Real Relationship Advice
Does the evil step-parent myth still exist? You bet! Any adult entering a relationship with a person with children must take into account the ramifications of becoming a parent figure to those children. This is why it is harder for people with children to find a partner. Many are spooked by the possibility that they could be the evil step parent or worse, be stuck with a child that will vilify them forever. Many parents are oblivious to how heavily influenced the role of step parent and step child are by the media. There are so few happy stories out there of happy, healthy blended families. We know that the horror stories are just louder than the happy ones.
The fear of a ready-made family is also very real. When you have children involved, the honeymoon phase of a relationship gets commuted to time stolen. You make an extra effort to include the children to avoid being the evil step parent. You make an extra effort not to monopolize your spouse to avoid being the evil step parent. This leads us to the question we recently received:
I am engaged to this great girl who has 2 kids. I have two kids of my own. We have decided to move in together. I am trying not to be a baby but I really would like some attention, too! I don’t want her kids to think I’m a dick and I appreciate that she is doing so much for my kids but that leaves me with nothing. How do I talk to her about this?
The good news is that you are tackling this issue before you are even married. Most families avoid the topic until it is too late or there are so many hurt feelings that a solution is more difficult. This issue, as I mentioned above, is very common. You must broach it with her first not accusatorially but as a foundational conversation on how you will parent your step kids. How would you define your role as a step parent?
This conversation then needs to become a family conversation. This discussion is vital if you are to become an integrated family system. Discuss your roles, commitment and lay out how things will work. If there are shared custody issues this conversation needs to be extended after this to include the ex’s. The reason why these relationships get so messed up is that we deny that everything we do is interrelated with everyone. We deny that the non-custodial parent has any impact other than alternate weekends. Including everyone is the healthy way of dealing with blended families and creating a strong foundation for the children. This strategy will help your family avoid any possible issues with undermining power or even triangulation.