After significant changes (like re/marriage and
cohabiting), adults and kids instinctively strive to rebalance their routines,
relationships, and expectations to regain
stability and security.
Some of us are faster than
others at restoring those prizes - i.e. at "adapting." Can you think of people who
"adapted well" to major life changes? How do you judge that? Recall others
whom you feel have had major trouble in adjusting to new
a child's second bioparent re/marries after divorce, their new
stepparent's presence, values, goals, and needs, will cause
webs of minor and major changes in the whole stepfamily system - specially
if the new person has kids.
Many factors determine how impactful an ex-mate's choosing a new partner is - e.g....
The degree of
in each of
your family adults. Typical false selves
are apt to resist or overreact to environmental change, and have the
hardest time restabilizing.
How much advance warning everyone had
of the new couple's commitment (more is better); and ...
How many people comprise your nuclear
stepfamily (fewer is easier); and ...
The harmony or conflict among the ex
mates and their kids and
The progress that kids
and adults have made
from parental divorce and re/marriage and/or cohabiting; and ...
How much time has elapsed since the
child's first bioparent chose a new partner (more is better); and...
Who has custody of which kids,
and how stable visitations, child support, parenting agreements,
and legal custody status are; and ...
The communication and problem-solving
among the co-parents and kids in
the nuclear stepfamily; and ...
How much progress has been made in
stabilizing their complex stepfamily
When your child(ren)'s other bioparent commits to a new partner, everyone
will experience significant changes over the ensuing months.
What Will Change?
Depending on the factors above, adding a new co-parent and their
biofamily to your multi-generational stepfamily may shift many facets of your lives:
the new couple and any custodial kids live. They may
relocate to a new city, move
across town, or make no
dwelling change - for
now. If they move, any custodial kids may need to change schools,
churches, and socializing patterns with relatives and friends.
arrangements. The new adult brings her or his own assets, debts,
and values. S/he may or may not approve of your child-support
agreements - i.e. who pays who how much, how often, and what the money
is used for. S/He may be passive or active in accepting or
changing your present arrangement - including child allowances,
insurance coverages, special-activity expenses, and wills;
rituals. The new adult has needs, priorities, and opinions that
may cause the frequency, duration, and quality of visitations to change
- specially if s/he has kids too.
And adding a new
nuclear-stepfamily co-parent will change ...
Your religious and
rituals like birthdays,
christenings, bar and bas mitzvahs, worship, vacations, and national and
ethnic celebrations. S/He may enrich your stepfamily with new
religious and ethnic customs, or adopt your existing ones.
adult's relatives to your holidays
will complicate who goes to who's house, when, for how long. It will
also add a period of confusion about who expects gifts, calls, visits,
or cards from whom, when, and why.
A sure change to expect is in...
Over time, this new co-parent will improve or degrade the general
effectiveness of child-raising discussions and problem-solving in and
between your (step)child's two homes. And...
"division of labor" and responsibilities will shift. This new adult (and any kids they
bring) will cause significant changes in the caregiving roles and rules
in their house - including who provides what nurturance to which
child(ren), how, and how often. For instance s/he may take on the
responsibility of tutoring a stepchild faltering in school, or may
initiate flute lessons or little league participation.
More changes to expect when a new co-parent joins your stepfamily...
will shift. The re/commitment of your or your partner's ex mate
brings a new biofamily into your multi-generational stepfamily. All of
you accepting, ignoring, or rejecting all of them, and being accepted or
rejected by all of them, will cause minor to major
conflicts and associated
for everyone. And prepare for...
Confusions and conflicts over
first and last names and
- e.g. "Dad wants me to call his new wife 'Mom' - do I have to?"
After re/marriage, kids may suddenly have a different last name than
their mother, and/or they or their co-parents may have the same
first name as a new stepsibling or step-relative. And...
This couple's re/marriage
and/or cohabiting will
complicate and lengthen your
It will probably take several years - and scores of
discussions, confrontations, conflict resolutions, and compromises - to
Every stepfamily will have a unique web of things like these that change
when a second divorced parent commits to a new partner. Some changes will be
triggered by "serious dating." Others will erupt when the couple
cohabits, and others if and when they re/marry. The resulting series of
emotional, logistic, financial, legal, relationship, and structural changes will affect
each other and may take years to stabilize.
So what? These many overlapping changes cause
for all stepfamily members, and
temporarily lower everyone's home and family stability and security. How long "temporarily" lasts depends on many factors.