This is my first marriage but my husband’s second. He feels so guilty about his divorce that he spoils his children—they get whatever they want, whenever they want, with no boundaries. I feel like they take first place in his life—and they know it! It’s ruining our marriage. What should I do?
Sounds like you feel lonely. Your experience in your remarriage is, sorry to say, very common in the first few years of most remarriages. It is the conflictual attempts to deal with both the feelings of failure from the divorce and the false expectations of what the second marriage will look like. The “just us” expectation is experienced as the fantasy that all of the past and even the children will not interfere with our new marriage. This simply does not happen. All the good, the bad, and the ugly come with this marriage.
In my counseling, I often offer a premarital package for those couples contemplating remarriage. During this time, I attempt to wean out all the hopes and dreams that can complicate a second marriage and reassure them that in 5 to seven years of being intentional, the marriage you do hope for can be yours. Many couples at that time take a second look at their relationship and decide if they really are ready for a second go at marriage. I want them to know that remarriage is hard work. The number one issue that remarriages run into is in the area of parenting.
Without clear boundaries for all children and agreement by the new parents of how they will parent, disagreements will undoubtedly arise. Hurt feelings come from favoring one child or all the children over the marriage. The key to keeping a stepfamily together is keeping the remarriage number one. If the children threaten to never visit again because they don’t get their way, the best thing any parent can do is love them enough to allow them the respect of figuring out love and loyalty doesn’t come with a price tag. Putting the marriage first and yet guiding and nurturing the children is a hard balance but necessary for the health of both the remarriage and the children.