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Managing relationships with stepfamily after a divorce

In the past, having many children may have made family trees complicated. With the rise in divorces and remarriages, family trees have become even more complicated. The relationships that result from remarriages may be confusing during the marriage. However, if the marriage ends, navigating relationships with these former stepsiblings, stepparents, or stepgrandchildren can become even more complicated.

Maintaining these relationships may be something a person really wants to do, but doesn't know how to manage. For instance, if a woman is very close with her stepmother who was married to her father for most of her childhood and adolescent years, she may not want to cut ties with her stepmother. If her father does not want to have any associations with his ex-wife, this could make the stepmother and stepdaughter's relationship uncomfortable.

There is no right or wrong way to manage step-relationships after the marriage that created the relationships ends. Each person and family will likely view these relationships differently during and after the marriage. If a person wants to maintain a relationship with a former step family member, thinking about how the relationship may affect other family members is important.

Talking openly during a divorce about the future of step-relationships may be very valuable later on. For example, if the father in the situation mentioned above knew his ex-wife and daughter want to maintain a relationship, learning later on that they get together to catch up may be less surprising or frustrating. As with many aspects of divorce, openness about one's concerns will likely simplify the process.

Source: The New York Times, "When branches tangle in a stepfamily tree," Elissa Gootman, Oct. 3, 2012

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