The Garter Brides will tell you that when you meet someone later in life, odds are high that one or both of you already have kids. In "Love for Grown-ups," we interviewed tons of women who faced this real-life situation and suggested ways to make it work. In fact all three of us who wrote the book became instant step-moms when we said "I do"!
So, what do you do when you love him, but his kids ... not so much?
Here are some tips for making things go as smoothly as possible.
Keep your expectations in check. Treat your relationship with his kids like you would with anyone new. Go slowly. It would be pretty unusual if you, your new love, his kids and your kids got along right away.
Be yourself and give it time. Divorce is tough on kids. They've already weathered one divorce and they may hesitate when dad welcomes someone new into his life. Whether they fear divorce will happen again or they secretly harbor a hope that Dad and Mom will get back together (no way is that going to happen), accepting another woman (and maybe step-siblings) is difficult.
Don't put your husband in a no-win situation. Make sure you and he are on the same page about discipline and responsibilities the kids have when they visit. You and he should talk over the things that may be bothering you. Be prepared as a team.
He loves you. He loves his kids. Never put him in the position where he has to choose between you and his kids. You won't win. Even if you think you've patched it up, resentment and mistrust will always be there.
Will you love his kids? Will he love your kids? Maybe, maybe not, but when we interviewed women for our book, a lot of Garter Brides told us how they grappled with problem step kids. Some they grew to love, some they didn't, but none of them gave up on finding ways to make it work. Talk to your friends, ask for suggestions. Don't stress out; commiserate with girlfriends.
Remember that time is on your side. Kids grow up, move out, move back, move out again, get married have their own kids. Life experiences change us all. Try to be understanding and open to what your stepchildren will have to learn to face. You may very well end up being the person they turn to for comfort and advice. But most important, focus on making a happy life for you and your new husband. A happy successful relationship is what it's all about.
Ann Blumenthal Jacobs, Patricia Lampl and Tish Rabe are the authors of Love for Grown-ups: The Garter Brides' Guide to Marrying for Life When You've Already Got a Life, a relationship guide for women over 35 on how to find Mr. Right, marry and find life-long happiness. The Garter Brides are a sisterhood of women who got married later in life and wore the same garter at their weddings! They offer tried and true advice on how to have the love and life you want.