Guest post by Claudette Chenevert.
More than half of married couples are divorcing, some more than once. The average length of a marriage today is 8 years. Second marriages end after 5 to 7 years. Divorce is expensive. An average divorce with no battling about custody and/or possessions can cost anywhere between $15,000 to $30,000 (depending on the state you live in and whether you hire a mediator or a lawyer). If you decide to battle it out in court (thinking the judge will be on your side) then the costs can be extremely prohibitive going to at least $50,000 to $100,000. Divorce often ruins families financially as well as emotionally and physically.
CNN had an article on the toll divorce has on your health in remarriages The article talks about health risks and quality of life, comparing those that stayed married versus those that divorced. They even compared people that divorced and didn’t remarry and those that did remarry. Chronic illnesses, stress and depression were some of the health issues divorced people faced.
These lingering health issues are there because we think that once we get a divorce, our problems will be solved and we can start over again. In fact, if you didn’t resolve your issues with your ex-partner before getting remarried, chances are, you will be having more difficulties with your second marriage because of past unresolved issues. And this is especially true when children are involved. Another study showed that stepmoms had higher incidence of depressions than moms. Divorce means the end of a relationship as husband and wife but doesn’t mean the end of parenthood. There are only ex-spouses, NO ex-parents.
Many stepparents complain about the behavior their stepkids exhibit and wonder what they could do differently. One area to really take a close look at is how the parents handled the divorce.
Children where the family never discussed the reason for the divorce have a harder time adjusting to having a new family. Judith S. Wallerstein, author of “Second Chance,” found that kids that didn’t do so well had more difficulty because of the way their parents fought, bickering and blaming back and forth. They feel caught in the middle and they don’t feel loved and secure. These children blamed themselves for their parents divorce and often started getting in trouble earlier. Many of these children left home early, got pregnant and/or got married in order to leave home.
Many children accepted their parents divorce and moved to have families of their own only when the adults handled the divorce is a civil and respectful manner. If you have children, discussing the divorce with them is really important. When both parents tell their children about the divorce, they get the message that they are still important and they will be taken care of by both parents. This also helps when you find yourself another partner in the future. The children won’t feel the need to choose between parents. It also makes it easier on the new stepparent in that there are less feelings of insecurity.
The success of the stepfamily may also be linked with how well you handled your divorce. If you are able to have healthy conversations about the children and not put them in the middle of your battles, the success is better. Marriage is already a transition that is not always easy: learning to live with another person’s habits, incorporating different routines to all make them work, having time for yourself as well as for your partner all requires a lot of planning and preparations. But if you include arguments and conflicts with an ex-spouse over things that could have been resolved peacefully then you are stacking the odds against you even more.
Another reason for dealing with your divorce is to finally put to rest the issues that have made your relationship go in different directions and to be at peace with yourself. Only then can you truly be happy and secure in your new relationship. Even if you’ve been divorced for many years and have remarried, taking the time to put aside those resentments from the past gives your new relationship the kind of presence that it really deserves. Living with ghosts gets really crowded and takes up precious time and energy that most of us don’t have.
Another important thing to remember is that you are forever the parent of these children, even when they are grown and have kids of their own. This is a life-long commitment. The price of not dealing with your divorce doesn’t just affect you but also your children, their future spouses and their children too. Imagine having a son/daughter-in-law caught in the middle of something they have absolutely nothing to do with. Must they also choose their loyalties? What about the grandchildren? Would you risk not being a part of their lives because you just can’t stand your ex-spouse? What message is it really sending to our future generations when we, as adults, can’t forgive and move on?
As I see my son and two stepdaughters getting married, I want only what is best for them: joy and happiness and love in their marriage. I also know that they will have issues as all couples do. The last thing I want them to have to deal with is wondering if they can have all their parents with them at the same time instead of having to negotiate schedules of visits.
Want to use this article for your blog, e-zine, or Web site? You are welcome to reprint this entire article verbatim if you include the following: Claudette Chenevert is the Stepmom Coach and founder of Coaching Steps LLC. She helps you navigate the untraditional path of stepparenthood. Get tools for creating the family life of your dreams by visiting http://www.stepmomcoach.com.© 2012, Claudette Chenevert, The Stepmom Coach