Let’s start with a big, a huge, impediment to the successful formation of the blended family. Since breakup baggage from the previous marriage is one of the main reasons for the failure of a second marriage, since breakup baggage interferes with step parenting, blending, spiritual formation, and the emotional well being of the children. Since, you can’t get on with your new life until most of the baggage is resolved. It just needs to be addressed.
I’m not talking about the highly dangerous and toxic EX’s. Some ex’s are disturbed individuals. Some ex’s never disengage from the battle. These cases should be handled by the police, CPS and the courts. If you truly believe there is abuse or neglect, contact CPS. If your children are in immediate danger, call 911. Your new family must establish boundaries to protect themselves.
Breakup baggage, from the first marriage can show up in many ways. There is the parents breakup baggage and the children’s breakup baggage. For the parents, it can be over-money, custody, visitation, birthday gifts. In volatile divorces, beneath the surface, there can be a seething fermenting enmity and animosity. It can show as jealousy, guilt, revenge, or grief.
For the children, breakup baggage shows up because the children often carry into the new family situation feelings of guilt over having caused the divorce. It also shows up as sabotaging your new relationships, perfecting their divide a conquer technique, procrastination, passive aggressive behavior, and worst case scenario, psychiatric disorders.
Stepparents will have great difficulty forming a bond with the stepchildren if they get drawn into and involved with their new spouse’s ex. It’s only natural that they would be drawn in. You see your new spouse suffering and want to help. When you married, your spouse’s EX becomes part of the baggage. As a stepparent there is not much you can do outside not joining the battle or speaking badly to the stepchild about the stepchild’s other biological parent. There are spiritual things which I will speak to soon. Instead of being drawn in, de-escalation strategies should be employed. Like non defensive listening and non aggressive speaking, admitting when your wrong, taking responsibility for your part, trying to see the others point of view. (There are so many books on this subject)
Breakup baggage's unresolved and continuing drama often effects everyone in blended families. It’s stress makes marriage and child raising even more difficult. Therefore, breakup baggage needs to be healed or at least minimized. Recognize breakup baggage, find emotional support, redefine relationship with the EX. I think God wants to heal your past hurts and provide the virtues necessary to have a great second marriage and step family.
FYI - Waiting about one year is best to help prevent breakup baggage from interfering with a new relationship. Alcoholics Anonmyous also recommends this one year to the newly sober. This ensures the divorce is settled and the children have had time to adjust.