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!