You’ve fallen in love with your dream woman. We all have the typical order we expect things to happen: fall in love, make a commitment and then decide if and when we want to have children with this person. But you don’t get to make that decision if the woman you love already has kids from a previous relationship. Suddenly the relationship between you and her has expanded and now involves three or more people: you, her and her kids. Here are some things to consider as you proceed.
Don’t Meet the Kids Right Away
Kids have the potential to form attachments to their parent’s new partners. Not every relationship is in it for the long haul, and it’s difficult to know in the first few months if a new relationship with will be short term or not. For that reason, it’s a good idea to wait to meet her kids until you’ve been in the relationship long enough to think it will last. How long that should be is an individual decision.
Even once you feel pretty sure that the relationship is going to be long term, it can still be a good idea to wait to meet the kids. Take some time to date one on one and enjoy the exciting time of a new relationship. The ultimate goal is to prevent the kids from becoming too attached and getting their hearts broken along with yours if the relationship doesn’t work out.
Be Honest with Yourself
Do you like kids? Even if you’ve never considered having kids before, you probably know if you generally enjoy their company. Once you meet her kids, you will likely spend a lot of time around them. If you’re not the kind of person who likes kids at all, this could be a problem. When you settle down with a woman who has kids, her kids are part of the package deal. Search your soul early enough in the relationship that you can decide if this is a commitment you want to make. If you know that you just really don’t like kids, you will save everyone a lot of hurt in the long run if you make the tough decision to get out before it gets too serious.
Take It Slowly
There’s a big difference between introductions to her kids and always being around them. Like any new relationship, you and her kids need to get to know each other, too. If you also have your own kids, you should introduce them to her kids for brief periods at first. Don’t expect to be an instant family. Start slowly and build up to spending more time together.
Expect Some Resistance at First
A lot of kids take a long time to warm up to their parents’ new partners. They are both protective of their moms and are often a bit jealous about having her attention shared with someone else. Many kids in this situation have trust issues, especially if Mom introduced them to previous partners who didn’t stick around. Depending on the ages of the kids, don’t be surprised if they give you some push back at first. Don’t argue with them or try to force them to accept you. Be patient and give it some time.
When You Become a Stepmom
Once you know the relationship is going to be long-term – maybe that you’re getting married – it’s time to start looking at your role as a stepmom. Being a stepmom can be very complicated because the kids don’t always give you the same respect they give to their other mom.
It’s important to remember that you need to earn the kids’ trust every day. You also need to defer to their mom’s opinion about how to raise the kids. That can be very frustrating because you’re there every day and may even be contributing to the kids financially. But at the end of the day, most moms will choose their kids first and you may have to learn to respect that. Family counseling can help you, your partner and the kids to all learn more effective ways of communicating with each other.
What About Her Past?
If your girlfriend’s kids come from a previous relationship in which she was with a man, it may be normal for you to have doubts in your mind. You may wonder if she’ll eventually leave you to go back with a man again. You may feel jealous and worried. This is an issue that requires a lot of talking and a lot of trust. Building that kind of trust happens over a longer period of time. You may even benefit from seeing a couples’ counselor together, depending on how worried you are.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that many women have straight relationships before they realize they are actually lesbian. There’s a lot of pressure from society to be straight, and women in particular are raised to do what they’re told and to try to live up to an ideal. She may have known she was a lesbian all along but didn’t have the courage to follow her heart at a younger age. The more you talk to her about this, the better sense you’ll have about where she stands.
Getting into a relationship with a woman who has kids has some additional challenges. However, it also has a long list of potential rewards. Be honest about what you really want and keep your heart open to the possibilities.