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Thursday, 14 September 2000

Dealing with Divorce Baggage

Written by  Dr. Louise Klein

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Dealing with Divorce Baggage

QDear WholeFamily,

I'm a divorced man with a son age 11. I have fallen in love with a wonderful divorced mother of two daughters with "divorce baggage". She has a very troubled daughter and I suggested to my friend that she should go into therapy. Now she feels I'm intrusive for suggesting it and wants to break off the relationship. I love this person and her daughters for sharing so much wonderful time with my son and me, but now she's angry and doesn't want to see me.

I was hoping to hear good news for the cautious, remarriage of two spiritual people. Can blended families be better than staying single and spreading the bitterness of divorce?

Concerned about Remarriage

ADear "Concerned about Remarriage",

You sound like a person who has done a very good job of creating a life for himself and his son after a divorce. You seem ready for a serious relationship but I don't believe that your lady friend is at the same place that you are.

I see two issues at work here. The first is that she may not be ready for a commitment and may be using your comment about her daughter needing therapy as an excuse for pushing you away. I think that you should give her space to sort her feelings out. Remain friendly but accept that she may not want to see you right now.

The second issue is about parenting another person's children. Stepparents are one part parent, one part friend and one part advocate for the child. Given that you are not currently married to your friend, she may have felt that you crossed a line and were telling her how to raise her child. You probably perceived your suggestion as being loving and helpful whereas she felt that it was just criticism. She sounds very angry and my guess would be that it is out of proportion to the incident but not to her personal history. Maybe her ex-husband or someone else close to her has treated her this way in the past and she reacted to you with all the accumulated weight of her hurt.

Blending families takes a lot of work and the road is not always a smooth one. Spending time together with each other's children is a good start to building trust and commitment, and you have shown that you know how to do that. The two adults need to talk about their parenting styles and what level of involvement they expect from the other person, and you both need to make the time for yourself as a couple in spite of the push and pull of each other's children and ex-spouses. If your lady friend is not ready for these discussions, then she's telling you that she's not ready to remarry. In the meantime, you may want to consider joining some groups or activities in order to meet new people so that you can continue to develop as an individual.

Good luck,

Dr. Louise Klein

Last modified on Tuesday, 28 June 2011 16:48
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Dr. Louise Klein

Dr. Louise Klein

Louise Klein was born on the West Coast of Canada but lived for many years in Los Angeles and Philadelphia. She has a doctorate in clinical psychology from Widener University in Pennsylvania. Dr. Louise Klein is an experienced therapist in insight-oriented talk therapy. She has worked with individuals, couples and groups for many years. Her experience with families includes stepfamilies, adoptive families, nuclear families and families dealing with illness or death. Dr Klein is also trained in thought field therapy and regression therapy and has taught and worked internationally. Louise Klein lives in a rural community with her husband and St. Bernard and has a stepdaughter in college in New England.

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