Your father may be excited to start a new life, but as his child, you have every right to your emotions.

How to Deal With the Remarriage of Your Widowed Father

by Carrie Perles

Stepmom. The word carries a negative connotation from fairy tales. And yet, as an adult, a mother of your own children, welcoming your father's second wife into your life can be a nightmarish fantasy of its own. When your widowed father remarries, you may be overwhelmed by emotions. Recognizing what you can do -- and what you should not do -- can help you make the best of a difficult situation.

1. Get to Know Her

It might be easy to write off your father's new spouse because, in your eyes, you might think that "She'll never deserve him." But developing a relationship with your father's new wife can go a long way toward keeping your bond with your father strong, as well. Invite her to visit you, with or without the rest of the family, and chat with her to see whether you have any common interests. If she seems comfortable interacting with your children, then let her do so. Although it can be emotionally awkward at first to invite her to family events such as kids' birthday parties, try it. Maybe, you'll find you have more in common with her than you think.

2. Don't Compare Her

If your father was recently widowed, seeing him with his new wife can bring back memories of his life together with your mother. It may feel like this new woman is taking over your mother's place in your father's life. While to some degree that's true, it's also true that comparing her to your mother isn't fair. It's easy to write her off because you don't think she's as smart, pretty, selfless or energetic as your mother was. In the long run, though, it's better to judge her on her own merits instead of holding her up against your memories of mom.

3. Consider Your Father's Perspective

It may be difficult to acknowledge that you have a natural bias when it comes to dealing with your father's new wife. Although it can be difficult to push aside your own feelings such as thinking, "How will this change my relationship with Dad?" or "Why did he choose her?" it's important to step back and take a minute to see the situation from your father's perspective. Recognize that his desire to remarry is in no way a lack of respect for your mom; instead, take a minute to consider how lonely he's been feeling since your mother's death. As an adult, you can put yourself in your father's situation for a few minutes, and appreciate the fact that this new marriage as beneficial to your father, even if it's difficult for you.

4. Reach Acceptance

The same way that your father has no right to interfere with your personal relationships as an adult, it's important to realize that as much as you'd like to interfere with your father's, it would only strain your relationship. That doesn't mean that you have to like his new wife; all it means is that you need to recognize that the situation is out of your hands right now, as painful as that realization might be.

5. Keep Your Expectations Low

If you start with high expectations about your relationship with your father's new wife -- that you'll become great friends, or that she'll become a true loving grandmother to your children -- you're setting yourself up for a possible disappointment. Instead, expect mutual respect -- from both her and from you. For your father's sake, you can give him the gift of showing positive feelings towards her, but even if that's impossible, respectful actions and words will go a long way towards keeping the relationship between you from going sour.

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