Tag Archives: Acceptance

When Parents of Adult Children Remarry

A parent’s remarriage is not only extremely tough on minor kids, but it’s a touchy subject for adult children as well.  Be it death or divorce, you may feel like you’re still grieving the loss of your mom or dad while your other parent has simply moved on.

However, adult kids have to put themselves in their parent’s shoes.  Your parent may have had a very long, good marriage (except for the ending), and now they no longer have a companion or best friend. They may feel lonely and long for that connection again, and they often find it with another spouse.

So, how can an adult child better adjust to their parent’s remarriage? Here are some tips:

1. Don’t be negative.  Though your parent doesn’t need to ask your permission to get remarried, they would probably like your support.  Being negative won’t stop the marriage, and it will only create bad feelings between you and your parent.

2. Don’t compare.  Don’t measure the new spouse (“the stepparent”) against your own mom or dad.  It’s not about you – it’s about your parent being happy.

3. Accept the situation.  “Acceptance” is a word I use a lot with callers on my program. It’s a very important part of moving on because it means you’re no longer fighting something.  When your parent gets married again, hopefully they are going to be happy and find joy.  That may be hard for you to accept or like, but you need to do it if there is going to be peace.  The first thing you can do is get on board.  Accept the new “stepparent” and do everything you can to make them feel welcome in the family.  Break your back trying to do that instead of treating them like an outsider.

4. Show respect.  You may have to dig down deep sometimes to find something good about your parent’s new spouse, but you need to show respect because you’re sharing your parent with them.  Your parent may marry someone who isn’t very nice.  If that happens, you’re screwed, but you can be less screwed if you do your best to kiss up to them as best you can.  Fake it.  Make believe.  When you go home, you can brush your teeth, but while you’re there, you’ve got to act sweet no matter what. Otherwise, you’re not going to see your mom or dad.

5. Don’t expect love or affection either way – ever.  Maybe love and affection will develop. If it does, terrific, but if it never does, it’s not the end of the world.  Not everybody is an emotional match.

6. If the new spouse has children or grandchildren, understand that “the female runs the roost.”  If your dad marries a woman with kids, her kids are going to have priority unless your dad is very strong.  And even if he is strong, he may abdicate his strength for the sake of not wanting to be alone.

The bottom line is that people tend to be more emotional about things the closer they are to them.  For example, if there’s a disaster somewhere in the world, the first thing you want to know is if there were any Americans involved and if any of those hurt were from your state, city, or neighborhood.  The closer they are to you, the more emotional you feel. A similar dynamic is at play in stepfamilies.  You don’t feel the same way about your father’s new wife as you do about your own mom.  However, a word to the (hopefully) wise: make it seem as though you do.  Human beings have developed ways of appearing to be open and friendly (bowing, shaking hands, smiling, offering bread, etc.), and I suggest you use them all.  Feelings usually develop in a better way over time if you put forth these efforts.

*A quick note to parents who are remarrying with adult kids:

Don’t put your spouse’s kids in your will.  Only your own kids should be in your will, and by the same token, you shouldn’t expect your spouse to put your kids in theirs.  In addition, I suggest signing a prenup and making sure that all insurance policies are clear about who is a beneficiary.

This is why I recommend six months of premarital counseling to ALL couples considering marriage so that issues like finances (and whose family you’ll be seeing during the holidays!) can all be sorted out objectively.  I even believe that at some point during the process of creating a stepfamily with adult kids, everyone in the families should come in for counseling and discuss the potential problems, difficulties, and jealousies which could arise.

How to Stop Bad-Mouthing Your Body

In magazines and throughout our society, there is such a heavy focus on how women look.  Because of this, many women have major body image issues. 

In my book, The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands, I relay a call from a woman who told me she was short and tubby.  You know how some people have six-pack abs?  Well, she had a “12-pack” of fat rolls.  The thought of being sexual with her husband made her freak out because she was so self-conscious.  However, I told her that her husband would rather have her naked up against him than have her body be perfect.  She said I was an idiot, but promised to try out my advice anyway. 

So, she went to a lingerie store and bought something bright red and outrageous with spaces everywhere.  It was even a little too small because they really didn’t have anything in her size.  When she got home, she started changing upstairs while her husband was in the living room.  She then stood at the top of the stairs and called for her husband in the garish, red, too-tight lingerie outfit which prominently displayed her rolls of fat.  He took one look at her, smiled widely, and ran up the stairs.  They had a great night (and by the way, she no longer thinks I’m a complete idiot).

In my opinion, women are to blame for this obsession with their bodies.  I read a Glamour magazine survey (which obviously only sampled women who are obsessed with glamor) revealing that 97 percent of women are cruel to their bodies on a daily basis.  After surveying 300 women of all sizes, the researchers found that, “On average, women have 13 negative body thoughts daily – nearly one for every waking hour. And a disturbing number of women confess to having 35, 50 or even 100 hateful thoughts about their own shapes each day.”

That is sick stuff.  I feel sorry for these women who are more concerned about superficial things than their brain or character.  They are not worried about choosing the right men, doing charity work, getting educated, or being aware of what is going on in their community and world.  They are not worried about figuring out how to actually raise their own kids instead of just dumping them in day care.  No.  They are worried about how they look. 

That is so pathetic.  There is something to be said for school uniforms where how you look is irrelevant.  There is less distraction that way.

I’ll admit I’m not too crazy about looking in the mirror and seeing lines and wrinkles.  No woman likes that.  However, I don’t care about new styles of clothes, hair or makeup, and I don’t care about creams that make your face appear younger.  What I do care about is being strong and fit.  I don’t want to be spending the last years of my life unable to get around.  Everything I do is a preemptive strike on the future.  Every day, I get up at 5:30 a.m. and kill myself working out for an hour.  I play tennis two to three times a week, and I also kayak, sail and hike.  I work my body.

Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t have very good luck with genetics, or they’ve been in some kind of accident (e.g. they’ve got osteoporosis and they’re just waiting for a broken hip).  However, when you do have control, put in the effort.  Don’t have 17 different plastic surgeries.

Ann Kearney-Cooke, Ph.D., a Cincinnati psychologist who specializes in body image and helped Glamour design the survey, said:

“Neuroscience has shown that whatever you focus on shapes your brain. If you’re constantly thinking negative thoughts about your body, that neural pathway becomes stronger – and those thoughts become habitual…Imagine a concert pianist. Her brain would have stronger neural pathways that support musicality and dexterity than someone who hadn’t spent her life practicing.”

Interestingly enough, if a man thinks the same things women are thinking about their own bodies, he’s considered offensive or abusive.  If a man says that a woman’s got a big nose, disgusting skin, bags under her eyes or small breasts, it’s a “no-no.”  And yet with women, negative talk is part of how they bond with each other.

Women also tend to talk and feel bad about something rather than trying to fix it.  Whether it is stress, loneliness, boredom, or a bad day, women go into depression mode rather than being proactive.  I’ve mentioned many times on my program that it’s more typical for guys to be proactive about a problem than women.  Men want to go fix something.  Women want to talk about it over and over and then feel upset about it. 

It’s not easy, but there are some simple things you can do to change your body and feel better:

  • Rewire your brain to see the positive aspects about your body. 
  • Ask yourself if this really is about your body.
  • Exercise!  I cannot stress enough how being physical can change your mood and outlook.
  • Just say “stop” when you have a negative thought.  That will shut it down.
  • Remind yourself that obsessing about what you eat or look like doesn’t make you look better.
  • Appreciate your body for what it does – not what it looks like.
  • Play up your strengths.  Don’t compare yourself to others.  Focus on what you have and be proud of it. 

For further reading, here are some interesting body image statistics.