How Can I Deal With My Parent’s Remarriage?
YOUR parent might be so happy on the day he or she remarries. You, though, might feel anything but joy! Why? The remarriage of a parent destroys the hope that your biological parents will ever get back together. On the other hand, the remarriage can be particularly painful if it comes on the heels of the death of a beloved parent.
How did you feel when your parent remarried? Put a ✔ next to any of the descriptions that apply to you.
I felt . . .
□ Jealous of my stepparent
□ Guilty of betrayal because I began to love my stepparent
That last reaction could be caused by your sense of loyalty to your absent parent. Whatever the reason, the feelings mentioned above might make you vent your emotional pain in destructive ways.
For example, you might constantly make life difficult for your stepparent. You might even try to cause trouble between your parent and your stepparent, hoping to break them up. However, a wise proverb warns: “He who brings trouble on his family will inherit only wind”—that is, he will end up with nothing. (Proverbs 11:29, New International Version) You don’t have to fall into that trap. You can cope with your emotional turmoil in more productive ways. Consider a few examples.
Challenge 1: Coping With the Authority of a Stepparent
Coming under the authority of a new parent is not easy. When asked to do something, you may be tempted to blurt out, ‘You’re not my real mother/father!’ Such a response may give you a brief surge of satisfaction, but it betrays an immature attitude.
On the other hand, accepting the authority of your stepparent is one way to show that you have heeded the Bible’s counsel to “grow up in your thinking.” (1 Corinthians 14:20, The Holy Bible in the Language of Today, by William Beck) Really, your stepparent performs the duties of a natural parent and deserves your respect.—Proverbs 1:8; Ephesians 6:1-4.
A stepparent’s discipline is usually an expression of his or her love and concern for you. (Proverbs 13:24) “My stepdad does discipline us,” says Yvonne, 18, “but that’s what normal fathers are supposed to do. I feel that if I resent his counsel, then I’m saying that it doesn’t matter that he has provided for us materially and spiritually over the years. And that would be ungrateful.”
Still, you may have legitimate grounds for complaint. If so, prove yourself to be ‘grown up’ by doing as Colossians 3:13 urges: “Continue putting up with one another and forgiving one another freely if anyone has a cause for complaint against another.”
Below, write two or more good qualities that your stepparent possesses.
How could remembering your stepparent’s good qualities help you to respect him or her more?
Challenge 2: Learning to Share and to Compromise
“My dad ended up remarrying twice,” recalls 24-year-old Aaron. “I found it difficult to feel affection for each new stepfamily. At first, they were just strangers, but I was told that I was under compulsion to love them. I found the situation confusing.”
You too may face difficult challenges. For example, you might have to relinquish your position as the oldest or the only child. If you are a son, you may for a long time have felt you were the man of the house—a position now occupied by your stepfather. Or you may relate to Yvonne. “My biological dad never paid any attention to Mom,” she says, “so I was used to having her all to myself. But when Mom remarried, my stepdad showed her a lot of attention. They spent time together and talked together, and I felt he was stealing her away from me. Eventually, though, I was able to adjust.”
Like Yvonne, how can you adjust? “Let your reasonableness become known to all men,” recommends the Bible. (Philippians 4:5) The original word translated “reasonableness” meant “yielding” and conveyed the attitude of one who did not insist on all his lawful rights. How can you apply that counsel? (1) Avoid dwelling on the past. (Ecclesiastes 7:10) (2) Be willing to share with your stepparent, stepbrothers, and stepsisters. (1 Timothy 6:18) (3) Don’t treat them as outsiders.
Which of the above points do you need to work on most? ․․․․․
Challenge 3: Coping With Unequal Treatment
“My stepdad loved his children far more than he did me and my sister,” says Tara. “He would buy any food they liked and rent movies they wanted to watch. He’d do anything to please them.” Such treatment is hard to bear. What might help? Try to understand why a stepparent may not feel the same way toward a stepchild as he does toward his natural one. Perhaps it is not the blood tie with his natural child but their shared experience in living. After all, you likely feel closer to your natural parent than you do to your stepparent.
There is, however, an important distinction between equal and fair. People have individual personalities and differing needs. So instead of being overly concerned about whether your stepparent is treating you equally, try to see if he or she is striving to meet your needs.
What needs of yours does your stepparent fulfill?
What needs do you feel are not being met?
If you feel that some of your needs are not being met, why not respectfully discuss the matter with your stepparent?
Patience Pays Off!
Normally, several years are needed before trust develops to the point where members of a stepfamily feel at ease with one another. Only then may diverse habits and values blend into a workable routine. So be patient! Do not expect that you will experience instant love or that an instant family will result.
When his mother remarried, Thomas was uneasy, to say the least. His mother had four children, and the man she married had three. “We had fights, arguments, disruptions, terrible emotional strains,” wrote Thomas. What brought eventual success? “By applying Bible principles, things were resolved.”
What if all your siblings are your natural brothers and sisters but they drive you crazy?
“Better is the end afterward of a matter than its beginning. Better is one who is patient than one who is haughty in spirit.”—Ecclesiastes 7:8.
Living with new siblings of the opposite sex can create moral pressures. So put up a mental block concerning sexual feelings, and make sure that neither your dress nor your conduct is sexually provocative.
DID YOU KNOW . . . ?
Your stepbrothers or stepsisters may also be having difficulty adjusting to the stepfamily situation.
I will try to increase my respect for my stepparent by remembering the following good things he or she has done for the family (write down two positive things): ․․․․․
If my stepsiblings snub me, I can apply the principle at Romans 12:21 by doing the following: ․․․․․
What I would like to ask my parent or stepparent about this subject is ․․․․․
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
● What fears might your stepparent or stepsiblings have about joining your family?
● Why is it important to take a long-range view of your new family relationships?
[Blurb on page 38]
“Mom’s second marriage ended in divorce. But to this day I am still very close to my stepsiblings. Their coming into my life was one of the best things that ever happened to me.”—Tara
[Picture on page 39]
Blending two families together is like mixing water and cement—it takes time and effort, but the end result can be a strong, enduring product