James Robertson is an author and freelance writer who specializes in family and business — and he loves writing about video games.
Anyone who has gone through a divorce will know about the depression that ensues afterwards. Many times, you feel like a failure and adapting to your new life will be difficult. Even if you are leaving an abusive relationship or one where you are left alone most of the time anyways, it can still be difficult to accept the fact that you are truly alone now.
I believe it is because of this depression that the divorce rate in second marriages is even higher than in first marriages. People have already been through a divorce so they know they can do it and many times they rush into the marriage because they want to have that support back. Humans are naturally social creatures, and we are not meant to be alone.
Let me caution you to not move in too quick. Especially if there are kids involved. I have had many friends who are single parents and the moment they meet someone who they think is “the one” they immediately get them to move in or get married way too fast.
After seeing friends do this, I refused to do it after my divorce. I began a relationship with my current wife within a year of my divorce, but we kept it between the two of us for a year before bringing our kids around one another. After a year of dating, we began going places with both families but introduced one another as friends to our kids, never mentioning the word “dating.” After almost a year of that we told the kids that we were a little more than just friends and almost a year later we were engaged.
This method is a little drawn out, but we found that taking it slow was a good thing for a few reasons. Let’s dive into those reasons below.
We Had Time to Test Drive the Blended Family
Hollywood is full of movies showing blended families gone wrong. Adam Sandler recently made a movie called Blended and it is all about families that are trying to make their relationships work with kids from another marriage.
The stereotype of kids yelling “you’re not my dad/mom” at step-parents is so overplayed in movies it has become a cliché. Ultimately, that doesn’t have to be the case. There is a way around it. I don’t spank my step-son but I do discipline him by taking away electronics or grounding him and I’ve never had those words spoken to me. I’ve been in his life for 4 years and it hasn’t happened yet.
I believe the next section is the main reason I haven’t heard those words but test driving the relationship was an important factor.
Spending some time in the testing phase is a great start because it lets you see how your families act as a cohesive unit before you make changes that can only be reversed through court. If two of the children don’t get along you can adapt and see how things work before making a commitment. My wife and I didn’t have any major issues with the kids playing together but there were minor issues we needed to iron out and that was easy to do when we knew we had time. We could work on those problems and then take the kids back to our separate houses to try again another day. If we all lived in the same house we wouldn’t have that opportunity to separate and try again later. Our only option would be to solve the problem then.
We Built a Relationship with the Kids - Not as a Parent
If you thrust your kids into a situation where this new person in their life is an authority figure on scale with their parent, you are asking for the “you’re not my dad/mom” situation to arise. My wife was put into this situation as a child. Her step-father came into the home, began making a bunch of changes, and started acting like her dad. He had not earned the right to discipline her in any capacity. He just assumed it was his right. As a result, she rebelled and the relationship was hurt for a long time (she would probably argue that it has never been a good relationship).
Starting out you should put yourself in a position to get to know the kids. Let the parent do the disciplining or correcting and you step in for the fun times. Treat the relationship with the child the same way you would with your possible new spouse. You don’t unload all your baggage or start yelling at them for stupid stuff the moment you start dating. Do the same with the kids. Don’t step in as an authority figure for a long time. Be there for fun and concentrate on building that relationship
The Kids Had Time to Adapt
The final benefit (at least the ones I’ll outline here) is that postponing marriage for a few years gives the kids time to adapt to their new family.
When my wife and I started talking we spent the first year getting to know one another. No kids were involved. Then we went to the zoo with both families and a few other friends. It was a great way to break the ice without it being just the five of us (my two kids, her son, and us two). Then we removed the friends after a few weeks and had it just us five.
Over the course of a few years we started spending more and more time together with the kids. At first we would do something every other week. Then every week. Then a couple times a week.
By the time we got engaged our families were used to spending at least a few days a week at one another’s house.
But we didn’t jump straight into that schedule. It took us a few years to build up to that point. The kids were so accustomed to spending time together, they actually looked forward to it.
Children are very malleable at young ages but we tend to take advantage of that as adults and put them into positions where we expect them to adapt quickly. With school, making friends, learning a language and the other concepts they’re expected to know, it can be a lot going on. Don’t stress them out more by thrusting them into a new marriage. Let them adapt slowly on this one.
I know it is a lot for me to ask you to take things slowly. You are sick of being alone and just want to have that person you love around all the time. I get it. I’ve been where you are at right now.
If you could step back and take the advice of someone who has been there, let me tell you that it is more rewarding to do it the right way. Twenty years from now it won’t matter to you that you dated for a month before moving in or two years.
I look back at the years we dated as a small blur in my life. We’ve been married a few years now and it feels like just yesterday we started talking.
Time will pass before you know it and you’ll be married after dating for a few years and letting your kids adapt the right way. It will be more rewarding and you’ll be glad you did it when you have a good relationship with your step-child/children.