The website of best-selling sex author Anne Hooper
FALLING IN LOVE AGAIN
It’s happened. You’ve spent a while mourning your ex and swearing you’ll never have anything to do with the opposite sex again and then bam … it’s Spring, the trees are in leaf, there’s a smell of flowers in the air, the breeze is balmy and you are suddenly kissing someone. Perhaps the most poignant moment of this pleasure is the sense of surprise “I didn’t think this could happen to me again.” Yet it has.
And if you are half lucky you’ll have some fun with a new partner and if you’re really lucky you’ll discover yourself in the throes of a wonderful love affair that is deeper than you could ever have imagined because you bring to it the full force of your life experience.
As you rejoice, naturally you expect the whole world to share in your ecstasy. So it comes as shock to discover they don’t. Family fear you will disinherit them, friends fear you won’t have time for them, and children (the grown-up ones) sometimes find it hard to stomach the thought that a parent is enjoying a free full love life.
Fifty year old Polly was deeply upset when seven weeks after her mother’s funeral her father announced, on Christmas Day with no prior warning, that he was intending to re-marry and that he wanted the family to visit his intended that afternoon. Polly’s feelings would have been better managed if her father had:
- allowed more time in which his daughter might grieve for her mother
- introduced the new relationship a lot more gradually with mentions of time spent together and joint interests pursued
- told Polly that he was thinking about marriage long before he popped the question
- allowed Polly time to get used to the new relationship before trying to get her and her stepmother-to-be together.
THE CHILDREN’S REACTION
Time is the key element. Time heals, time allows us to mull over new ideas and accept them, time lets us think through methods of coping. But the passing of the weeks doesn’t always do the trick. A few families never find it easy to view another taking the place of a beloved parent. Sometimes it is the thought of disinheritance that fuels bad behaviour. If you have been predicating your finances in the belief that one day you would come into money, it can be a body blow to hear that your parent has just married. This can be mitigated by giving certain possessions/gifts of money to adult children in advance of the wedding in the hope of letting them see their concerns are respected.
However much you care about the children’s views, they should not be allowed to deflect you from many extra years of happy married life. It is your personal happiness that is at stake here – not theirs – and there is no reason on earth why anyone should be deprived of love, sex and intimacy. Many men and women feel much more secure in the marital state which is why they opt for re-marriage. However there is a contingent of modern mums and dads who sees the difficulties re-marriage poses to inheritance and who choose instead to live together in a close relationship approximating marriage but without benefit of priest or bureaucracy.
HIS HOME OR HERS?
Remarriage of course brings on further hurdles to be negotiated such as ‘his home or hers?’ Starting over and creating a home that feels as if it belongs to the two of you and not to any former partner is most people’s preferred way.
Stepchildren may prove a joy or alternatively complicate your relationship with their parent. Working dispassionately to make friends with a step-child, allowing time for the relationship to develop, not assuming the mantle of parent and developing the ability to see through a stepchild’s bitter behaviour to the hurt lying underneath, are invaluable skills. Many step-parents are amazed at how jealous they feel of the time and attention their newly beloved pours in to these others – these rivals.
COPING WITH STEP-CHILDREN
Some parent education methods prove helpful here. These include the suggestions that we:
- show respect to the children even when it’s hard
- don’t criticise or run them down
- are encouraging wherever possible
- don’t let the angry child get away with murder.
THE FOUR MISBEHAVIOURS
All parenting is about establishing reasonable boundaries and step-parenting is no exception. One of the big snags of parenting children who are not yours, is that you don’t know their beginnings, nor do you know the ideas and behaviours that have helped them form their own particular view of the world. It helps to have some clues therefore just what their misbehaviour might be telling you.
1. Attention seeking If you begin to feel extremely IRRITATED this is likely to be because the child is constantly seeking ATTENTION. The root of their behaviour is INSECURITY
2. Power struggle. If you are getting ANGRY, this is probably because you are locked into POWER STRUGGLES. The root of this behaviour is that the child feels INADEQUATE and POWERLESS.
3. Revenge. If you feel HURT this is probably because the child is PUNISHING you. The root of this behaviour is that the child feels deeply INSIGNFICANT and believes that the whole world is against them.
Avoidance/withdrawal. If your impulse is to GIVE UP with the child you may recognise that the child itself is
1. WITHDRAWN. The root of this behaviour is that the child feels deeply INFERIOR to the point of feeling useless and hopeless.
HOW TO IDENTIFY WHICH MISBEHAVIOUR
A useful set of questions to ask when the child is misbehaving are the following:
1. What does the child do?
2. What does the adult (you) do?
3. How does the adult feel?
4. What does the child do in response to the adult’s reaction?
The answers to these questions help you identify which of the behaviours on the list is relevant and pinpoints the emotions the child is feeling underneath which are fuelling the bad behaviour.
BOX – TURNING BAD BEHAVIOUR INTO GOOD
1. Attention-seeking. Offer ‘good’ attention when it’s appropriate. Plan activities to do together, don’t ignore the child, but ignore the misbehaviour. Teach self-sufficiency.
1. Power struggles. Withdraw from the struggle and don’t try to win. Give the child choices so that it can feel powerful in a constructive fashion. Remain friendly as opposed to angry and aggressive.
2. Revenge. Don’t give up or withdraw. Offer encouragement and help. Identify the positives in the children’s actions and put your own upset feelings on one side.
3. Withdrawal. Actively notice the child’s strengths and completely ignore the weaknesses. Set up a steady series of small and manageable tasks so that they can begin to feel they are succeeding. Never criticise.