Ashley’s parents divorced when she was fourteen. After that she lived with her mom and barely saw her father. Her mom started dating soon after the divorce and remarried while Ashley was still at home. Ashley had always been close to her mother however, a new step-parent changed that dramatically. Here’s Ashley:
After my mom separated from my father she moved into a small house with us. Then when she was dating another wealthy man we moved to another neighborhood. When they married we moved into his home. I was nineteen, I might even have been twenty so it wasn’t like I was a child per se. We were adults in all sense.
He was a very difficult guy–my mom’s not married to him any longer, she is with husband number three now. He wanted us to be friends of him and it was very difficult in that we were these opinionated, difficult young adults whose lifestyle he did not appreciate. We were going out till six o’clock in the morning clubbing and getting home, sleeping till three o’clock in the afternoon, getting up and going to work and then going out till six o’clock in the morning again. It was a totally foreign life for him. He was living by himself for a series of years, since his own divorce and now he was not only taking on a wife and having to deal with if they were right for each other but he had to deal with the kids, in a sense adults.
My relationship with my mother was definitely affected because I was her golden child. I was her everything. It was a dangerous relationship because she relied so heavy on me. First off she moved me into the bedroom with her. There was nothing sexual but she moved me into the bedroom with her so she would have somebody to cuddle with in her loneliness.
Before that, before the divorce, she would say, “How’d you feel if you and I just disappeared one day and we moved away from everybody else?” I would be like, “Well, what about my sister? What about my brothers? Can’t they come with us?” It was more than a child could comprehend. But she was just so miserable in the relationship that she was just looking for a way out. She was having those conversations with me, which weren’t healthy.
Then she was extremely, extremely overprotective of me. If I didn’t come home straight from school, if I stopped to talk to a friend or something, she would be, “Oh my God! Where were you? I was calling everybody!” Granted, this was before cell phones but it was like she was over anxious about my existence. She had to know where I was at all times.
She went from that to marrying this guy and she made him the star. It was a relief in a lot of ways. I was old enough that I was going to be going out on my own anyways. She was trying to make what would turn out to be a bad marriage – a second bad marriage – work and she would put him before anything else. So that was a very odd position for me.
The Divorce Coach Says
Relationship dynamics change anytime there’s a new member to the group so it would be completely unrealistic to think you can introduce a new partner and not have him/her impact your relationship with your child. That’s not to say you shouldn’t do it – plenty of people do and they make it work. Author Judy Osborne says adding new partners always involves an adjustment period and it can take two years for new partners to feel trustworthy of each other. How parents react to new partners influences the children’s reactions.
Terry found that setting boundaries for step-parent involvement helps. Buck$ome remarried when her children were thirteen and eight. Her eldest had a harder time adjusting because he taken on more of the role of being the man of the house. Her second husband even played mediator when she and her ex disagreed. Twice-divorced, thrice married Kim Katz is most proud that through all her romantic ups and down, she’s maintained a steady home for her children.
This is uncharted territory for me but I guess the message that I take from this is consistency and constancy … children will get confused and upset if you suddenly start putting someone else first or changing all your rules on them. My eldest is nineteen and she and I are pretty close. As I write this, I wonder how I’m going to feel when she has a steady boyfriend ….
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