Marrying someone with children is, by no stretch of the imagination, a walk in the park. Depending on the number of children, their ages, their relationship with both of their parents and their feelings toward you, your relationship with your future spouse can be dramatically affected and changed by their existing children. In addition, any problem areas may be exacerbated by their other parent, who may not be comfortable with the thought of a step-parent entering the lives of their children.
However, there is no getting away from your step-children if you have decided to marry someone who already has children of their own. It is vital that you do not come between your partner and their offspring. Therefore, several steps can be taken in order to make the situation easier for everyone involved:
- Talk to your fiancé openly and honestly within formal sessions. As you both have a platform on which to communicate without holding back, try to focus on the practical steps that you plan to take to integrate the family so that everyone feels happy, loved and included. Do not rely on the fact that you are both so in love that everything simply has to work out for the best. Be brutal and blatant so that there are no nasty surprises. Discuss matters such as what you plan to do about little Frank’s drop in grades, how you would explain sex to Sarah and at what age, who will teach Dylan how to drive, and so on. If you cannot agree on these topics now, you will not agree on them later.
- Do not become the step-parent before you are actually married. A real recipe for disaster is to force or be forced into a position that you do not yet occupy. This also negates any need for change after you are legally wed, negotiating on the validity of the new role you now legitimately possess.
- Meet with both of the children’s parents as soon as you have agreed to get married and encourage honest communication as adults. Do this several times so that everyone involved feels up-to-date and comfortable with roles and expectations. Address touchy issues (such as the way money is handled, discipline is administered and religion enforced). Listen to and respect the desires of the children’s parents and accept that you are the outsider. Take these meetings as opportunities to express your love for the children and your willingness to give them your best. This will ease the heart and mind of the other parent, to some degree.
- Be very open and honest about your financial standing with your spouse-to-be and look carefully at their financial obligations and past demonstrations of responsibility. If your fiancé is not able to handle money maturely, then they are likely to exhibit the same wreckless attitude when dealing with family disputes.
- Carefully reconsider your marriage plans if you see that your fiancé deals with their ex and / or their children in an unreasonable, unloving way. This indicates massive immaturity and a lack of natural affection, for which you will suffer one day.
- Understand that you cannot marry someone because you have fallen in love with or feel sorry for their children. You may feel that having you as a parent will help to stabilise the children and make them feel secure and loved. However, being immersed in an unhappy marriage, based on the wrong motivation, will only leave the kids feeling even more distressed and unsettled than before.
- Discuss your background and that of your future mate’s. Get a clear perspective on how this has affected certain character traits, including flaws, and how this will influence the way you bring your children up.
- Analyse how each of you deals with stress. Children do not understand that adults can react in certain ways (such as lashing out verbally) because of stress that they feel at work or in non-family situations. Before getting married, consider how you will deal with stress before it is inflicted upon the children. For example, you may agree to listen to soothing music on the way home from work so that, by the time you get home, you are calm enough to give the children the attention that they deserve.
- Openly reveal your love for your new spouse. Children are happiest when they see that their parents are happy. If they can see that you genuinely make their mom or dad happy, they are far more likely to respect and even love you.
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