A field guide to the emotional labyrinth of remarriage.
Remarriage is the odd man out in research and family therapy; only in recent years, with divorce rates on the rise, has it begun to garner any sustained attention in scientific circles. In the 1990s, Scarf (September Songs: The Good News About Marriage in the Later Years, 2009, etc.) began research into the subject, but when she began interviewing couples using a “remarriage journey” framework, the study fell apart; there was too much disparity in couples not being at the same point on the “journey.” Returning to the subject years later, the author began working with an architecture metaphor, based on an uppermost “level” of five challenges. The first is the challenge of navigating the push and pull of insider/outsider forces, the insiders being the family structure already in place and the outsider being the new wife or husband. The second challenge is the feelings, both positive and negative, of those children toward the new partner and how that affects feelings toward the now “outside” parent. The third challenge comes through the intensity of new parenting roles and how to define them and redefine them. The fourth and fifth: the challenge of uniting two disparate family cultures and the expansion of the family boundaries—new siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, etc. Underlying these challenges are the interpersonal skills the couple is able to bring to bear on navigating those challenges and also the emotional and relational “baggage” carried over from the all-too-often acrimonious split of the previous marriage. After laying out the strategies for navigating these challenges, the author devotes more than half the book to case studies, which drive home the strategies in genuine, relatable ways. It also helps that the study couples were people she worked with in the 1990s; the many years since serve to provide even more insight.
A compelling book that can serve anyone looking to tie the knot once more.