Young People Ask . . .
How Can I Deal With My Parent’s Remarriage?
The house was jammed with people and filled with the trappings of a wedding. Congratulations were being exchanged between relatives. The bride’s two children from a former marriage were playing games and dodging in and out of the crowd. But off by himself was Shane, the groom’s 14-year-old son.
“The day Dad married Rita was the worst day of my life,” Shane later revealed. “It made me sick. I could tell my Dad expected me to be jumping for joy, too, like everybody else. But I wasn’t. I was mad. Mad at Dad for being a traitor to my Mom. Mad at Mom for going off to law school and leaving us alone. Mad at the two brats, Rita’s kids, who were going to come live in our house . . . But most of all, I was mad at Rita . . . I hated her. And because I believed it’s not right to hate, I was mad at myself, too.”
IF YOU are part of a stepfamily, you well know that the remarriage of a parent can be emotionally bewildering. After relating the above in her book Stepfamilies—New Patterns in Harmony, Linda Craven adds: “But even when everyone in a new stepfamily wants it to be a happy one, there are problems that no one expected.” However, knowing what feelings to expect, why these feelings exist, and what to do to cope with them often result, eventually, in a happy, stable stepfamily.
Some Painful Emotions
A remarriage destroys the hope that your parents will ever get back together. This can hurt deeply. You may feel insecure, betrayed, and jealous. Also, some youths feel uncomfortable about being in close quarters with “strangers” of the opposite sex. Especially for a teenager, who is entering “the bloom of youth,” this close contact can be sexually arousing.—1 Corinthians 7:36.
Remarriage shortly after the death of a parent can add to a youngster’s troubled feelings. “The death of my mother made me turn very bitter,” revealed 16-year-old Missy. “I tried to shut out people that were close to me. . . . I thought my father’s fiancée was taking my mother’s place so I was very mean to her. This almost ruined our friendship.”
Because of loyalty to your natural parent, it may be that the more you care for a stepparent, the worse you feel. For instance, one evening 13-year-old Aaron told his stepmother that although they got along well, at times he wished that she was not married to his father. His stepmother said that she understood, and they had a warm and honest discussion. When Aaron kissed her good night, he said: “I love you, Veryl, even though I sometimes wish you were dead.” They both laughed at the contradiction. Yet, this is a normal conflict of emotions with which most stepchildren contend. In fact, a 1983 study published in Family Relations involving 103 adolescents reported that “issues of divided loyalty” were more stressful than any other problem.
“I Can Break Them Up”
If a parent of yours has remarried, perhaps you are thinking of trying to break up the new union. But remember, your natural parent and stepparent have exchanged vows before God. Jesus Christ said of married couples: “They are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has yoked together let no man [or child] put apart.” (Matthew 19:6) Even if you broke up the remarriage, this would probably not reunite your parents.
To try to separate two people who really care about each other and are united in wedlock can only cause pain for everyone, as 15-year-old Gerri found out. “I’d liked [Dad’s] wife before, but I began not to like her as time went on,” she said. One evening Gerri had a “big fight” with her stepmother, who then demanded that her husband choose between her and his daughter. He then had a long talk with Gerri. “He said he loved his wife and didn’t want to lose her, but that he’d always love me, too, no matter what happened,” confessed Gerri. “I knew what he was trying to say—that I’d have to move out. I felt all sick inside and couldn’t say a thing.”
Gerri ended up moving back in with her natural mother—who was also remarried. But now she was determined to get along with her stepfather. Proverbs 11:29 warns: “He who brings trouble on his family will inherit only wind.” (New International Version) Such a person could end up deprived of a comfortable home, yes, possessing nothing but the wind. True, a child may consider the stepparent as the cause of the trouble, but one must view matters realistically.
Love Helps You Cope
The principled love described in the Bible is more than just an emotion; it is an expression of unselfishness. At 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 the Bible tells how this love acts.
—Love “does not look for its own interests.” Eric had a hard time adjusting to his stepfather, but he put forth the needed effort because, as he explained: “I could see that he did a lot of good for my mother.” It is important to ‘seek not our own advantage, but that of the other person.’ (1 Corinthians 10:24) Could it be that after being on her own for a time, your natural mother may want to depend on another adult to help her with discipline and decision making?
It is also important to develop “fellow feeling” for your stepparent. (1 Peter 3:8) Sharon, now 27 years old, reflects back on when her mother remarried. “I knew my stepfather felt like an outsider. However, I began to think that he had feelings too. He was always there when we had problems. I knew he was not comfortable coming into a family with five kids, so I tried to put myself in his shoes. He wanted to be accepted just as we did.”
—“Love is not jealous.” Often youths do not want to share their natural parent’s love with anyone else, as if there were only so much love to go around. But love can expand. “Our heart has widened out,” wrote the apostle Paul. Some among those to whom he wrote had apparently become cold toward him. But Paul stated: “You are not cramped for room within us, but you are cramped for room in your own tender affections.” Paul had “widened” his love to include all of them. They were the ones that needed to respond to such affection and to “widen out” in their own love.—2 Corinthians 6:11-13.
Your natural parent can expand his or her love to include a new mate and still maintain the previous affection for you. But are you willing to open your heart to include a stepparent? Such love does not mean that you are disloyal to your departed parent. Your stepparent will never replace that one who will always have a special place in your heart. But when you widen your heart to include affection for your stepparent, you open up the opportunity for a rich interchange of love.—2 Corinthians 12:15.
—Love “does not behave indecently.” Reportedly, illicit sex relations take place among family members in 25 percent of stepfamilies. Not only is this a sin against God but it betrays the family’s trust and affection. (1 Corinthians 6:9, 10, 18) It is vital to “deaden” sexual feelings. David’s mother remarried when he was 15. Because three of his four stepsisters were also teenagers, he said: “It was necessary to put up a mental block concerning sexual feelings.” Of course, you would also want to watch carefully that the way you dress or behave at home does not arouse sexual desires in others.—Colossians 3:5.
—Love “bears up under anything . . . It gives us power to endure in anything.” (Charles B. Williams’ translation) At times nothing seems to make the painful emotions go away. Marla admitted: “I felt that I had no place in the home. I even told my mom that I wished I had never been born. But running away from home didn’t solve anything. (I did this a couple of times.) Being rebellious didn’t help. The best thing is to endure.” In time she and her stepfather became good friends. Even if your parent has died, you will find that if you bear up, perhaps pouring out your feelings to a trusted and qualified friend, the pain will gradually lessen.
So showing principled love is the best way to cope with a parent’s remarriage. Regardless of how intense your feelings become, always remember: “Love never fails.”—1 Corinthians 13:8.
[Pictures on page 15]
A parent’s remarriage can create feelings of anger, insecurity, and jealousy
Love helps you cope with jealous feelings