Family and Friends
Getting to know your new in-laws is an opportunity to build a whole new set of warm, loving relationships but it is not always easy and you will probably know whether they are accepting of you already. Remember, your past is your past and you have nothing to apologise to them for.
Don’t try to compete with your loved one’s ex, particularly when it comes to parenting. If the ex betrayed your partner, the family may show insecurity. Focus on doing positive things rather than talking about what you plan to do, time will be the great revealer.
It is natural for step-children to compare you to their biological parent. Reassure them you are not a replacement, that you love their parent very much, and would like to be given the chance to love them as well.
Your loved one’s extended family and friends love them deeply. It is natural for them to want to verify if you are ‘good enough’. Believe in yourself and have confidence in your marriage. Remember that at heart, people are compassionate souls. Once the major hurdles have been overcome, belive that these are people who want to love and support you.
The Child’s Eye View
Every parent’s dream is the immediate and effortless blending of two very different families. But just like love itself, a close and loving blended family takes care, dedication, and time.
It is natural for children to be unenthusiastic, so your responsibility is to present WIIFMs (What’s In It For Me?)that will help them see their new reality in a positive light, it might be: improved finances, an exciting new place to live, and older siblings to learn from/younger ones to teach. But don’t stretch it too far, as otherwise it will appear insincere and they will not trust you. Let them know how important it is for you to love and be loved by another adult.
See things through the children’s eyes. While the details will vary, they all have the need for security and the desire to love and feel loved.
Before you say I do, ask your children open-ended questions so they can express their views. Address, but don’t indulge, their concerns. Spend time together in a typical daily situation to get used to one another.
Children often harbour the futile hope that their parents will reunite, even when there’s a new partner. This requires careful and sensitive honesty.
Some ‘do’s: Be aware of what your child has lost. Learn about your stepchildren, show you care, laugh and joke, and value their opinion. And remember to side with your spouse in a parent/child argument.
Some ‘don’t’s: Don’t make children feel they have to take sides. Don’t be in a rush to be involved in your step-children’s lives. Don’t attempt to replace or challenge the biological parent. Don’t try to be cool with their friends. Don’t force step-children onto each other. Don’t despair!
Love is a two-sided affair; it requires both support and challenge, warmth and firmness, and if you have the strength and wisdom to apply both in proper measure, your success is assured.
Don’t ever let anyone try to kid you that money doesn’t matter. At some point it will raise itself. Money comes with a host of implications that touch every aspect of our lives, mainly security, trust, options, independence and freedom.
It is important to discuss this crucial element of life openly and rationally.Discuss your respective attitudes to spending, your non-negotiable limits, where your finances sit with together etc..
Draw a financial road map for your life journey together that reflects your individual and joint goals. Determine if you need a prenuptial agreement or amendments to your will and estate planning.
Values dictate spending habits, so understand what is high on each of your lists. It’s important to know where the other is coming from or conflict will ensue.
Invest in creating a solid financial roadmap for your joint future. Share your hopes and fears and strive to understand your partner’s. Money matters are often a delicate topic but they don’t need to be. With a little communication, you’ll both be prepared for the bumps ahead.
The Legal Stuff
There are likely to be some areas of your ‘merger’ that have legal implications, so always seek proper qualified legal knowledge as it is invaluable and can save you far more later.
A union that has not gone through a formal process (De facto or common law) has varying implications from country to country. Note that De facto status is not always portable between countries.
Prenuptial agreements specify how assets will be distributed in the event of divorce or death. It is very much like travel insurance, better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it!! Ensure its validity with professional guidance.
In a marriage where children are involved, legal issues may impact guardianship and inheritance. Further, seek legal advice before attempting to change custodial or child financial support arrangements.
File proper paperwork for your will or your partner may inherit what you intended for the children, or vice versa. With children on both sides, it is advisable to have two lawyers in this process.
Clarify the ownership of your home, other real estate, and insurance policies for both the duration of the marriage and once you die.
Proper planning is essential to avoid family feuds. Once the nuts and bolts are taken care of, you can focus on the everyday – and each other.
Many new couples find it easier to settle into a new house together where no one has a previous history, so neither family feels either invaded or like newcomers on alien turf. If this is unachievable, make negotiation, compromise, teamwork, and advanced planning the order of the day.
Yours plus mine doesn’t necessarily equal ours when it comes to possessions. The equation won’t always work out because much comes from your previous lives.
Develop a system for dealing with bills, paperwork, and managing clerical matters in the home. This must work for both of you without causing major frustrations.
Building family relationships takes time. It can take years before everyone starts feeling like a family unit, and the transition is rarely smooth. Balancing community and privacy is achievable. As long as your actions are aligned with your intentions, you will have a family you love and are proud of.