How to Decide Whether to Marry a Man With Children

Falling in love with someone can be more complicated as we age and change relationships, bringing our past lives in tow. When a relationship has to take account of someone else's children as well, it can be a difficult decision for you to make and should not be one that is taken lightly. Coping with someone else's children, especially when you are not used to raising children, can be an abrupt and disruptive change in life circumstances, although it can also be really rewarding. This article discusses the things that you need to address before saying "I do" to a man who has children already.


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    Consider how you feel about children. If you have never had children, what is the reason for this? Did the opportunity simply pass you by or don't you really want to have children? If you don't want or don't like children, this is already a warning signal - you will not be able to simply dismiss or ignore your intended kids, and you won't be able to keep him away from his kids (at least, not if you're smart). On the other hand, if you like children but the chance has never come up before, this is a positive sign.
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    Consider how your children will cope blending with a new family. If you have children of your own who still require your care, it is important to think through how you will facilitate their passage into a new family. It is important to let them spend time with your new man's children, so that they can get to know one another. This will also allow you to observe how they get along, and it provides an opening for you to hold a conversation with them later.
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    Address any doubts that you might be feeling. The initial advice is that if you do have any doubts, it is either not the time to marry, or maybe it will never be the time to marry this man. These are the sorts of questions you need to ask yourself:
    • Can I manage a relationship that comes with children?
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    • Can I cope becoming a stepparent to someone else's children?
    • Is this something I can enjoy in the long-term (because it is for the long-term)?
    • Do I like the children? Do they like me?
    • Can I cope with any physical or emotional disabilities that any of the children have? Am I willing to take on the responsibilities that such care entails?
    • Am I willing to put in the time needed to teach, nurture, and raise these children as my own? Or at least to allow my man to raise his children and stay out of his way as he does so?
    • Do I agree with his parenting style and how will this affect me or my children?
    • Is this love enduring enough to cope with the initial upheaval learning to parent new children will cause?
    • Are there other sources of support to help me and my proposed new spouse?
    • Will their mother be able to help or is she ill, absent, gone for good? Or, is she resentful and spiteful, and likely to make this hard for me?
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    Be very honest with yourself. Love doesn't overcome a lot of challenging parental arrangements. You must be able to walk into this with your eyes wide open, expecting some resentment from the new children, from your own children (if any) and possibly from other people linked to the relationship, including the ex-wife, grandparents, and siblings of your husband-to-be.
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    Consider the children first. While you may be feeling starry-eyed and blissful, the children may be wary and even dreading what's to come. Remember that his children were a part of his life before you were. And remember, too, that it's not going to be fair to make his children feel "less than" if and when you and your man choose to have a child of your own. There are a lot of very complex emotions and mechanisms that will come into play, particularly if your man is not the custodial parent of his children and your prior children live with the two of you - when they come to visit every other weekend, it's very likely they will already feel, not so much like guests, but more like intruders in the home. Any children that are the result of your marriage are their half-siblings - the prior children may love their sibling, but very much resent you. You must be prepared to cope with that, as well as policing your own instinct to see his children as threats to your own children. It sounds easier than it is in practice.
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    Trial run things. It might be easier to test the waters by spending time together for a longer period rather than rushing into marriage. Even living together might be an option for you if that feels okay. Time will give you the opportunity to see if you are managing and it will let the children see that this new arrangement could work, giving them time to get used to it. On the other hand, time could also reveal that it isn't going to work, so be prepared for that possibility too.
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    Be sensible, not selfish. When there are children involved, the complexity of having a romantic relationship increases manifold. Unlike when you were younger and children were not part of the romance equation, the romance now is fringed by the need to take into account what works for every person involved, not just for the two people in love. Despite the romantic notion shown in movies of large families melding together, the realities are much harder; more costly, more prone to friction, more likely to not work out. If it doesn't work out between you and this man, it is important to remember that you may still have a connection with (and love for) children that aren't your own - children who may still want or need you in their lives. That's a lot of responsibility for children that belong to someone else - a someone else that you may no longer want to deal with. You may come to a point where you need to walk away from both this man and his children. As such, it is really important to be sensible and not selfish in the decisions that you reach.
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    If you do decide to go ahead, embrace the decision fully. If you have answered the questions, faced the doubts, and addressed the possible challenges, you have done the hard preparation work. Be conscious that the road ahead will not be smooth running but if you have taken the time to do the groundwork and you are fully aware of what might be ahead, it should be a journey filled with love, dedication, and the determination from both you and your spouse-to-be that this is going to work.


  • Remember that children have no choices at all, they must simply deal with the decisions of the adults responsible for them. Think about how powerless you would feel in their position, and behave with care, compassion, and concern for them first. You can always choose what you wish to do, where you want to go. They must do as they are told.
  • Where possible, it is also important to involve the children in making decisions about their lives ahead. Listen to them and learn from them.
  • Take your time during the courtship to get to know the children and remember that children are easily bribed. A few small treats and favors can bear positive fruit the longer your relationship continues. If you're considerate and attentive you may find yourself winning them over without really trying. Listen to them and pay attention to their real needs and wants. Respect teens as individuals, listen to their concerns and ideas. Teens are at an age of strong passions and deep convictions, be sure to draw a line between holding your boundaries and trying to break their will to conform to your beliefs.
  • Spend a lot of time talking through these issues with the man you would like to marry. Both of you are equally responsible for a balanced, healthy and fully informed decision here.
  • If you want to have more children with this man, it is important that he is on board before you marry, and that both of you have discussed the challenges that this may present for existing children and for your finances, space, and lifestyle. Also take into account your age, your potential spouse's age and the age differences with existing children. While it might feel romantic now to want to have more children with this man, if this means children holding back both of you in your 50s and 60s from a less heavily child-responsible life, it may not appear so rosy. You need to face these issues well in advance and not simply "feel the love".


  • It's all too often that children of a previous marriage are as heartily resented by the new spouse as the new spouse is resented by those children. The difference is that, as the new spouse, you have much more power than they do. Be kind and understanding.
  • Don't force your kids to call your new man "dad," especially if their father is still alive, whether or not he is involved in their lives. Don't force your new man's kids to call you "mom," either. Don't refer to him as "your dad." You will confuse them. It doesn't matter if their other parent is a convict, a druggie, a drunk, or an uninvolved jerk - both your and your man's kids will have complex, conflicted feelings about all of you at all times. The kids may love both of you and want to call you mom, dad, whatever - but doing that may make them feel like they are betraying their other parent. Don't push it - just let things happen naturally and at the kids' pace.
  • Don't assume that you will instantly step into the parental role in their eyes. Instead, assume the bearing of a kind and compassionate friend. Do not try to discipline these children - let your husband discipline his own children. By the same token, you should take responsibility to discipline your children, rather than handing over the parental reins to your new man.

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