Yaaaaaaaaaay! You’re getting married. I assume that this will be your first time. You might be engaged to a man with children. Perhaps you are dating one and have seen him as your life partner. Maybe you have children of your own or not. If you are a girly girl you have already started going through tonnes of magazines and websites looking for the perfect dress, the perfect shoes, the perfect venue and the latest ideas for all elements of that day. All this bliss may be quickly dismissed by thoughts of hostile exes and future stepchildren who may not be thrilled about this day that you have dreamt of since you were a little girl.
I am not here to burst your bubble but from my own experience it’s better to face stepfamily life situations fully prepared for the obstacles that may come your way. Unlike the ideal situation where your prince charming has no children, if he does have little ones, the truth is your wedding will be dependent on other players and other factors for you to be able to pull it off successfully but most importantly be happy.
So here is a small guide to marrying a man with kids. If you heed the advice here, you may have that perfect wedding you want or at the very least, a day that you could look back on with a smile, positive thoughts and a great start to your forever with the one you love.
- Step out of the fantasy and into the reality of what step-family life is really all about
The most common confession I hear from the stepmoms or step couples when I first start working with them is, “We had no idea it would be this hard!” I completely understand because I felt exactly the same way when I started out and still do to be quite frank. First of all, this is not the dream you had about your wedding day. There were no children, no baby mamas with all their drama. Just you, him and the perfect wedding. Yet here you are now. As the saying goes “love is blind” and most of us when we are smitten with love only see our future through the love blinders. We have high hopes for our step families and truly believe that love will conquer all. It’s only a matter of time before you discover that it’s not what you envisioned it to be.
Take time and get yourself educated about what really works and what doesn’t work before you get married. This will help you out a great deal. Read books, articles like these and seek the help of a professional to help you get on and stay on the right path to successful stepfamily life and a fulfilling marriage.
- Remember that a wedding is only one day but a marriage is for the rest of your life.
It’s very common for couples especially the bride, to be so focused on the actual day and forget to build the right foundations for a strong family. Don’t get me wrong, it’s actually quite enjoyable to plan the day and all its festivities but it’s good to also bear in mind that the real work begins after the wedding day, with you and your partner on the steering wheel of your family ship. Unlike your counterparts who get into marriage without children, you will not have time to get to know each other and make all sorts of plans before the babies start rolling in. Once you come back from that honeymoon you will be required to roll up your sleeves and make your contribution to your new family. If you were ill prepared for this, frustration, stress and conflict will be a daily occurence in your home.
Take time beforehand to discuss and focus on what kind of family you want to have. What values are important to you and would you like to instill in your children? What sort of parenting backgrounds are you coming from and how can they influence you as partners and parents? How will you handle finances now that there are at least 2 homes to consider, holidays, what about parenting and discipline? Do you intend to have your own children? How will you co-parent effectively? All these are important things to discuss since they are major sources of conflict for blended families. You can take a weekend retreat with your partner to go over these, it will go a long way helping you have a mutual vision for your family. This makes you an even better team
- Don’t take things so personally
Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! I know first-hand that this is easier said than done but over time I have come to experience its liberating power. The reason we stepmoms take everything so personally is due to the high, usually unrealistic expectations we have of ourselves, of our stepchildren and our partner. We have painted this picture in our head that we live by everyday and when things don’t match this image we get upset and take it out on our partners and stepchildren. A lot of things will happen in your stepfamily that have nothing to do with you and are not a personal attack on your character. For example if your partners children are not excited about your wedding it is probably because it’s a reminder of the loss of their mom or dad or that by being even remotely happy, they are betraying the other parent. They are also confused about how they feel and do know how they are supposed to react. Instead of fighting it and being hurt accept it. It is classic and happens to everyone who is the same position as you are. You cannot be everything to everyone one so accept the things that you cannot change. Most importantly learn how you can spot the difference.
- For crying out loud don’t go on the honeymoon with the kids.
Sounds absurd right? Like isn’t this obvious? Well it’s quite common for step couples to do this simply because they don’t want the kids to feel left out. In stepfamilies kids come before the partner so there is usually a tug of war of sorts between the step parent and their partner’s children. Also there isn’t much of a honeymoon phase since the needs of the ready-made family have to be met after the wedding.
As a couple it’s very important to understand that your marriage should come first. You will have to set boundaries between your life as husband and wife and your life as parents and be very intentional in order to achieve this delicate balance. The honeymoon is a good opportunity to start cultivating this. So make arrangements for the kids to stay with their other parent or any other trusted family members or friends and go and have fun at your honeymoon.
Don’t forget that the kids have already witnessed one broken marriage or union. They may have already formed negative perceptions about marriage and relationships with the opposite sex. They will be watching you closely and either have a positive outlook on marriage or a negative one. There will be plenty of time to work on this when you get back
For now go ahead and book the honeymoon of your life, indulge and spoil yourselves.
- Have fun at your wedding
You, my dear are very brave and bold and courageous. You have chosen to marry your partner despite the wrench that divorce or death might have left behind, despite the baby mama and children and the messiness that sometimes comes with being in a family that you did not start. You have chosen to love and accept your partner despite their former life. That right there sounds exactly like what family is all about. A safe haven despite the messiness of life.
You deserve to be happy on this day. Your wedding is one day so plan it, and when the day finally arrives enjoy it thoroughly and make the best memories ever!