Should I marry a man with children? To marry or not marry a man with kids is clearly a life defining decision to take the good with the bad, AND ugly (sometimes REALLY ugly) It’s a balance between head and heart in that decision. It’s a much more complicated process than it would be with a single man with no dependents. For me the decision was really based on a lot of unknowns (I didn’t know what I didn’t know-you know?) and how I thought things would be or should be according to my expectations and my values. However, there were some expectations I had that I was aware of but there were a few I wasn’t aware of. But I didn’t REALLY know what I was getting into. It really is important to write out your expectations and explore them. Nobody shared that with me and I wish they had so I’m sharing it with you. It’s important because having an understanding of expectations can probably save some hurt and frustration, mistakes and miscommunication. I didn’t do any serious delving into my expectations. More scratching the surface. In retrospect my inventory should have looked something like this: What are my expectations for myself and my role, my expectations for my partner and his role, my expectations for my step-kids regarding behaviours, my expectations for who is responsible for discipline, my expectations for the ex regarding her behaviours, my expectations for communication with the ex and my expectations for the future of the relationship. I didn’t know how this would work or even COULD this work? Because I had some “professional” experience what I thought was going to happen didn’t…well not in the way I’d envisioned.
It’s a really good idea to be in tune with what our expectations are before we enter any intimate relationship, but even more so with a man with children. It’s much more complicated because there are more players and more emotions on the playing field. Getting in tune with those expectations can help you from becoming blindsided. Although human behaviour is impossible to predict predicting future relationships is even more so. It’s also important to have conversations with your intimate partner about those expectations as soon as you can. We very seldom have conversations about our expectations with ourselves let alone our intimate other. Unmet expectations can cause some serious disappointment because they so often go unspoken. And what if those expectations are unrealistic? How do you know if they are unrealistic when nobody tells you how this is supposed to go and what it’s supposed to look like?
So do some reading…lots of reading. I have a tab of resources so you can take a peak at some real stepfamily life real stepfamily dramas and get a sense of what may be on the horizon And take some undistracted time by yourself. Take that time to write out what your vision is for your relationship. Do you want to get married? Do you want to have children? Does he want to have more children? Where will you live? Will you have the children live with you (custody and access?) How often will they be with you? Do you even want them to be with you? If the children are there what do you think that will look like? How do you set up boundaries? Do you expect to have contact with the children’s mother? What role do you play with the children ? Friend? Disciplinarian? Confidante? Oh yeah what about finances? These are just some of the questions to consider. And let some of those subconscious expectations float up- there’s no need to edit or filter anything. When you think you have a good list, take it to someone you know and trust. Better yet someone who has experience with stepfamily life and get their input. You cannot cover every possible scenario. I thought I did and it didn’t always turn out so great because even with advanced warning things don’t always go according to plan. Have your significant other do the same exercise. Then share it with each other. Open and honset conversation with your intimate partner is a good place to start. This conversation can further unravel some of those expectations that might be buried a little bit deeper.
And a thought to leave you with: it’s not too late to communicate what your expectations are or what your vision is for your family. Best wishes on your exploration!