Wednesday, November 11, 2015


Pre-Remarriage Danger Signs

    Is there a way that dating stepfamily adults can quickly guesstimate whether they may be making some unhealthy remarriage choices? I think so.

    Here are some time-tested symptoms that should alert you and your partner: “probable major re-marital danger ahead!”

     Persistent inner voices. “Don’t remarry these people now!” If you repeatedly have thoughts like these, and/or persistent relationship doubts or worries when you let your mind get quiet, something is wrong. If you brush such thoughts aside, or avoid mental quiet times, you are at high risk of future re-marital stress. Your option is to meditate and invite your inner voice to tell you specifically why it is warning you. Try journalizing about their warnings, without editing for logic or making sense. Pay attention to your inner voice(s)!

    Feeling high urgency or desperation to remarry and/or cohabit. A related symptom is feeling intensely like “I can’t live without you!” Such intense feelings in you or your partner are surely a brilliant red light.

    Another related symptom is seriously discussing remarriage within less than 18 months since you met, or less than 18 months since any marital separation. Stop and explore, perhaps with qualified professional help, what the inner pressure is about (usually ancient longing and fear).

    If either you or your partner are a biological parent of minor kid(s) now, and say (or think) “my kids always come first with me,” STOP all remarriage discussions! This is a clear, unmistakable indicator of almost certain future re-divorce. The biggest single conscious reason for the re-divorce epidemic in our country are bitter, disillusioned stepparents saying, “I got too tired of coming in second (or fifth) with my mate.” If you doubt that remarried biological parents must choose, often, and that these loyalty conflicts are real, very frequent, and very divisive in normal multi-home stepfamilies, reality check these ideas with veteran remarried stepfamily adults, i.e., couples with minor step-kids who have been remarried at least five or six years.

    Reluctance to read, discuss, and use this book. If you find yourself, and/or your partner, repeatedly doing almost anything other than reading and discussing this book (or other stepfamily readings), consider what that symbolizes. Listen closely to your inner voice(s). Something is not right.

    Ongoing ex-mate hostility, and/or “end-less” hassles with them over divorce settlements, parenting agreements, and/or child visitations, custody, and/or support. If your and/or your partner’s ex-spouse is ceaselessly angry, combative, uncooperative, dishonest, or secretive, they are not really (emotionally) divorced. Such behavior almost surely signals that the hostile one is an adult in full denial of major, unhealed childhood wounds. Do not expect that person’s hostility to stop in the near future. Verbal and legal threats, attempts to confront and reason, and/or financial or child-related punishments, almost always make such behavior worse.

    Often, such unwarranted venom masks a deep, unfinished relationship struggle with one or both of their original caregivers. Where this is true, the implacable truth is that you can do nothing about motivating them to acknowledge and heal their wounds, and grieve their divorce losses. That must come from inside themselves, at their own time. What you can do is:
Work patiently toward seeing them compassionately as enormously wounded, rather than “evil,” “twisted,” or “a son of a bitch.”

Proactively avoid one-up contests, power or control battles, and adding new wounds to their old ones via emotional, verbal, or physical abuse.

Stop reacting to them as you have been (it is probably exactly what they want). Develop a genuine attitude of equality toward them, and use positive verbal skills to defuse most arguments and conflicts with them.

And, consciously keep your own life balanced so as not to become preoccupied with their “awfulness” and your related frustrations and anger.

    In other words, you cannot change them, and so must: (1) accept who they are, and (2) steadily make an environment that promotes them healing themselves—when they are ready to. Steadily blaming, shaming, punishing, and frustrating them are the polar opposites of this and only reap more of the same, over time.

    Fantasizing that your partner (and/or their kids and/or ex-mate) will change seriously unpleasant traits “somehow” after you remarry. They probably will not, no matter how loving, patient, pious, and reasonable you are. If they are not going to change, do you still want yourself and any dependent kids to commit “’til death us do part”?

    Many recent major life changes or traumas in a short time for you and/or your partner, and/or one or more of your minor biological kids. Some examples are: Firings and/or new jobs, new homes, schools, or churches; divorce(s); sudden great financial losses or gains; deaths or major health losses; pregnancies and births; graduations or flunk-outs; legal suits or judgments; natural disasters, home break-ins or muggings; rape or murder; sudden family or home membership shifts.

    Such major life events all cause disorienting emotional losses which require time to grieve. When many such events come back-to-back, the combined emotions and adaptations can really unbalance adults’ and kids’ judgment and needs. Not a good time to make major long-range life decisions like stepfamily remarriage! Take many months to sort everything out, do some healthy grieving, and rebalance your lives!

    Active addiction(s) to substances, activities, and/or relationships. If you or your partner believe anyone in your stepfamily-to-be, including you two, any ex-mate, key relatives, and/or any minor or grown child are now addicted, caution is needed. Addictions like Susan’s are almost certainly clear signs of major unhealed childhood wounds, which foretell ongoing stepfamily stress and conflict. Sally would do well to squarely face the probability that Mike now has a serious activity addiction (workaholism). Sally and he are both at high risk of denying, minimizing, or rationalizing this, to avoid the great pain and fear that would result.

    Chronically ill or acting-out biological kid(s). Do you or does your beloved partner have even one minor child that has recurring (e.g., repeating for six months or more)…
Serious school academic or social problems (including few or no friends, or “toxic” friends)?
Trouble with truancy, gangs, cults, or the law?
Non-experimental drug use or clear dependence?
Threatened or actual running away from home?
Excessive stealing, defiance, lying, or secrecy?
Repeated excessively emotional outbursts?
Suspected or clinically diagnosed attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder?
Chronic depression, or sleep, digestive, or eating problems (anorexia, bulimia, obesity)?

    Individually and in groups, these are all high-alert symptoms of prior and/or current major family (versus personal) dysfunction. Any ongoing (or escalating) symptoms like these are re-marital RED lights. They should cause you serious pause about planning to form a stepfamily, until you find the real cause(s) for these symptoms and progress toward healing them.  Remarriage or cohabiting is probably not the appropriate medicine.

    Ongoing or sporadic legal action between divorced ex-mates. If either of you is (or has been) involved in a string of court-suits over finances or stepfamily co-parenting with an ex-spouse (or a relative), this is also a red light! To oversimplify, this probably means one or both partners: (1) have not really grieved and accepted their divorce, (2) have not forgiven themselves or their ex for “what happened” (or didn’t happen) between them, and/or (3) may be acting out old birth-family rage that has nothing to do with the divorce.

    It also means any minor or grown biological kids are traumatically caught “in the middle,” and are probably emotionally split and highly stressed, and may be acting out.

    Get qualified post-divorce professional help on this one! If you do not, your future remarriage days and nights will probably be at least partly based on the ongoing anxiety or terror that “The Ex” will call in the cops and/or lawyers again “sometime” (or cause you to). Everyone will be walking on well-worn egg-shells for months and years, rather than on clouds. To repeat a painful stepfamily truth: your living (and sometimes dead) stepfamily co-parenting ex-mates are co-equal partners in your multi-home stepfamily—and will remain so after your youngest “leaves home.”

    A series of prior adult break-ups (including divorce(s) or approach-avoid relationships) or no prior intimate adult relationships. If you and/or your prospective partner have a historic string of “failed” intimate relationship (marital or not), another red light! This is a strong symptom of some serious core wounding, which stepfamily remarriage will definitely not cure. Self-motivated recovery can heal this serious personal problem, over time.

    Keeping major secrets. If you, your partner, or any of your prospective stepfamily co-parenting partners are clearly in the habit of distorting or intentionally withholding key truths (“lying by omission”), rethink any re-wedding plans! Such behavior is a sure symptom of an adult with emotional wounds, usually excess shame, fear(s) (often of abandonment), distrust(s), and reality distortion(s). Get qualified professional help toward childhood-trauma assessment and personal recovery, without guilt or shame.

    Repeated avoidance. If either you or your partner consistently avoids serious, intimate discussion (including conflicts) of any of the issues in this book, this is a bright-red re-marital light! Someone like this, or someone who “always wants to have fun,” fears or distrusts something. They are unconsciously putting their distrust and fear (rather than self and mutual love) in charge of the growth of the relationship. Some classic avoidances, or denials, to watch for are:
“We are not—or won’t be—a stepfamily.”
“Stepparenting is basically no different than biological parenting.”
“We can and should handle or own problems (rather than using qualified outside help).”
“A family’s just a family. Stepfamilies aren’t all that different. I/we do not need to study what’s normal and real in a stepfamily now.”
“We’ve all lived together for ___ months without big problems, so—eventual re-divorce? Not us! No sweat!

    These are the sounds of deep, perhaps unconscious, fear. Such fear probably will not alter from donning each other’s rings and uttering heart-felt pledges and vows. Real commitment involves courageously learning and confronting such fear(s) together, quelling them, and putting love back in charge, over time. Try re-reading Chapter Two on communication. Learn an effective structure for safe talking and listening together and then work toward discovering together “what would make it safer to talk and “problem-solve” together, now?”


    Ideally, you are reading this before you become emotionally attached to a prospective stepfamily co-parenting partner. The odds are, though, that you would not have begun reading this book unless you were already attached, and may have begun having relationship “problems.”

    Shelves of books, tapes, and legions of retreats, workshops, courses, and counseling sessions have been designed to inform adults on how to co-create a healthy, lasting marriage. Despite this huge effort of providers and consumers, half of our marriages currently fail. Even more of our remarriages do. This inexorably implies that most adults cannot proactively think, read, or listen their way into a healthy primary relationship.

    There is little illusion here. Nothing that anyone writes will give you the sure-fire way to re-marital success. The fundamental reason divorce is rampant in our culture is that most marrying adults are not emotionally and spiritually whole enough to sustain a long-range committed relationship.
    This is largely because their parents were fragmented and wounded by their parents. No one has blown the cultural dysfunctional-family whistle loud enough, yet.

    Working with hundreds of fragmented, struggling adults and couples, we have yet to see anyone become significantly more whole just by reading (or hearing) information. What usually motivates us to change seems to be pain—real, imagined, and/or foreseen.

    Increasing personal wholeness hinges on a persistent, conscious valuing of one’s self and steadily envisioning and seeking inner harmony.

    In our fast-paced instant-gratification American world, most adults (like you?) are not about to make evolving personal wholeness their highest priority. This is especially true when they are really lonely, horny, grieving, and/or in love—as many divorced or widowed parents of minor kids are. Still, there are practical steps you can take together to significantly raise your odds of re-marital and stepfamily success.

Improving Your Odds BEFORE You Remarry

    Relax. Breathe well and become curious about what is about to safely happen. Let your minds become still as we paint a picture for you.

    Imagine you and your partner moments before your long-awaited commitment ceremony. See yourself walking together into a special place filled with well-wishers, and music, and light, and flowers, and your kids.

    Imagine the words you say and hear, and the moment of pledging. Feel the joy, and hopes, and excitement, and the love. See the faces of all who wish for your health and happiness. Let this rich, warm image fill you and enjoy it fully now....

    Now imagine the years that follow beginning to roll past your eyes like a film on fast forward. Experience a safe kaleidoscope of scenes of you as a couple, and with combinations of your kids ... waking up in the morning ... meals together ... evolving a home together ... birthdays ... vacations ... maybe pets ... times alone. Imagine many tasks between you two in the light and in the night, about the concerns of your evolving lives: balancing work and family, time with friends and relatives, leisure, intimate times, illnesses, money, special gifts and glances; adventuring together, dreaming and planning, some arguments, parenting the kids, walking together in different places, maybe holding hands the way you do....

    Imagine a series of special occasions like each child graduating, coming back from camp, opening presents in holiday gatherings.... Allow a sense of your growing years together flowing by to develop.... And imagine many conversations with your ex-mates about stepfamily co-parenting things—dental appointments, school conferences, health insurance, wills, parties, ... times with your bio-relatives and step-relatives ... picnics and dinners.... Imagine romance gradually dimming, and being replaced by a different feeling....

    Let yourself relax even more, to a comfortable level. Breathe in just the right way. If you’re a stepparent, begin to imagine times when you feel angry or disappointed ... or disinterested ... in your step-kids. Imagine them ignoring and defying you, and preferring your mate, despite all you do for them.

    As your life tape rolls by, imagine an increasing sense of frustration, and hurt and anger with certain people in your stepfamily. Picture reaching out to your partner for empathy and support, to discover that they don’t seem to understand. They even seem to often support their kids rather than you. Experience the feelings of unfairness, and disbelief, and disillusionment. It wasn’t supposed to be like this!

    Imagine reaching out to others for help and understanding, only to find they don’t feel the aloneness....  See a gradual chasm begin to form between you and your step-kids ... a creeping coldness, and the sharp guilt that goes with it. Imagine forcing yourself to split, and try to act interested and caring, when underneath is resentment, and hurt, and longing. Imagine your partner’s reactions ... puzzlement, reasoning, irritation, growing resentment, pleading, arguing ... finally, the chasm begins to grow between you two and your home splits into “us versus them” camps.

    Your stepfamily-life tape rolls on and reaches a certain scene. Slow the tape down, now. Experience this imaginary scene with startling, memorable clarity, with every sense you have.  Years together have come and gone. Dreams have flowered, and mellowed, and changed into realities. You, your partner, your exes, and each child are older.

    You’re having an exchange with your mate. It may be quiet, or sad, or angry, or loud. The essence of it is that one of you finally reveals that living together as a stepfamily is more pain than pleasure—and has been, for too long. One or both of you feels deep despair. You see no reasonable hope of relations getting better. You’ve tried what you could; nothing seems to work.

    If you have prior kids, you’re weary unto death of feeling endlessly trapped between them and your partner—and no one understanding how awful that feels. If you have step-kids, you’ve felt “second best” to them—or their other biological parent—for the last time. One of you says, “I called a lawyer this morning....”

    Remember the feelings that billow as you experience the growing reality that your union is ending, your home is splitting, and your dreams are vanishing. You’re middle aged and confronting life alone again. You’re confronting yourself.

    Imagine finding a way to tell the kids. Clearly see and hear their reactions and yours. Imagine the other stepfamily adults, and certain relatives, and key friends, learning of this. See the looks on their faces. Hear their words. Know the feeling of having to decide, “who leaves our home—me or them?” Picture in great, clear detail the time that inevitably comes when one of you takes a last look around the home you’ve shared for years ... and walks out the door for the last time.

    Image your partner gone, your love gone, your marriage and stepfamily over, your re-divorce starting. Meetings with lawyers. Arguments over dividing up your property. Times alone, thinking all this over. How could this have happened to you? Why did it?

    Take a few minutes of quiet now to finish any reflections and clarify any key awareness. Remind yourself that you can retain your version of this experience for future reference, should you need to. Understand deeply that this has not happened to you at all—but it could…. Know with total certainty that you and your partner can prevent this stepfamily scenario from happening. About 30 percent of the couples just like you do just that.

    Take a special breath and regain a full, comfortable sense of yourself in this present moment. What are you aware of, now? Although it was not fun, take your memory of this along as a magic lamp to rub, in case your resolve falters, or you lose your vision and mission together. This guided imagery was not a forecast of your futures. It was a factual description of what might happen, if you do not build a strong stepfamily foundation now and patiently plan the rest of your construction project.

    Building a healthy remarriage and stepfamily is one of the most complex and challenging projects you will ever experience. If you co-commit to it, the rewards are enormous—for you and each of your kids. The project also inevitably depends on evolving some degree of teamwork and cooperation with your kids’ other stepfamily adults, over time. You cannot control or coerce them, or their willingness to join you two. You can appeal to them, as partners, and try to appreciate their needs and priorities as a co-equal human.

    Samuel Johnson said, “Remarriage is the triumph of hope over experience.” This is curiously both true and untrue in average stepfamily unions. True because the human needs that a marital relationship seems uniquely designed to fill are the same with any primary partner. Untrue, in that in a stepfamily union, the emotional environment around the adult relationship is vastly more complex and alien, invalidating much of any prior spousal experience.

    The aim of this chapter was to provide you with a structured way of lowering your odds of making harmful choices. Any marital commitment involves an unquantifiable element of chance and risk. The more time you take to absorb stepfamily education and to learn about who really lives inside your skins before remarriage, the more your odds of long-term re-marital and stepfamily success rise. Fortunately, there’s a lot of effective help available on both projects.

    As you continue to read THE SECRETS TO STEPFAMILY SUCCESS along the way, and as your stepfamily experience and wisdom grows, you’ll find new things in them each time you do.

    If you do each decide that these are the right people to remarry, that this is the right time to commit to them, and that your reasons are clearly the right ones—may this Coahuilla Indian blessing richly apply: “May the four winds of heaven blow gently upon you and upon those with whom you share your heart and home.”

THE SECRETS TO STEPFAMILY SUCCESS by Gloria Lintermans is available in paperback and e-book at:

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