Thursday, November 29, 2012

5 Things To Think About Before You Marry A Parent

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When I read posts on social media by angry, bitter, sad, depressed, frustrated, negative stepmoms and stepdads I feel so sad for them. I feel sad for their spouses and their stepkids too. I wonder why these women and men chose to marry someone with kids in the first place or how much they evaluated what this experience would be like for them before they jumped in.

Becoming a stepmom or stepdad may be one of the situations you need to think most deeply and honestly about in life. Sure it's great to fall in love with a guy or gal, but you really have to look at the family dynamic that already exists, because, Sister (Brother), you are going to get dropped right in the middle of it and you are going to sink or swim. There are no two ways about it. No matter how great your guy (gal) seems, there are going to be a lot of other people and situations involved in your relationship, your household and creating pressure from outside as well.

When you are dating someone with kids, here are a few honest issues and questions you need to consider BEFORE you decide you are head over heels in love with him or her.

1) Listen to what he/she says about his/her previous relationship. Talk a lot about his/her hopes for a future relationship and how they have changed to make that more possible. Ask them what lessons they have learned and what changes they have made. Ask them why their previous relationship failed.

This speaks volumes about where you are potentially headed. Was it all the other's fault? Did the relationship die a slow miserable death over a long period of time due to mutual neglect? Was there addiction, adultery, abandonment or abuse? If you have any concerns about what you hear, consider your options carefully.

2) Date for a long time. This is a situation where dynamics will reveal themselves over a longer period of time. Take the time. Rushing may be the fastest way to the shortest marriage and fastest divorce you've ever seen.  Plus taking time allows everyone to try on this new relationship and become adjusted to the idea. Once the infatuation passes in the first few months you must see where you stand with realistic eyes. If you are in a rush to get married, this is probably not a good situation for you to be in.

3) Be honest about how much you like or don't like his/her kids and how they feel about you. No matter how much you and your significant other love each other, if it's bad with the kids, your marriage probably won't survive. Be realistic about who you are, what you can do, how interested you are in trying and how those kids are going to deal with you.

Be honest. Don't lie to yourself and tell yourself it's going to be okay if it's not. If it's bad when you're dating it will only get worse once you get married and move in together. Having said all that, you'd be surprised how much success you can have if you are nice, positive, kind and show genuine interest in them. If you don't feel you can be an influence for good and happy kindness in this family, you should walk away no matter how much you love boyfriend/girlfriend.

4) Ask yourself how mature you are about dealing with the ex-spouse and how well you manage jealousy. This will be one of the most aggravating relationships you will ever have in your life, even if it's pretty good. It will require a huge amount of maturity to manage well - and it will still be hard.

How willing are you to be polite anyway? Can you bite your tongue and put your spouse and the children's well-being first? Are you someone who will be inclined to gripe to your partner about their ex on a constant basis? Will you be able to let it go and live your life? Can you handle this difficult aspect of the relationship? A partner will not be excited about a nagging spouse for long and things will only go downhill from there - you will be the one left out in the cold and maybe even start making that ex not seem so bad after all.

5) Are you willing to forego some of the romance and one-on-one time with your significant other for the sake of the kids? Dating a parent is much different than meeting someone when you are both single and have no children. I'm not saying there won't be magic, romance, date nights and all that good stuff. But I am saying that you will have to swallow the pill that there will not be as much of it as there would be with someone with no children. Anticipate more family movie nights, family dates to museums, amusement parks and soccer games. Be ready to forego some of your expectations for a cloud of blissfulness surrounding just the two of you all the time.

***A warning I must add here, if you are dating someone who is willing to give the kids the heave ho to focus solely on romancing you, consider what he/she will do once you've been around for a while and he/she sees a shiny new object over your shoulder. If the person you are dating is not a responsible parent, they will not be a responsible partner either.

I'd love your feedback on these suggestions if you are already a stepmom or stepdad. Is there something you wished you'd done differently or something you did that made all the difference to your success? If you are dating someone with kids now, I'd love to hear what you think about these ideas and how they got you thinking. I hope through a community conversation we can all help each other along to more peace, love and happiness. Sending you my best wishes for your happiness!


  1. So true! My husband made it clear before ever even taking me on our first date that he was a parent first. I believe his words were, "If you ever think you can make me choose between my kid and you, it'll be him 10 out of 10 times." I was a little taken aback and thought it was a little early to be laying ground rules, but it was effective. And I never doubted his commitment to parenting and never questioned that I would be joining an existing family.

    1. Such a smart husband to lay it out right at the beginning. I think there are so many women who think they can change things or they get their feelings bent out of shape when a father focuses on his own kids rather than everything she wants. It's a challenging road but having a clear view of what to expect sure helps.

  2. This is a great post. I wish it could reach many women who are dating/engaged to a parent. You pointed out so many aspects of being a stepmom that need great consideration before marrying. It takes an enormous amount of maturity. Even when you have maturity it then takes a whole lot of grit. Loving each other will not be enough to hold you together when dealing with children and ex-spouses. You must know who you are and what you stand for when it comes to family, kids, parenting and relationships. Your self-esteem needs to be solid.

    I have been a stepmom for over 7 years and the journey is very difficult. Likewise, just as you mentioned the journey can lead to a rich, honest and enduring relationship between you and your spouse if you survive it all.

    You need to pay close attention to how the ex and your boyfriend interact, communicate, and resolve things. If the ex gets their way all the time then you need to think long and hard about the effect that will have on your relationship. It can control every aspect of your life at times and you need to be able to bend with the wind.

    If you are able to do what is best for the child(+) even when it means many sacrifices on your part over & over then you will be able to survive the slippery slope of being a stepmom.

    1. Aunt Laura, Grit -- I love it. So true. I have burned up mountains of grit in the past few years. The hugs, kisses, "You're the best" comments and hearing her thank God in her prayers that I came into her life make it worthwhile. Thanks for your comments and for sharing your experiences.

  3. I think this is a great post.

    I think when I first started dating my husband, I really had good intentions and I gave a lot of thought if this would be the best for his children. Marrying a man with children, means you have to consider if it is a good thing for all of you. Your decision is impacting the childhood to someone, and that is a huge responsibility that needs to not be taken on lightly. However, I did perhaps not give it enough thought how it would impact me. I think no one can really know how family life will impact them, either if it is a stepfamily or a nuclear family.

    One thing I believe stepparents need to think about is this:
    As a stepparent (and research shows especially for stepmoms) you end up giving a lot! Many of the things you give your stepchildren are the same you would give as a mom. You nurture, take care of, protect, provide, comfort, cook, clean, plan fun activities. You pretty much poor your energy, time, money into kids that are not your own. This can at times be tremendously rewarding. But the truth is that these kids are not yours and their love for you might never (actually most likely) be the same as they have for their parents. Their loyalty to their parents will always be stronger. Biological attachment and unconditional love is what parents get in return for all the hard work they pour into their children. However, this is often not the case for stepparents. At times (maybe all the time) you might end up giving much more than what you get in return. This is something to think through before making the decision, but you will not really know the effect it has on you before you have been in the role for several years. Being a stepparent is a commitment for life.

    Another thing is that often it is not the stepkids that give stepparents a hard time. For some the stepkids are not the problem (not more than the challenges having children in your life). However, the relationship to the other parent can cause huge conflicts. A written agreement to the ex is something I would urge everyone to have, before entering the marriage. Things might be okay as long as the two parents do not have other relationships, but it can turn out differently as soon as one of them gets a new partner. A written agreement does not solve everything, but it can help create predictability and commitment. It should be evaluated as the children`s need changes.

    When that is said, being a stepparent can bring so much joy and love into your life. But you have to choose the children, not just your partner.

    1. Love your comments healthystepfamily. I can really relate to what you are saying. I think even though I've been stepmomming for a few years now, I am still finding new crossroads I have to explore in myself about how I feel about things, the sacrifices I've made, etc. It's very interesting to see your emotions rise and fall about different things at different times. I love what you said about how you can't really know what you're getting into until you've been in it for a while. I guess it's that way with all of life's blessings and challenges. Thank you so much for sharing your experience and wisdom!


Thanks for joining the conversation and inspiring others!