Dear Dr. Jann: I recently married again and now have two stepchildren in addition to a daughter of my own. We have been married six months (together only a little over a year) and I still cannot accept his children. I can’t stand to be around them. I dread the thought of them coming over. The sight of them reminds me of my husband’s marriage to his ex-wife. I know it’s not the kids’ fault. I need help! I love my husband very much but I need help accepting his children. Am I as selfish as I am feeling?
Dr. Jann says: Labeling you as selfish isn’t really appropriate. A better label might be impulsive or maybe unprepared because the problem as we see it is not that you are selfish, but that you simply got married too soon without the proper preparation. That love hormone clogged your brain and now that the fog is lifting you see that life as a bonusfamily is not automatic–and because you love the mommy or daddy doesn’t mean you’ll automatically love the kids.
Let’s analyze this for a second. Your husband and you courted before you married. You dated, you looked lovingly into each other’s eyes, made mad passionate love (I hope) and eventually got to the point that you wondered what you did all those years without each other. You spent time together getting to know each other–even if it was only for six months, there was time spent and you eventually fell in love. Rarely is there a courting period devoted to getting to know the kids–no spending one on one time sharing thoughts and dreams (especially since you two moved so fast). The new couple just announces to their offspring that they will be a family now and think things will fall in place because they love each other.
Before you were married did you ever consider how you would build a relationship with these children? Most don’t and you should have. Start now if you want to make your marriage work. Get to know the kids, sans their mother. That will come later.
In regards to the kids reminding you that your husband was once married to someone else–in this day and age, most have had relationships before they found each other. Even you have, and we know it’s tough to think about your guy with someone else, but it’s probably tougher to think of yourself without him. With that in mind, stop letting your mind run wild about their life together and concentrate on your life together. Something that might help: “If you spend your time worrying about the past, you’re devoting very little time to the present–and that’s where you really spend your time.” Get to know those kids! They are part of your family.