Adult Stepfamilies: Bridging Connection Across the Generations
Adult Stepfamilies: Bridging Connection Across the Generations
Adapted from the book When Your Parent Remarries Late In Life (2007) by Terri P. Smith
Compiled by Ron L. Deal.Used with permission of the author.
Adult stepfamilies (those with adult stepchildren) have similar dynamics to stepfamilies with minor aged children, but they also have some unique dynamics and challenges.In her insightful book When Your Parent Remarries Late In Life, Terri P. Smith provides help and hope to later life, multi-generational stepfamilies.While the book is primarily written to the adult stepchild, it holds great insight for the older couple and extended family members as well.
With the author’s permission, I share with you here just some of the insights from Terri’s book.
Before the Wedding:
1.Adult Children: acknowledge that your parent’s feelings and desires to pursue dating or marriage are legitimate.Watching a parent being romantic or affectionate with someone can be difficult and awkward.Prepare your heart to witness this at some point and plan how you will react.
2.Acknowledge the feelings of the adult stepchild.When a parent remarries adult children face complicated adjustments, divided loyalties, and feelings such as anger at their biological parent, exaggerated grief over the deceased or absent parent, betrayal, loneliness, even robbed of familiar family life.(p. xviii)
3.Adult Children: distinguish between your feelings (what you can’t control) and the behaviors you choose (what you can control).Don’t let your first reaction to a new marriage be based on the fear that your parent is making a poor decision.
4.Adult Children: mothers tend to be more open with dating decisions while fathers may not inform you of their dating and courtship practices.However, it is okay for you to ask if they are dating.Don’t be nosey, but articulating interest in their life is appropriate.
5.Extend a hand of friendship to one another.Get to know one another rather than treating them as an outsider.
6.Maintain communication and trust.Open and honest communication alleviates misinformed judgments about one another.If you have concerns, express them gently.
7.An engagement announcement can illicit strong feelings of hurt or anger if there is regret or hurt feelings related to the original family.The strong emotions sound the alarm that there is work to be done.Take the time to work through the hurt together so both you and the family can move forward.
8.Adult Children: an “I won’t support this marriage” posture is unbecoming of an adult and ultimately hurts you.
After the Wedding:
1.Adult Children: Find reasons to rejoice in your parent’s marriage.Obviously they are experiencing many blessings or they wouldn’t have gotten married.Try to celebrate that with them even if you are struggling to accept the situation.
2.Adult Children: Be considerate and give the newlyweds time to bond their relationship.
3.Stepparents:Occasionally give your new spouse and their children time together without you.This “compartmentalization” of relationships helps adult children (and grandchildren) to maintain their bonds without the constant sacrifice of having to share them with you.More often than not you will be with your spouse when he/she is with their children.An occasional “break” is helpful, especially in the early years of the marriage.
4.Discuss what terms or names you will use to refer to one another.Find something mutually agreeable and comfortable.Share how you would like the other to introduce you to others.Also, decide what names you will encourage the grandchildren to use.Young grandchildren may use uncomplicated terms of endearment (e.g., “grandpa”) or you find a variation on a family term that suits everyone (e.g., “Papa Joe”).
5.Treat one another as you would like to be treated.The Golden Rule isn’t just for kids.
6.Engage one another to get better acquainted.Share your interests, engage in the other’s interests, ask questions about their family history, and seek out opportunities to be together.
7.Adult Children: replace negative feelings with thoughts of respect.Esteem your stepparent for his/her position as your parent’s spouse.Try to embrace your stepparent’s children and extended family.Doing so serves your parent’s heart.
8.Adult Children: where your parent and stepparent live is their decision.Try to accept that.
9.Accept the fact that mom or dad’s financial assets belong to them.They can allocate them however they choose.Encourage them to communicate their wishes to you and to complete legal documents to minimize family squabbles.Realize that inheritance and financial changes may occur over time.Place your emphasis on relationships rather than material possessions.If you have a major concern for your parent’s well-fare, consult a lawyer in your area to discuss your options.
10.Adult Children: remember your stepparent on holidays and invite them to special family celebrations.Send a Mother’s Day or Father’s Day card that reflects your sentiment and/or have a grandchild acknowledge them. Try to make them feel part of the family.
11.Simple mistakes are common during family transitions.Learn to overlook or move beyond them rather than “turn mountains into mole hills.”
I am 62 and entered into a relationship with a 71 year old man 3 years ago. We had a lot in common and loved doing the same things. We spent every weekend together and went on vacations together. We had a sexy, fast paced, wonderful relationship. He is a widow after 40 years of marriage, his wife passed 7 years ago. I am divorced for over 20 years. I have 5 kids, he has 4. 3 of his adult children are daughters.None of which are legally married, 2 had just broken off their relationships, the youngest is 35 and none have children. We were very happy and in love, but his daughters could not share their father and in my opinion were still dealing with the death of their mom.
While I have lost my parents and loved them very much, I would want them to be happy and I would not have interfered with my fathers choices. If you have a parent that is in love again, please don't break up the relationship the way these 3 daughters did.It makes for 2 unhappy seniors that miss each other very much.
#42: by Karl on 12.06.2015 @ 12:08am CST
My first wife died a decade ago after a 20 year marriage. My son was in HS then. Three years later I married a lady with 3 adult SDs. My son, now an adult, is out of the picture. My wife loathes him, throwing his name into Every disagreement we have. My son broke off communication with both of us. I gave up asking my wife and son to work things out, because they won't. Most social activities revolve around my adult SDs. My wife planned a one-night getaway for tonight from a prize she won, at a hotel an hour from here (coincidentally, near a SD). This 24-hour trip includes a female-only party tomorrow afternoon. The plan: Drive to the hotel, go to dinner tonight, sleep, attend church in the morning, hotel check-out, then wife and SD attend a party while I wait poolside until they are done and pick me up. Though disappointed, I bit my lip and went along with this tedious plan for waiting poolside. To add insult to injury, this morning my wife talked with her daughter and agreed for us to meet for a drink tonight (i.e. sit in a bar for an hour or two of loud laughing and gossiping.) These "drinks" invariably precede dinner with the adult SDs, too. I was very disappointed because a quiet getaway dinner I imagined with my wife, wasvessentially torpedoed by new plans for the bar scene with an adult SD, in tow for dinner. My wife's preference is to hang out with her daughters but she likes it when I go along, probably because I drive. When I spoke up about this, given many earlier complaints about making plans with kids without my input, I was called all sorts of names. My wife stomped out of here after a heated discussion this morning. Returning an hour later, she again stomped out, this time for the hotel. She will party with her daughter tonight, take her to dinner, daughter will likely sleep in the hotel room, they'll go to the female-only party tomorrow afternoon, and likely have brunch before then for good measure. From all I read, this dynamic isn't going to change. I feel sad, used, and extremely under-valued as a loyal husband. I am trampled when attempting to voice myself. O I wish my wife and her adult SDs would have their own lives, in contrast to their incessant clannish.
#41: by chris on 12.03.2015 @ 10:41pm CST
I find it can become very lonely in a second marriage with my own adult children (one of whom was 15 when we married) and my husband's children (his youngest was 12 when we married.) As my children are now having children of their own, it becomes poignant for me how I am and always have been a "single parent" and now am a "single grandmom." I always ached for a loving primary family of my own as I was raised in a difficult and destructive family. I showed my husband a three dimensional ultrasound of my new 14 week old grand baby yesterday, and he said "it" looked creepy. Little bent elbow, hand to little tiny face, little legs and even a nose apparent. "It" looked creepy--tonight my husband said I should go out and celebrate with my ex-husband (abusive man I divorced over 16 years ago.) I am sad to imagine being alone in my sorrow or joy with all family dealings. It is a very difficult navigation--blending primary and origin families seems impossible and this is too difficult for words, sometimes.
#40: by J on 10.13.2015 @ 04:57pm CDT
I found you through FamilyLife and have read several of your books. Thank you for your continued outreach to the step family community. I am remarried to a man with 2 adult daughters. My husband ended his previous marriage and was divorced prior to us dating. The main reason his marriage ended was because the children were the main focus - not the marriage. My husbands ex is still not over their marriage and has not moved on (it's been over 7 years). The oldest daughter has never accepted me and has tried to manipulate her father from the get-go. She did everything in her power to ruin our wedding ceremony and cried like it was a funeral. After we were married she asked him "if your new wife and I were in a burning car, who would you save first?". Although it was an unfair question, he pointed her to scripture. He has always stood firm that God comes first, then your spouse, then the children - especially since that is why his first marriage failed. Since then, there has been nothing but turmoil. Unfortunately my husband lost his job right after we were married. At the time we were paying an exorbitant amount in child support (for an 18 and 20 year old who wasn't even living with the mother) as well as both his girls car insurance and cell phone expenses. After he lost his job, I was the only one bringing in income and we could no longer afford to pay the extras anymore (car insurance and cell phone bills). Both his ex as well as his two daughters were working and had an income. He automatically became the bad guy and I, of course, was blamed for "changing" him. My husband provided lavishly for his 2 girls and was the only income earner throughout their childhood, giving his ex the opportunity to stay home and not work. I have always worked and provided for my 3 daughters (who are younger than his). With time, his ex slowly turned both girls against him. It was very clear that she did not know how to handle the girls continuing to be a part of his life without her in it. These girls were raised in the church. They have become very hateful, mean-spirited, bitter young women. We have sent birthday checks that get cashed with no acknowledgement. We have sent Christmas gifts, graduation presents with little to no acknowledgement. The youngest daughter (who is now 21) stated recently that she refuses to have a relationship with her father until he divorces me. I've never had any conflict with this young woman - ever. I have, however, bought her new swim suits for her spring break and attended basketball games when she was cheering to support her, etc. The oldest recently got married. My husband had to find out she was getting married through Facebook. He also found out his ex's father was walking her down the aisle via Facebook. When he asked her if he was going to even be invited she told him she was still thinking about it. In the end, he told her his heart couldn't take watching another man walk her down the aisle. He hadn't done anything to deserve being treated that way. Once he said that - she invited him. But only him. He had to choose. After much counsel with our pastors and close friends, he chose not to attend. I wonder how far these girls will take this. Will it affect another generation? Will they start having children and not allow him to be a part of their lives? How sad is that? My husband is an amazing father. He loves God and he loves his family. He has reached out to these girls over and over to only be rejected. We have both asked for forgiveness for anything we might have done to hurt either one of them yet they don't acknowledge that either, much less show forgiveness or grace. They, too, have much to be forgiven for. It is hard to forgive them when they do not acknowledge the pain they have caused (maliciously at that). Things don't have to be this way. They have a father who loves them, all they have to do is embrace it. Instead they are causing continuous pain. Are there any online support groups for situations such as ours? We have read books, gone to Christian counseling, attended seminars, etc. Any help would be appreciated. We are continuously heartbroken by these 2 adult women.
I would answer No. You can't just sit by and watch your family be torn apart. What she is doing is not Godly, loving, or respectful to her husband (your dad), let alone to you.
The question is, now what? That's the hard part. Like a child fighting for an alienated child, I suggest you speak assertively to your dad about your desire to stay in contact with him. Don't make her the focus, but don't shy away from calling a spade a spade. Point out how the family is being distanced and ask him--here's the end goal--to keep his relationship with you alive. She won't like it. And she doesn't have to be part of it (her choice). But he must stop being passive and assert his desire to remain connected to his children.
It's up to him.
#38: by Joe on 09.30.2015 @ 10:30am CDT
What do you do when you suspect your parent is being taken advantage of by the new spouse? Less than 3 months after my mother's death (40+ year marriage), new spouse (20 years my father's junior) begins pursuing him. In the matter of 6 months, he is alienated from his children and not allowed to see or speak to them unless she is present. Very lucky that there was no family turmoil until this person involved. Now, father acts out of character, is caught lying about new spouse, etc. New spouse won't permit him to invite children to their wedding. Complete stereotypical manipulation. Are we just to sit by and watch his life unravel?
What Do Your Kids Need? http://www.fathers.com/s5-your-situation/c21-step-dad/stepfathering-adolescents-it-takes-patience-flexibility-humor-2/
9 Ways for a Stepfather to Engage His Family: http://www.fathers.com/s5-your-situation/c21-step-dad/9-ways-for-a-stepdad-to-engage-with-his-family/
Want more? Just search "stepfather"
#36: by Clara on 08.28.2015 @ 11:53am CDT
WHERE are the articles on how to be a good stepparent, specifically a stepfather? Any articles I've found have been about the stepmother. Most of these suggestions here involve the adult children's actions.
#35: by Donna on 07.27.2015 @ 01:12pm CDT
Wow. I cannot believe some of the comments I have read on this site from stepchildren. I realize that there is hurt that can last a lifetime from a broken marriage. I myself did not come from a broken home but my dad did back when it was not acceptable. Things he said throughout my childhood I know hurt him because of his parents divorce. With that being said when is a parents obligation to a child supposed to end as far as introducing another woman when his children are grown? I mean in my situation I am not the reason that their parents divorced. My husband and his ex-wife married at 18 and I think they both had a responsibility in the demise of their marriage. My husband even had another wife in between me and the mother of his grown children. So I don't understand why they have to treat me as if I am not a human being who should at least deserve common courtesy treatment.
I have scars from my childhood for other reasons and do not feel that I must treat people nasty because of the past. For me as a stepmother it is embarrassing to be treated like I am invisible being passed over in the hug line, or given wrinkle cream for a gift. I have made several attempts to do things with my stepchildren only to be turned down. If I say the sky is blue it is always red, according to them. I just want to be acknowledged as a fellow human being in the rat race of humanity on this planet.
When I take my concerns to my husband he tells me that I am the older person who should act better. So I do not get support from him (I know this is part of the problem why they treat me this way). This is so disheartening to me as stepparent to feel punished merely due to the fact that I fell in love with someone who has grown children. I have children also (2) and I tell them to respect people, have manners, be cordial. Sometimes we have to learn how to adapt and be flexible in life. Things change, circumstances change. I spent at least 20 years trying to teach my children right from wrong and aimed for a goal to let them learn how to take care of themselves as an adult.So Why should children not be taught to accept someone else to be with their father to share happiness and joy instead of being alone, waiting for children to visit. I don't understand this. So we are all supposed to live in the past and wish the original family was still together?
I just want to be recognized as a human being who has feelings.I do not wish to take over any mothering role or sabotage any relationship with either biological parent.However, I know I will never be recognized as just wanting a social relationship when we are together for different family activities.The more I speak about how wrong this behavior with my husband the more insignificant I feel. There is no chance of sitting down and talking about the problem to clear the air. Instead I either have to accept how I am treated or end my relationship. I did another wrong but love a man who is also loved by his children who loath me for no reason. I understand their hurt but don't understand why it must continue.
Mickey, when you asked for suggestions my guess is you're really asking how can I get the girls to except me. I'm not sure that's exactly your question, but if it is all you can do is continue to be a loving, kind person. In other words all you can do is all you can do. There are a number of possible explanations as to why they refrain from embracing you; none of us will ever know. Just continue loving them as best you can and see if Grace doesn't win them over. In addition, I would suggest that you not ignore the pattern that you see in the girls. If you cannot except how they treat you then don't marry their father. However, if you are able to stand up within it then you may continue towards marriage. Otherwise, just keep dating and see how it goes.
#33: by Micky on 07.23.2015 @ 03:33pm CDT
All of these comments have been very insightful.
I have been dating and now living with a man for 4 years, who has been divorced from his girls mother for 25+ years.
I have been nothing but kind to his two girls (30 and 33). I have been respectful of their Mother, and tried to be kind to both of them any way I can. On one hand, they give me cards/letters telling me Im the best thing that has ever happened to their family...then they will invite us out to celebrate say Father's Day...pay for my boyfriends breakfast and expect me to pay my own way. I always treat them when it is my turn to pay...but it is never reciptricated. I should note that they are both financially better off than we are.
Like one of the other posters on this blog, they always come around when they "want something" money, financial support of an endeavor, etc... which hurts me to no end, seeing them take advantage of their father. He is a wonderful man!
I have never been married, have no family alive any more, so this is very hurtful to me.
I feel they are passive agressive...and have now gotten to the point where I don't even want to spend time with them anymore. They are fairly kind to my face, but actions speak louder than words. I encourage my boyfriend to see his children every time he can...I do not say anything negative about them...but have no desire to be in their company anymore. I'm tired of the games they are playing.
All the posters here mention "daughters"..I wonder if it is a daughter thing. I have dated men with sons and NEVER have been treated like this by any of their children. I guess that why it hurts so much. One of his daughters actually told me once "you know, it's really hard to not like you Micky". Oh my...
Any suggestons would be appreciated- as I am about to "give up".
#32: by Donna on 07.21.2015 @ 01:39pm CDT
I am the adult child of a mother who is dating and plans to marry again. My dad died five years ago. Even though I am extremely happy for my mom, I am not comfortable with the public affection that her and her boyfriend show one another. I am having a rough time thinking about future holidays and visits with my mom. I am trying my best to be supportive and happy for them, but I wish that their relationship did not have to have the affect that it does on me. Praying that I can be the good daughter my mom deserves.
This is about balance and it sounds as if you conscientiously honor your role as a wife (a pastor's wife, at that) and stepmother/stepgrandmother. Finding a way to carve out one-on-one time with your kids/grandchildren is quite appropriate. (If you were a biological family, you'd probably do this from time to time also.) It feels like there's some special concern or fear that your husband is wrestling with; otherwise, this wouldn't be an issue.
Be very calm and compassionate in your tone when you ask him about it. You're not finding fault; you're trying to understand what makes time with your kids a threat to him.
#30: by L on 04.13.2015 @ 05:03pm CDT
I remarried at 58 and my husband was 69. We are both widowed and were always in ministry. We both have adult children and grandchildren. (his close by and mine in another state) After 8 years all our children get along well and we each get along with the other's childrens. The problem is that my husband gets very upset if my children ask me to come see or visit them. I always try to include my husband but because of his schedule(very busy Pastor) he cannot always go. I would like to be able to spend time with my granddaughter or daughter-in-law when there are special school functions or just a need for girl time or time with my sons. When I mention it to my husband it always results in a big disagreement. He uses every excuse he can find to keep me from going, i.e., I am shirking responsibility to him, I am putting my children ahead of him, when none of those are true. I try to make sure my priorities as a wife and pastor's wife are fulfilled first unless there is an emergency. But can't I have some special time as a mother and grandmother to my birth family, too? PS I spend lots of time with his children and grandchildren who live close to us.
Your questions reveal the depth of complexity that remarriage, money, and assets intersect. Obviously we can't give detailed advice through this forum, so let me encourage you to: 1) read this excellent article on estate planning (http://smartstepfamilies.com/view/shared-covenant-agreement); 2) talk to a financial planner who is familiar with legal issues and estate laws in your state.
And, I can't help but ask you to consider getting married. A ring on your finger won't create easy solutions with financial planning, but it will help resolve the ambiguity of being family for both you and your kids. Beneath your words I think I heard a lack of confidence in the long term commitment of your partner to you and your children. Marriage helps to resolve that. Just a thought.
#28: by sally on 03.25.2015 @ 05:41am CDT
I have been widowed for about 20 years. Have 2 adult sons (one married), no grandkids, yet. I have been with the same man, living in my home (no mortgage) for about 13 years. When we first met, he was renting ,good job and we both contribute equally to bills after moving in with me.then he became disabled. During the two year battle to get paid, we had no income and I cleaned out my CD's to support us. I work part time with insurance so I was able to cover that. Now, 10 years later, I am asset "rich " , income poor. I take home $380 a month, after the insurance for both of us. Own house worth about 200k, brokerage worth about 150k. My partner now collects enough to cover the house bills, no mortgage still. During the disability fight, cleaned out all of my other money (liquid assets) to support us. My original will was made up 10 years ago. Since, at that time we only knew each other 2 years. I left everything to my children and a life estate for my partner so the kids couldn't toss him. I told him we would revisit the will in 10 years. Now it's 13 years later, my partner gets enough to support us, I still work part time, half my pay for insurance for both of us. His work pension is worth about 110k and still has 12 years to go. His other investments are worth about 5k. I told him long ago that while we are fighting insurance companies, and waiting 2 years to get social security, I will use everything in my liquid assets to float the boat..then I'll be broke and he will have to continue to float the boat.he said no problem and don't worry about the house... that will always belong to the boys, blah blah. Now he wants me to "revisit the will " as promised. His will names only me as the beneficiary, as he has no children. Mine states only my children are recipients. So , bottom line.... he can support himself and I can't. I have the house and brokerage, which I had 10 years before I met him. He thinks I should leave my entire estate to him. He is 55,me 50, kids have middle class jobs. I already made him beneficiary of my life insurance, work pension and 30k in joint account. He claims that when he dies he will leave everything to my sons. They get along, but they were teens when I met him so the bonding is not there. Then I get the whole "don't you trust me that I will take care of the boys?" i want to make a will based on a percentage..like partner gets 50% kids 25% each as I have know idea how much I'll have when I die. My partner is starting to say things like "you pay the property taxes ",knowing well enough I can't, unless I sell the last of my stocks. The house is in bad shape. I promised to reimburse him for any major expenses from my will. No plans are good enough for him, unless he gets it all. I will not take the chance that some new woman or family will get my home while my kids struggle to survive. How should I redo my will? I have 3 people to worry about..him and my boys. He only has himself. Need advice..thanks
#27: by loreen on 02.09.2015 @ 07:06am CST
I am married to a widower with adult kids. My situation is diffrent then most though. I am younger than all but one of his children and barley older that that one. I am hated. I am compared. I hear things of how he should of mourned longer (she past 3 years before we started dating). Now we had a baby together and then I heard stuff like she was no sibling of theirs and stuff. I know it's hard and I know I'm younger but you can't help who you fall in love with.
#26: by Maxine Delgado on 01.08.2015 @ 11:42am CST
Married to a Widower and his adult kids call all day and night. My slice of the pie is non-existent.
#25: by Marci on 12.04.2014 @ 09:03pm CST
This is in response to Lora. I, too, have struggles between my husband and my daughters who don't like him. He is opinionated and honestly, doesn't care of my children who were raised differently from his. (My ex and I did put them first and, because of his good job they had it pretty good financially whereas my now husband's sons did not.) Anyway, my daughters are uncomfortable around my husband as they have overheard him say some very critical things about them (some of which I agree with him). Due to their immaturity in their twenties, they have been selfish, putting only their OWN feelings before anyone else, especially mine...pulling back from Me because of their dislike of HIM. I finally DID tell my 29 year old recently that out of their love for me, they should at least accept him as family because I chose him...whether THEY like it or not. Maturity has helped, and because 2 of my 4 daughters live out of state, there will never be the chance for my children and my husband to ever really know each other. My younger 2 live here I town,but rarely come to my home unless he's not here. It saddens me greatly.
#24: by Andrea on 09.07.2014 @ 06:16pm CDT
These comments have really helped me this morning. My situation is a little different as I have helped to raise my adult step-children since they were children. The problem are still there even though I have helped to raise them. It is very difficult to deal with disrespect etc from the step-children whilst balancing and understanding the difficulties my husband is having with the tension in mine and the SC's relationship. I keep asking God for help and guidance.
#23: by Stephanie on 08.03.2013 @ 09:58am CDT
I feel like Brian also. My mother died 7 years ago. My father literally turned the house into a bachelor pad. It was like a revolving door. They would have sexual relations while we were in the house.
My father remarried last year to a woman he had an affair while my mother was alive for five years.
Now that they are married my father wants me to apologize to her for not attending the weeding. Put the Viagra bottle down and come to your senses. How does he expect me to respect him and his new wife. I just started speaking to him recently and she is making him choose. Dealt a very bad hand!
#22: by widowed stepmom on 11.05.2012 @ 05:33pm CST
Since the passing of my wonderful husband I do not have much contact with my two step daughters. We did not bond successfully for many reasons and I respect their decisions to get on with their lives which are going well for both of them. I am not sure that I would marry again and if I was to meet someone I would hope that the fact that I did not want or need anything financially from their parent would permit a safe landing for us in the somwhat stressful world of step parenting. I would hope that we could get on and that they would be happy for their dad who would be a lucky man to have me in his life. On the other hand if there were a lot of issues I would just hope for respect and space on both sides. At my age I have no desire to complicate any part of my life and retirement with conflict of any sort. Sometimes you just are not a good mix and sometimes you are. The only real important thing is to maintain whatever was your relationship with your birth parent if you so choose. Mostly your parent will want that. Just remember you need to respect your parents choice regardless of how you may feel about the person. If you do and they are a reasonable person you will slowly develop a friendship with them. You have as much responsibility to communicate with them your needs and wishes in a kind manner as they do to you. Also you may not always get your way but so what... you have your life, marriage and family to consider. i am sure you do not consult your parent and new partner on all decision in your life and in your family. Good luck to all of you in step families at any age.
#21: by Belissa on 09.17.2012 @ 01:15pm CDT
Stepfamilies are even complicated when one partner favors their own biological children over the other partners financially, emotionally and on visiting schedules. Men rarely seem to step up and tell the second wife to stuff it. They just roll over and leave their children to pick up the pieces after they die. I for one refuse. If my father has no basic consideration for me as an adult child and refuses to engage in basic niceties like scheduled visits, exchanging a christmas card or remembering my Birthday, he can let my stepmother and her two worthless kids care for him in his old age. Families are about caring for on another. If my stepmother wants to treat me like an unwelcome person, she can count on me to turn and walk away before I say something that I will regret. Any stepfamily that does not do advance estate planning for basic items like family photos, sentimental heirlooms or family keepsakes is one that shows no concern for the feeling of the next generation. If your parent refuses to deal with those items in writing, they are telling you in advance that you are less important to them than their new stepfamily. That alone shows a lack of respect and consideration. It should be a sign to you that your relationship with your parent is not what you thought it was even before they remarried.
#20: by Zoe Moore on 09.16.2012 @ 02:34pm CDT
These children making threats of alienating their parents for finding love are pathetic. One "adult" child speaks of how his parent should sacrifice for him--he needs to do the same--he needs to give up sex and companionship if he wants to be miserable, but he shouldn't impose misery on his parent or expect his parent to be anything other than HUMAN. I was happy for my parent for remarrying.
#19: by Concerned on 06.10.2012 @ 11:37pm CDT
My mother married over ten years ago to a man who wants nothing to do with us or her grandchildren. He is an alcoholic and we believe emotionally abusive (or at least passive aggressive). I am realizing, sadly, that she has always put herself into victim mode and roles of codependence. My mother allows him to put this wedge in between us all (her children are in their 40s and were in their mid-late 30s when she married). We moved far away to start our own lives because being a half hour away, and never seeing her, was too painful. I want her to be happy, if that is what she is, but does it have to come at the expense of her children and grandchildren? I see other families who are blended, and extended, and this doesn't seem to be an issue. I can't tell you how alone and motherless I've felt and how I mourn that my growing children haven't seen their grandmother in four years. If I confront her about it, she cries "bully" to her siblings and husband. If I keep quiet, I turn the anger inward on myself as I struggle with my own depression and feelings of loss. It's a lose-lose. Any advice out there for a grown woman of a third-married mother? (And I mourn her second marriage, too, which ended when I was in my early 30s: a whole family dynamic just GONE) At midlife, this is not an easy thing for me to be dealing with on top of raising my own family. I believe I just need to be the matriarch that my mother has never been. Thanks for listening.
#18: by Ms Colleen Mitchell on 05.13.2012 @ 11:32pm CDT
My father's third wife will not let me see my 89 yr. old dad who is dying or have any type of communication with him. Do I have any legal rights as his daughter? Unfortunately I can not afford an attorney and may not ever see him before he dies. What can I do? Thank you. Sincerely, Ms Mitchll
#17: by Ms C. Mitchell on 05.13.2012 @ 11:26pm CDT
My father's third wife refuses to let me see my 89 yr. old dying father or have any contact with him. What legal rights do I have as his child? Can I see him before he dies? I can not aford an attorney.
Thank you for your help. Ms Mitchell
#16: by Joa Clark on 04.23.2012 @ 11:16am CDT
As a stepmother of 5, and 3 biological children one of which is with the 2nd husband now deceased and I am now remarried with an additional 2 adult stepchildren of which all the children are adults now including my last child from the second marriage I understand where each of those who wrote ahead are coming from. I too am from a family of divorce with a great stepmother who I loved dearly. The relationship I had viewed between her and my mom is what allowed me to understand what children go through when entering a stepfamily relationship and the dinamics experienced once you're an adult with what now? When the parents get older and you have to care for not two parents but possibly three and obviously based upon the relationship you have with your step parent.
I just want to say that our God is a loving God and He both heals and mends the broken hearts if we allow Him to regardless to where you fall in the equation be it the step child or step parent or the biological parent God can help you work through your emotions, and to love again and love inspite of if-- and I emphasize if- you want to be healed. Our parents as with us are doing the best they can with what they know and what they have. It's unfortunate when a marriage dies, as I don't beleive that anyone wants it truly otherwise why get married hoping for true partnership and emotional connection along with sexual companionship if you did it with the thought of death and pain and turmoil in mind to yourself, or your children. No one in their right mind would sign up for that type of hurt, and I don't beleive people do. I do beleive that due to immaturity in dealing with our own growth or the lack thereof, and ignorance regarding true open or knowing what transparent communication is we end up hammering it out against each other and the fall out is the marriage.
But even with that we still have hope because within us God has hot wired each of us to search out for love and fulfill His orignial intent for the human race by His statement that "It's not good for man to continue alone, let us make a helper for him." Genesis so His beginning design still motivates each of us to keep trying until we get it right. Gods enemy of the human family unfortunately is hot on our trails and has turned up the heat with flame throwers, missles, granades and such in this spiritual warfare being played out in our physical lives, so we must put on the various Armors that God speaks of within the Bible in order to withstand and triumph beyond these constant attacks against the family of God, His design, for there is nothing wrong with what He created.
We merely have to dilligently put forth strong spirit guided and submitted faith on our part to trust God and love even when we don't want to, which is covering over othes sins as we want covered over our sins. So speak into existance Mark 11-23-25, and appreciate your God given authority to call those things that be not as though they were and then you will truly move the mountain from within your family and have the success you desire with your biological parents inspite of a remarriage, and or a great relationship with your step children inspite of their angst as this is the Hope God has for each of us that we would share love with one another as He shows us love continually daily.
May God who offers peace above and beyond all that you could ask for be on your heart daily as you triumph our shared enemy of families and of God. Remember who wants to kill steal and destroy us at any cost, and Who says but we can have life more abundantly. God be with you all!
Your sister in Christ,and on the battlefield of life with you, and we do win the war, remember this.
#15: by unwilling "evil step mom" on 04.03.2012 @ 12:38pm CDT
PS- This question is specifically for Brian.
I'm just wondering about your statement: To any parent remarried with adult children. So you’re so scared of being lonely or need sex so much that you just have to get remarried? Well, prepare to lose those that truly love you for who you are, your children. Sure they will come around and celebrate birthdays, etc…. But, the emotional tie will be seriously damaged!! You won’t be able to see it coming, as you are star struck, you can’t think of anything other than this new love. But, once the luster has faded, and you realize you’ve wasted your children’s love, you’ll kick yourself for being so selfish and not living sacrificially. Your children desperately want the parents they grew up with! Go ahead, fill your time with volunteer activities, vacations, etc…..when the rubber hits the road, you’ll still wish you children loved you and wanted you around. My Mom essentially died the day she remarried. I’ll attend a funeral one day, but I’ll be mourning the mother I lost when she remarried to the horrible man she now calls her husband!"
Does one's parent's having a relationship or getting married have to damage the relationship with the kids? Really? Do you have to stop loving your parents because they get married? Do you think your parents have to go through life without love and intimacy as retribution for the pain you went through in order to earn your love? I'm sorry, I don't understand this attitude. But I'm not in your situation.
My kids are still kids. They live with me full time. After a couple of years, they came to me and encouraged me to date. Because they know I will always love them, always be there for them, and they want me to be able to love and be loved. They don't see the man I'm dating as a threat, but as a blessing. Sometimes, things arise that are different or uncomfortable, but we just sit down and talk about it, and solve the problem.... it seems if that is possible with kids, it would be possible with adults.
You are an adult.... you have your life, your family, your life is full.... do you want your parents to sit in loneliness waiting for you to have time to include them? How is them moving on to a relationship a waste of your love?
#14: by unwilling "evil step mom" on 04.03.2012 @ 12:25pm CDT
Almost 3 years after my divorce, I became reacquainted with a man and began dating him. Our families have known one another since I was a very young child, and we have many mutual friends. All of our friends and family have been super supportive and glad we have found one another except for his adult daughter. She has met me only once, and after meeting me, gave her dad a checklist of things she doesn't like, and concerns about our relationship.... all of which are unfounded fears. My response to her email in which she called me names and said horrible things about me was polite and understanding... I understand she is hurting, and I care for her dad, but don't expect her to instantly like me. However, I did let her know that any discussions about my minor children who live with me is off limits to her. Her mother divorced her dad when she was an infant, and her dad was always there for her and did everything he possibly could for them, even to the point of never having a serious relationship. I have not had a chance to offend her.... I only met her once, over dinner, and it was all very pleasant conversation. But, she has decided to cast me in the role of wicked stepmother.
Because of the adult daughter, I am not moving on toward a future with this man. He is really hurt by this, because he feels that me backing off of our relationship is giving in to her. My feeling is, obviously there is some unsolved issue here, and it's easier for her to make me the target of her anger rather than address the real problem, whatever it is. I am simply unwilling to be the scapegoat.
I saw several comments about daughters typically having problems with their dads having other women in their lives... and I do think the bottom line in this situation is that Daddy's princess was the only woman in his life all her life, and now that he has a "queen", she's feeling threatened... but I'm not being given a chance to show that I won't put a wedge in their relationship... but she is making me a wedge. She has set up several situations in which he had to choose between her and me, and in every one, I have been gentle and understanding toward her.
But really, why would any adult woman want to be the only woman in her Dad's life? A daughter can't give a man the same kind of love and companionship as he can have in a real, deep, intimate relationship. And how can she move on and have her own relationship with her own man if she is still so attached to her father? After the way this has played out, I believe that the reason he never had a serious relationship is because other women who dated him saw this and dropped him without bothering to talk to him about why... but because I knew him and his family well before we started dating, I believe he is worth going through the discomfort of talking about something uncomfortable, and working through it.... so I stuck around....but I won't marry into a horrible situation like this. Seeing all the comments from people in this situation confirms to me that I am right to say I will not move toward a future with this man until this problem is solved.
#13: by Warmo on 03.09.2012 @ 12:59am CST
I've happily accepted my mother's new husband (married two years, got together three years ago), however I have asked that when my mother cares for my now four year old son at their home, she does the care-giving and stays and looks after him and uses the time to bind with him herself. She is really keen for her husband to have a relationship with my son and encourages him to call him grandpa etc, and I've realised he often takes my son off to the library and they do things alone, while my mother gardens or has her hair cut etc. I've made it pretty clear that I want her to be the one spending time with my son, as I haven't chosen for my son to have this extra relationshoip, and it's her only wish for them to have the relationship, not mine, but she continues to leave my son with her husband as it suits her. Aren't I justified in choosing who looks after my only child? I got very angry this week as she collected my son because I had a class, as she said she was having her hair cut, but her husband would look after my son and it was only for an hour etc, yet I've said so many times I'd prefer to make other arrangements if she can't be there. I feel guilty for getting angry, but was so annoyed to have my wishes ignored again. Any comments?
#12: by Lora on 12.12.2011 @ 11:47am CST
I have to agree with Daughter-in-Law. It would be a nice gesture to celebrate the step parent on mother/father day, but it's not necessary.
My struggle is that I'm remarried and my daughter and husband have really locked horns, to the point that currently, my daughter won't speak to me because I won't divorce him, and he has this attitude that it's somehow his job to re-raise my kids or something instead of befriending them.
I realize they'll probably never love each other, but really, out of love for me, couldn't they manage to be civil toward each other? I managed to be kind to my ex, horrible as he was at times, for the sake of the kids, simply because I loved them more than I hated him.
After raising my kids alone all those years, don't I finally deserve some happiness in my life?
#11: by Daughter-in-law on 06.20.2011 @ 09:49am CDT
For the most part, this article is balanced in taking both sides (parents / children) into consideration. However, I disagree with the idea of making them equivocal to a mom or dad if you are an adult child...as in celebrating them on mother's / father's day. Some adult children already have complex issues around the idea of mother and father due to divorce, abandonment, or death.
I believe you can honor the new stepparent as your parent's spouse and as a friend without having to put them in the role of "mom" or "dad." Parents of adult children should realize that it may take years for them to "fall in love" with their stepparent. Having too high of expectations will do nothing but hurt family relationships. Blending families is hard work and takes time, patience, open communication, forgiveness, and love.
#10: by Judy on 06.10.2011 @ 04:58pm CDT
As I glance through the above comments, I am saddened by all the pain.I am a second wife and step-parent for 6 years after dating for three and 1/2 years. The problems we have did not start in remarriage; there are many behaviors and attitudes we bring that cause hurt or joy to others. As we grow older, we "blend" families with our children's spouses too so whether you are the adult child or the adult parent here, you can expect and benefit from changes in your original family unit. I pray to rest in God's love and look for ways to promote love and peace in my family. What would happen today if we just all gave a little bit instead of thinking about what we didn't get yet. I appreciate your entries. God bless each of you.
#9: by stepmomof2 on 10.22.2010 @ 12:25pm CDT
I hope it's not too late to comment. I am a stepmom with no kids of my own. i have tried to be loving to my stepdaughters, but their definition of love always depends on how much money they get from us. They are old enough to support themselves, and they tell their dad they are not babies, so he shouldn't tell them what to do. however, when they want money, they get very sweet and ask in a little girl voice. When the answer is occasionally no, because of our bad financial situation, their attitude suddenly changes. yes, things would be great between us if they were coming to their dad for simple companionship that is not attached to dollar signs. i know some of this comes from their mother, who is unhappily remarried, and if she is not happy, she doesn't want her ex to be happy either. i am a better mother to these girls than their own mother is, but they will never see it that way. BTW, their mother rarely helps them out financially, and she doesn't spend much time with them, yet their loyalty is with her.
#8: by Step Daughter in Law on 03.30.2010 @ 09:45pm CDT
I can empathize with Brian. My father-in-law began dating a few months after his wife died and didn't tell my husband he was dating when he forced an introduction of a woman who he would later marry. So this woman and my husband got off to a bad start. The woman expects "insta-family" and demands respect/the title of grandparent/etc while she also slams the door in my husband's face (literally), informs us (through my father-in-law) that we are not welcome to go to their house and refuses any invitations (and does not allow my father-in-law to go) to our home or to activities involving our children. As Brian said, my husband's father has lost all of his equity. He had none with me because I met my husband around the time my father-in-law married this woman, so I only my father-in-law as the man who constantly calls his son with a new list of reasons why his wife has been offended by my husband. This woman has never shown respect for my husband, she doesn't treat my father in law very well, and she is constantly making unwarranted accusations against us. We have been told (though we have not agreed) repeatedly that our children must call this woman the equivalent of grandmother and our rejection of this request (always coupled with an offer to find an appropriate name that doesn't use the word "grand") is viewed as the "great offense" against this woman. Every time we think things are getting better, we get another call. We see them less than three times a year, always visits which are very uncomfortable. We are not horrible people, we wish my father in law happiness, but we also deserve respect and consideration. We have asked for time alone with my father in law (since any visit with the wife is followed with multiple unspecific complaints about how we make her feel uncomfortable) but she has told him that he shouldn't spend time with us without her. Just this week we got a letter telling us that my husband needs to step up to the plate and treat this woman like family. I don't know what that means, but I do know that we treat her much better than she treats us. We have tried to accomoodate their various requests over the years, and my husband does not go to his father with his very legitimate complaints about this woman. I strongly believe my husband needs to sit down with his Dad and be honest, because this cycle needs to end, one way or the other. My husband's mother died, why does he also have to lose his father.
#7: by Brian on 02.01.2010 @ 12:44pm CST
[ EDITORIAL NOTE: The following comments seem to indicate significant hurt in Brian's life; they are also candid and honest. Consider them one adult stepchild's perspective. Thanks for sharing Brian. ]
"Those of you making comments to this posting (thus far) are part of the problem! It is so easy for you to ask your children to accept this new spouse because "you" love them! That's like asking your kids to love liver because you love the taste of it. Your new spouse must give your children a reason to love them; otherwise there will always be a division. The only true to the core unearned unconditional love that I've found is love for your biological children. Otherwise, you had better earn it, or your kids will throw you in a state run nursing home with ex-convicts responsible for assuring you get wiped once a day (if you're lucky)! I don't believe my parents should have stayed together, but to remarry an individual that wants a new wife without the baggage of children is nearly as harmful (if not more harmful) to a child as the original divorce. Put your kids first, it was your decision to bring them into this world!!! God gave them to you as a precious gift. Don't kick your gifts to the curb in exchange for someone to discuss the weather with in the morning. You'll pay for it, trust me!!
To any adult children of divorced parents reading this, the only thing we can really do is be committed to our marriages and remember the pain divorce has caused us and our children. Do all you can to protect your children from this pain in their lives.
To any step-parent remarried with adult step-children, you can't overestimate the emotional impact of your presence in the adult step-child’s life. You must over communicate, be overly thoughtful, and really reach out to these hurting individuals. You aren't their father or mother and never will be, but you can be a good friend. If you can't be a good friend, you and your new spouse will pay a dear price. Because at that point the adult child has a wedge between them and their true parent, they couldn’t care less for you, the equity you have with the adult child is bankrupt. The obligation children have to their parents is null & void when their parents and step-parents don’t build equity! Note: any parent can lose equity with their children, brining the child into the world allows you to start your account with a sizable deposit. But, if you make your child’s adult life miserable, your equity will quickly run out, and you’ll be left in the home wondering why your children have forsaken you. Fortunately, by that age you’ll probably be too plagued with dementia to understand.
To any parent remarried with adult children. So you’re so scared of being lonely or need sex so much that you just have to get remarried? Well, prepare to lose those that truly love you for who you are, your children. Sure they will come around and celebrate birthdays, etc…. But, the emotional tie will be seriously damaged!! You won’t be able to see it coming, as you are star struck, you can’t think of anything other than this new love. But, once the luster has faded, and you realize you’ve wasted your children’s love, you’ll kick yourself for being so selfish and not living sacrificially. Your children desperately want the parents they grew up with! Go ahead, fill your time with volunteer activities, vacations, etc…..when the rubber hits the road, you’ll still wish you children loved you and wanted you around. My Mom essentially died the day she remarried. I’ll attend a funeral one day, but I’ll be mourning the mother I lost when she remarried to the horrible man she now calls her husband!"
Getting married next month.
My fiance's adult daughters have been so bad that they won't even talk to their father with out disrespect and hurtful texts and emails. He has raised them after divorce and they feel their feelings and they themselves should come before he and I. The old saying that children should always come first. I have my own kids and do not have this problem.
I feel the marriage should come first. He tells them how much they mean to him and that he loves them no matter what. But, they feel if that is true how could he love me. Does not make sense but is so common.
#5: by Ginni Bartlett on 12.02.2009 @ 10:20am CST
I just ordered this book for my husband. His widowed father is remarrying, and we want to be supportive, but this is unexpected and difficult. I am praying that this book helps.
#4: by Sonya Williamson on 11.03.2009 @ 03:04pm CST
I am excited about finding this site. I am having a difficult time with my adult stepchildren. I love my husband so very much! We have a wonderful relationship.
#3: by Rhonda on 10.06.2009 @ 10:16pm CDT
I am happy that I found this site. I have been a step-parent for a number of years and have been through many trials with my step children. I like the comment by Connie on what her priest said. I am finding it to be true. It took a while for me to see the "truth" about my youngest step daughter.
#2: by Connie on 04.17.2009 @ 11:22am CDT
I wish I had seen this book two years ago. Number 9 - Accept the fact that mom or dad's financial assets belong to them: that would be a bitter pill for selfish, self-centred, greedy adult daughters.
I am overjoyed that a book is written that addresses so many thorny issues in a second marriage. Ann Landers said the number one reason for divorce in a second marriage is the children. My priest said he sees it is usually adult daughters unable to let go of their daddy and accept he can love another woman.
I wish I had known then what I know now. Thanks for writing the book. I'm assuming the bulk of the book holds many more "insights". It should be required reading for people going into a second marriage.
#1: by Grace on 08.01.2008 @ 09:50am CDT
As an adult step parent I must say i find your write up helpful at the time when I needed it most. I keep thanking God for yeilding youself to be used as instruments of peace.
God bless you real good
Add your Comment*
*Comments are moderated so your comment may not appear immediately.