You are preparing the house for your college age son/daughter coming home for the summer and your new mate says, “You know, I’m not really comfortable with little Susie staying in our home because she takes up too much of our time.” Your response might be: a) I agree, honey. She can stay with her mom/dad. (Keeps the peace in the household); b) What the hell are you talking about? (Do not expect peace in your household); c) Other (Define keeping the peace for yourself).
This scenario is a reality in many homes forged by divorce. Welcome to the new age of parenting represented by this highly dysfunctional family.
Of course, most situations never start out this way – that would be way too easy to decipher. What usually occurs is the mate is accepting of your kids initially and it is only after some time that the mate might show their true colors. This might come months or years later. At some point their frustration level peeks, and they realize they are not put first (ahead of your kids) or they just don’t connect with your child’s personality. Then what? Get divorced? Never remarry?
Most people don’t want to be single and are reluctant to say no, especially to someone with whom they have a connection. However, if you don’t tell this new mate “no” then you are telling your kids – NO.
I imagine another man attempting to deal with my offspring. We all know our children’s idiosyncrasies and many times we are doubtful that other people can accept these challenges as well as we can. And that is probably true for the most part. Children can be very difficult to deal with when a new boyfriend or girlfriend is introduced. And let’s not pretend that every new mate magically gets along with your kid. I suspect more stepchildren do not get along with their new parental figure.
In addition to the struggle, Heaven forbid, the new mates are living by the Word of God. The Word dictates the male is the Head-of-Household, but it is a problem when that Head is a complete ass, or the child isn’t rooted spiritually the same as the parents. And when the child has a complaint about mommy’s new hubby how does the child go about communicating these challenges? They usually don’t – they’re kids and they don’t usually seek the authority of parents / step-parents when confronted with tough feelings.
If I sense there is going to be a problem with my new mate then I would attempt to be as open as possible with my kids. I can’t stop this trajectory of divorce and will face the potentially tough road as I embark on new relationships, but my kids should never feel second. However, is it possible to have both kids and a new mate feel first? Probably not, therefore, I’ll just avoid this powder keg before it comes to fruition. Ah, the beauty of divorce . . .
Two things: (1) that’s why the Bible says no divorce; and (2) my kids come first. Introducing another adult into your kids’ lives is stressful and must be done very carefully. Dealing with another adult in your kids’ lives that you didn’t select (but your ex did) is even more stressful.
First, be careful about introducing love interests to your children. You need to be careful about the timing as well as the stability and significance of the relationship. You don’t want a revolving door. Moving quickly not only harms your children but almost guarantees a negative reaction from your ex.
It’s a stressful and difficult thing to combine two families. If one of you has kids and the other doesn’t, it’s difficult for the person without kids to understand the bond. If you both have kids, then you have not only have the issue of ensuring that the kids get along, but you also have the concern about favoritism and the different parental approaches to education, discipline and values. Add to the mix an ex or two and the situation can be downright unbearable. There’s nothing like the drama of the other parent. A break up is hard enough without dealing with the pettiness, jealousy and spiteful acts of the other parent. That’s not to say that everyone endures this, but everyone endures at least one of these problems when they’re trying to blend families.
Now the flip side. What do you do when you ex becomes involved with someone else and your kids are exposed to a stepparent. It’s hard. You want to be the mother or father to your kids and you don’t want anyone else playing that role. Also, you don’t like the fact that your ex is building another family that just happens not to include you. That sucks, but do what’s best for your child. So long as your kids are happy, suck it up. If, on the other hand, your kids are being mistreated, I strongly suggest having a talk with your ex. If that doesn’t work, the lawyer in me says take it to court. Your kids’ physical and emotional safety is paramount.
My advice: (1) don’t date someone who doesn’t like kids or your kids. Kids are not pets. Don’t rationalize the situation by thinking that your kids will “grow on” your romantic interest; (2) watch how the children of the romantic interest behave. If they’re monsters why take that on and risk your own kids turning into monsters? (3) if your ex has a romantic interest that isn’t treating your kids well, say something. Don’t get into a petty argument. Try to speak calmly and rationally. If that doesn’t work, go see a lawyer.
In sum, unlike He Said, I do think it’s possible to successfully blend families, but it takes a lot of insight, a lot of work, and a lot of understanding.