Children can be overt or covert saboteurs of their fathers’ new marriage
Often the problem not only lies with the parents having blind spots regarding their children, but also with the children blatantly exploiting the situation.
Children relate to their parents as grown-ups who are obliged to gratify the children’s needs. Children do not consider their parents as autonomous adults who may have their own needs, including their own love lives. Especially young children are very selfish, even narcissistic and we cannot expect anything else from them.
Children are also very materialistic. Children operate from the stance that they own their parents and that they have first right to their parents’ attention. “He was my father first before he became her husband”.
This is not necessarily right or wrong, but the impact it has on second marriages must be taken into consideration and it needs to be managed. Parents need to establish clear boundaries. There is a mother-father parental unit, whose main function centres around the children, but there is also a husband-and-wife unit, which is a completely separate issue and not the concern of the children.
As children mature, they are supposed to develop an understanding of their parents being adults with their own needs, independent of the needs of the child, though adults do need to consider younger children’s insecurities and developmental limitations and “be the better person”.
Children need to be disciplined and raised to become productive, law abiding citizens, who can function in complicated communities. How can we expect children to respect other people’s rights, if we don’t respect their rights?
A father gave his 9 year old daughter a gorgeous doll for her birthday. The family moved to a new home and when the little girl came over for the weekend visit, she asked her stepsister where her stepmother had packed the dolls, for she could not find her gorgeous doll. “My mother gave all our dolls to her poor relatives. She said we were getting too old to play with dolls and those girls’ parents could not afford dolls,” the stepsister answered.
The 9 year old girl grew into an adult woman, but whenever she thought about that doll her heart broke and she still experienced the pain of a 9 year old girl who was denied the right of ownership, just because she was a minor. She could not complain to her father about the loss of her doll, for she would sound unsympathetic towards the poor little girls, but the fact that an adult thought she had the right to dispose of that little girl’s prized possession, without even discussing it with the girl, left a deep scar.
Young stepsiblings very often fight and argue, much the same as neighbours’ kids may do. Golden advice to parents would be not to get involved in every fight, not to take sides and let the children sort it out themselves. It teaches them conflict resolution. Unless of course one child is seriously being bullied by another one. House rules should apply to all children and double standards will only be exploited by all children.
By the time children become teenagers or young adults, it is not unreasonable for the new spouse to expect some form of respect and consideration from the stepchildren. However difficult this may be, parents need to overcome their blind spots and address this issue in a mature way.
A second wife moved into her new husband’s home. “Please make yourself at home,” he invited. “ It is your home now, so change anything you want and make it comfortable.” The first thing she changed was the lay-out of the kitchen. She moved the
crockery into different cupboards, replaced the worn-out blinds with bright yellow curtains and bought new dish cloths. She was very happy with her new kitchen. Until the first weekend his teenage daughters came over. The girls packed all the crockery back into their original places. “It’s the way our Mom used to have it,” they said.
When the wife brought this under the attention of her husband, his response was: “It’s only crockery, what does it matter where we keep it?” His answer illustrated a typical male pragmatic response. He also did not want to get involved in a catfight. What he did not realise was the subtle underlying nuance of his daughters sending his new wife the message: “You will never be the Queen of this house. We will not allow you.
Our father will always take our side against you. You will always be the outsider.” Men then wonder why they end up outside the wife’s bed?
The above scenario can also happen in a home where daughters turn on the biological mother, because an Electra complex situation exists.
Many second wives are side-lined and actually excluded in such a manner. They are subtly reduced to second hand occupants in what is supposed to be their own new homes. They are barely tolerated and treated by the children with disdain as the woman their father sleeps with, not as the woman of the house.
Quite often men are also treated as an intruder and not as the head of the household, or even an equal adult decision maker and recognised disciplinarian. When parents condone this attitude in their children, to reduce the new partner to a subservient role and where it is acceptable for the kids to rule, then those parents should perhaps postpone getting married until the children have left home.
Parents should gratify their children’s needs to the best of their abilities, and give them lots and lots of attention and affection. That is wonderful and loving, but to allow the children to rule the roost and oust the new spouse is actually detrimental to those children. These children grow up thinking everybody should dance to their tunes, and they develop major adjustment problems later in their own relationships and at places of employment, when their partners and colleagues do not consider it so cute.
Two teenage daughters wandered into the stepmother’s bathroom and promptly used her expensive make-up without her permission. When she complained, the father took them to the shops and bought them their own expensive make-up. He thought he was solving the problem pragmatically.
What he did not realise, is he was rewarding his children for using someone else’s property without permission. He could have bought them the make-up after they had apologised.
It is not only the stepmother who is side-lined, but also the stepfather, who often experiences a total lack of respect.Heroes need to be appreciated and respected for being the providers, especially when they are providing for other men’s children.
One man complained when he arrives home every day after a long day’s labour, he always has to get out of his car and remove his stepson’s bicycle from the driveway, to gain access to the garage. When he walks into the home his wife is cooking – she does not even turn to greet him properly.
He can’t sit in the lounge and watch the news or enjoy a drink because his stepdaughter is lying on the couch watching soaps and his stepson is in his study, playing games on his computer. Neither of the children greet him properly either. He came home one day and drove over the bicycle with his 4×4, unplugged the television and kept his study door locked. His wife complained he was being unreasonable.
One father expected his new wife to fetch his teenage boy from a private school hostel every Friday afternoon.
She did this without complaint and took him shopping to fill the house with snacks that he liked to eat during the weekend. The boy complained bitterly when the couple went out over the weekend since he demanded his father’s attention and claimed they could go out during the week when he was in the hostel.
He had no consideration for the fact that his father worked during the week, that he may be exhausted earning a living to pay for the boy’s tuition fees and that he would also just like to relax over the weekend with his wife. The father complied with the son’s wishes to avoid a tantrum. Men detest it when women tell them what to do, but often they allow their children to rule the roost.
One would expect young adult children to have developed insight into their parents’ adaptation to second marriages and to exhibit less self-centred immature behaviour.
A man’s 18 year old daughter comes to visit for a vacation. Every evening she sits next to her Dad on the couch, watching television, while the second wife cooks.
They all eat on trays in front of the television. Everyone takes their own tray back to the kitchen. Whilst the wife unpacks the trays, the young lady rushes back to the lounge and plonks herself next to her father again, swinging her legs over his lap. He naturally puts his arm around his daughter. After cleaning up the kitchen the wife enters the lounge. She would now like to relax and have time with her husband, whom she has not seen all day. There is another woman in her place next to her husband.
Must she now sit on one of the chairs? If she retreats to the bedroom to read a book, she is accused of being unsociable. If she complains that the daughter is not helping with dinner or cleaning up afterwards, his defence is that the daughter is on vacation. If the wife complains that the daughter is sitting on her place, the husband accuses her of being jealous of his child. So his wife, who is supposed to be his metaphorical queen, is expected to serve the little princess.
The little princess is usurping the queen’s throne. Does he really wonder why he is not getting sex? It is fine for the daughter to cuddle next to her Dad, but as soon as the wife enters, either the daughter should move of her own accord, or the father can shoo her off gently to make space for his wife. In case this sounds unfair, how would the father feel if his wife’s teenage son is forever sitting on her lap? How would he feel if the only time he gets to be with his wife is when she gets into bed at night, and then she is tired.
One man had two grown daughters. Wherever he went, each daughter would grab a hand and the second wife would have to trail behind them. Even when they travelled abroad, the daughters would sit next to the father on the plane.
When they had dinner in a restaurant, the daughters sat on each side of him. When the father held his wife’s hand in public, the daughters would walk right up to him, throw their arms around his neck and kiss him on the mouth.
His wife grew grumpy when the daughters argued who should sit in the front seat of the car next to the Dad. I kid you not! This woman had virtually no private space of her own, not even in her bedroom and she had no personal access to her husband. She could not wait for him, dressed in sexy lingerie in bed at night, for the girls would lie on the parents’ bed watching television, waiting for the father to get home.
The husband seemed oblivious that his wife was being ousted and alienated by his daughters. He thought she was just jealous. What is the purpose of being married to a man if a wife has to queue to cuddle him and to compete for a scrap of recognition and attention?
One would think this situation would improve when these daughters got married. At least they were out of the home, but the moment they visited, they abandoned their husbands and still sat on their father’s lap.
It is cute when a five year old sits on her father’s lap. It is not so cute when she is 25. Eventually this man saw the light and set the boundaries. Else he would have grown old a very lonely man.
Not only the girls, but also the boys make it very difficult for their parents to get on with their lives.
Another young prince was a third year student. He did not want to live in a dormitory nor did he want to move into a commune, because he did not want to share a bathroom with other students. So he stayed with his father and stepmother. He paid no rent, had a television and wi-fi in his room, the housekeeper attended to his laundry and ironed his clothes.
He had a brand new car and his Dad paid for a tank of petrol every so often. He was still a dependent on his Dad’s medical aid and his Dad paid for his studies, and books. He also paid him an allowance each month and the prince supplemented this by acting as a mentor to first year students. He spent his money socialising with his friends.
He often criticised his stepmother’s housekeeping skills and one day they had a big blow-up due to the fact that his stepmother refused him permission to invite six friends to sleep over one night when they all had too much to drink. “There are enough spare bedrooms in my father’s house,” he complained. What he did not consider was that the housekeeper would have to wash six sets of bed linen the next day, fit them all in on the washing line and iron 12 sheets and 12 pillow cases as well as six duvet covers.
The stepmother felt this was too much work to disrupt her household just to indulge the prince and his drunken entourage. The prince called her wicked.
Another student princess was only prepared to move out if her father provided her with a fully furnished flat, close to the university. She had already hand picked the leather couches, washing machine and tumble dryer.
Heaven forbid to suggest a laundrette, and she refused to return home every weekend with her dirty laundry for her stepmother to wash, for that would defy the purpose of living on her own, independently! I wondered if she had ever washed a sheet in her life or sewed on a button? Imagine the lucky young man who just can’t wait to marry her? Or the lazy bum, who happens to be in-between jobs and who cannot be a waiter because it interferes with his artistic creativity, who moves in with her for free?