Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Becoming A Stepmom 101


Wicked stepmothers dominate fairy tales. Manipulative stepmoms spice up movie plots. And media stories often highlight stepmoms gone bad.

By Rebecca Nappi

The Spokesman-Review, Spokane, Wash

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Janice Marich's future husband, Douglas, made this clear while they were dating: He was a package deal.

The other part of the package? His young daughter, Elizabeth.

She embraced it all, and now, 20 years into her marriage with Douglas, she can't imagine a life without Elizabeth Thomas, now 30; Elizabeth's husband, Nicholas; and their three children, Sadie, 7, Emma, 5, and Nathan, 1.

"She gave me a family," Marich said. "She gave me grandchildren."

Successful stepmoms like Marich aren't all that rare in our society, but you'd never know it.

Wicked stepmothers dominate fairy tales. Manipulative stepmoms spice up movie plots. And media stories often highlight stepmoms gone bad.

In Portland, Terri Horman, the stepmother of missing 7-year-old Kyron, is under suspicion in the boy's June 4 disappearance. Even before suspicious revelations about her surfaced, website commenters had convicted Horman of the crime.

"Follow the stepmom!" one wrote in a typical sentiment on a CBS website. "Too often this is how these stories end up."

But in reality, stories involving stepmoms usually don't end in tragedy, though the stepmother-stepchildren relationship is filled with emotional and psychological land mines.

A University of North Carolina School of Social Work report examining dozens of stepmother studies showed that being a stepmom is more difficult than being a stepdad, and stepmothers also experience more anxiety and depression.

Plus, stepmoms carry this extraordinary burden: The quality of stepmother-stepchildren relationship is the major predictor of family adjustment in remarried families, according to the report.

With that pressure, how does any stepmom get it right? Well, many do. And successful stepmothers have several things in common, including:


Diana Hornbogen, a marriage and family therapist at St. Joseph Family Center in Spokane and a stepmother herself, does seminars on blended families.

"The whole myth of instant love is a big setup," she says. "Kids are going to be indifferent. They don't know this woman from Adam."

Elizabeth was 10 when Marich came into her life. She lived with her mom two hours away, and she spent every other weekend with her dad and Marich.

Douglas' work schedule precluded him from picking up Elizabeth; Marich volunteered.

In those rides, "we established a bond," Marich said.

Elizabeth said the bond also evolved during bedtime talks.

"I remember lying on the bed together and chatting," she said. "I felt like I could talk to her about anything. For me, that was really meaningful.

"It was difficult to have divorced parents. My mother was busy in her own life, and we didn't have that intimate time to just talk about whatever."

Hornbogen advises stepmoms: "Don't jump in too quickly. You are not obligated to love the kids, and they are not obligated to love you.

"Be friends first. It may take a long time — if ever — to develop real love for one another."

Marich made it clear from the beginning that she wasn't there to replace Elizabeth's mother. She and Douglas even invited Elizabeth's mom to extended-family gatherings.

Stepmothers often walk into families deep in grief, Hornbogen pointed out. In some families, the biological mother has died. In most, the mother and father have divorced.

In her parenting-children -of-divorce classes "we talk about a divorce being a death," Hornbogen said.

"For the husband and wife, it's the death of a relationship. For the kids, it's the death of a family as they knew it."

Stepmothers who hope by stepping into a "supermom" role — or who try to replace the biological mother — exacerbate the grief.

The best help is to listen without judgment when the children open up, the experts say.

On one occasion, Marich said to Elizabeth: "It's OK if you want your parents to get back together."

This acknowledged Elizabeth's feelings about her parents. Reunification is a common desire for many children of divorce.

"In divorced families, you hear a lot of negative talk about the other (parent)," Elizabeth said. "Janice never, ever spoke badly about my mom. So I never felt like I had to take sides."

"When dad was single, divorced or widowed, his times with his kids were spent one-on-one," Hornbogen said. "Now, there's competition. The kids have to share daddy's attention."

"We always gave Elizabeth dad and daughter time," Marich said. "I was not there to put a wedge in her relationship with him."

Elizabeth remembered: "Dad always likes to go for country rides in the car. A lot of times Janice said, 'You two go ahead and have some time together.'

"For me, it felt like I could talk to my dad with privacy. It was awesome she offered that. Even now, she'll say, 'Why don't you and dad go shopping together and I'll stay back.' It's essential to make sure the child feels important in their parent's life and heart."

Marich was determined from the beginning to be a good stepmother, because she experienced firsthand the sadness that can arise in tense stepparenting relationships.

Her mom lost her own mother at age 3. The father didn't remarry until Marich's mother was in her 20s, but Marich's mother never overcame her resentment.

If people thought the stepmother was her mother, she quickly corrected them with a stern: "She's my stepmother!"

Marich's great hope was for Elizabeth never to feel that same tension about her. She hasn't.

A Spokane County United Way vice president for community relations, Marich has also been involved in the Our Kids: Our Business campaign for four years.

The Our Kids initiative stresses that the more people who love children, the better. Stepmoms, if they understand the unique challenges of step-mothering — negative cultural stereotyping most of all — can make a huge difference.

"When you have an opportunity to love, do," Marich said.

Source: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/living/2012569662_stepmoms09.html

Monday, June 28, 2010

Something's Wrong? Signs To Look For In Your Kids


2 Things To Look For. 3 Ways To Help


By BRUCE MCCRACKEN


Once you've told your child you're getting divorced, what's your biggest concern? For most parents, it's maintaining stability for their youngsters, according to marriage counselors informally polled by divorce360.com. "Couples are most commonly concerned about the well-being of their children..." said Dr. Brenda Shoshanna, founder of Everyone Wins Mediation, in New York. According to Shoshanna and the other experts, there are two additional major issues of concern for parents who were splitting up:

1. The effect a divorce would have on the child's behavior and their school performance.
Stephanie Burchell, Ph.D., and a licensed marriage family therapist, of Dallas, Texas, said parents worry about "the disruption of the child's home and lifestyle, particularly when having to transfer between two different households at various times of the week. "

Keep reading on d360

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

How to "Parent" Adult Step Children. Is It Possible?


How To "Parent" Adult Step Children. Is It Possible?


By MCCLATCHY-TRIBUNE INFORMATION SERVICES


Q: My husband and I each lost our spouses after more than 30 years of marriage. We’ve been married for three years. I have three daughters and he has three sons; all are married adults. My daughters have embraced my second husband, but two of my husband’s sons have never accepted me. I’ve tried very hard to get to know them and be warm and friendly. They are rude, mean and rejecting, and it hurts me deeply. My husband has talked with these two sons about their behavior, however, he also tiptoes around them because he doesn’t want to lose his relationship with them (nor do I want him to). I’ve told my husband to go without me to “his” family functions although this doesn’t seem to be the right thing either. What are your suggestions for smoothing out this precarious triangle? Do you have some recommendations to help resolve these family-relations issues.

A: Al and Ramona have been married 58 years. Here’s what they say:

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

What do kids really think of remarriages?




Remarriage: Children Usually Not as Happy about Remarriage as Adults


By CLARE HEICKLEN


No matter what the age through adulthood, children make room for extended families. The toughest obstacle for children in the sense of loss, and how well they have processed the loss. While remarriage may be an exciting time for the adults, children don’t share in the enthusiasm. Most parents are sensitive to the child’s needs but perplexed by the response. Here’s why…

Younger children tend to blend easier and respond better to new marriages. Only children welcome having new step siblings if warmly welcomed. Adolescents go through a variety of stages, to being resistant, rejecting, or ignoring warmth from new stepparents. However, remember, adolescents can be challenging, and vie for independence without remarriage issues. They do, however, seem more welcoming to step siblings. Also, adolescents who are closer to leaving home tend to be more open to the stepparent.

Keep reading on d360

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Ex Is TOO Involved.....Help?


What Can I Do to Stop My Husband's Ex-Wife from Coming Between Me and His Son?


By LISA COHN


Dear Lisa:

My husband has two children from a previous marriage. We now have custody of one of them, his son. His son and I are extremely close, and his ex-wife hates this. She will do anything to stop this, including lie to her children about me. I feel so alone at times because I feel that his ex runs the show. My husband gives in to her every whim because he doesn’t want to cause friction. On the one hand, I can see where he is coming from. However, when she is interfering with my personal life, I wish he would stick up for me more. That hurts me the most. She will call and say the stupidest things because she knows she can get to me. She leaves nasty, vile messages on my cell phone. I just can’t ignore it anymore when she is berating me and putting me down in front of my stepson.

I have such a great relationship with my stepson, and I am scared of her coming between us. He is young and very impressionable. We try to limit their conversations, because we feel she only makes things harder for him. She is trying to use that in a custody case now (She is trying to change our custody arrangement). Usually his conversations with her end with him crying. I feel like I am at the end of my rope, and I don’t know what to do anymore.

Keep reading here on d360

Monday, May 10, 2010

What? Really? No Chores For Kids?




Q.
Each time my husband’s daughter comes to visit, it’s a fight. We live in another state and she stays with us for months at a time during her school vacations. With Spring Break coming up I’m anticipating yet another problem. For example, during her last visit I asked her clean her bathroom.Her father overheard me and chastised me for asking her to do chores when she’s visiting. He’s very protective of her and likes her to relax when she is with us. But, we can’t assign chores to those who live with us and not to those who live here part of the time.That doesn’t seem fair. What do you think?







A.
Well you can, but we predict your family will break into factions—your side against his side—and, if that is the case, be prepared for the possibility of another divorce.It’s rare once family members take sides that the stepfamily stays in tact.


Non-custodial parents are often afraid if things are too tough around the house, their child will not want to return.We aren’t trying to paint the ultimate picture of doom.You can save it, but it’s going to take some backtracking and sincere dedication to the commitment your husband and you have made. This is when many say, “Of course, we are committed to each other. We got married!” But, that commitment often wanes when mom or dad thinks their child is being singled out or picked on.


The key word in your husband’s exclamation is visiting. Non-custodial parents are often afraid if things are too tough around the house, their child will not want to return. So, to ensure his daughter will want to come back, your husband likes her to feel like it’s a vacation when she comes to see him.It’s not uncommon in situations like this that parents start trying to bribe their kids with puppies or new bikes or the newest version of Rock Band in the hopes that the new stuff will keep them coming back. In his defense, he’s trying his best, but what he’s doing creates problems on many different fronts. First, his relationship with his daughter can stay stuck in the “visiting” mode and not progress to the deep father/daughter relationship we are sure both would like. Second, the obvious favoritism can cause animosity between your husband and the other children in the home, and between siblings as well. The other kids will reject her because they perceive that Dad likes her best, and they will reject him for the same reason. So by acting as you describe your husband is actually sabotaging his relationship with everyone—including his daughter--by openly favoring her. Best thing you can do at this point is get on the same page with Dad. Establish rules and treat all like family, and dad might look into counseling to help him conquer his insecurities associated with being a non-custodial parent.

Source: BonusFamilies.com

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Getting Remarried?


Whether it's your first marriage and you are marrying someone who is divorced with children, or trying to balance warring divorced parents while planning your own wedding, there are lots of questions that come up when organizing a blended family wedding.
If you have a link to suggest, email it to info@thestepfamilylife.com.

A FEW GREAT LINKS

The Knot.Com
This was my personal favorite website when I planned my wedding. Typing "second wedding" in the search engine got more than 100 links. They also have some great Q&A responses for brides and grooms trying to iron out how to involve both biological parents and stepparents in weddings - including seating arrangements, recognition, etc.

Keep reading here

Monday, May 3, 2010

Detaching?


My Detachment Story
by Morgan Miles

For the last three years, she would cry and have anxiety when my husband picked her up. When I entered his life and her life, she was super excited to come and visit. She would hop happily from car to car. We never did anything real special, but I did the normal stuff I would do with my godchild and other children I had been around like the children’s museum, the mall, circus, etc.

When I think back to those times, five years ago, so much has changed. It turns out not every bio-mother is excited when a stepmom comes into the picture. It turns out that Parental Alienation Syndrome is alive and thriving in divorced families. And it turns out that I am not as perfect of a stepmom as I thought.

I swooped in on my angel wings; I was going to fix everything. My husband and his ex-wife would figure out that being friends would be so much better for their daughter. I would attend all the school meetings and doctor’s appointments because they would all want my opinion, because I am the stepmom. I would attend all the visitation pick-ups and drop-offs because my stepdaughter would want to see me. And most of all I would control the environment here at our house and help my husband raise his daughter while she was here for visitation. I would make everything better.

Does any of that sound familiar?

Unfortunately, my good intentions turned out to be the worst situation for my husband and his daughter. And eventually, everything I was doing that I thought would make things better, made it worse little by little until everything fell apart. I have had to reconstruct a relationship with my husband. I am still working on a relationship with my step-daughter. And I now have my own daughter to think about as well.

I had an attachment to my step-daughter and her mother that was completely irrational and unhealthy. I believed if I tried as hard as her biological mother, my step-daughter would love and respect me just the same. It was not until the bottom fell out of my relationships with the people I loved and I realized that you cannot reason with an irrational person, that none of my intentions were good.

I had to detach. I had to come to the realization that my detachment need are because of something I have thought about or done and not someone else. I had to find the inner strength to overcome my attachment to attain a better perspective on our step-life situation.

I have learned many painful lessons: My husband and my step-daughter do not need me. They had a great relationship before I came along and will continue to have one regardless of whether or not I am here. I am not my step-daughter’s mother, nor can I be a replacement for her mother. My step-daughter does not need another mother, she needs another friend. I cannot fix anything related to my husband’s previous marriage. It is just that, HIS previous marriage. And finally, there is nothing I can do or say to make my husband be a dad, or his ex-wife a mother. They chose to procreate, it was their decision to have a baby and get married, what on earth made me think this was my responsibility.

What have I gained from these realizations?

Peace. It does not sound like much, but it is everything. I could continue to have panic attacks over visitation, whether my house was clean enough, whether I had enough food, if my step-daughter was going to cry at the pick-up or drop-off. I could continue to compete with my husband’s ex-wife and buy better clothing for my family, continue to purchase newer and more expensive vehicles, show up to school meetings and court dates with more paperwork I had spent hours on just so I could hear a teacher, or a judge, or a doctor say, “You are not her mother.” And breakdown in the car time after time.

Instead, I found peace. I detached from the drama of an ex-wife, the discipline problems of a child that is not mine, planning activity after activity when it was not appreciated and most of all trying to be someone else’s mom. I am now at peace with myself.

I am not perfect, far from it. But I do love my family. I do love my life. I don’t need to be living someone else’s life; I need to be living my own. I have let life pass me by for the past 2 years, consumed with hate, hurt and betrayal. All of which, was my fault and I could have prevented by detaching myself.

There is no love loss between me and my step-daughter, in fact there is an ease of communication now. I am no longer the enemy, I am the friend. My husband, he doesn’t know all of what I have gone through, but he understands where I am with myself and he recognizes the peace between me and his daughter. My own daughter, she benefits from a mother who is no longer anxious, stressed and compulsive about her house, clothing and appearance.

Detachment is not about punishment. Detachment is not about a love loss between you and your husband or his kids. Detachment is personal. It is taking back control of your own life. Detachment is finding a way to make positive changes and impacts in your family and your own life.


Source: SecondWivesCafe.com

Thursday, April 29, 2010

20 Ideas For The Long Distance Dad

20 ACTIVITIES FOR
LONG-DISTANCE DADS TO DO WITH THEIR KIDS

Article courtesy of Dads at a Distance
1. Go to the mall and have a photo of yourself put on a pillow case and then send it to your child. If you have a favorite cologne you might want to put a little bit on the pillowcase to remind your child of you.

2. Purchase or make stickers of your child's name and stick them over the names of a character in one of their favorite books. You can also get a picture of your child's face and place it over the character's face.

3. Make a video and/or audio tape of you reading bedtime stories. Send them to your child along with the book.

4. Arrange for flowers, pizza, etc. to be delivered to your child before or after a special even (a play, recital, sports game). Include a note telling them how proud you are of their accomplishment.

5. Send a package containing all the things your granchild will need if he or she gets sick. For example, you could send a can of chicken noodle soup, a special blanket or pillowcase, a video or audio tape wishing them a speedy recovery, crossword puzzles, a stuffed animal, etc.

6. Send home a photo documentary of what you do all day when you are away. Be sure to include things like what you eat, how you travel, etc. Things that you might think are boring, your kids will be very interested in seeing. Have your child do the same.

7. Have a star officially named after your child. Call 1-800-282-333.

8. Send a postcard attack. (Send a postcard everyday for a week straight, try to send postcards from unique places).

9. If both you and your child have access to cell phones, then go fishing with them from a distance.

10. Try including surprises in with the letters: fast food wrappers, foreign currency, pencil shavings, coasters, Band-Aids, your own art, flower petals, Sunday comics, sand, fortunes from cookies, newspaper clippings, stamps, old shoe laces, or crumbs from breakfast to show you were thinking of them.

11. If both you and your child have access to the internet, then go on a virtual field trip together. Be sure to use a free program like AOL Instant Message so you can communicate with each other while looking at the webpages. A couple of places to start would be NASA or PBS.

12. Find unique things to write your letters on, for example: things your child likes -- favorite color of paper, stickers, or pictures of things they like. Fun objects -- coaster, napkins, paper tray liners at restaurants, barf bags, old handkerchiefs, pictures of you, or of favorite spots. Paper cut into special shapes ( holiday shapes like shamrocks or hearts). Puzzles (cut your finished letter into pieces, try sending one piece at a time).

13. Send home some money so that your child can go to the ice cream parlor. Be sure to send a special letter along that can only be read at the ice cream parlor. If you both have access to cell phones then you can both be at a ice cream parlor talking over your ice cream.

14. Write a news letter (have a regular issue of your own family newsletter with columns about each child, family events, exciting news etc.).

15. If your child does not already have access to a speaker phone then buy one. Set the phone in the middle of the room, and you will be able to have dinner with them, be there as they brush their teeth and get ready for bed, etc.

16. Start a letter and take it with you throughout the day. Add a sentence every now and then and be sure to add where you are when you write the different sentences - i.e. an elevator, taxi, café, etc.

17. Play Internet games together like Jeopardy or Wheel of Fortune, both of which can be found at sony.com. Other games that can be found on the Internet include golf, card games, chess, checkers, Sim City, strategy games etc...

18. Make a package that contains cookie cutters and the non-perishable ingredients of your child's favorite cookie so you can "help" them bake while you are away.

19. Choose a photo from your photo album that you can send to your child and then write a letter explaining the events surrounding it. Also if both you and your child have access to the internet. I recommend that you have a family home page. One free resource that I recommend is iVillage.com member websites which enables you to build a free web site you can use as cyber-family central.

20. Begin a Life's Lessons Booklet. Each week write down a few of the lessons you've learned in life and how you learned those lessons. When the booklet is full, send it to your child to use as he or she begins or continues the journey of life

A few years ago H. Jackson Brown Jr. sat down at a type writer and began a list of lessons that he had learned in life to share with his son, who was going off to college. He writes, "I read years ago that it was not the responsibility of parents to pave the road for their children, but to provide a road map." A few days after his son had received the gift he called and told his dad, "Dad, I've been reading the instruction book and I think it's one of the best gifts I've ever received. I'm going to add to it and someday give it to my son."

One Additional Free Activity
Before you leave home next time, hide some treasure (notes of appreciation, videos of you reading stories, candy, toys, etc.) around the house. Be sure to draw a treasure map of where you have hidden these things. Then mail it home. If your child has a portable phone, then you can talk to them and give hints as they hunt for the treasure. If you are not living with your child you can still do this activity by mailing the treasures ahead of time to the person who is taking care of your child.

Article Courtesy of Dads At A Distance

Copyright © 2001 by The National Long Distance Relationship Building Institute. All Rights Reserved.

This Article is based on 20 Activities For Long-Distance Dads To Do With Their Kids

Source: CaliforniaDivorce.info

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Friends & Steps


It started out with an email message. Four years ago I moved back to Washington, DC after getting married and became a stepmom to three kids.

I sent out some email messages to let old friends and acquaintances know I was back and about my new life as a stepmom. I wasn’t expecting much to happen. One of those acquaintances suggested I contact a friend of hers who lived nearby. Like me, she was a new stepmom with teens and worked in public relations as a consultant.

We traded emails – and then Susan and I met for coffee to talk. We talked for three hours about our stepchildren, our marriages, and trying to balance the demands of families and careers. More coffees soon followed.

In Susan, I found someone who understood the emotional roller coaster ride of childless stepmom-hood. It meant a lot to know that someone else knew what it really meant to be a stepmom – and that I wasn’t crazy or even bad for having some of the feelings I was having – they were normal. She didn’t judge me when I expressed frustration about my stepchildren or my husband – and rejoiced with me in a success. I don’t think we’ve ever actually solved any problems – but I do know that we both have felt understood – and that has meant a lot to both of us.

We introduced our husbands to each other, and it was like seeing two long-lost relatives rediscover each other. They were instantly bosom buddies. For the past two summers, we’ve even taken vacations together – staying in a big house on the Georgia coastline to bask in the sun and sand.

When stepmoms in trouble contact me through my website and ask for advice, one thing I often suggest is that they find a stepmom friend to talk to. Let’s face it – you can talk to a lot of people about life as a stepparent – your mother, your sister, your single friends, your happily married ones – but it’s rare to find someone who understands stepfamily dynamics. You either need someone who has lived it, or a counselor or therapist who trained in it.

And there’s scientific research to support the value of friendships among women. Scientists believe that hanging out with our friends may actually calm us and relieve our distress. UCLA researchers found in a study on women and stress, that women “tend and be-friend” when facing a hostile situation.

The UCLA study was revolutionary. For more than fifty years, stress management researchers had focused predominantly on men - and posited mainly a “fight or flight” theory to explain how humans react to stress.

Instead, the researchers found that women have a broader range of behavior available to them when under stress because our brains emit oxytocin, a hormone that urges us to turn to others when under stress, not head for high ground. Women under stress focus on nurturing behavior and turn their efforts toward building social networks. This behavior releases more oxytocin and produces a calming effect.

It’s no small wonder that stepmoms can find so much comfort in friendship. When Susan and I sip coffee and talk about our families – it’s not a flight out of my marriage or my family life. It’s a step toward getting back to OK so I can walk back into my family with strength and grace.

Dawn Miller writes a column on life in blended families at thestepfamilylife.com.
Visit Dawn's blog for a daily dose of life in the blender.
Sign up to get columns delivered to your email in-box each week.

Source: TheStepfamilyLife.com

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Don't Do It Again


How to Make Sure He's Not Like Your Ex
5 tips to finding true love after divorce
by Debra Holland


There's nothing like a fresh start — knowing in your heart that you're ready to move past the divorce and date again. Before that little black dress comes out of the closet, ask yourself: Do I know how to make a better choice this time around?

"Things will be different," we tell ourselves. And things really can be different, of course. But only if you're different in the way you approach your next relationship. Whether you're in search of Mr. Right or Mr. Right Now, unless you want to attract "Your Ex: The Sequel," consider these tips to help you choose wisely:

1. Pay attention to warning signs. Red flags wave for your attention, alerting you to a potential problem or a man's character defect. If you think back to the days of your courtship with your ex, in hindsight you can see the danger signs displayed during that time. What might not be so clear is why you dismissed the warning signals.

Did you deny the potential problems because you loved him and thought that was all that mattered? Did you think he'd change, especially if you got married or had a baby? Did you tell yourself your concerns weren't a big deal? Did you think he'd be different with you than he'd been with the women in his past? Did you jump into a serious relationship from early infatuation? Were you so needy, you latched onto him so you wouldn't feel lonely and empty?

2. Trust yourself and those close to you. By becoming clear about how you denied potential problems in the past, you can catch yourself before making a similar mistake with the men you date. Have faith in your intuition. Whether your intuition speaks to you in a still, small voice; a gut feeling; a hunch; or some other sensation you need to follow the messages you're given. If your intuition tells you something is wrong, it probably is.

Don't be dismissive of your family or friends; be open to what they're telling you. If two or more people give you the same feedback, pay attention.

3. Take a look at his past. Does he put the blame for the breakdown of previous relationships on the woman? Does he admit to cheating? Does he make excuses for not interacting with his children? Does he use a poor or dysfunctional childhood as an excuse for his current behavior? Does he tell stories about himself (or his close friends) in a light way, showing he lacks ethics in some areas?

4. Beware the "I'm-a-changed-man" line. When he says meeting you has made him a different man, it may sound wonderful to hear. But don't put a lot of credence into that statement. Most of the time, men don't change their character because they've fallen in love. He needs to undergo the life-changing experiences that made him a better man before meeting you.

A change in character or behavior patterns come only after steadfast work on personal growth. Has he gone to therapy, had extensive coaching, become religious and is active in a church, joined a 12-step program, embarked on a course of self-help reading, attended personal growth seminars, or taken purposeful steps to become a better person?

5. A dose of caution is good for romance. Who doesn't love a sweet fairytale? A made-up love story can be great for entertainment. But if you want something real — in a friend or a lover — don't get caught up in a fantasy. Remain vigilant about the details he shares about himself. As you well know, from your most recent relationship, some of those details can come back with a vengeance. Caution will help you screen out those men who look good on the surface, but won't be good for you.

Source: FirstWivesWorld.com

Friday, April 23, 2010

Ex Wives VS New Wives


GUEST BLOGGER: Kela Price, Founder of Blended Family Soap Opera

Recently, I posted an article written by author and stepmom, Wednesday Martin, entitled; Ex-Wives, What Your Child’s Stepmother Wants You to Know. Jennifer Newcomb Marine, co-author of No One’s The Bitch, wrote this, What The Divorced Mom Has to Say, in response to Martin and other stepmothers. After thoroughly reading, dissecting and digesting both of these articles and their subsequent comments, I discovered what I and most of us already know. Both the stepmother and divorced mom, along with everyone else in the modern family, is trying to adjust to this new type of family. Both want to be respected and not demonized for their respective roles, and both want a little understanding along the way. That much is clear and has been for awhile now.

Ex-wives and wives have spent so much time focusing on the obvious. We both know that adjusting to divorce, remarriage and the modern family is difficult, especially if we live through it each day. We can even empathize and relate to what each other is going through, but focusing on this issue clearly doesn’t lead to solutions.

What do we do with this information?

There have been plenty of books, articles, blog posts, and discussions on understanding each others’ pain, but continually focusing on the obvious only makes each side feel more angry and entitled. As a matter of fact, while reading many of the comments from both articles, women admitted or it was implied in the tone of their comment, that they were angry about what each other had to say. The divorced moms were shouting that it wasn’t easy sharing their children with the stepmom, and they wanted to be cut some slack. The stepmoms were saying that it wasn’t easy for them either and they would like a little understanding as well. If you’re a divorced mom and /or a stepmom, then you’ve probably heard this or something similar before. My question is; now that we’ve heard both sides of the story, over and over again, what do we do with this information?

Anytime I sit down with an ex-wife and wife, who are clearly both committed to making it work, because they both have approached me for help, they both want to vent their sides of the story. And often times, it sounds just like the articles mentioned above and their subsequent comments. “I feel this way and you need to understand, cut me slack and empathize with me.” My question to them is always, what does that mean? What does it look like? When you say you want me to cut you some slack and understand where you’re coming from, what is it that you want me to do?

Divorced Mom

When you say you want me to cut you some slack and empathize with you, does that mean you want stepmom to allow you to be intrusive? Does that mean she should be okay with you encouraging, no matter how discretely, your children to dislike her because you feel threatened? Does that mean that she should invite you to holiday dinners or to go on vacation with her because that’s what YOU, not necessarily your children, want? Does empathizing with you mean that you can continue to act out because the divorce isn’t easy for you?

Stepmothers

What does this understanding look like for you? Does it mean that you get to treat the divorced mom’s children/ your husband’s children, like they are sloppy seconds because you don’t love them like your own? Does it mean that you get to refuse to even slightly communicate with the divorced mom because you feel as if you shouldn’t have to co-parent with her to a certain extent?

When asked those set of questions, the conversation begins to get more productive because it talks about what both parties expect instead of solely focusing on how they feel. One way (let’s just talk about how we feel) allows us to continually beat a dead horse and spin our wheels, and the other way (what do we expect from each other), allows us to focus on solutions to a problem that largely contributes to the modern family’s inability to peacefully coexist.

After expectations comes acceptance. Both parties must accept the fact that things are going to be a certain way. The divorced mom must respect and accept that she cannot come to holiday dinners or expect her ex-husband to fix her kitchen sink, if it’s not okay with the stepmother. Why? Because she is married to your ex-husband now and that marriage must be respected. She is not the second wife that your husband took on in his concubine, and therefore she must share him with you. He has one wife and she would like to create special holiday traditions and memories with her new family that are separate from you. Just like you wouldn’t have welcomed an ex-girlfriend or another woman into your marriage when you were married to him. The stepmother understands that you will share some level of interaction concerning the kids. She knows that you will be at extra curricular activities, school plays and attend parent teacher conferences, but everything she does with her husband and your children is not up for debate.

Stepmothers you must accept that the ex-wife needs to communicate with your husband. Yes, she is going to need to call him on a regular basis. They may need to discuss child support, modified visitation arrangements, school issues and other issues pertaining to the kids. Additionally, you must accept that you will even have to communicate with her from time to time. Whether it’s during drop off and pick up, or phone call that you happen to pick up when she calls. You must also accept that your presence isn’t required at every single thing either, just because you are his wife. For example, it might be best to allow the biological parents to attend the parent teacher conferences and allow your husband to inform you of anything that you need to be made aware of.

Overall, both parties must realize that while they are entitled to certain feelings, the actions that follow aren’t always appropriate, acceptable or helpful to anyone in the modern family, including the children. We must learn to be in charge of our own feelings, form realistic expectations of each other, respect each others’ respective positions in the modern family and accept our reality. Our reality is that neither of us are going anywhere anytime soon. Divorced mom, you have to accept and respect that stepmom is the wife now and lady of her house. And stepmom, you have to accept and respect that divorced mom is the mother of your husband’s children…period. Just remember that “acceptance of what has happened is the first, most profound step of overcoming the consequences of any misfortune.”

Kela Price is a Certified Stepfamily Counselor and the founder of www.blendedfamilysoapopera.com

Source

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Have You Started To Doubt Your Divorce?


It's not unusual, in the aftermath of divorce, to wonder whether you have done the right thing. In fact, unless your marriage has been complete hell—and that is not usually the case—you will still harbor residual feelings of affection for your spouse and the happy moments you spent together.

“Unless it's a situation of utter relief from the most adverse possible circumstances,” says Dr. Mitchell Baris, “ambivalent feelings are likely to linger.”

There is, quite simply, a period of wondering whether you could have worked it out or whether you simply gave up too soon.

One friend of ours began harboring such feelings, especially after his ex started calling him and asking him to be open, at least, to trying again. Her requests were especially tempting to him because she had been the one to end the relationship and push for the divorce in the first place. Just a year ago, he had pleaded with her to give the marriage a shot, and now, miraculously, she was doing just that.

But for our friend, things had changed. The experience had revealed to him his wife's fickle, callous side, and he had started dating someone new. Not only was he basically content again, but also he had no desire to plunge himself into the pain he had experienced as recently as a year before.

What should he do? A therapist wisely advised him to get together with his ex-spouse. “Don't be afraid,” the psychiatrist told him. “You're thinking very clearly now, and you'll see things for what they really are.”

Indeed he did. His ex-wife claimed she wanted a reunion, but within minutes of their meeting at a local coffee shop, she was commenting on his tie (too loud) and his hair (too short).

Our friend was cordial throughout the meeting but was able to walk away from it understanding he was well out of a relationship that meant nothing but pain. He had looked into the eye of the monster, after all, and he had prevailed.

The moral of the story: After your divorce, face your ambivalence head on. If your spouse has really been a louse or is just not right for you, you'll have the ability to see that, even if in your weaker moments you're still not sure.

Source: FamilyEducation

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Sunday Dinners


Susan, the ex-stepmother writes: My blended family life was finally well adjusted and peaceful after twenty years, then my husband and I separated five years ago. We both have new partners now. His two adult children, my steps, always had Sunday dinner with us. We carried on the tradition after our separation. Life was good until the ex and I acquired partners. The new partners (who also have children) rarely join us, and are uncomfortable with the Sunday dinner tradition even though we are now on neutral ground – my stepson’s home. To make matters more uncomfortable, my steps’ biological mother has decided to invite herself to the Sunday dinners since they are now on neutral ground. Neither my ex or I like the woman.

Do you think it is possible for us to continue the Sunday dinner tradition? Will some just have to be excluded? I am loath to end family ties, but want to move on with my new relationships. Only one of my stepchildren is willing to come to my new home and have a relationship with my new partner. I am beginning to think it impossible to have my cake and eat it too – at least at the family Sunday dinner.

Writing this out highlights how complicated it all has become. I think we have reached the point where it cannot be worked out. We have to choose which relationships to continue because we cannot continue them all.

Thank you for any insights or suggestions you may have.

Chuck and Jae reply: Congratulations on having successfully navigated the sometimes rough waters of the blended family for all those years. The fact that your stepchildren have chose to continue the tradition of having Sunday dinners together with you, even after the separation, says a lot about the quality of your relationships with them.

If we understand you correctly, the current arrangement for this gathering involves just you, your ex-spouse and the mother of your stepchildren. Neither of your new partners attend, and neither of you enjoy the company of your stepchildren’s mother. To add to your discomfort, only one of your stepchildren is willing to spend time in your new home with you and your current partner.

We agree that the Sunday dinner arrangement should be discontinued. That does not mean that you have to end your long-term relationships with your stepchildren. You obviously mean very much to them. We recommend you tactfully let them know that you plan to discontinue attending the Sunday dinners, because you would like to spend that time with your new family. We think they would understand that reasoning, and it may relieve them of some of the awkwardness they themselves probably have been feeling. Also, please remember that their discomfort is not necessarily about you, but more likely their reaction to all the changes that have taken place.

We also recommend you inform them that you want to continue your relationship with them, albeit on a different basis. Perhaps you can meet with them for dinner or lunch (just the three of you) and talk about how you might do that. For example, you could arrange for a specific time and place to meet as a trio on a regular basis. At some future point, if the relationship continues, circumstances could evolve to where both of them are comfortable with your present partner. If that should occur, you could then establish newer traditions for family gatherings that would include them and your family. If not, you could continue to maintain contact with them in a variety of different scenarios.

Obviously, as you have already noted, they will each choose for themselves whether and how they wish to relate to you.

Source: remarriagemag.com

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Co-Parenting Jerks?


Can You Get Along With The Ex For Your Kids?


By NANCY PERRY


Q: How am I supposed to co-parent with this jerk?

A: For starters, quit calling him or her a jerk. So here you are, divorced from this person whom you married and fully intended to live with happily every after. Turns out, this person is less that what you expected. To make matters worse, you had a child or children with this person. Now you’re stuck with each other for the rest of your lives. It will surely be a long, grueling life if you choose to live it full of anger and resentment towards your ex-spouse.

Keep reading here

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

What to Do When Your Kids Hate The Step-Mom

This question is asked by many people in step relationships, and the questioners sometimes have their own agenda. It can be quite human to, well, not be so unhappy if your kids hate the woman who was responsible for the demise of your marriage. But is hating the step mom healthy for the kids? The answer is a resounding NO.

Hate is a very strong emotion, and not one that you want your kids to walk around with. They will be spending time with their step-mom, and surely you don’t want them to hate this time. So, here are some ideas on how to deal with this.

First, it is really unlikely that their stepmother is a hateful person. This tells me that it isn’t the person they hate but the situation of being children of divorce and having to now share their father with someone else. With this in mind, I counsel moms to talk to their kids about the situation (divorce and remarriage) being the thing that they dislike — not a person. Help them to see this and you’ve taken a big step.

The absolute best way to foster a better relationship between your kids and their stepmother is to model it. While you don’t have to be friends, there are a lot of things you can do. Ask nicely about her after they have spent some time with her. Encourage them to see the good in her — not the bad. Suggest activities they can do with her. Let them see you interact well with her. This can be over the phone, at a “drop off”, a school event. By acting nicely to her, you are giving them permission to do the same.

If your kids do complain about her, listen to them. Everyone needs to be heard. You might say “You may not like her, but she is in your life, and it would be helpful if you could try to find some common ground.” Or, “You may not like her, but you do have to treat her with respect — just like I will treat your future husband or wife with respect.” This is another good time to emphasize that it might be the situation — not the person — that they dislike.

Sometimes mothers are afraid that their kids will like their step-mother too much. Your kids will always know who you are — their mother — and you will be the most important female relative in their lives!



Click the following to return a directory of articles and resource videos on Kids, Family and Divorce.

Source: FirstWivesWorld.com

Monday, March 22, 2010

Co-Parent Fear?

I recently received an email from a bio mom from Houston, Texas who was interested in my mediating a problem she was having with coparenting with her ex-husband.

"Well, I thought I was doing it right," she wrote. "I didn't think my children could see how disgusted I was with their father. His parenting skills suck. I always have to take up the slack."

Intermixed among other emails was one from a father, Mike, who complained that his ex-wife was always trying to control how he dealt with the kids. He felt his privacy was invaded and he wanted to be left alone when his kids were with him. He was writing to ask how to get through to his ex-wife and let her know that he was fully capable of taking care of his own children. “The kids are clean,” he wrote. “They have a bed time. What's the problem?"

Before I go on, I must explain that I often have the opportunity to talk with both parties, even though we do not meet face-to-face. If those who need mediation do not live within driving distance, I mediate using Yahoo Messenger and we converse over the internet in real time. Both Mike* and Brenda* had stumbled on to the Bonus Families web site and had no idea the other was writing. I suggested online mediation--and for them it worked.

"Have you asked her what the problem is?" I asked Mike.

"Sure," he wrote back. "She never gives me a straight answer. I think it's just me."

"Have you told him specifically what you don't like about his parenting skills?" I asked Brenda.

"It's everything!" she wrote back. "He doesn't do anything right!"

It appeared that Mike was right. Brenda’s responses suggested that she did disapprove of just about everything he did.

"Do the kids complain when they are with Mike?" I asked Brenda.


If you ever had an insecure bone in your body, divorce will find it and shake it until it really hurts. "Are you kidding?" she wrote back. "They can't wait to get to their dad's house. No one bugs them to clean up their room. They have pizza for dinner every night. It's a party over there! I'm the one who always has to be the disciplinarian. The kids probably hate me."

I continued to ask Brenda questions and because we were meeting in real time Mike could instantly read her responses. “Because Mike is a little more lax in the discipline department, does not cook on a regular basis, and is not the fastidious house cleaner that you are, do you feel as if you have to compensate by staying the responsible one?”

“Oh my Gosh! she wrote. Yes! What a relief! You get it!”

Mike then wrote, “It’s just not my style,”Brenda. And, continued by saying that being “‘Suzy Homemaker’ was not required for their children to be healthy or safe.”

As much as she hated to admit it, Brenda agreed that Mike was right. “He’s right,” she wrote. “He just makes me so mad!”

I then pushed a little further. “Are you perhaps afraid that Mike is "the fun one" and therefore the kids prefer to be with their dad?” Her response was simply, :-(. It was obvious I had reached the heart of her insecurity. She went on to explain that because of the divorce she could no longer influence Mike’s parenting decisions and her frustration was making her into someone she did not want to be--bitchy, condescending, and never satisfied.

Mike then confided that the kids felt Brenda’s frustration, too, and he worried that they could never satisfy their mother.

In turn, Brenda admitted that exactly what she feared so much was happening--the kids preferred to be at Mike's. She was deeply hurt, however, it was obvious that her family perceived her hurt as anger and the children were rebelling.

"Brenda," I wrote. "Are the kids in danger when they are with Mike?"

"No," she replied. "He's always been very careful with the kids."

Found at BonusFamilies.com

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

iPod + Teenager = ?

What Do You Get...... when you cross a teenager and an iPod Touch (with enabled wifi)?

The start of a horror story you hear about on Dateline or Maury Povich complete with private chats of an inappropriate nature with strangers of questionable age (and even gender).

I've been asked not to tweet or post about this because the Internet doesn't need to know about His daughter but I'm doing it anyway because ... well, it's *my* blog.
But, that's not the real reason. I do so not to embarrass Cinderella, or to spite anyone. I post this now because it's important to remind ALL parents (steps AND bio) of the importance of monitoring your children's internet usage. No matter how insignificant you might think it is, it can be a recipe for disaster.
Even the best parent needs a reminder every now and then.

If you are not familiar with an iPod Touch and all of it's capabilities, it's basically a mini-computer. So when your otherwise good kid is locking him/herself in their room "playing games" on their "iPod" you need to know that they may be ON TEH INTERNETZ and that means people of ALL KINDS are also playing these games and therefore have access to your good kid. AND!!! that said games also have private chat capabilities (remember the early days of a/s/l checks? Umm...YEAH! 'nuff said.).

BUT, if you are lucky (and YES there is also an upside to this otherwise craptastic and stomach turning experience) you might also get validation that you are doing a good job when, as you scour though the chat and email history, you happen across a statement made by your kid such as: "I'll [send it] tomorrow because my Dad is home then and he doesn't watch me."

You bet your ASS I'm going to be watching you.

Found at TheWickedStepMom

Monday, March 8, 2010

Can You Date (marry) Someone That Parents Differently?

Dating Dad Wonders How to Date Mothers with Different Parenting Styles


By LISA COHN


Dear Lisa,

I recently read an article on MSN.com by you that talked about dating and kids. I am divorced with a 15-year-old boy and was dating--until recently--someone who had a 14-year-old girl and an 11-year-old boy. She had full custody of her kids. I have rotating weekends. One of the issues that ending up breaking us up was our parenting styles. How do you move forward when you have two different styles and know that in the long run if you get married, it will drive you crazy and will be the source of arguments and hard feelings down the road?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Stepfamilies And Depression

My Heart is Breaking writes: I have recently married the man I have dated for the last 5 years. We have been married for 6 months. We split up numerous times while dating because he would just out of the blue shut me and my kids out and tell me he can’t give me what I want. We each have two children. His children (17, girl and 14, boy) do not live with us and the girl hardly visits. His son is with us most weekends and over half of the summer. My children (11, girl and 8, boy) love my husband with all their heart.

The issue is my husband has turned cold to my children. He has just told me he isn’t happy and doesn’t want to come home to us and that my children fight too much. If they make any kind of noise or have a disagreement, my husband gets mad and doesn’t want to be around them (or me). When I asked him why he has seemed so happy until now, he said it is because we haven’t been home that much since the wedding (we travel with our job together). I don’t disagree that my children have issues; their actual father is a piece of work and has caused a huge amount of problems that they are scared from. My husband recognizes this, but now he acts like he doesn’t care about any of us. No matter what I do with my children to make things better, (I have them in counseling, I keep them away from him at night if he comes home before they are in bed; I try to do anything to make things better), he resents the fact that they exist and all they want is to love and hug on him and he cringes. All he will say is “if it works out, it will work out.” I told him divorce is not an option and he just looks at me. It is like he enjoys hurting us and we do nothing but love him.

He battles depression, and I told him his ‘pattern’ has started and he needs to go to his doctor and have his meds adjusted to which i get the response, “I am fine.” I don’t know what to do. My children love him so much and he for some reason wishes they didn’t exist. However, the last five months he has been happy with them, takes my son with him all the time and watches tv with my daughter. Then one day it all turns to cold hate. Please help.

Chuck and Jae reply: We are truly saddened by the difficulties you and your children are experiencing with your husband. It must be very confusing and frustrating for you.

Based on what you have shared in your email, we believe the issue is primarily your husband’s depression. His irritability, inconsistency, bouts of isolation and periodic withdrawal from your children are symptomatic of untreated depression. Your suggestion that he see his doctor about this is on target. If he continues to go untreated, his condition will probably worsen. The impact on you and your children will intensify as well.

Since he denies he is having a problem, it’s unlikely he will seek help on his own. Therefore, we recommend you discuss the situation with a family therapist to consider options for persuading him to have his depression treated. One option that comes to mind is an “intervention” conducted in the therapist’s office with you, your children and your husband present. In this session, you and your children would let your husband/their stepfather know how much you love him and how concerned you are about his emotional health, provide some examples of his negative behaviors and how they have impacted you, and, finally, tell him how important it is to all of you for him get help.

If he firmly refuses to treat his depression, you will want to consider the potential seriousness of the impact of his behavior on the emotional health of you and your children. Then you will do what is best and safest for all of you.

Found this at remarraigemag.com

Friday, February 26, 2010

Ex Remarrys. What Are Your Rights?

Angie writes: I just have a few questions regarding my ex-husband’s remarriage. I feel that it is important to know that I do, normally, get along great with my ex-husband, and I am, well, was happy that he was remarrying and that the woman was nice to my girls. However, a wedding invitation was sent to my girls at our home; they reside with me. I was helping them choose the dinner that they would be enjoying at the reception. I glanced at the invitation, and to my utter shock, the date of the wedding is my eleven year old daughter’s birthday.

I immediately grabbed the phone (my daughter was at her friend’s house), and called my ex. I first made light conversation about the meal selections, debating whether I was even going to go there! However, I thought of my daughter and blatently asked him “Whose brilliant idea was it to get married on her birthday?” Noting, they are getting married on March 12 at the JP’s office with their 7 month old twins (my girls’ half-sisters), and her parents; my daughters are not invited to the private wedding ceremony and I had to explain that to them. He gave a million excuses, blah, blah, and I told him “hey, whatever, but it seems really insensitive to me, and absolutely wrong, but I understand that you have your logic, so whatever.”

Is this practice of getting married (wedding is in two months, JP office open most days) on my daughter’s birthday acceptable? And, is it common practice to exclude the groom’s 10 and 11 years olds from the private ceremony? My oldest daughter is a daddy’s girl, and just loved his fiancee, and she is really hurting because of this. She doesn’t openly display this, but when she and I were alone, I told her that I found out (she wouldn’t tell me) about the birthday/wedding bullcrap. I asked her if she was okay with that, and she is not. She is wondering why they did that, and I don’t know what to say. I just told her that when she has feelings like this, and if she hurting, that if I can’t help her myself, that I would get her counseling or she can call on my sister, or people close to her when she is feeling sad.

While speaking with my ex (very brief conversation), he said that he can’t believe that I even commented on his wedding date. I left him nine years ago, for no other reason than we were very incompatible and I couldn’t stand him - noting this because this could come off as jealousy. I am just concerned for my daughter, and wonder if this issue is one in which I can say that it is totally inappropriate for this to occur on her birthday and not look like an idiot. I just can’t believe that this would be happening. And now, my daughter said that his fiancee knew her actual birthdate, so it’s hard not to wonder if the fiancee didn’t plan this to hurt my daughter.

Please get back to me as soon as possible. My daughter is not one to share her feelings, but she asked me to take the long way home last night when I spoke to her about this issue. Tears filled her eyes, and I just told her that if the date is not changed, that life will have to go on, but somehow she will be stronger by getting through it, and every step of the way, she can let me know what she needs, or if she needs to talk to someone, or see a counselor for tools to deal with this. I just think that people are just brushing this off as oh well, what’s the big deal–she’s eleven, and now has seen the other part of her life, at her dad’s, turn into a hurting situation. She loves going there, and now I just see this wave of sadness when she thinks of her dad. She does not know how to handle the confusion, and the questions she has, well, I really feel that he should deal with them.

Also, one more question. If this is totally unacceptable, would it be absurd of me to insist on another date and that they be included in the private ceremony? Would it be distasteful for me to say that if they are not included in the private family wedding ceremony, then I am not sending them to the reception either? I will not let my girls be thrown to the wolves. So what rights am I entitled to as far as even speaking about their wedding?

Chuck and Jae reply: Let’s start with your final question. Yes, it would not be a good idea for you to insist on another wedding date and that your daughters be included in the private ceremony. Moreover, you would be doing your daughters a great disservice, as well as causing potentially serious damage to their relationship with their father and his fiancee, by not allowing them to attend the wedding reception. We assure you, letting them attend will not be “throwing them to the wolves.” It’s not about your “rights,” or “entitlement” - it’s more about what would be best for your daughters.

You didn’t mention what his reasoning was for choosing that particular date or why he chose not to invite the girls to the private ceremony. If you were not satisfied with his explanations, we would recommend the next step be that you encourage your daughters to take up both subjects with him. The main objective would be for them to let him know that they are having some feelings about his decision. Then they should be prepared to accept his response. We don’t believe that this situation, however disappointing to you and to your daughters, merits the kind of response you are suggesting.

Your letter indicates that your daughters have a very good relationship with their father’s fiancee; therefore, we can’t imagine the fiancee deliberately trying to hurt your oldest daughter in this fashion. On the other hand, it is important for the future of their relationship, as the girls go through the critical adolescent years, that this ceremony not be marred by a major conflict if it can be avoided. We believe it is very important for divorced parents not to be disparaging of each other to their children. This confuses them and puts them in loyalty binds. Under normal conditions (unless the situation is particularly egregious, such as abuse, etc.), we think it best that the children be encouraged to express their feelings directly to their parent. This would be much more effective and will minimize the appearance of the other parent using the children as a pretext for expressing his or her own agenda.

Your desire to protect your daughters from harm is praiseworthy. You must be careful, however, not to inadvertently deny them opportunities to learn to speak up for themselves and to directly influence the satisfaction of their needs.

Forgive us if we have misinterpreted the tone of your letter, but it suggests to us that you have a lot of anger toward your ex-spouse. For your sake, as well as your daughters, we recommend you take a look at that anger and try to find a way to resolve that.


Found this over at www.remarriagemag.com

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Co-Parenting Issue

Co-Parenting: Nationwide Effort Would Force Parents to Share Responsibility


By VICTOR GRETO


When Doug Richardson remarried, he waited nearly a decade before having a child. "We got married under the agreement we'd have no kids," says Richardson, 42, of Essexville, Mich. "But my wife is 10 years younger than myself. I didn't want to shortchange her because of my own experience."

That experience, which began when he was 19 and married his pregnant girlfriend, got even worse in 1991 when Richardson divorced her, and took a nightmarish journey through the court system. He ended up paying tens of thousands of dollars in child support and health insurance, and then never seeing his two children. "For the first 16 years I buried it so deep, along the lines of a rape victim," Richardson said. "It hit me when my child was born (to his second wife), about what was really taken from me."


Angry and bewildered fathers who want more rights after they divorce – to either right the wrongs of paternity fraud, or to be awarded equal or shared parenting with their children – have been fighting back through high-profile court cases, founding shared parenting organizations and lobbying extensively for new laws.




Shared parenting assumes that both parents will be awarded joint custody, unless other factors (proven abuse or domestic violence) weigh against it. "It is the case that there's a growing awareness of the injustices in the system," says Ronald K. Henry, co-founder of the Calvert Institute for Policy Research, and who has argued and written papers for decades arguing for shared parenting rights.


Keep reading here at d360

Thursday, February 18, 2010

What Is Step Dating Exactly?


Yvonne Kelly, MSW, RSW, a Certified Stepfamily Coach and Counselor and Founder of The Step and Blended Family Institute discusses Step Dating and how it relates to being in a stepfamily.



Step Dating is directly related to being in a stepfamily. Many of the dynamics are similar and it is actually the first step in the relationship continuum that leads to the remarriage of divorced singles with children. Which results in, you guessed it… a new step family.

Step Dating is a relatively new term coined to describe couples who are dating with children in the mix. It can represent two single parents dating or a single parent dating someone who doesn’t have any children of their own. Either way, it results in the collision of two different worlds, and even though it starts with mutual chemistry and budding romance, it is often a bumpy ride for both dating partners and the kids. No one is ever totally prepared for the challenges that come with step dating but it can be pleasurable and rewarding when couples do their homework and don't expect their love alone, to conquer all.

The realities and challenges of step dating are entirely different from dating without children in the mix. Single parents have the added responsibility of finding a partner who could potentially be a good stepparent to his or her kids. Childless singles dating a partner with kids tend to be on a steep learning curve, trying to figure out what their role is with their partner’s child and more importantly, digging deep and trying to determine if they are prepared to be in a relationship that involves children.

If two people continue their dating relationship they may find themselves in a serious relationship. They are now in the pre-remarriage or commitment stage of the relationship with critical and relevant decisions to be made. It goes far beyond picking a honeymoon destination or the centerpieces for the wedding reception. The decision to embark on a new family life together necessitates the couple becoming informed and aware of the realities of step family dynamics as well as the potential pitfalls that can erode even the strongest love.


Suggested Action Steps:
Learn as much as you can about what stepfamily life entails before moving to the next level.
Articulate your vision of the relationship and the family that the two of you can stand behind and get excited about.
Collaborate on a comprehensive family plan that takes into account the needs of each family member, while paying special attention to the following critical areas: Finances, role definition, relationship boundaries, how to deal with ex spouses, parenting (step parenting, co-parenting) styles, communication, and household management, etc.
The divorce rate among second marriages involving children continues to hover around the 60% mark, so we strongly encourage couples, whether they are in the Step Dating or Pre-Remarriage stages to seek out support and information to help them make their second chance at love, as successful as possible. And if you are already remarried and struggling with issues in your stepfamily, it is never too late to reach out and find new ways of rebuilding your family and relationships.

From Step Dating through to Remarriage one thing is certain: the relationships are more complex than those experienced in nuclear families They require a new level of consciousness and commitment in order to be successful. For those who are aware of what is required and have the determination to make it work, it can be a truly rewarding experience.

Yvonne Kelly, MSW, RSW
Certified Stepfamily Coach and Counselor
Founder of The Step and Blended Family Institute
________________________________________________________________________

The Step and Blended Family Institute www.stepinstitute.ca and The Relationship Coaching Institute www.relationshipcoachinginstitute.com are committed to bringing education and awareness to the importance of building conscious relationships and successful stepfamilies. To that end we are Co-Sponsoring a Free STEP DATING Teleconference Event on Thursday January 22, 2009 from 9-11 pm EST. Please check out this Event at www.stepdating.ca Once you register for the event, you will receive a Free Copy of the STEP DATING REPORT. We encourage all singles, single parents, and pre-remarried or remarried couples to join us for a groundbreaking two hours of new information on the critical subjects of Step Dating and Remarriage in 2009.

Found here

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Dad's Dating, Ex Is Angry

What Should I Do to Help Partner with Former Spouse Who Blames Me?


By LISA COHN


Dear Lisa:

I have listened to your Stepfamily Talk Radio website, read many books about how I should conduct myself and act...but I desperately would like/need your advice. I'm 30 years old and dating a dad who is 35. We’re very lucky to have found each other, but a great deal of turmoil exists in our lives.

keep reading here

Friday, February 12, 2010

Kind Of Don't Like Your Step Kids?


Step Kids Under Your Skin?
One challenge that many step parents face but few will admit is that they do not like one or more of their stepchildren. They love their partner, they love their kids, and they find themselves particularly challenged by the behaviors of their step kids.



When a stepmom presents this problem to me, the first thing I do is "get" her on how frustrating and irritating the situation is for her. We explore all her feelings around it and get a sense for what's really getting under her skin in relationship to the child that is not "hers".

After doing some emotional "excavating", we then shift the focus to look at the ways the child is a gift in her life. We explore what this child is there to teach her and show her about herself.

The easiest way to receive the gift that is in front of you is to ask yourself what life was like for you at that child's particular age. What were you going through? What did you need from a parental figure at that time? What were the messages you received about how to be a good kid at that time?

So often we focus on someone outside ourselves, thinking that they are the problem and that they need to change in order for us to be happy. The truth is that who they are and how they behave is really their business, and the only thing we have control over is how we choose to respond to what is in front of us.

If we tell ourselves that the child is mean, rude, disrespectful, and inappropriate, that is what we will see and react to. If we tell ourselves that the child is hurting, scared, lonely, and sad, we tend to be more empathetic and understanding, and possibly even loving, as we support them in working through what's not right in their life.



Wishing you and your blended family
all the best
in 2010

Emily Bouchard, founder,
www.Blended-Families.com

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Rights, Ex's & Remarriage

What are My Rights When My Ex Remarries?
Angie writes: I just have a few questions regarding my ex-husband’s remarriage. I feel that it is important to know that I do, normally, get along great with my ex-husband, and I am, well, was happy that he was remarrying and that the woman was nice to my girls. However, a wedding invitation was sent to my girls at our home; they reside with me. I was helping them choose the dinner that they would be enjoying at the reception. I glanced at the invitation, and to my utter shock, the date of the wedding is my eleven year old daughter’s birthday.

I immediately grabbed the phone (my daughter was at her friend’s house), and called my ex. I first made light conversation about the meal selections, debating whether I was even going to go there! However, I thought of my daughter and blatently asked him “Whose brilliant idea was it to get married on her birthday?” Noting, they are getting married on March 12 at the JP’s office with their 7 month old twins (my girls’ half-sisters), and her parents; my daughters are not invited to the private wedding ceremony and I had to explain that to them. He gave a million excuses, blah, blah, and I told him “hey, whatever, but it seems really insensitive to me, and absolutely wrong, but I understand that you have your logic, so whatever.”

Is this practice of getting married (wedding is in two months, JP office open most days) on my daughter’s birthday acceptable? And, is it common practice to exclude the groom’s 10 and 11 years olds from the private ceremony? My oldest daughter is a daddy’s girl, and just loved his fiancee, and she is really hurting because of this. She doesn’t openly display this, but when she and I were alone, I told her that I found out (she wouldn’t tell me) about the birthday/wedding bullcrap. I asked her if she was okay with that, and she is not. She is wondering why they did that, and I don’t know what to say. I just told her that when she has feelings like this, and if she hurting, that if I can’t help her myself, that I would get her counseling or she can call on my sister, or people close to her when she is feeling sad.

While speaking with my ex (very brief conversation), he said that he can’t believe that I even commented on his wedding date. I left him nine years ago, for no other reason than we were very incompatible and I couldn’t stand him - noting this because this could come off as jealousy. I am just concerned for my daughter, and wonder if this issue is one in which I can say that it is totally inappropriate for this to occur on her birthday and not look like an idiot. I just can’t believe that this would be happening. And now, my daughter said that his fiancee knew her actual birthdate, so it’s hard not to wonder if the fiancee didn’t plan this to hurt my daughter.

Please get back to me as soon as possible. My daughter is not one to share her feelings, but she asked me to take the long way home last night when I spoke to her about this issue. Tears filled her eyes, and I just told her that if the date is not changed, that life will have to go on, but somehow she will be stronger by getting through it, and every step of the way, she can let me know what she needs, or if she needs to talk to someone, or see a counselor for tools to deal with this. I just think that people are just brushing this off as oh well, what’s the big deal–she’s eleven, and now has seen the other part of her life, at her dad’s, turn into a hurting situation. She loves going there, and now I just see this wave of sadness when she thinks of her dad. She does not know how to handle the confusion, and the questions she has, well, I really feel that he should deal with them.

Also, one more question. If this is totally unacceptable, would it be absurd of me to insist on another date and that they be included in the private ceremony? Would it be distasteful for me to say that if they are not included in the private family wedding ceremony, then I am not sending them to the reception either? I will not let my girls be thrown to the wolves. So what rights am I entitled to as far as even speaking about their wedding?

Chuck and Jae reply: Let’s start with your final question. Yes, it would not be a good idea for you to insist on another wedding date and that your daughters be included in the private ceremony. Moreover, you would be doing your daughters a great disservice, as well as causing potentially serious damage to their relationship with their father and his fiancee, by not allowing them to attend the wedding reception. We assure you, letting them attend will not be “throwing them to the wolves.” It’s not about your “rights,” or “entitlement” - it’s more about what would be best for your daughters.

You didn’t mention what his reasoning was for choosing that particular date or why he chose not to invite the girls to the private ceremony. If you were not satisfied with his explanations, we would recommend the next step be that you encourage your daughters to take up both subjects with him. The main objective would be for them to let him know that they are having some feelings about his decision. Then they should be prepared to accept his response. We don’t believe that this situation, however disappointing to you and to your daughters, merits the kind of response you are suggesting.

Your letter indicates that your daughters have a very good relationship with their father’s fiancee; therefore, we can’t imagine the fiancee deliberately trying to hurt your oldest daughter in this fashion. On the other hand, it is important for the future of their relationship, as the girls go through the critical adolescent years, that this ceremony not be marred by a major conflict if it can be avoided. We believe it is very important for divorced parents not to be disparaging of each other to their children. This confuses them and puts them in loyalty binds. Under normal conditions (unless the situation is particularly egregious, such as abuse, etc.), we think it best that the children be encouraged to express their feelings directly to their parent. This would be much more effective and will minimize the appearance of the other parent using the children as a pretext for expressing his or her own agenda.

Your desire to protect your daughters from harm is praiseworthy. You must be careful, however, not to inadvertently deny them opportunities to learn to speak up for themselves and to directly influence the satisfaction of their needs.

Forgive us if we have misinterpreted the tone of your letter, but it suggests to us that you have a lot of anger toward your ex-spouse. For your sake, as well as your daughters, we recommend you take a look at that anger and try to find a way to resolve that.

Found at remarriagemag.com

Monday, February 8, 2010

Dad on Drugs. What To Tell The Kids?

Stepfamilies: What Can I Do for My Son who Hasn't Seen his Birth Father?


By LISA COHN


Dear Lisa:

My 9-year-old son has not seen his biological father in a year because his father started taking drugs. My son sometimes cries about this and my new husband, his stepfather, thinks that my son is just being manipulative. He (the stepfather) also does not spend much time with my son and my son feels ignored and sometimes says he does not feel like he is important. The stepfather does spend a lot of time with his 12-year-old daughter and we have all blended very well, except for my new husband.

Keep reading here on d360

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Ex = My Best Bud?

My Ex – My BFF
Love? You bet. Live together? No way. But we’re awfully good at the art of emotional rescue and nonsexual healing.

by Anne Goodfriend

Take this, Britney, Heather, Christie: My ex-husband, David, is my best friend. Forever.

No celeb-style divorce for us – as “fifth Beatle” Billy Preston sang, “Nothin’ from nothin’ leaves nothin’ …” – although it did take 5 months for David to move out after we painfully agreed to part.

And it took as many years before we started meeting for lunch occasionally. Along the way, I met Bill: We fell in love immediately and mythically, and, although we were both altar-shy at this stage of life, we finally moved in together.

Meanwhile, David was miserable; evidently, as I found out much later. He’d given up trying to meet someone. That dismayed me, because he’s a good man with a big heart who should be paired – just not with me.

Bill understood our friendship; in fact, he and David liked each other a lot. We’d go to the Dairy Godmother together for frozen custard, and Bill would cook wonderful dinners for the three of us. We often went to hear David’s band play their blues-flavored rock ‘n’ roll.

David continued to pour his heart out to me over our sporadic lunches, while I tried to boost his spirits. We often remarked on what a deep friendship we had despite our failed marriage and how we had remained the parents of our longhaired dachshunds, who probably kept us together longer than we should have been. He’d taken custody (he was better able), but I visited, and the four of us hung out happily. When Teddy, the elder dog, became severely ill, David asked me to go along to put him down. We cried together and swore we’d always be there for each other.

Many of our friends and relatives wondered at how close we grew post-divorce. They’d never heard of such an epilogue. While some exes remain civil “for the children,” how many have morphed into fast friends? Surely more than we two, but it’s rare in my experience.

I’d been jobless for 6 months when Bill, knowing that my health coverage was about to run out, gallantly proposed. Although we’d decided from the start not to marry – having been burned before – I accepted, not only for the insurance but because we were rock-solid certain that we were the loves of each other’s lives. As Bill said to Frank, his best friend since childhood, “After all, it’s not as if I don’t love her and want to spend the rest of my life with her.”

David’s happiness for both of us was clouded only by his lack of a partner.

Fast forward a year, after countless job interviews. Scrolling the listings, I saw that the Pulitzer Prize-winning Virgin Islands Daily News needed an editor.

“Hey, wanna move to St. Thomas?” I called out to Bill.

“You bet! Go for it!” he yelled back, and the wheels began to spin. No doubt in Bill’s mind: All he wanted was to fish in the sun, semiretired, while copywriting for the Daily News. The day we accepted our new jobs, we celebrated our first anniversary. The next day, we flew home and prepared to report for work in 8 weeks.

David was against the move, not only because we’d be so far away but because he felt that, as a city girl with Brooklyn in her bones, I wouldn’t thrive there.

Bill and I agreed we’d get full physicals before moving to an island with decent doctors but nearly nonexistent hospital care. Bill procrastinated and had his exam just 3 weeks before we were to use our one-way tickets. Five days later, his specialist diagnosed stage IV lung cancer.

The Caribbean was no longer in our future.

It was at this point that David stepped up to the plate. Bill had no family, only friends from work and Frank. But it was David who visited at least weekly (especially for Sunday baseball games). My family and our friends dropped by once in a while, but David was the most constant companion Bill had other than me, and they grew to love each other. They even managed to bridge the gap of rooting for rival teams, the Red Sox and the Mets.

On a September afternoon 4½ months after his diagnosis, Bill died while I was out. The only comfort was the doctor’s assurance that it had been instant and painless, a sort of explosion that couldn’t have been prevented even if he had been in the hospital.

After 911, my first call was to David. He was the first by my side as I stood, in shock, answering questions from the emergency personnel who swarmed in. He held me, comforted me, cried with me. We loved and mourned Bill together in a moment more intimate than we’d ever shared as spouses.

Nearly 2 years later, I met Don, and it was David whose thumbs-up I sought.

That’s about when David met his darling Jodi. They came to our wedding reception, delighted to celebrate with us, and we hope someday to dance at theirs.

Inevitably, David and I see each other less often now. But nary a week goes by that we don’t e-mail or phone. We’re still the closest of friends; I still bear his name. We have each other’s backs and always will.

Chances are, we’ll be rocking beside each other on the nursing-home porch. Madonna, eat your heart out!

A freelance writer and editor in Arlington, Virginia, Anne Goodfriend marvels at how fortunate she is to have loved and been loved by the brave, kind men who have shared her life.

Found this over at remarriagemag.com

Monday, February 1, 2010

You Can Call Me....

Cinderella calls me by first name and probably will for the foreseeable future. And I am just fine with that. However, if you are newly stepped and would like your stepchildren to call you something other than your first name, or are currently facing a situation like this, I put together this list to help you along the way:

Stepmom
Steppy
S'Mom
BonusMom
OtherMom (Om / Ommy)
ExtraMom (E.M. / EM / Emmy)
Parent
Mom/Mommy + First Name (Mom-Cathy)
Mom/Mommy + Initial (Mommy-C)
Ma

You could try a unique variation of your first name, such as "Cat" for Catherine.

Or come up with a special nickname that relates to something unique to you and your stepchild. For instance, if you both love Oreos, they can call you “Cookie.” If you are a bit wicked, like the author of this post, why not "Apple." (If Gwynneth Paltrow can do it, why not you?)

Try Mother/Mommy in another languages:
Dutch: Moeder/Mama
French: Mère/Maman
Gaelic: Máthair/Mamai
German: Mutter/Mamma
Italian: Madre/Mommy
Portugese: Mãe
Spanish: Madre/Mama

No matter what you decide, make sure it's mutual. Don't force your stepkids to do something they (or you or your hubby) are not comfortable with.
And as difficult as it may be for some, always take BioMom's feelings into consideration.

Found this over at WickedStepMom

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Never Too Late?

It’s Never Too Late
They’re off on their Harleys or to a dancing lesson on Saturday night. The fun isn’t over for these young-as-you-feel couples who’ve found a new lease on life – and romance.

by Patricia J. Lasher

Debbie had only been divorced a few months, but after 25 years of marriage, she wasn’t used to dating. The slightly-past-middle-age mother of three let herself rush into a relationship.

“It was too quick, too soon,” she recalls, not bitterly, but with a note of puzzlement in her otherwise animated tone. “Finally, after that relationship quickly ended, I had reached the point that I was happy, on my own, for the first time in my life, ready to have fun and ready to take my time as far as any relationship. I was happy to travel with girlfriends, do things I had never had a chance to do. . . . I wasn’t looking for anyone else to make me happy.”

And when she unexpectedly fell in love with Scott, 11 years her junior, Debbie was reluctant to tell her family and grown children. “I was worried about what others would think about me going into another relationship.” She enjoyed a year of courtship, then a romantic and surprising wedding proposal that whisked her off her feet. That family she was worried about informing came a hundred-plus strong to their 2004 wedding. Their only complaint? Now these lovebirds are often too busy to watch the grandchildren. Debbie recently bought a Harley-Davidson to match Scott’s, and, she says, “We’re off riding nearly every other weekend.”

Statistically, Debbie’s remarriage is the rule, not the exception. A study of the patterns of remarriage following divorce in this country by Centers for Disease Control’s National Center for Health Statistics in 2002 indicates that the odds that remarriage will occur are better than even. According to this study, 75 percent of divorced women remarry within 10 years of divorce.

Remarriage, especially after a long first (or subsequent), established marriage, adds a whole new level of complexity, from household belongings to finances. Monies from a divorce settlement, or a survivor’s annuity, Social Security benefits, or medical insurance coverage may automatically cease. (Information is available on the Social Security Administration website .) Alimony payments that a divorced spouse receives usually end when that person remarries; on the other hand, a paying spouse who remarries must continue his or her obligation, causing more than a few parties in the new relationship to hesitate before saying I do. In addition, marital agreements and airtight trusts often keep a spouse responsible for the long-term care of the divorced spouse, sometimes even affecting Medicaid eligibility.

For businesswoman Gloria Berthold of Elkridge, Maryland, remarriage was not even on the radar screen. Divorced for 21 years, Berthold’s life was a busy but satisfying whirl of business – she runs a company that helps others seek government contracts – and good times with a tight circle of wonderful friends.

“I had been in relationships over the years, but had really given up on the idea of remarriage,” she says. So when Berthold received a call from her broker, Patrick Larkin, she assumed he was calling “to ask me to invest some more funds.” But after that one lunch date, the couple saw each other with “different eyes,” Berthold says, and pretty soon the decision to remarry was “shockingly clear cut.” They married a year later, in May 2008, with the blessings of Patrick’s children. The biggest challenge, she says, has been that of getting used to a new last name. “When you’ve been in business or in a career and built up a reputation with a name, it is really difficult to make the switch, but I never doubted that I would use ‘Larkin’ once we were married.”

Kids at Heart

Ah, the children. Patrick Larkin’s first wife had died of breast cancer after a long and happy 39-year marriage, and his adult son and daughter welcomed someone into their dad’s life. “The children have been so supportive,” says Gloria Larkin, who had none of her own. “I think they are pleased to see their dad happy.”

Jack and Shirley Cohen Wald met at nightly synagogue services; Jack had been a widower for several years, but Shirley’s husband had only recently died. Her children were still mourning, as was she, the loss of their father, and were reluctant to accept a new man in her life. Over the next 3 years, Jack and Shirley’s friendship grew, and they brought both sets of children and grandchildren together on holidays.

The families finally grew comfortable – then happy – about the marriage when 67-year-old Shirley married 80-year-old Jack, about 10 years ago. “Holidays are wonderful now,” Shirley said, when discussing her golden years’ marriage last fall. “Each of our children takes a holiday and everyone comes together. I think of Jack’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren as mine and he feels that way about mine.” Jack’s granddaughter, Ilene Glickman Horwitz, a family law attorney in Towson, Maryland, says, “Shirley became the matriarch of our family and took us all under her wing.” Jack Wald died in April, 2009, and as a loving, blended family, they bid their farewells to Jack and celebrated his rich life.

Not all offspring are so accommodating. Those adult children who so vehemently spurned parental advice when diving into their own marriages are often pretty loose with unsolicited advice for their own parents who contemplate remarriage.

Accountant Kathy Becker of Columbia, Maryland, believes that when you “get married, you get married, with all that it involves.” She and her husband of 5 years each have an adult child from prior marriages. “Everyone gets along great,” she reports. As for estate planning, Becker and her spouse decided to provide by will for each other, with a level of trust between them that each would be fair to the other’s child. “Today it’s hard to be sure you have enough for retirement and long-term care,” she says, “so unless the estate is bigger than ours, there’s not enough to even think about setting aside trusts for children.” But, of course, some larger estates require separate trusts or stronger plans; many CPAs advise couples to put financial agreements into prenuptial or carefully worded postmarital agreements.

“It seems that adult children are either really in favor of the later marriage, or really against it,” says John Abosch, a CPA and personal financial specialist and estate planner with Baltimore-based KAWG&F. Dealing with sophisticated clients, Abosch says that, at minimum, parties should look at the tax consequences of marriage along with the estate ramifications. “Written agreements, where both of the parties are represented and understand their rights, can prevent some of the current extended family distrust and family disputes that often arise.”

Among the issues that clients ask matrimonial lawyers to address include support in the event of death or divorce, property brought into the marriage, disposition of personal property, life insurance trusts, real estate ownership, medical directives, powers of attorney, and living wills. Family law attorney Liz Scheffee says that almost all of her older clients who contemplate a later remarriage have premarital agreements. The Portland, Maine, matrimonial lawyer notes that it’s “usually to protect the kids, and, perhaps, assure them as well.”

“The older gentlemen are more generous in negotiating prenups than the younger men,” Scheffee adds, “most likely because they already know what their future holds…if you get my drift.” In short, “there is less future to negotiate about, and the estate is a known quantity rather than a potential one. I find the premarital agreements for older people are more about estate planning and preserving each person’s asset base for the kids. For younger couples, the prenups are more about what happens on divorce rather than death.”

Yours, Mine, or Ours

High up on the checklist of issues for these later-in-life couples is housing, whether a spouse has died or individuals are moving out of an established postdivorce situation. For the Walds, the “your place or mine” question was easily resolved: Each sold homes, and the couple moved to Leisure World, an active retirement community outside of Washington, DC. “Everything that had belonged to their mother went to Jack’s children and grandchildren before we moved,” Shirley says. “I wanted them to know that their mother’s things were theirs.” Debbie and Scott solved the question by purchasing a home together along with an RV that has them spending the occasional weekend with family in tow. Patrick moved into Gloria’s residence, and they’ve discovered a new hobby: getting Patrick’s home ready to sell. Most weekends these days, says Gloria, “we are do-it-yourselfers: painting, carpeting. We’re doing it all.”

When one spouse moves into the other’s family home without receiving legal title, big questions can arise in the event of death or subsequent divorce. Without a prior written agreement of the parties, the divorce agreement – or, as a last resort, the courts – will have to stipulate who may remain on premises. If the marriage ends in death without wills, state law may address the resolution. A few states, in some instances, do grant a surviving spouse homestead rights for the remainder of his or her life. In other states, the parties who inherit the family home can decide whether the surviving spouse may remain – and under what terms – or must vacate.

Annette and Hal Kuntz celebrated their remarriage last year by buying a penthouse apartment in Texas. “We each sold our homes and sold, stored, gave away, or incorporated some of our furniture and furnishings.” Between her beach house and his ranches, which they kept, both were ready to give up the yard and the upkeep for a home in the city. “It has also been fun to find new items that we both like, says Annette, a family court judge, “making this home truly ‘ours.’ ” The biggest excitement came when the hot tub, delivered and placed by a helicopter, was set on their patio overlooking the Houston skyline.

Going for the Gold

Although the number of cohabiting senior citizens is on the increase, marriage in the golden years is still a welcome option to many. Research holds that married seniors are more likely to eat breakfast, wear seat belts, engage in physical activity, have their blood pressure checked, and avoid smoking than widowed elderly persons. The benefits of marriage tend to be more substantial for elderly men than for elderly women, according to a 1998 study by the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (now the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality).

If Olympic medals were awarded to the couple best suited to represent the joys and benefits of remarriage in the senior years, then Jane and Albert Schleuter, now 84 and 80, respectively, would be in the running. The couple met several years ago down the hall from their apartments in the Charlestown Retirement Community, located in a Baltimore suburb. This past July, the Schleuters celebrated their fourth anniversary, squeezing a lunch celebration with family in between plans to work on the community’s Benevolent Care Foundation Treasure Sale, crab feasts, and dinner dates with friends.

Contradictions and laughter greet my question, How did you meet? “A friend introduced us at the elevator,” says Al. “That’s not right,” Jane quickly interrupts. “I was waiting for an elevator, and you walked right up and introduced yourself.”

On almost everything else, though, they seem to agree. As they dined frequently together, each talked about the lack of desire to remarry. After a little more than a year, when friends asked them to come along on a trip to Italy, Al popped the question. Jane said yes, without hesitation. “Our friends said they knew before we did that we’d marry,” she says. “We just always, from the start, held hands.”

Like a storybook, Al picked out Jane’s lavender wedding dress and she chose his new suit for the big day. They exchanged vows in the magnificent chapel Our Lady of the Angels on the 110-acre retirement community’s grounds. More than 80 guests celebrated with the couple, including most of their families: Jane has three children, five grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren; Al, who lost a son several years ago, has a surviving daughter, two grandchildren, and a great-grandchild. Jane and her sister made the six wedding cakes offered up at the reception.

Without a backward glance, Jane moved to Al’s apartment in the 2,000-member community. “It was larger,” he says. Jane’s family antiques and other furniture went to her children. “They would have gotten it someday, anyway,” Jane adds.

When it came to family members, encouragement from both sides was strong. “I called my children to say I’d met someone. They said, ‘Mom, you don’t have to tell us what you’re doing.’ Then I called to say I was going to Italy and got the same response. Finally, I said, ‘I want you to meet Al,’ and the response was ‘It’s about time.’ ”

Reluctant to give advice to others, both do agree that being able to talk easily to each other is a major consideration in choosing a partner. “Oh, yes,” Jane adds, “and holding hands.”

Former family court associate judge, reMarriage’s legal columnist Patricia J. Lasher, shuttles back and forth between homes in Houston, Texas, and Baltimore, Maryland.

Found at remarriagemag.com