The “Second Time Around”: Navigating Familial (Emotional) Minefields Will Benefit All.

The “Second Time Around”: Navigating Familial (Emotional) Minefields Will Benefit All.

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WHILE this site specializes in Islam in general and jihad in particular, the fact is that other topics deserve to be placed front and center  – at least every once in a while! This is one of those times.

MOST recently, a “special someone” shared a link from a site with its own emphasis – family relationships/values and various intersecting topics. This back and forth sharing (and caring) is ongoing. Besides, no matter how experienced or smart one is, there should always be room to learn and grow. Ain’t that the truth!

NOW, the aforementioned site is not one which would usually gain our attention, but therein lies its import. In other words, the very fact that the insights gleaned from “The New Couple” are universal in nature accounts for their resonance. Thus, passing it on makes it that much more compelling.

BUT before it’s presented (to a constantly growing readership, thanks so much for that), a few opening comments are important to append. Of special note.

YES, as is said, “it’s complicated.”

UNDER the best of circumstances, one’s immediate (emphasis placed) family has a dynamic all of its own, often swinging within the pendulum. In this regard, to shed some light on what countless parents face the “second time around”, some universal (familial) “food for thought” may be a helpful recipe, so to speak. Hope so. 

TO this end, although remarriage is the focus of “The New Couple”, the very same adult children may – or may not – face the following emotions when their widowed parent (mother or father) starts to date, is in a committed relationship, or is on the verge of remarrying. At the same time, said parent needs to know when it is – or not – the emotionally  appropriate time to “introduce” one to the other, especially when remarriage may not be in the offing. Effectively, one size does not fit all. It just depends.

EVEN so, as is known, emotions, by their very nature, do not follow a logical path. Therefore, differentiating between one level of commitment or another is hardly a factor, when entering the adult child’s specific emotional minefield.

INTRODUCING….

“The New Couple”

“When Daniel’s 35 year-old son told him that he “just wanted him to be happy” the widower assumed his son was giving him permission to remarry. He wasn’t. What the son meant was, “I would hope that mom’s memory will keep you happy enough.” Daniel assumed he had his son’s blessing and got married. His son’s withdrawal from contact alerted him to the problem at hand.

As an older parent and stepparent you must realize that adult children/stepchildren—despite their age—frequently feel:

FEARFUL of being abandoned or isolated from their only remaining parent. Unfortunately, they have already tasted grief in a very real way; your marriage may renew or intensify this sadness.

LOYAL to their original family. Maintaining a strong family identity is important for adult children. Accepting a stepparent means the established family ties and special family holidays and celebrations must stretch to make room for newcomers. This isn’t easy and frankly it hurts. Please don’t take this personally—it’s not really about you. It’s about home no longer feeling like home.

DISLOYAL toward the divorced or deceased parent and guilty about letting the stepparent in.

JEALOUS and replaced by their parent’s new partner. They may have been the “apple of their parent’s eye” but now the stepparent holds the key to the parent’s heart (and time and energy).

CONCERNED about the family finances. Money issues are common and must be addressed. Adult children/stepchildren have a right to know how their family inheritance is going to be managed (this is not “greed”) and you should be proactive in addressing these matters with the children so their fears can be put to rest.

RESENTFUL that their children, the grandchildren, may not receive as much time and energy from their parent as anticipated. Especially when one parent has died adult children may invest heavily in wanting their children to spend time with the grandparent. Your marriage threatens this and creates another loss for everyone.

As a new couple you must apply patience and understanding to these strong emotions. Do not be offended by them. When confronted with difficult responses from adult children, assume a humble position and listen to their fears and concerns. Accept them where they are and try to be responsive to their needs for information (especially about financial matters), emotional contact, and time as they adjust to yet another family transition they didn’t seek out.

Adult Children/Stepchildren

It is very important that you begin by acknowledging your own strong emotions about your parent’s remarriage. The feelings mentioned above are very common; if you don’t take ownership and responsibility of them, they may lead you into withdrawal, criticism, or hurtful behavior.

Without question, a parent’s remarriage ripples through the generations of your family. It may take a great deal of time for you to open your heart to a stepparent and their extended family. Don’t feel compelled to feel love for them, but strive to act in loving ways. Resist the urge to withdraw in anger or judgment. And finally, be sure to acknowledge that your parent has legitimate needs and desires that include pursuing a dating or marriage partner. Doing so does not diminish the important of your other parent, your family history, or their relationship with you.

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HERE’s hoping that the above serves to clarify some parent/adult children minefields – re a mostly “elephant-in-the-room” life-topic!

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