When Parents Clash
Saving Your Sanity
If one of your parents has moved on to another relationship, watch out for the tendency to reject their new partner or try to pretend that they don't exist, says Goldscheider. While you may not care for that person yourself, he or she is important to your parent. "Don't ever put a parent in a situation where they have to choose between the new spouse and the child," says Eth. "It's unfair and painful for everyone."
Lindsey wasn't pleased when her father married the woman he left her mother for. But she knows that a relationship with her father includes his new wife. The tension is there, but Lindsey tries to take the high road when visiting their home.
Knowing your parents and talking with them about potential issues ahead of time can help things go more smoothly at special events, says Buchanan. "Don't avoid it," she tells WebMD. "What if they start fighting over the front pew at your wedding and ruin the entire day?" She says you're better off broaching these topics ahead of time -- when people have time to think it through and prepare themselves emotionally -- than crossing your fingers and hoping for the best.
Beware Unrealistic Expectations
Sometimes it's not just the parents. Unrealistic expectations on the child's side can also wreck havoc. "Sometimes even adult children fantasize that their parents will get back together again," Goldscheider says. For example, if your parents can hardly be in the same room, expecting them to dance together at the wedding is a sure recipe for disaster -- and probably a fantasy you need to let go of, she says. "In some cases if they are in the same room and are behaving themselves, that has to be enough," she says.
Eth also warns of falling into the fantasy of the perfect event. "It's a setup for disappointment," he says. "Don't do that to yourself." Working with things as they are rather than wishing things were different will make the event easier for everyone, he says.