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Stepkids and your increased odds of a second divorce

In theory, having been through one marriage--and a divorce--should teach you some things. Oscar Wilde said that experience is simply the name we give our mistakes. Yes, mistakes were made, but we learned from them. And now we are ready for marriage number two. The odds should be better this time, right?

Well, no, actually. Approximately 41 percent of first marriages end in divorce. The odds of divorce increases to 60 percent for second marriages, unless both partners have kids--then it rises to 70 percent.

Why does having stepkids increase divorce odds?

There are a number of factors that come into play with a second marriage. When you add stepchildren to become a blended family, there are even more challenges. Some of the top reasons for the increased risk of divorce for second marriages include:

  • Coming into the marriage with baggage: That interfering ex that won't leave well enough alone.
  • Two families into one is a tough merge: There's a lot of moving pieces, so your time may be pulled into getting kids to their soccer practice or to the other parent's house, leaving less time for each other. And often, the kids don't get along as well as you may have hoped.
  • High expectations: You find that yes, the problems from your first marriage are gone--but now you have brand new issues.
  • Second marriages are easier to leave: You've been down the road before, so divorce is not as scary to contemplate as it was the first time.
  • Financial stress: Typically partners have more assets when they enter a second marriage and are not as willing to co-mingle finances.

Strategies to beat the odds

Here are five strategies you can put into play that can help increase your odds to make that second marriage work:

  1. Start slow: You don't have to rush into a relationship with your new stepkids. Be supportive. Be a good listener. Don't take their negative emotions personally. Also, embrace the time with your children and plan activities with just them.
  2. Be consistent: This is where a parenting plan comes in. Children want clear rules and regular schedules--even between two households.
  3. Embrace good conflict: Address differences with respect and don't disrespect someone simply because you disagree with them. Discipline should fall to the biological parent.
  4. Be flexible: You may learn that your way isn't the only way to do things. Be open to new ideas from the new family.
  5. Be patient: Good relationships take time to develop. Author Joyce Meyer said, "Patience is not simply the ability to wait--it's how we behave while we're waiting."

A family is a group that comes together to care for, respect, support and provide a sense of belonging to each other. A secret that many counselors know is that well-functioning relationships don't often happen by chance. Hard work, flexibility and a willingness to change goes a long way to having a better and long-lasting relationship.

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