My husband and I dated for three months before introducing him to my daughters. We worked our dating schedule around my custody schedule; consisting of week-day dinners, phone-dates, lunch-dates, endless conversations via texts, and quick meetings on the way home. I needed to be certain our relationship was solid--that he was worthy of the two people I cherish more than anything in this world. The day he met my daughters, my ex dropped them off early. There were two choices; push him out of a second-story window or just introduce them sooner than we had planned. As a mother, their hearts were my first priority, no matter how we felt about one another. I knew they would like him, but I worried they would grow attached too quickly. The image of their broken faces when their father and I told them we were getting a divorce is forever seared in my mind. I did not want to risk introducing them to someone short-term, who could potentially be ripped from their lives. I also wanted to give Bob and I time to see who we were as a couple before we became a more complicated unit, so we introduced him as my friend.
My youngest daughter, 7 at the time, immediately warmed to him, and Bob adored her. However, my 10-year-old quickly deciphered our situation by going through the trash and finding his empty Monster cans, figuring out he was more than a friend. For the first couple of months, there were no sleepovers if the girls were home.
My youngest had a bad case of the stomach flu for several days. She ran out of the bathroom with soiled underwear in hand, waving it around in Bob's face. I caught his gaze, heat rising to my cheeks. Seven years my junior, he had no children of his own, and had never been married, so I never knew how he would react. I shrugged, "Well, I think you're officially one of us now." Shaking his head, he laughed, "Yeah, I think you're right." In that moment I fell deeper in love with him. If he could handle the stomach flu and everything it entailed, he was parent-material.
He purposed five months after our first date, and in spite of some co-worker's opinion's, I accepted. We were married one year later. According to U.S. statistics, 50% of first marriages, 67% of second marriages, and 74% of third marriages end in divorce. The beginning of our relationship flowed effortlessly. I naively thought as long as we communicated with one another, and continued to spend time together, our relationship would remain in the state of bliss from the first year. I certainly knew it would never be easy, but I thought with the right person by your side, nothing could really tear you apart. There are so many different variables that contribute to each unique blended family situation to make it a challenge. Ex-husbands and ex-wives, new spouses, step-siblings, half-siblings, ex-in-laws, current in-laws, deciding if you and your spouse want to bring your own children into the relationship, all factor into the new relationship. The previous history and memories from the first marriage are frequently brought up, especially by the children, which I found to be challenging at first. If the person you are in the relationship with, like my husband, has never been married with children it's uncomfortable and challenging for them to understand that the children need to relive the memories and bring them up from time to time. In our case, we realized there were instances when one child would bring up memories on purpose to cause friction or manipulate the parents, and I feel this is important for the parents to recognize. When you suspect this behavior, I suggest family and individual therapy.
One of the first things my husband told me early in our relationship was, "There are still some nice guys out there. I can tell you this all day long and I know it won't do me any good. I'll have to show you, so as long as you will let me that is what I'm going to do."
In the first year of our marriage my husband showed me daily what I meant to him, and I tried to reciprocate. We were the couple people aspired to become.
Several events out of our control happened to our family. Someone we trusted hurt one of our children, dividing some of our extended family, putting a huge strain on both households. In the meantime, there were many other issues; two significant deaths in our families very close together, and multiple medical issues. Our families seemed to endure blow after blow. There will always be things that happen in life to try to drive us apart.
Like the seasons, marriages have natural cycles with patterns. The first consists of passion, romance, and excitement. The second is settling down, getting to know the real person, the realization of who they really are. Stage three is the rebelling stage, and the power struggle. Stage four is reconciliation, rediscovery, and new beginnings, (the empty nest stage).
Relationships are messy. At times they are downright ugly, so much so it might seem easier just to walk away. There are times in my second marriage I wonder why I thought I could make another one work, especially with the added stress of a second household, and with children who at times seem to try to drive a wedge between us. Then I remember what my husband said to me in the beginning. "There are still nice guys out there. I can tell you this all day long and I know it won't do me any good. I'll have to show you, so as long as you will let me that is what I'm going to do."
My oldest daughter and I both have multiple medical dietary limitations. My husband takes the time to find and create healthy meals we can all eat. I'm unable to have most processed food, which means we have to cook most things from scratch. Even on days when he would rather grab something out of the fridge and feed us sloppy seconds, he is still showing us his love by taking the time to prepare our meals. Marriage isn't always pretty, but there is much beauty to be found in the mess if you stick around to find it.