You love him, but can you love his family, too?


When you marry someone, you marry their family. You marry their demanding mother, their goofy father, their sister who has “issues,” their aged grandparents, their rich Uncle Jack and all the in-laws and outlaws connected to them. If they have been married before, you also marry their kids and their ex. Maybe you only want this man or this woman, but you get the others, too.
Sometimes it’s a blessing. Maybe your own family isn’t so great and you can’t wait to jump into a new family. Sometimes it’s the other way around.
I’ve been lucky. I was married twice, and both sets of in-laws were pretty great. Not perfect, but good-hearted, sober and crime-free. No kids were involved with the first marriage; we were still kids ourselves. But when I hooked up with Fred, I became stepmother to two sons and a daughter and co-parent with their mother. For the most part, we all got along. We’ve had our quirks and disconnects over the years. We’ve fought, we’ve cried, and we’ve held each other in hard times. It is not easy melding into someone’s established family, but I love those kids and wish I saw them more often, and I consider their mom a friend.
Widowed now, I wonder about getting married again and think I just don’t have the energy to fit into another man’s family. His parents and grandparents might not be alive anymore, but there will probably be siblings, nieces, nephews and in-laws, plus children and grandchildren who will not be interested in having another mom or grandma. There’s no way I could catch up all the years I wasn’t in their lives. There are other issues. A man my age will also have property and financial matters to deal with, and his interests may be totally different from mine. It’s too late to grow together or to share a lifetime of memories. So I’m thinking I’ll do like my grandmother and great-grandmother and declare my late husband the last husband.
What has brought all this to mind? For the first time in 30 years, somebody asked me out. I had my first date yesterday with someone other than Fred. We went to lunch. He’s nice and he claims to really like me, but there were no sparks. Will I see him again? Maybe, but just as a friend.
What has all this got to do with you and childlessness? A lot of readers here are either married or considering getting married to people who already have kids. Quite a few are thinking about leaving childless marriages in the hope of having children with someone else. I think you should do whatever feels right. I never hesitated for a minute about taking on Fred’s children and family. In fact, I often thanked my husband for giving me this family.
All I’m saying is when you take on a spouse, you take on his or her baggage. Sometimes those bags can be damned heavy.
What about you? What are your experiences merging into your loved one’s family, with or without children? Blessing or disaster? I’d love to know. Please share in the comments.
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5 thoughts on “You love him, but can you love his family, too?

  1. For the most part, my experience with my partner's family has been great. He comes from a big boisterous Italian family, which is so alien to my own where it was basically just me, my mom and my maternal grandparents. So I kind of have enjoyed the experience for the first time in my life of having huge family holiday gatherings, lots of parties and weddings and other social events to attend and keep up with, the support network that is there in trying times…

    …but it can also be difficult as well. Of course a big Italian family is not going to treat us, the ones without children, like they will treat my partner's brother with his two kids and now three grandchildren. Oftentimes I feel like we are considered the “weird ones” as pretty much the only mature couple in the family who didn't procreate, not valued or given as much priority or attention as everyone else receives.

    It also means I have to deal with a lot of situations which are just really painful for me: baby showers and kids birthday parties, especially. I will confess I'm guilty of some not great behavior at some such events because I was pressured to attend them when I was at my most depressed over my childlessness. At this point I have just vowed to send a gift and not attend, not just to spare myself but to allow others to celebrate these things without me bringing the mood down for everyone else.

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  2. Sue, I thought that I could handle my husband family and it turns out that I now can't stand them – particularly his mother. I'm still glad we got married, but I have a hard time dealing with her so we keep contact to the bare minimum. It is very disappointing but the one thing I hope is that it does not interfere with my married relationship with my husband. Beyond that, I'm older and have plenty of people in my life, so I'm not looking for approval anyway. Maybe his mom should look for mine, lol.

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  3. I am hesitant about marrying his 2 kids and his family. I really want the man. I am accepting that i will never have kids and am angry. I think I am a little resentful that he already has children. Another woman ( ex) is still in the picture. Loss of privacy. Children are expensive and his previous relationship has really impacted his credit and current finances. All of these things directly effect me. Being childless, i do not want the burden financially. I am trying to experience a new “life” w/new experiences and its difficult if i always have to pay. I wish this situation was easier for me to accept. He is a great guy. Unfortunately, most men are in this boat. I feel guilty and really alone in this.

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  4. Anonymous,
    Taking on someone else's kids is never easy, but sometimes it can end up being rewarding. Many times I thanked my husband for giving me his family. The ex will be in the picture. It's unavoidable, but it is possible to all get along. Hang in there. I wish you well.

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