchange what isn’t working for what will work. Go to my website, www.nancylandrum.com, to learn about the Millionaire Marriage Club.
In a few short weeks I’m launching a live, online pilot class called Stepping TwoGether: Building a Strong Stepfamily. This class teaches the strategies for successful parenting and step-parenting as well as the importance of making your marriage a high priority. Or you can click the link below to read about our story…the ugly first years, followed by sixteen years of honeymoon before Jim passed on. You may glean some lessons from reading about what we learned.
If you’d like to speak with me and discuss how I may help, click on this link to choose a convenient time for a brief phone appointment with me: https://meetme.com/SpeakWithNancy
P.S. You may find some issues familiar to you in this free download: The Landrum Stepfamily Story.
Nancy Landrum has been teaching relationship skills to couples for twenty-five years. Her signature book, How to Stay Married & Love It! Solving the Puzzle of a SoulMate Marriage, is lauded by both professionals and clients. See other resources on her website, www.nancylandrum.com