Here’s a little of my relationship backstory – I got married at 20 years old and I had my first born a week after he left, which made me a single mother in Germany at the age of 21. The marriage was very short lived. He & I have made peace, he apologized for not being ready for the marriage but knowing I was someone he couldn’t just give up. I wish he was honest, we definitely could have communicated and worked through things. But, I ended up giving birth with friends in the room and my mother on speakerphone. It was emotional, I was a wreck. My favorite nurse put a note on my door to say no male was to enter my room…and they made sure no male entered my room! They truly looked out for us and I still tear up knowing how many complete strangers looked out for us.
Fast forward to my second marriage and he was willing to adopt my oldest as his own. I was not in a good place at the beginning of that relationship and once again, I rushed into the commitment. I rushed into living together and allowed others to rush our marriage due to an upcoming deployment. I look back and realize that I had heard what that man said, but I didn’t SEE the actions matching the words. I allowed others to call the shots and I handled it like a business. Four babies later and we are now divorced and living states apart. I have the children living with me most of the year and they do get to FaceTime and call whenever possible.
- Many individuals approach marriage, even remarriage, with a “let’s get married and work out the details later” attitude. In fact, most remarrying couples have known each other less than 9 months. Couples remarry long before they have finished grieving their losses, worked through their issues or developed a healthy single lifestyle. The high divorce rate for remarriage suggests that this approach will not work. Successful remarriages and stepfamilies result when individuals take the time to work out the details first. (From the book, “Looking Before You Leap …Again!” by Jeff and Judi Parziale Instepministries.com)
I’ve had people say that others have told them they should just end their marriage. They get told it’s a toxic marriage. I was thankful to my mentors who helped guide me through the affairs and abuse and set limits and boundaries. I was thankful to those who taught me to keep a kind heart and to focus on what was morally and legally right. I was taught to fight for what you believe in and if you believed that person was to be your spouse you needed to fight to find the love and respect again. You needed to fight to make it possible, but if the other wasn’t willing to put up the same fight it was time to just stop. It was time to try and end things. The problems with a break up, or divorce, when children are involved is that you can’t take the much needed break of contact. You are stuck communicating and that person, no matter how miserable the relationship was, is still someone you feel is in your comfort zone. You make the promises you know you can’t keep. You say things to try and salvage whatever it is. You worry the other is going to lie to you, keep your children, or ruin your future relationships. Deceit and a lack of communication is still there, especially if it was there during the marriage.
I know my children were witnessing events they never should have. I know they were having to deal with circumstances no child should ever have to deal with. I know it’s not normal to have to explain to your five and six year old’s that they should never let a man treat them that way. I’ve had to teach my children they can’t depend on their partner alone and they have to be self sufficient, not necessarily to prepare them for divorce, but to prepare them for if your partner becomes ill, or worst case scenario dies. I make sure all four of my children are as independent as they can be. They have different likes, different hobbies, and different personalities.
Many parents choose to raise their children apart from each other and are okay with just having visitation. I couldn’t imagine only seeing my children a couple of months a year, but some people are so worried about their past or their demons that they decide their own comfort is better than their children’s comfort. This wreaks havoc on these children. The children feel it must be their fault, so they feel guilt when having fun with friends. They feel guilt loving their mother or father’s new boyfriend or girlfriend. They feel guilty telling their non-custodial parent that they don’t want to visit because visitation is during a school trip, or a friend invited them to go on spring break with their family. I believe it’s truly important that no matter what your relationship is like with your children’s other parent or stepparents that you live in the same area. You don’t blame the children or your ex partner. You focus on the child’s needs to be the best human being they want to be. It’s hard hearing one of your children who truly witnessed more than they should that they’re never getting married or having children because of the evil in the world. It’s truly hard to hear so much focus on the negative aspects of life.
In today’s day and age divorce is very widespread. Abuse and affairs happen more often than you realize. I guarantee that someone in your neighborhood is currently in an abusive relationship and the abuser may not be the one you’d expect. The abuser may be the gregarious, loving, person who will drop anything to help you. The abuser may be the person who dotes on their children at the bus stop. The adulterer may be the mother who devotes every moment her children are awake to their school and activities. We don’t need to focus on their activities and shun them. We need to help these people realize there are other ways to live. They need to realize that their partner may be having those thoughts too, but haven’t acted on them, because the marriage is truly important to them. The partner may take their vows as legal, even though we all know a divorce decree holds much more power than a marriage certificate.
Children are being exposed to divorce at an alarming rate. I remember my second husband and I promised our children, before and after they were born, that we would do everything in our power to keep our family whole. I remember the promises to have me move multiple times instead of divorcing with the hopes I wasn’t the only one truly invested in the marriage. I wanted my children to see that yes, we ran into some very dark and horrible times but we came out alive because we truly loved each other. Sometimes that’s not possible and even though you don’t want to make the other parent look bad you’re forced to make the choice to be the parent your children can lean on. You hope that when you decide to settle down that this last partner is THE ONE. The partner that will help you show your children that marriage can work, if you realize that you’re going to have disagreements. You’re going to fight. You’re going to dislike each other. But, you’re also going to love each other. You’re also going to realize that you couldn’t imagine doing life with anyone else and anyone you choose without healing yourself first will just be a replacement and the cycle will continue.
Children need to be heard. Yes, your children may only have visits with you but you are their parent. Your new partner and their children are your children’s family.
- Most couples remarry before they are spiritually or emotionally ready. Readiness involves several things, including: grieving losses, letting go of the past, resolving emotional wounds and identifying unhealthy relationship patterns. Commit not to remarry until you have worked through these issues. (Jeff Parziale, In Step Ministries, Instepministries.com)
Your children need to have a say in who they share a room with. They need to feel that they’re loved, just as much if not more, by you. I know with four children that marrying someone else will be difficult, especially because at my age my new partner will most likely have children. The children need to meet in neutral territory, not where they’re automatically told they’re now roommates. As odd as this sounds, it’s like when you introduce a new dog into a home. You don’t just bring the new dog in and say boom! That’s it! No, you have your current dog and the new dog meet at a park, or on a walk, or at the shelter. You make sure they can tolerate each other so they don’t tear each other’s faces off in your home.
- One of the great enemies of a blended family is the fact that we live in the age of instant everything. It’s natural for Mom and Dad to assume that they’ll have “instant success” with their new marriage and the new family it creates. Sometimes they naively assume that because they love each other so much and because they’ve found the “right” mate “this time,” marriage is going to be so much more wonderful the second time around, and the kids will gladly come along for the ride.
- The truth is, however, that the term blended family is a misnomer. It’s much more accurate to say that a stepfamily is blending. It has not become completely blended, a process which may take years —or in some cases, never takes place at all. A glance at the various dictionary definitions will tell you that to blend something means mingling or combining certain components so that you achieve a measure of harmony. And that’s what you’re trying to do in your blending family. You want to harmonize all the various personalities while doing your best to keep conflict at minimum and avoid discriminating against one family member or another. (From the book, “Living in a Step Family Without Getting Stepped On” -by Dr Kevin Leman)
I remember going into my marriages thinking that EVERYONE tells the truth and why would you lie to the person you love. As I’ve grown I’ve realized that many people will see an individual as a way to make their status better, or give them something they need. I actually had a man tell me that he knew I was too good for him so he lied because he knew I could give him what he wanted and others would believe him. That was heartbreaking after devoting so much time to that individual. It’s truly difficult to find out someone you actually loved was only using you. Take that time to help yourself after divorce, your children will thank you. YOU will thank you. Your new partner will thank you.