My husband and I met in 2003; we were both going through the process of divorce which was a very difficult time for both of us. Initially we just became very good friends; we supported each other through our respective breakups and chatted easily about our hopes for the future. After a while we realised that our hopes for the future were very similar and that actually we were very in tune with each other. We both instinctively knew that a relationship together was the way to go – but what about the kids!
We gradually started spending more time together as a family unit, having tea together, going to the park and stuff like that. I was in the process of buying a new home for my boys and I, my husband had already set up home with his boys. As a result of us all spending more time together my husband put bunk beds in his spare room so that my boys and I could stay over. I wouldn’t say it was an easy time – it often felt very intense but we gradually forged a way through. All of our boys stayed with us on a week-on, week-off basis to start with which did give my husband and I time on our own to actually build our relationship. We are both talkers and communicate really well, which I think helped when it came to establishing ground rules for the boys. We acknowledged the differences in the way we brought our boys up – he was too soft, I was too strict! We worked on finding some middle ground and thankfully the boys learnt to adapt really well. To cut a long story short, I got my house, my husband sold his and we all moved into it together. In June 2006, with our boys blessing, my husband and I got married.
I found it very hard not having my boys living with me all the time and wished I could find a way for them to come and live with me full time. I went to an academic day at their school and found out that due to the marriage breakup and change in living situation, their school work was suffering badly, homework wasn’t being done and expected grades weren’t being achieved. On further investigation I found out that their dad wasn’t really parenting them – he was letting them do their own thing. I knew that their dad was about to change jobs, requiring more travelling from home, plus he had a new baby on the way with his partner – this gave me the golden ticket I needed to broach the subject of them coming to live with me; which the boys wanted too. Happily it all worked out ok and apart from a few incidental things, I didn’t really have any further problems with my ex.
I wish I could say the same thing about my husband’s ex-wife. She has caused us many problems over the years, even as recently as last year, causing us a great deal of stress and upset; however we’ve always managed to work through these problems by talking things through. It is hard not to feel resentful sometimes, when you get caught up in ex-stuff that you have no control over, but my husband and I have both had to make sacrifices and compromises over the years.
Apart from shielding them from some of the hurtful marriage breakup/ex stuff, we have always been honest with the boys; we have tried very hard not to speak badly of their other parents, even at the height of our struggles with them. Young children, who need protecting, become young adults who soon learn to form their own opinions about who is consistent, dependable and trustworthy in their lives. There has been many a time in recent years where we have heard “well you know what dad’s like” or “you know what mum’s like – I don’t take any notice anymore”. It doesn’t mean they don’t love their other parents – it’s not a competition. They are just being honest, knowing that we understand.
My husband and I are really honest about how we feel about our step kids – we acknowledge where they push our buttons and that we don’t have the same feelings for them, as we do for our own boys but that’s ok, in fact it’s quite natural. We know that we are really lucky but we have had to work at it – making time for ourselves is vital and communication is key.
I hope that my walk through step family life has been helpful – if I can offer any advice please let me know in the comment section below.
About the writer: Nicky is a member of our Family Matters Institute team. She is an advocate for dads and families, and engages regularly with our dad.info audience on our Facebook page.
Updated on 5.9.2017