Jan L. Warner & Jan Collins
Question: Two years after my divorce, I married a man who had also been divorced and has three children who live with him. I had been seeing him for nearly nine months, I felt comfortable with him and his children. So I sold my home, gave up a good job, gave up the alimony I was receiving, and moved into his house in a subdivision that happens to be in a different school district from where I had lived. My two children by my prior marriage, ages 14 and 12, were not vocally opposed to my remarriage; however, from the day we moved in, they were miserable, did not get along with his children, and were doing poorly in school. Needless to say, all of this caused tension in our marriage, which was compounded when my ex-husband sued for a change of custody. We hired a good lawyer, but the children wanted to live with him, and he now has custody.
As of now, my relationship with my children is strained. My husband blames me for spending his hard-earned money on a lawyer. I blame him for making us move in with him. Our marriage is on the rocks, meaning that at 45 years of age, I will be alone again -- without my children, without my job, and without the alimony I lost when I remarried. Why doesn't anyone warn people before they remarry about these pitfalls?
Answer: Often, when one or both parents remarry, they establish different homes and standards of living for the children who live with them. Although each partner may be committed to the new relationship and wants it to work, all of the potential trouble sources should be identified and considered beforehand. While it is difficult to plan for each potential problem, it is reasonable to assume that if one thread in a new relationship becomes unraveled, the marriage might just fall apart unless the cohesiveness is there.
Here, your decision to sell your home, quit your job, give up your alimony, and move into a home with three stepchildren carried with it many ingredients of a failed relationship. Your children were taken from their friends and familiar surroundings and given less of your attention despite your being home full-time. In situations like this where families are expected to blend, pre-marriage counseling is often a good idea.
Bottom Line: You and tens of thousands of others like you have discovered that second marriages are more fragile than first marriages. That's why all potential trouble sources should be considered, discussed, and planned for beforehand. Today, more than ever, we must take responsibility to inform ourselves and become empowered to face and avoid these kinds of problems - and not expect someone to "warn us" about what we should investigate ourselves.
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