Q: My ex is getting re-married. I’m concerned about how it will impact my girls if they don’t get along with their new step-mom. Am I worrying too much?
A: Getting re-married is fairly common after a divorce. Being worried about how your children will get along with a new stepmother or stepfather is pretty normal, too. One day you yourself might re-marry and be anxious about how the girls get along with your new spouse.
In other words, a bit of anxiety about these matters is quite normal. It’s a good reminder of how important these relationships are and that we shouldn’t take them for granted. These new step-relationships add complexity and new challenges for couples in a second marriage when children are involved.
Some of those challenges include competition for attention, demand for loyalty and adjustment difficulties related to space and time. Tensions and conflicts will develop with regards to spoken and unspoken expectations as both parents and children work out the new rules for their lives.
How important is it that you give serious attention to this matter of children and step-parents? According to a Psychology Today article on this issue, Dr. Wednesday Martin states “that the divorce rate is 50% higher in remarriages with children than those without.” Unresolved issues here are one of the biggest predictors that a remarriage will fail. In other words, it’s a very important consideration.
If you’re a new stepmom, the best you can do with regards to his children is to be compassionate and caring. It’s also important to know where you stand with regards to legal matters surrounding your new partner’s former marriage. Here’s a practical list of steps to take from Kendall Rose’s The Stepmom’s Club.
Read your partner’s divorce decree and custody agreements.
What constitutes spousal maintenance and child support? When will spousal maintenance end?
What does your partner’s designated time with the children look like? What does the weekly schedule look like? What about the holidays?
What is your partner obligated to pay, apart from spousal maintenance and child support?
Who has the final say regarding decisions about kids’ schools, sports, health and general welfare?
Where is the ex and what is your partner’s relationship like with her?
Has your partner revised all important papers with regard to financial documents, life insurance, will, credit cards and pension?
There are many practical matters to identify and address if you want your new situation to be the best it can be.
Kendall Rose, The Stepmom’s Club: How to Be a Stepmom Without Losing Your Money, Your Mind and Your Marriage, Sourcebooks, c. 2018