Not every love story begins with instantaneous chemistry accompanied by the flutter of cherub’s wings and fireworks. In fact, some of the most loving and enduring relationships more closely resemble oil and water when they begin. Two people may be meant to be together, yet their hearts and minds are not open to accepting and bonding with the other. Such is the story of the relationship between my two sons: one by birth, and one by marriage.
Years ago, I was coming out of a heartbreaking divorce and beginning to rebuild my life with my two children. I began to date the man who would later become my husband. One thing that drew us together was our shared past of divorce and our future as parents raising children whom we hoped to be strong, happy, and well-adjusted following the end of our marriages.
As my future husband and I began sharing our personal lives, including our children, we imagined what it would be like to bring all of them together. Would this relationship with the extra added complication of exes and our combined six children work? Could all these personalities get along and ever blend like a family? If they couldn’t, we feared that our relationship would be plagued by problems and not likely be successful.
The great experiment began as we first started to introduce our kids in laid back play dates and outings. Our two youngest, both turning five that year hit it off instantly. When you’re five, what’s not to love about coloring and playing in the dirt? By our estimation, my son and his second oldest son should have also become fast buddies. They were both funny, intellectual boys who would rather read or work on a computer than run around outside. To our shared disappointment, they wanted nothing to do with each other.
I felt simultaneously as though I had found the long-lost love of my life, yet would have to soon end our relationship because every time we got together, our two sons would bicker to the point that we would soon cut our together time short. Thank goodness we didn’t throw in the towel too soon; but, I really struggled with how much to press on. My children had already been through the divorce of their parents, and I was determined to make their life ever since as peaceful as possible; otherwise, why even divorce?
Something gradually changed between our boys. Whatever it was happened outside of our notice, but these two once mandatory companions became inseparable friends.
Each began to let down their guard little-by-little. Instead of resisting the common ground they shared, they began to eagerly anticipate the time they could spend together, endlessly discussing books and movies and playing together. As with so many things in life, sometimes the magic ingredients are time and patience. There was no forcing this relationship to take flight!
It pleases my heart to no end to watch the brotherhood that has developed between these two. They look out for one another, miss each other when they’re apart, and make plans together for far into the future. Now both teenagers, I see two young men who I am immensely proud of. We have all grown into each other’s hearts and become integral parts of one another’s family!
The journey toward building and re-building one’s family after divorce is a delicate dance. Each partner in the process is coming from a different place, and ready to move forward at their own unique pace. Many steps go forward, but often many steps are taken backwards, as well. With practice and refusing to give up, the steps are finally learned and begin to feel more natural. Eventually, everyone falls into the rhythm and becomes accustomed to the new dynamics.
Along the way both boys (and myself) had to practice plenty of forgiveness, open-mindedness, and the flexibility to recognize that the past happened, but many promising things also belonged to the future. For the kids, they had other family members and former rituals and traditions to integrate into our newly-created family, and it was important for them to have time and space to grieve the loss of one way of life, while feeling no pressure to accept anything new before being ready.
I marveled at the evolution of all our lives from divorced broken homes to being part of something endearing and meaningful.
Two weeks ago, my son turned fifteen. His request for his birthday was to spend the day with his big brother at an amusement park. I dropped the pair off and watched as the two walked toward a day of roller coasters and sun-drenched fun. I marveled at the evolution of all our lives from divorced broken homes to being part of something endearing and meaningful. It was hard not to get choked up at the progress we have all made the past many years, and what amazing young men they’ve become!
My advice to any parent facing the possibility of uniting with another family through re-marriage is to simply take it one day at-a-time! We must be careful not to place expectations on our kids that are too much for them to handle at a delicate time in their lives. Yes, they should treat others with respect, but it’s often too much to ask them to like, let alone love strangers who are now being presented as potential family.
Even in the best of circumstances, we all like who we like and feel comfortable in the situations that suit us. There’s never a guarantee that two people will become friends or even tolerate one another, so forcing the issue is not likely to work. Sometimes, as in the case of my son and step son, the best things never come in a way that is expected. Who knew that our two families would become one or that the two of them would have the opportunity to become best friends?
It all goes to show that even from something as unwanted and ugly as a divorce, the seed for something truly beautiful can still spring to life!
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