Stable Stepfamilies: Book Excerpt - Foreword

Posted at 04:05am on 2nd May 2009

AS A SCHOOLGIRL, I loved history. Not the dry dates and wars of my school books, but the vital characters that strode right out of their pages straight into my imagination. People like Henry VIII of England, for instance. His marriages particularly fascinated me. How, I would ask myself, did he get away with fooling so many of the people so much of the time? Did each of the six women who became his Queen really believe that she was The One? The one who would captivate Hal's heart for ever? The one who would put an heir on his throne? The one who could ensure that 'good' King Hal, forsaking all other, would remain faithful until death parted them? Of course, I had the benefit of hindsight; the little ditty that runs:

Divorced, Beheaded, Died,
Divorced, Beheaded, Survived

But surely, I would ask myself, by the time wife number three, the lovely Jane Seymour, had met her untimely end - surely the next hopeful might be left with just the teeniest of doubts about the wisdom of taking that trip up the aisle towards matrimonial bliss?

It would appear not. And nor, it would seem, have large numbers of hopefuls ever since. Little did I know then, that I would one day be one of them; that having married in my teens and divorced in my thirties on the grounds of my husband's adultery, I would then, after nearly six years as a single parent, embark upon a second marriage.

It was not without a good deal of anguish and fear that I did so. Fear of repeating the mistakes of the past; fear of further hurt and rejection; anguish over my children's happiness and security – the turmoil nearly prevented my going ahead at all. My husband-to-be, a bachelor of thirty-five, shared some of my reservations and was (painfully) on the receiving end of my insecurities. Looking back, he wonders, sometimes, how we arrived at our current level of stability. More often than not in those early days, it was simply a case of gritting our teeth and getting on with it, held by our sense of commitment to one another, to make the thing work.

But in this era of instantaneous and disposable commodities (I heard some years ago of a pop star who never washed his underpants but threw them away daily) is it any wonder that we've lost much of the sense of stoicism and commitment that saw our parents and grandparents through two world wars? Marriage, whether first, second or subsequent, is hard work. But in my experience, so is breaking up.

All too frequently, if newspaper and magazine articles are anything to go by, for many divorced people the idea of finding happiness in a new marriage is an illusion. For them, reality shows ‘building a second home’ to be a case of stumbling blindly along in the vague hope of avoiding the sort of ‘subsidence’ that will end up an ignominious descent into the pitfalls of the previous failed marriage (or marriages).

It is in an attempt both to prevent and repair the ravages of unhappiness and despair that lie behind these statistics that I’m embarking upon the writing of this book. Sitting before my computer about to begin, I feel a little like the boy who tried to plug the dams of Holland with his finger. But no matter how small my contribution, I find I simply can't do nothing.
In writing this book, I make no pretensions to expertise. I'm one of you. And all I can do in the hope of lightening your load is to share with you some of the principles and insights that have worked for me, my children, and my second husband, Steve, a stepson himself, long before he became a stepfather to my girls. In addition, there are the experiences of others who have been generous enough to allow us to use their stories.

This book is intended to be a superstore of Do It Yourself relationship-building skills and techniques. Help yourselves to as much or as little as you like. Take one spirit-level; a plumb line of faith; the building blocks of patience and good humour; render with the mortar of love; then pebble-dash all over with plain common sense and – who knows – you may not only create a home of harmony for yourselves, but you may actually be an inspiration to others in helping them to build a more stable stepfamily.

NEXT FRIDAY

We’ll take a look at just what remarriage entails. See you then. Don’t forget to:

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Author of a number of books, one a No 4 Bestseller, Mel is also an experienced Speaker at live events, as well as on Radio and TV.

ALL PROCEEDS FROM HER LATEST NOVEL, A Painful Post Mortem, ARE FOR CHARITIES BENEFITING CHILDREN WORLDWIDE. PLEASE BUY A COPY AND HELP PROJECTS LIKE THIS OVERSEAS OR THIS IN UK

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