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How do you bring together two sets of adult children to become a united family in a second marriage?
It’s difficult to unite young children in a second marriage and it’s even more difficult to unite adult children when the parents remarry. Let’s talk about some of the reasons and then discuss ways you can improve the possibility of unity in your new family situation.
One of the most common frustrations of second marriages with young children is pushing the family to be united before children actually feel comfortable and familiar with their new stepsiblings. There are well-meaning messages from both parents about the new family and how they expect everyone to care about each other. It’s almost like choosing friends for your kids and then expecting them to enjoy these new relationships without having any input.
You are united with your new spouse. You got to choose each other and commit your lives to one another. The children you each bring with you to marriage get to decide what kind of relationship they’ll have with their stepsiblings. It doesn’t matter if they’re young children or adults. The principle stays the same. They get to decide what kind of relationship they’ll have with each other.
In biological intact families, children still get to decide what kind of relationship they’ll have with each other as adults. Even though they have years of living together and interacting, they will marry people outside the family system, have children, live in areas, and develop an entirely new family personality. Sometimes these new dynamics will completely rewrite the relationships and change the dynamics in the family. The hope, of course, is that children will stay united and loyal to each other over the years.
Unity happens when people spend time with each other, learn more about each other’s lives, and find ways to bless each other. Since you won’t be able to foster those conditions on a daily basis in your home, you’ll have to create opportunities for these adult children and their families to get to know one another. For example, you might plan an annual retreat for the adults where you everyone can spend time together. Make sure there is plenty of space to not only be together, but also to have time with their own marriages. This will help reduce the pressure on the whole group to get along all the time.
Your respective children are now building families of their own. Their priority for creating unity is now focused on their own marriages and families. Work with your spouse to support each individual family by showing interest in their lives and spending time in their homes. As you each get to know each other’s children’s families, it will open up more opportunities for you to feel the unity.
Although it’s certainly a nice wish to have all of the families build close relationships with each other, it’s more important for you and your spouse to be close to each other’s children. This will help with the unity in your new marriage. Don’t take it personally if your children aren’t interested in each other’s lives. You have to understand each child’s experience with losing their parent’s marriage. They might be upset you remarried. They may not care about trying to relate to new family members. Please give them room and permission to develop their own interest in their own time.
Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at [email protected]
About the Author
Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in St. George, UT. He is the owner of Alliant Counseling and Education (www.alliantcounseling.com) and the founding director of LifeStar of St. George, an outpatient treatment program for couples and individuals impacted by pornography and sexual addiction (www.lifestarstgeorge.com). He is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, available at Deseret Book, and the audio series “Strengthening Recovery Through Strengthening Marriage”, available at www.marriage-recovery.com. He also writes a weekly relationship column for the St. George News (www.stgnews.com). He holds a bachelors degree from BYU in communications studies and a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from Auburn University. He served a full-time mission to the Dominican Republic. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.