Relationship Connection: Can you unite adult children in a second marriage?

Big family with grandparents on the outside. Standing in the park and having fun. Undated | Photo courtesy of Getty Images, collection e+, Credit: tomazl Creative #: 477429988, St. George News

Question

How do you bring together two sets of adult children to become a united family in a second marriage?

Answer

It’s difficult to unite young children in a second marriage and it’s even more difficult to unite adult children when the parents remarry. Let’s talk about some of the reasons and then discuss ways you can improve the possibility of unity in your new family situation.

One of the most common frustrations of second marriages with young children is pushing the family to be united before children actually feel comfortable and familiar with their new stepsiblings. There are well-meaning messages from both parents about the new family and how they expect everyone to care about each other. It’s almost like choosing friends for your kids and then expecting them to enjoy these new relationships without having any input.

You are united with your new spouse. You got to choose each other and commit your lives to one another. The children you each bring with you to marriage get to decide what kind of relationship they’ll have with their stepsiblings. It doesn’t matter if they’re young children or adults. The principle stays the same. They get to decide what kind of relationship they’ll have with each other.

In biological intact families, children still get to decide what kind of relationship they’ll have with each other as adults. Even though they have years of living together and interacting, they will marry people outside the family system, have children, live in areas, and develop an entirely new family personality. Sometimes these new dynamics will completely rewrite the relationships and change the dynamics in the family. The hope, of course, is that children will stay united and loyal to each other over the years.

Unity happens when people spend time with each other, learn more about each other’s lives, and find ways to support each other. Since you won’t be able to foster those conditions on a daily basis in your home, you’ll have to create opportunities for these adult children and their families to get to know one another. For example, you might plan an annual retreat for the adults where you everyone can spend time together. Make sure there is plenty of space to not only be together, but also to have time with their own marriages. This will help reduce the pressure on the whole group to get along all the time.

Your respective children are now building families of their own. Their priority for creating unity is now focused on their own marriages and families. Work with your spouse to support each individual family by showing interest in their lives and spending time in their homes. As you each get to know each other’s children’s families, it will open up more opportunities for you to feel the unity.

Although it’s certainly a nice wish to have all of the families build close relationships with each other, it’s more important for you and your spouse to be close to each other’s children. This will help with the unity in your new marriage.

Don’t take it personally if your children aren’t interested in each other’s lives. You have to understand each child’s experience with losing their parent’s marriage. They might be upset you remarried. They may not care about trying to relate to new family members.

Please give them room and permission to develop their own interest in their own time.

Stay connected!

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.

Have a relationship question for Geoff to answer? Submit to:

Email: geoff@lovingmarriage.com

Twitter: @geoffsteurer

Instagram: @geoffsteurer    

Facebook: facebook.com/GeoffSteurerMFT

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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10 Comments

  • ladybugavenger October 26, 2016 at 9:13 am

    Who comes up with these questions LOL..they are adults if they want a relationship with the step family they can. If they don’t, they don’t. The difference between young children and adult children is that young children don’t have a choice and that brings bitterness and more times than not the child is blamed for the tension in the house because adults suck!

    • digger October 27, 2016 at 5:36 am

      I know right? Pfft

    • .... October 27, 2016 at 8:12 am

      Well my Hoover sucks pretty good !

    • Joyce Kuzmanic Joyce Kuzmanic October 27, 2016 at 8:41 am

      People submit the questions, Ladybug – anyone is welcome to submit a question. Do so by emailing geoff@lovingmarriage.com

      • ladybugavenger October 27, 2016 at 2:54 pm

        Thanks for the info Joyce. I certainly hope the people writing the question read our comments and our expert advice from real people with real problems 😉

        • Bob October 28, 2016 at 12:01 am

          lol, u know i’ve read a lot of these, and not one have i ever seen a commenter come in and claim to be the original question asker, so i’d say it’s doubtful, but ya never know 😉

  • native born new mexican October 26, 2016 at 10:54 am

    As was pointed out many times adult children with the same parents don’t want a relationship with each other. This his and her children business is one of the big reasons second marriages don’t work. Leave the children alone and hope the marriage works anyway.

  • 42214 October 26, 2016 at 5:43 pm

    Who cares, period.

    • .... October 26, 2016 at 11:06 pm

      I went and got a new pair of socks today and they get along just fine with my old shoes

  • digger October 27, 2016 at 5:35 am

    Not Up To You, The Kids are adults. Good Luck, My Experience. Did Not Work For Us.

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