Archive for March 21st, 2006

March 21, 2006

Seven “essentials” before marrying someone with children?

by Rod Smith

Enjoy it? Pass it on...

Enjoy it? Pass it on...

1. Plan several sessions of “hard” talking with your potential spouse. It is essential that you temporarily forget the romantic elements of your relationship to talk business. Blending families is one of life’s most difficult challenges, which is further compounded when both parties have children.

2. Don’t try to be the stepparent before you legally occupy the role. Prematurely playing a role will create problems once you legitimately occupy it. It is essential you do not assume roles you don’t occupy. If a child (or future spouse) treats you as a parent, it doesn’t mean you are one. Troubles brew when people push themselves, or are pushed by others, into roles they do not occupy. (This is true even beyond families!)

3. Bridges are best built before they are needed. It is essential that you insist on multiple meetings with both parents of ALL the children before you consider marriage. These meetings will focus on methods of co-parenting in order to secure everyone’s best advantage. If implementing such meetings seems overwhelming to you, you are probably heading for a minefield of countless unexpected, unwelcome complications – that will seem (believe it or not) even too large for love to overcome! What is avoided (denied, glossed over, minimized) pre-wedding will rise like a rabid monster quite soon after the wedding.

4. Financial integrity is as important as sexual fidelity! It is essential that you look into every detail of all financial records of your spouse-to-be and offer your own finances for similar scrutiny — before you plan a wedding. Persons who cannot responsibly handle money are unlikely to be able to handle the pressures of thriving within a blended family. If a would-be spouse suggests information* about his or her finances are off-limits to you, wipe the dust off your feet and depart, no matter how much love you may feel. Authentic love, apart from having many other facets, is also measured in the degree of financial partnering* (not necessarily blending) is established between lovers. Resilient love seeks the wise, open use of combined resources. Because blending families also often involves complex financial arrangements (child support and so forth, divorce costs, education bills for children of a former marriage) hiding the details from a would-be spouse is exceedingly unfair to all involved.*

5. Flee “blamers.” An adult who blames their former spouse (or parents, or childhood, the new political order) for everything will also, before long, blame you for everything.

6. Avoid people who cannot engage in civil conversations with an ex, with their parents, or their children.

7. Getting Johnny (or Mary) a stepparent will not ease his dissatisfaction with the divorce, school, or his craving for a “real family.” It is essential to understand that getting married will not solve any but the most superficial current family issues. Blending families is likely to unveil and exacerbate more problems than it solves.

This said, and so much of it sounds negative, blended families hold the potential to enrich and empower all the people involved. Some of the healthiest, happiest families I have met in many years of meeting with families (in all manner of circumstances) have been blended families!

* A reader kindly pointed out that my column suggests finances ought to be blended. I do not believe this is always wise or necessary. I do believe the couple MUST be OPEN about the details or all financial matters. See comment here: http://rodesmith.com/2008/01/20/reader-comments-on-blending-finances/

March 21, 2006

Enriched is the teenager…

by Rod Smith

1. Who has many wisely chosen friends and several safe homes in which to visit and enjoy them.
2. Who has benevolent, yet alert, adult supervision.
3. Who is not over-powered by “negative” friends, and, as a result, does not engage in activities that contradict the “positive” values embodied by his or her immediate and extended family.
4. Who is wise enough not to be preoccupied with his or her peers to the unnecessarily exclusion of siblings and parents.
5. Who rejects the pervasive deception that rebellion is a necessary part of growing up.
6. Whose parents understand the delicate balance of encouraging autonomy while providing a necessary safety net when confusion or turmoil strikes.
7. Who understands the value of hard work, the joy of saving money, and the necessity of guarding his or her integrity.
8. Who has learned appropriate humility and who can therefore say things like “I am sorry” and “I was wrong” without expecting an applause or a reward.
9. Who embraces full responsibility for his or her own future.
10. Who and lives without blaming others (parents, childhood, teachers) or circumstances.
11. Who lives without feeling entitled to that which he or she has not earned.

There really are such teens. I have met many around the world.