6 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Marrying or Moving In with Someone with Children

step kidsI am at that age where I meet a lot of people who are getting remarried.  And when you get remarried in your 30s or 40s there is a very good chance you will getting a package deal.  In other words, your new hubby or honey will have children.  As I’ve told you before I was very lucky in that Amy’s child was only 3 when we got married, which made it much easier than if she had been a teenager.  And she and I quickly bonded, I love her, and I consider her to be mine all mine!  However, I’m sorry to say that is very rare.  I have lost track of the number of people I have counseled or simply had conversations with that had very bad experiences with step-children.  And quite honestly after hearing many of their stories I felt sorry for them.  As we all know, kids can be cruel…especially to a step-parent.  But there are also some stories that I hear, and I want to say, “Your expectations for the children are way too high.”  And there have been times I have asked, “You really don’t like those kids do you?”  And they look at me like I’m a horrible person, because of course they love the children…their children for goodness sake!  They don’t want to admit they simply don’t like their new spouse’s children, because they believe it will make them look like a bad person.  

I’m going to say something that may upset you, and I want to be honest in saying I have no research to back it up.  This statement is based solely on my observations over the last 20 years of working with people, and while it sounds sexist and judgmental I assure you that’s not my intention.  Here it goes…I believe it’s much easier and likely for a man to accept another man’s child than for a woman to accept another woman’s child.  Yes, I’m bluntly saying I believe it is easier for a man to love and accept children from his new wife’s previous marriage, than it is for women to bond with, love, and accept his children from a previous marriage.  Now here is the good news for some of you.  This is almost a moot point if the children are grown and out of the home.  And when I say out…I mean out-out.  As in they ain’t moving back in, and they will rarely be dragging their ass through your front door!  However, if they are still in the home then “buyer beware!”

I’ve come up with a few questions that I believe people need to ask their selves before dating or marrying someone with children, and this is especially true for women.  And ladies I’m not being critical of you, and please understand your answers to the following questions don’t make you a bad person!  I hope you will share some of your thoughts in the comment section below, but here are some of my questions that I would like for you to ask yourself:

1)  Will you expect your spouse’s children to obey your rules?

  • You may say, “Well of course.”  And I would say, “I don’t blame you”, but guess what?  The rules they have at their other home may be very different from those that you have for them.  And they are kids who might very well do what they want to do.  So how will you handle that?  Will you explode, negotiate, or run for the hills?

2)  Will you expect your spouse’s children to follow your religious or moral code?

  • Do you attend church every week, and think they should as well?  How different is your ethical code from theirs?

3)  Will you expect your spouse to agree to the forms of disciple you believe are appropriate?

  • How do you think discipline can be handled, and what will you do if your spouse doesn’t discipline behavior you believe should be disciplined?

4)  Will you expect your spouse’s children to follow your rules of cleanliness and structure?

  • So are you one of those people who thinks everything has its place, and when you say dinner is at 6:00 you don’t mean 6:15?  When you find your stepchild’s room a mess, or their stinky shoes in the middle of your living room floor how will you handle it?

5)  Will you expect your spouse to defend you when there is a disagreement between you and one of his or her children?

  • When I do premarital counseling I usually say the following, “Remember, he (she) can talk bad about their momma, but you can’t.”  The same is true for your future spouse’s children.  They know their kids aren’t perfect, and there will be times they are ready to explode in anger, but they don’t want to hear you talk smack about their kids.  So if you want to avoid the “You never take my side” argument it will take you choosing your words and especially adjectives carefully.

6:  Would you trust your children to be home alone with your spouse’s children?

  • I don’t think I need to say much more about this question, but if your child will be home with his new step-brother or sister would you be concerned?

If you will notice, 5 out of the 6 questions have the word “expect” in them, and when it comes to marriage…lots of expectations can lead to lots of problems!  We can all have hopes, but expectation often times really mean “this is a must.”  Again, the answers to the above questions don’t mean you are a good or bad person.  They are simply intended for you to be honest with yourself and your significant other.

My wife Amy literally said to me, “If you would have had children when we met then I wouldn’t have gone out with you.”  She absolutely loves children, and is the best mother I could have ever asked to have for our children, but she knew she wouldn’t do well with weekend visits from another woman’s kids.  I would encourage you to take these questions to your future spouse, and go over them together.  And whatever you do…before you walk down the aisle spend a lot of time with the children in family type settings.  Play games together and go on trips together if you can afford to do so.  Get way past the honeymoon phase of a relationship before you say those two very powerful words “I do.”  Because you aren’t just saying “I do marry you.”  You are also saying, “I marry you and them.”  And just a side note…when I officiate a wedding the word “expect” is no where to be found in the vows.

Please share this on your Facebook/Twitter, and post your comments below.  Almost 40,000 people have read this blog and they could use YOUR advice.




5 thoughts on “6 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Marrying or Moving In with Someone with Children

  1. Amanda Edelkamp April 4, 2014 / 12:22 pm

    My husband and I have been together for 3 years but only married for a month. When we got together we both came into the relationship with children. His were 15 and 9 at the time mine 6 and 2……. His 15 year old daughter and I had a friendship relationship right out the door…. However when report cards came back, her dad decided she needed more discipline. He however worked 12 hour days 4 or 5 days a week. Their mother was very sketchy and in and out of their lives and couldn’t be expected to help with the kids. My husband and I discussed exactly what his expections were for her and I stepped in and made it happen. For 6 months my step daughter thought I was the devil in human form. She fought me every step of the way. However a couple years later our relationship is stronger and better then ever. Her GPA went from a 0.67 to a 3.48. She caught up all of her credits and will be graduating on time this summer…….. When I feel in love with my husband I knew his children were part of the deal and from that moment I have not once stopped treating them as if they were mine. My husband is really amazing with my kids too but they are young, and their dad isn’t in the picture. We are one very large family, but we are just that a family. It takes a lot of work, A LOT of communication, and every ounce of love that everyone of us has. We also just welcomed a new baby girl into home on Saturday so now all of the siblings are connected by her blood and all of the kids are just out of this world excited…… Having a blended family is far from easy, but every speed bump is worth the ride. =D


  2. Cortnie April 4, 2014 / 5:12 pm

    I think these are good questions. We have a blended family. My stepdaughters were 6 and 7 when my husband and I began dating. My son was 18 months old. It has taken years to adjust. But we worked hard to make sure we were a team and partners first. We work together. Communicating respect for each other to our children. We have a baby now and our older kids are teenagers and my son is 8.
    It’s important for the step mom to have a respectful relationship with the kids mom. Regardless of how you feel about her. 🙂 My husband and I say we understand how it feels because I have a son who goes to visit his biological dad and step mom and my step daughters spend half the year with us. So we get it. We are parents and step parents.
    Family counseling, a great deal of prayer and remembering to treat everyone in your family with respect. We are big on communication in our family and spend a lot of time bonding. When our baby was born, my oldest stepdaughter drew a picture and wrote on it “now our family is complete”. It was perfect.


    • Tony Russell April 4, 2014 / 9:30 pm

      Corrine, what a great post and incredible advice! Thank you very much!


  3. renee June 5, 2014 / 2:25 pm

    Oh where do I start..

    He has 3 teens I have one 10 yr old. I expected my child to respect him as the adult and follow the rules which were the same as they were before we ever meet as we talked about rules chores cleaning home work etc . I hoped that I could get his to at least respect me as an adult of the home and just follow the rules they had always had. Well I thought after 1.5 yrs we had accomplished the task of blending as well as possible with 3 teens. 2 of those teens are great follow the rules show respect and no problems. The 3rd well it has come down to me not allowed to speak to him or have any interactions with him cause I requested being told what would be going on in the home with him while my s/o is out of town for work etc. and im going to be the only full time parent home. That request was taken by the teen and i was told by him he doesnt want to talk to me and he dont have to and will do as he please my s/o relented and affirmed that he doesn’t!!!! Now with summer here and he’s gone for work a week ot two at a time and my 10 yr old gone for her break and the teen being the only other person home I feel as if I was told I am insignificant and that im not worthy of even being in the same room with. Am I wrong to feel that way. As when my s/o is home the house is divided completely. He will be spending time with his children and we will be just having date time as there is no way the teen will allow for family time all together. I think he shoukd put his foot down and demand that I be given respect if just polite tolerances with room to grow


    • Tony Russell June 30, 2014 / 11:25 am

      It’s not “wrong” for you to feel the way you do. You fully deserve respect in your own home.


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