If marriage is on its own a complex process where the couple is invited to join two different worlds, then a second marriage and the creation of a second family is yet another difficult process where members of that family are invited to deal with multiple family systems with different habits, ideas, values and behavior.
The most common problems in a second marriage usually begin from the start as most people remarry without having pinpointed the mistakes that brought them to the brink of divorce the first time round and without having actually “solved” the problems that caused problems in their first relationship! The issues below are some of the most common difficulties that couples in their second marriage are called to face:
Financial obligations may evolve into an arena of demands and challenges, not just between ex partners but also in the new relationship. New partners often feel burdened by the practical as well as the emotional and financial obligations regarding the children or the partners of the previous marriage.
Many of the women in the new relationships consider the demands of the ex-wife as a contrived attempt to undermine the new life and happiness of their husband and often want to have a say in his financial commitments. Everyone agrees that financial obligations concerning children are justified if there is a strong financial bond or if the new couple want to acquire their own children but are forced to wait due to economic difficulties, then feelings of frustration and disappointment may come to the fore. In such cases, the new relationship may be endangered.
Problems with in-laws:
Problems with parents-in-law and extended families are not unusual in any marriage, however in second marriages the situation becomes more complex. The problems depend on the duration of the previous marriage and whether the divorce took place under friendly or difficult terms. Parents and in-laws of both spouses may feel contrasting emotions of sorrow over the divorce and joy regarding the new marriage. when the wider family still has friendly relations with the ex-spouse it is likely that matters of loyalty or devotion may arise. In cases where these relations cause problems to the new couple it is important for limits to be placed for the protection of the new relationship.
Problems of loyalty and devotion:
In a “second-hand” family it may be clear regarding who is in the family and who isn’t. Ideas concerning loyalty and devotion may vary in the minds of the different family members and create feelings of guilt, anger and tension. For instance, a father may feel guilt at spending more time with the children of his new wife than with his own. In other cases, the children of divorced parents may feel guilt concerning the absent parent when they like living with their stepfather or stepmother more. Similar problems may be faced by children from different marriages who live under the same room but feel as though they belong to different families. Their discomfort in such cases may be expressed with phrases such as, “you aren’t my brother”, “don’t talk like that to my mother”, “you’re not my father and you can’t tell me what to do”… These statements are usually made so as to maintain the loyalty and devotion that people feel for their “real families.”
Old habits and behavioral motifs:
In an ideal world, people who experience divorce would need to use their experience as a lever so as to understand their personal responsibility, and see their mistakes so as not to repeat these in the next relationship. Unfortunately, however, a large portion of people focus solely on the mistakes of their former partners and refuse to focus on the role they played in the failure of their marriage. In such cases they proceed to create a new relationship carrying the same problematic behavior and frustrated needs that characterized their previous relationship.
In reality, the most important parameter for the success of a second marriage is for the person to consider and understand what went wrong in the previous relationships as well as not be in a hurry to commit to a second marriage until their emotional baggage and practical responsibilities are taken care of.
Do you have a problem that concerns you? Our resident psychotherapist Zeta Stravopodi is willing to address any personal matters. E-mail her on firstname.lastname@example.org
Zoe Stravopodi-Gianno works as a psychotherapist and offers advice to individuals, couples and families. She also coordinates groups interested in achieving self-awareness and personal growth. In 2012, she established “Parents School” to give parents advice as to how to navigate the choppy waters of parenthood regarding the healthy emotional growth of their children.