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Free advice for those entering a relationship with Step Kids

captjacksprrw's picture

This MAY belong on the non bio but just offering advice that has cost me time, sanity, sleep and spirit but is coming along. 

So you are entering a relationship and he/she has kids.  Particularly older kids that are near or are technically adult (e.g. 17, 18).  I've been married for 7 years and my SS's are now 28 and 23.  Most of these suggestions are based on things I/We did wrong and had to work hard to resolve.  There may be a few that were cool wins where we did something successful.  In my case, I never had children of my own

  • Be Certain that you are committed and love your partner and that they love and support you
  • Get to know the future Step children pretty well before considering marriage.  Spend some time and get a feel for the dynamic
  • As you move closer to engagement and marriage, make certain the two of you have a solid plan (yes, this one NOT in my win column, cost a good deal to learn)
    • Set regular times where just the two of you talk and agree to share openly regarding the relationship, the kids and the household
    • Cannot stress enough there is Zero stigma or harm in finding a good quality counselor and engaging with your partner
    • As you talk, make sure both are staying open AND understanding that your partner understood what you THOUGHT you were saying (ask them to repeat back what you said, make sure you understand what they intended to say).  Example here ... a Bio may see a suggestion about behavior as an attack on their parenting
    • For the love of all that is Holy, please establish an understanding between the two of you that YOU TWO are the adults, the kids are at or above legal adult age, the house and the behavior within is NOT a democracy with them; you and your spouse are the leaders.  Period and zero exception
  • Reach an agreement or set a safe word where you can easily and clearly communicate to your partner if things are getting sideways with the household and that includes the two of you ... are you two out of balance on sharing the day to day
  • Once you two agree on acceptable behavior both spoken and actions, ensure Both of you communicate this to the kids.  They must understand these are not crazy rules, this is just how the house and family works.  We love you and you must help with dishes, keep your room clean, don't buck up on or put down the adults.
  • Reiterate to the kids that they ARE the kids and not the adults in this environment.  Your honest hope for them is that they will become the leaders of THEIR house and will be very successful when that time comes
  • Continue to set regular time to talk with your spouse.  Make certain you have at least one time every week that you have true alone time sans any dependant
  • Did I mention keep talking?

After 7 years and a tangled path to now, these are all things I am realizing and would suggest to Anyone.  In my case started great, reached a point of unbearable because we had not set these rules.  For years, my wife and I made the mistake of helping them with laundry, not insisting that they help resulting in piled up rooms and dishes stacked high.  They would see the sink full and go find yet another clean dish to dirty.  One fall, our youngest expected we would keep cleaning tumblers from his hot drinks.  At one point I was so mad that I let every single tumbler in the house sit on the counter until there was no room an then he was quite upset when his favorite grew mold.  This continued to a point that I totally gave up but the root cause was WE adults did not stand up to the kids.  As the StepDad I felt on too unstable of ground to push it ... bad mistake.  I gave up and was just marking time until they launched.  Well YSS did early and is now an excellent father and husband and has my compete respect.  OSS(28) is still at home, pays rent and as recent as the last month his dirty room and not clearing out the washer/dryer has been of issue.  This ended with a series of extremely nasty arguments ( I said baaaaddd stuff) with my wife.  Only After this was I able to realize the source was that I gave up and I felt utterly deserted and not supported.  We are working hard to rebuild now and after he saw some of the explosion I sincerely hope my SS28 will launch by 30.  It's not that I am kicking him out, I want him to be successful and am trying so hard to get my DW to understand that we are harming his future.  He is not such a delicate flower that he cannot succeed on his own and he will have a safety net but if we continue to say and do nothing I will lose my sense of direction and mind with an over 30 at the house.

Please try these suggestions early.  I went from the happiest, most positive man walking to an angry, bitter grump who often has a glass half empty.  It will be a long mental workout to get back to happiest man walking.  For the Geeks here ... think Thor early days, then Thor end game.

ESMOD's picture

Your post makes some good points..but there is a real risk that in the "laying down the law" to the skids the Sparent is going to bear the brunt of the blame for "messing up their life".

If their parent didn't have prior expectations of them taking out the trash.. making their bed.. doing laundry.. having a curfew etc.. then it's pretty clear WHO wants these changes and who will be resented for it.

captjacksprrw's picture

I agree there could be hard feelings but when the SKids already don't treat you like one of the adults then what do you do?  They will blame the non bio no matter what in many cases so why worry.  Main issue is the ADULTS coming to an agreement and making the rules.  Kids can make the rules when they launch.  Example ... I feel that I now have a great relationship with my youngest SS.  However, around 18 or so he commented "That man has done nothing for me other than monetary" .... which really cut because he forgot me rushing him to the hospital and his own father saying well, ok let me know how it is going or being there all hours, taking care of him when sick, talking about hurt feelings with a girlfriend, etc. 

I do agree; the darlings may blame but be aware they may blame anyway since there are other dynamics at work

Lollybobs's picture

If they're going to blame you, they'll find a reason no matter what you do. At least once you've agreed on and stick to house rules, you have control back in your home. 

WornDownSD's picture

As a SD of three now-adult SKids (23 SD, 28 SS, 29SS), with grandkids by oldest SS who is now on marriage # 3, after 22 years of this, even getting involved early does not guarantee that everything does not go out the window when the SKids decide they are "adults" now.  I thought I knew what I was getting into, and my poor wife knew it was going to be rough....but not this rough, and not for soon to be 23 years of drama.  And we got professional help many, many times, for each SKid and us.  It does help, but the constant onslaught wears you down, and you struggle to hold the line....and the SKids advance their way, and you have to set boundaries AGAIN.

Kona_California's picture

This is really good advice. In the name of the partners of the household being put first.... if you want her nearly 30-year-old to be out of the house, I think you're totally within reason to let her know. Having her adult child there for that long wears on your relationship. You should be able to finally have your space to yourselves without that stress. And you're right, having him live there while he doesn't even have basic life skills is doing him a disservice. He needs to feel what it's like to live in a place where he's the only one who has to clean up after him. He also should experience independance to become a more well-rounded human. If it were me, I would say this needs to happen. Give him a 45-day notice for him to be independant. 

Or, if for whatever reason he stays, then his rent goes up to pay for a cleaning service since he refuses.

Burritoman's picture

Well said post. I actually created an account so I could comment. I have been reading here for a while. Thanks for the advice, I have been contemplating moving in with the girlfriend for a while....there's just one problem. The 19yr kid.

bertieb's picture

I made the mistake of thinking it's only 5 years and they will be on their own. Wrong! Older kids can mean bigger problems even if there doesn't seem to be any at the time you are dating. Life happens, one may turn out to be a failure to launch, or develop a substance problem, or not be able to manage money or have a mental health crisis, etc. we didn't discuss how long we would support adult children and aren't on the same page. His never had to do chores or wash a dish or get up before 2:00pm or work a summer job. I expected mine to have responsibilities in the summer. He thought his could rest after a hard school year.Discuss these things  if you can so you won't be stressed!

Burritoman's picture

....for the advice. Sorry you had to go through that! 

captjacksprrw's picture

Good for you!!  Yes, SS23 got out and worked because he really loved being able to be with friends and pay for repairs for his truck. He is now doing excellent ... SS28 was coddled, every excuse made and did not get Any job ever until he was 25

Penny19's picture

We all have different experiences with our SKs and spouses. It's an entirely different dynamic when the 2 SS's are criminals and drug addicts that have over 100 arrests between the two and have been in and out of prison all their lives. We've paid emotionally and financially.  They and their father have their kumbaya moments but I have NEVER gotten an apology but at this point, it'd be too little, too late. The thing is these are my DH's kids, not mine so I couldn't care less if I ever saw them again. I don't want either of them in my house...ever.  I also have a SD in her 40's who just had a baby. So, if you are not prepared for SKs you will not be prepared for step grandkids. Now the holidays are here and my stress level is off the charts. I would have to side with the other poster's free advice: DON'T....unless you can predict the future.

oatsnhoney's picture

My advice would be don't do it. don't marry, keep your own place. If you want kids find someone to marry who has non.