Becoming a blended family is a huge adjustment. And while there’s much to celebrate, it’s also important to prepare for the many challenges you’re going to face as you transform what was “his” and “hers” into “ours.” Before you take your relationship to the next level by getting married or moving in together, explore the following questions:
How Will We Make Our Relationship a Priority? - Especially if you’re used to being alone on dates or at one another’s homes, living together with your children is going to be an adjustment.
Don’t wait for some type of “problem” to pop up before you decide to intentionally tend to your relationship with your partner. Make plans to continue dating one another or schedule an occasional weekend getaway so that you can have some time alone.
How Will We Help the Kids Adjust? - Your kids may have very mixed feelings about living together. Even if they’re excited, they will probably have some serious concerns about sharing your love and affection. Talk with your partner about how both of you can work together to help the kids adjust. This may mean that you’ll need to minimize the PDA, even in your own home, for the kids’ sake, or that you need to schedule one-on-one time with each child to reassure them of you love and continued attention, while minimizing jealously.
How Will We Handle Our Finances? - It’s likely that remarrying or moving in together will result in a larger sum of total income for you and your children.
However, it’s important to determine right from the start how you plan to share your money with your new partner. Will you have a joint checking account? Will all of the bills be shared, or will some expenses be kept separate? In addition, how will decisions about spending money be made? Will you have autonomy to make decisions on behalf of yourself and your children, or will all financial decisions need to be discussed together?
It would be wise to hash out these issues ahead of time and work together to stick to a monthly spending budget that will force both of you to be intentional in your approach to spending money.
Where Will We Live? - This is one of the first questions your kids will ask, and it’s an important consideration, especially if you and your partner currently live far apart. If being together will require either of you to move, discuss all of the pros and cons surrounding the decision, and come to an agreement together, so that neither of you will resent the other over the decision later. Be sure to explore schools in the new location, as well, and consider how moving may impact your children’s ongoing relationship with the other parent. In some cases, you may need to have a move approved by the courts, and you may be expected to cover any additional transportation costs associated with your child's visits to see the other parent.
What Kind of Blended Family Do We Want to Be? - You may have a clear picture in your mind of how you hope your children and your partner’s children will interact, and, unfortunately, that image may be much rosier than the real-life version. Decide up front how you’re going to be intentional about cultivating positive sibling relationships among your children.
This may involve scheduling regular family outings, game nights, or movie nights together. At the same time, though, try not to put too much pressure on your children. Healthy step-sibling relationships take time to develop, and allowing your children to get to know one another in their own way and in their own time may result in deeper, more lasting relationships than trying to force them to get along from the get-go.