December 4, 1999
IF THERE'S A REMARRIAGE
In the opening words
of a cover story in ''U.S. News & World Report,'' ''Tori La Londe hosts a
large Thanksgiving gathering every year at her home, but she is never sure
who will show up. It could include any combination of her four biological
children from two marriages, her stepson, the two foster children she
raised... Although La Londe has little contact with her two former husbands,
she has a close, enduring relationship with Jud, the stepson she helped
raise. She also has a strong friendship with Jud's mother.''
Some 46 percent of
marriages involve someone who was previously married. Half of them have
children. Like the example cited above, marriages involving children from a
second marriage do not tend to work out very well. In fact, two-thirds fail.
A child who has lived through one painful divorce has a 50 percent chance of
living through a second by age 18.
is a new book which can reduce those odds of failure for couples entering a
second marriage with stepchildren. It is called ''Preparing To Marry Again''
and was written by Rev. Dick Dunn, who served as Minister of Singles and
Stepfamilies at Roswell United Methodist Church for 16 years, before he
retired last summer.
It is written in a
workbook format, with brief chapters followed by questions, with space to
write answers. Couples might use this resource by themselves or clergy might
well require that the book be used as part of a premarital preparation
When Pastor Dunn,
who is himself in a second marriage, counsels couples marrying for the
second time, he asks for a commitment to not even consider divorce for the
first three years of marriage. If they stick it out that long, tough
stepfamily issues ''will have improved considerably and their marriage will
have a good chance.
''Second, I ask them
to agree to seek counseling whenever the other person thinks they need it.
Seldom do both feel the need at the same time.''
Below I've condensed other elements of his
''All subsequent marriages are bourne
out of grief.'' This is a time for friendships, not romance. Loneliness
is not a reason to remarry. ''People should never consider marrying
until they have learned to be happy as individuals. Marrying in order to
be happy is not only a bad idea, but it seldom works.''
Stretch out the courtship past the
period of infatuation. ''Eventually all illusions give way to reality.
It is far better for this to happen before rather than after, people
''No one should marry without
premarital counseling,'' Dunn wries. That should include four elements:
a) taking a premarital inventory such as PREPARE or FOCCUS. b) reading
at least one book on stepfamilies, c) talking with a couple in a
stepfamily who has been married for at least five years, and d).
Attending a support group for stepfamilies.
Do not live in your old home or hers,
but sell them and buy a new one for a fresh start. That avoids ghosts of
''Finances need to be discussed prior
to the wedding, and definite decisions need to be made about the
distribution of funds available to the couple.'' Complete financial
disclosure is essential, so that one's debts and assets are known to the
other. Be sure to protect tangible assets that you want to leave for
your children, and leave instructions about which tangible family
properties are to go ultimately to your own children. Often the assets
of one partner are simply left to a spouse, which means they could end
up totally in the hands of that person's biological children, with
nothing left to your own.
The former spouse is likely to continue
to have conflicts with an ex that adds strain to the marriage. Here is
where one needs to be in a stepfamily support group, to learn techniques
for handling the conflict that others have learned who have ''been
there, done that.'' Ideas are needed on how to handle holidays,
particularly Christmas which is full of ''hidden land mines.''
The grief of children over a divorce
will outlast the grief of a parent who remarries. Kids long for a
''childhood fantasy that Mom and Dad might get back together,'' and
resent a substitution of a new parent for the old one. A teen might say
to her mother, ''How dare you get married before I go away to college?''
Expect children to learn how to drive a wedge between husband and wife.
Only a stepfamily support group will have answers.
To order a copy call
Rev. Dick Dunn: 850-231-2975 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright 1999 Michael J. McManus.
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