Are you in a second marriage with children from the first marriage?
If so, it may help you to understand that your second marriage is really going to be different from anyone’s first marriage. It may help you to give yourself (and the rest of the family) a break. Please forgive me if I say anything that seems insensitive or does not apply to you. I am just trying to be frank in the hopes that it will show you a different perspective.
Even if you have dated for ten years, and have developed a great relationship with children from the first spouse, when you get married, those children may not be very happy about it. It’s one thing to be the girlfriend or boyfriend, but another to be the spouse. Most children harbor hopes that their parents will get back together, and by marrying into the family, you have destroyed that hope. Children may see you as the “problem”. You may also see the children as the problem. We are dealing here with the issue of divided loyalties. This issue can and does occur in a first marriage, but it can really get complicated in a second marriage. You may feel the pressure to love these children as your own. You may feel the pressure to “fix” whatever went wrong with the children in the first marriage. Add in your own expectations of marriage and parenthood, and you’ve got …some choices. Obviously what can easily happen is that you get frustrated, your spouse gets frustrated, and the children get frustrated, and that can bring out the worst in everybody. The children want to get rid of you; you want to get rid of the children (or at least radically change them and their behavior), and your spouse is in the middle forced to choose between you. Not good. What can you do if this is your situation?
First, accept that this marriage will never be like your vision of the perfect family. I hope it helps you to know that even if you were still in your first marriage, you would have to come to terms with unrealized expectations. It’s just that now you are in the accelerated class! Second, take a breath and realize that even if something is not what you wanted, it doesn’t necessarily make it bad. And third, even if your spouse and the children are acting out and you feel like the red-headed stepchild, you can still decide to be the grown-up and contribute what is missing from the group. Do you live in constant chaos? Decide to do what you can to establish routines and order. Do you live in a war zone? Decide to do what you can to establish peace. Do all these things for you first, and don’t worry about changing others. Your contributions may start to “infect” the group, but even if they don’t, think about what you would like to remember about this time in your life when you are in the nursing home. You will make mistakes, of course, but will you be able to look back and see a life of sacrifice, love, and adherence to your values, or a real life experience of Lord of the Flies?
Lastly, I don’t mean to put the entire burden of everyone’s problems on your shoulders. You are a person too, with your good points and your limitations. My hope is that you will accept your own limitations (and the limitations of others) and allow your second marriage to be what it is, and to love yourself and others as much as possible.