Last time we were discussing some general issues which may be present when an individual is trying to start a relationship with someone who already has children from a previous relationship. We already discussed about time constraints and schedules, and about priorities and parenting styles. The next three points focus on the financial aspect, the different roles that each individual takes on and the surrounding family system which impacts each individual.
- Financial aspects
Bringing up kids can be quite expensive. When taking into consideration that parents are not only feeding and clothing one individual, paying for trips and vacations for more than one, providing educational opportunities and perhaps other opportunities for sports, creative arts, etc. These can all total up to quite a sum of money which may limit the parent from pursuing other interests and inadvertently shaping the lifestyle of the couple. This may also add a burden on the person who is not the parent as thoughts of how much should the financial burden be shared, whether there should be any form of added contribution, and other aspects of keeping a balance between being supportive but not giving too much or too little. According to Farrugia, T (2014) such financial matters may create tension in the second relationship especially when the previous relationship may present as an economic drain. This may lead the partner to feel under pressure or powerless in the way that any merged income may be used.
- Different roles
Once you start a relationship you are an individual and a partner. In the case that your partner is also a parent, you will take on the role of a step-parent. This is a bit different from taking on a parenting role since in times of conflict and clashes, children themselves may deny your authority by reiterating that you are not their mother or father. Farrugia, T (2014) talks further about how children may form a strong bond with their parent’s partner, especially when they perceive them to be warm, caring, are not seen as a competitor for their parent’s time or collaborating with the parent in a way that is perceived to be against them and confrontational. This especially happens when partners may be too strict and rigid and try to impose certain rules immediately following their addition to the family dynamic.
- Family systems
In Malta, society is close knit and physically everyone is very close. It is very easy for people to know about others; the facts, the gossip, rumours and judgements. If you’re involved with a person who has recently separated/ divorced, chances are that your family might already have snooped around, talked to relatives who know relatives and formed their own opinion, possibly presenting to you the scenarios why the relationship won’t work or what you need to do to make it work. This negative cultural stereotype may impact on the new relationship and touch onto some unresolved feelings related to the dissolved relationship which may be perceived bitterly or as a failure.
Despite having to consider all of these aspects, re-marriages or second relationships should not be viewed negatively. It is always important that both parties discuss openly about their needs and expectations and talk in detail about practical matters. If they manage to find a balance that works for both, they can then apply this as a base for their life together not just as a couple but also as a family unit.
References: Farrugia, T. (2014) The Lived Experience of Couples in Remarried Relationships Following Divorce, in Malta. Faculty for Social Wellbeing- University of Malta.
Abigail Church is a Humanistic Integrative Counsellor who works with adults and children through counselling with Willingness. She can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 79291817.