I’m dating a man with children (15F, 19M, 23M) all living at home, full-time. They really like me, and have warmly welcomed me into the family.
I need help with sharing his time. If I try to only see him on "date nights" I miss him. We don't want to date others but quite frankly it’s hard for me to balance my life, a life with just him, and a life with the whole gang. I enjoy them all but it’s a new experience and I find myself getting wiped out!
Nancy B. — San Jose, CA
Hats off to you for winning the kids over. That part can be rough going—especially with teen girls. So: this is not a guy you’re dating, but rather a whole family you’re trying on for size. I don’t think the answer lies in a rigid formula mapping out the number of times or hours you’ll spend together. Instead, this could be a shining opportunity to master saying “no thank you” as easily as you say “Yes, that would be nice.” Set the stage now for the kind of fluidity in your schedule that serves you best and fills all your different tanks.
Enjoy the family when it feeds your nurturing side or when you need a fix of fun that comes from a group dynamic. Relish the romantic aspects where the two of you have exclusive time together. And communicate to him the importance of date night. You don’t want to cut the courtship short just because there are others in the family who also want your company. And when you get home, bask in the solitude of your own place. You really can have the best of all three worlds, and that balance you’re seeking may just present itself when you keep your needs at the forefront, even with kids involved.
On a related note, if you ever find yourself in a situation where there’s a lot of “hanging out” going on at his house where everyone is doing their own thing and you’re not really getting a ton of attention from your guy, be sure to either pass on that opportunity and instead use that time to focus on something enriching for you, or make sure that you have your own thing to keep you busy, too, like plunging into a good book. Speaking of books…
I know you’re not asking, but I would feel remiss in not providing some relevant information for you:
The eminent divorce researcher and clinical psychologist E. Mavis Hetherington suggests that the divorce rate is as high as 65 percent for remarriages in which one partner has children from a previous union. The divorce rate for remarriages with children is 50 percent higher than that for remarriages with no children, and remarried couples rate children as the number one source of stress and tension in their marriages. Only 5 percent of Hetherington’s 1,400 study participants reported that they considered their stepchildren an asset to their marriage.
Crazy statistics, right? You might have better odds because the children are older, but don’t kid yourself thinking the youngest one will be out of the house in three years; you’re most likely looking at a decade or so, especially in our wobbly economy.
One of the biggest contributors to the failure of blended families is our natural instinct to self-sacrifice. The concessions you make can make sense at the time, and they may seem like small change, but the buildup of all those sacrifices can cause resentment. To get in front of this and set yourself up to beat the odds, I recommend you read Stepmonster by Wednesday Martin, Ph.D., but maybe not at his house when you’re sharing opposite ends of the couch with the 15-year-old.
I will leave you with some good news. While the divorce rate for remarriages with children is dramatically higher than that for remarriages without children in the first three years, such marriages, having passed the three-year mark, are more likely to survive than first marriages. Researchers have found that after about five years, a remarriage with children is more likely to succeed than any other type of marriage. In other words, if you can deal with that kind of pressure early on, you’ll be able to hang for the long haul.