Everyone understands a parent’s remarriage can be quite unsettling to a child. However, even adult children can be distressed by a parent’s decision to marry again. Whether long-married parents parted by death or divorce, it’s a big deal to bring someone new into the family.
Common Issues When An Older Parent Remarries
To adult children, mom’s (or dad’s) new spouse is likely to be a stranger. Although Mother is smitten, her children and grandchildren would have reservations. They may wonder:
- Does the new spouse truly love her or assets she may have?
- Does this new relationship cast a shadow over the memory of her previous and happy marriage?
- How will this marriage affect time Mother will spend with me and my kids?
- Does she know what she’s doing or has she been manipulated because she was lonely?
- And THE BIGGIE: How will this impact the inheritance I expected?
As long as these questions remain unanswered, there’s bound to be apprehension in the mind of the adult child. But to be perfectly blunt, these questions are a mixture of genuine concern for an older parent and personal self-interest. We kid ourselves if we don’t acknowledge it.
Adapting To The New Reality
The challenge for adult children is to set aside any selfish concerns. Why should they do that? Because an older parent still wants the same things you want: companionship, affection (even sex!), and stability. Would you appreciate anyone denying you these things?
The ability to adapt corresponds proportionally to the ability to empathize – to put yourself in your parent’s position. If you lost the person you had relied on for 30, 40, or 50 years, you might feel lonely and lost, too. And research confirms that the happier a first, long-term marriage was, the sooner a widow/widower is inclined to remarry. Because they liked being married.
The best advice for adapting when an older parent remarries is to follow the Golden Rule. Treat your parent the way you’d want your kids to treat you in the same situation.The best advice for adapting when an older parent remarries is to follow the Golden Rule. Treat your parent the way you’d want your kids to treat you. Click To Tweet
Strategies To Employ When An Older Parent Remarries
1. Be respectful of your parent’s decision and your new step-parent’s position in their affections. You owe them this. And the respect you show will come back to you.
2. Comparing a new spouse to your father is an only slightly more polite version of the childish retort “You’re not my father!” Rest assured, everyone involved is aware of that fact and that no two people act the same. You’ll be a lot happier if you go into the new relationship a looking for positives instead of witch-hunting for negatives.
3. Positives to focus on include
- Mother has obviously found qualities in her new husband she adores.
- The new spouse may introduce Mother to new activities or hobbies.
- They may assume responsibility for your parent’s care that you may be unable (or unwilling) to assume.
- The new spouse may smooth a previously strained relationship with your parent.
4. Get a proper perspective on your parent’s assets. Namely, you didn’t work for them and they’re not yours. If Mother never remarried at all, she still has the right to leave everything she has to Save The Great-Horned Owl if she wants to. But if you’re hoping for some piece of the pie, I suggest being nice over nasty to her and her new husband.
5. Remember that “second spouse” should never mean “second best”. (Wrote more about that here.) If Mother remarries, she should not treat her new husband with any less commitment than she did the father of her adult children. Don’t expect her to vist your house without her husband or to sign a prenuptial agreement if she’s not inclined to. Marriage is much more than an economic agreement, it’s a covenant agreement before God.