Second marriages and stepfamilies present challenges and new opportunities for couples.

Contrary to their 'bad image', stepfamilies can provide a rich and rewarding environment for the adults and children involved.

In second marriages, couples are often more aware of the difficulties in establishing a successful relationship and are more committed to making the marriage work.

Both second marriages and stepfamilies have to overcome some difficult hurdles. These hurdles can present significant challenges to the couple in their relationship as partners and as parents.

Unfortunately, many second marriages and stepfamilies, despite their commitment to making things work, fail to get over these hurdles.

This page outlines some of the challenges and complications of re-partnering and step-families.

The Decision to Re-Marry or Re-Partner

Before you re-marry or re-partner, you should consider the following questions:

  • When?
  • Why?
  • To Whom?

Listen to any doubts. If necessary, wait a little longer. Perhaps talk over any doubts with a counsellor.


The simple answer is when you have come to terms with the end of your previous relationship. This is particularly important if you did not want the first marriage to end, and had to deal with the pain of leaving or being left by your previous partner. It takes longer than many people expect to get over the end of a long term relationship, even if you might have been unhappy and felt that the end was inevitable.

Some studies suggest many people take at least two years to adjust to the end of a long term relationship. There are many exceptions to this. Some people take longer, others adjust more rapidly. Ask yourself:

  • Do I find myself thinking about my ex-partner and do these thoughts still arouse strong feelings such as anger and resentment?
  • Have I adjusted to living alone again?
  • Have I regained a sense of self-confidence?
  • Can I look back on that relationship and recognise some of the things that contributed to its breakdown?

In other words, am I emotionally free to re-partner? Can I put all my emotional energy into this new relationship without allowing my feelings about my previous relationship to get in the way?

Just as you cannot re-marry until you are legally free to do so, being emotionally free to re-marry is also important.


Unfortunately this question is often overlooked. Are you thinking of re-marrying because you want to be with a new partner whom you love or do you want to re-marry for the sake of being married, or to provide a two-parent home for your children? Being alone is not easy after being married or in a long-term relationship, especially if you have children living with you. However, moving too rapidly into a new relationship is no solution in the long-run, particularly if it doesn't work out.

To Whom?

Past experiences influence our choice of partners. This is especially true of a second marriage. Be realistic about what worked and what didn't work in your first marriage when making a decision about a new partner. Learn from that experience to clarify what sort of partner you want.

Being in love is not enough to make a relationship work especially once the initial excitement has worn off. Many couples thinking of getting married try living together first. This may help, but remember that living together is not the same as being married. If you have children, they may find such an arrangement confusing and need reassurance.