- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 11, 2009

It is the time of year when talk of setting goals, making resolutions and planning for the coming year is all around us. You can’t help but notice these subjects in the media from various perspectives, including those of financial planners, counselors, and church, government and business leaders.

Thinking about goals and plans in the context of remarriage can be beneficial. Some experts say it can take up to seven years for a stepfamily to successfully blend. While there is some debate on whether the term “stepfamily blending” should even be used, seven years leaves a lot of room for growth and improvement. I can attest that while I am in year five of remarriage, we aren’t fully “there” yet. I prefer to think of it as the remarriage journey toward the “happily ever after” years.

No matter where you are on your remarriage journey, where do you want to be a year from now? If you are interested in establishing some goals for this year, here are some areas to consider.

mLet’s start with the not-so-simple stuff, i.e., money. Financial issues are a top reason why people divorce a second time. Have you successfully navigated the myriad financial issues that come with remarrying? Do you have a will that hasn’t been updated since you said “I do” for a second (or subsequent) time? Have you updated the beneficiaries on your funds and insurance policies?

Estate planning can be a very trying experience, especially when children are involved. Will you leave everything to your children and stepchildren? What if you have children and your spouse doesn’t? A good estate planner or attorney can help you get your financial affairs in order.

mAnother challenging area to work on is loss or grief. Many people remarry thinking they have dealt with their grief only to realize afterward that they really didn’t. Are you aware of the grief process that occurs after loss of a marriage? Where are you (and your children) in this cycle? Do you and your new spouse talk about it? Do you discuss grief with your children? Everyone goes through the grief stages at his own pace, but is everyone moving forward?

Support groups or nonprofit organizations such as the National Family Resiliency Center in Columbia, Md., whose mission is to foster healthy relationships in all families regardless of composition, can be invaluable resources.

mPerhaps you want to enhance communication with your spouse. Make that a goal. Or maybe you want better communication with your ex for the sake of your children. If you and an ex have abysmal communication or are at a stalemate, try a professional mediator or explore collaborative law, a relatively new dispute-resolution model to try to find “win-win” solutions for both parties.

After such hard work and self-examination, you need a break! What better time than now to focus on your romance goals. Are you and your spouse spending enough time together? Don’t forget to strive for the experts’ prescription of the once-a-week date night. If you have five kids together and a once-a-week date doesn’t seem likely, at least shoot for one night more a month than you had last year. Remember, the goal is to improve.

If you are feeling stressed in your remarriage, decide how you are going to mitigate it this year. Start planning family vacations and deal with joint-custody schedules now instead of struggling with the details at the last minute. It will give you and your family something positive to look forward to. Or, join a stepfamily support group. You will see that your remarriage challenges are not unique to you.

John Quincy Adams left us with a great piece of wisdom about goal-setting - “Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.” This echoed in my mind when I attended Elizabeth Einstein’s “Stepfamily Journey: Not for Wimps” workshop. It’s clear that creating a successful stepfamily takes commitment to a solid learning curve and time to work through the process.

• Paula Bisacre is the publisher and executive editor of reMarriage magazine (www. remarriagemagazine.com). She can be reached at [email protected] magazine.com.

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