I 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.
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