Successfully combining families as part of remarriage is always challenging. But it’s especially hard when older re-couplers have adult children, who may or may not be onboard with the new marriage.

When each partner feels like an outsider with the other’s family, the stakes are high. Patricia Papernow, an expert on gray divorce and remarriage among Baby Boomers, shares a compelling example from her own clinical work of how to handle this tricky situation.

Therapists need to be prepared to go against the conventional clinical wisdom in helping later-life recouplers and stepfamilies handle the unique challenges they face, Papernow says.

“Helping our clients in stepfamily relationships to meet the complex challenges they face often requires defying deeply held expectations about what successful family life looks like,” she explains. “It’s still some of the most difficult and the most satisfying work I do.”

Patricia Papernow

Patricia Papernow, EdD, is the director of the Institute for Stepfamily Education and a psychologist in private practice. Shes the author of Surviving and Thriving in Stepfamily Relationships: What Works and What Doesnt.

Rich Simon

Richard Simon, PhD, founded Psychotherapy Networker and served as the editor for more than 40 years. He received every major magazine industry honor, including the National Magazine Award. Rich passed away November 2020, and we honor his memory and contributions to the field every day.