Looking for love again later in life will surely compound the complications to your new relationship. Unlike the spotless Stepford Wives, your new scenario will likely include sinister stepchildren. Beware besotted beauty, regardless of their ages or sex, repeated stomping on your toes produces giant blisters. Whoever coined the term “stepchildren” must have been bleeding profusely from the wounds inflicted by Daddy’s darlings.
The first thing to determine as you are eyeballing your Prince is what strategy his kids are scheming in regards to you. Detour? Delay? Denial? Or the most noble game of all…Derail?
Here are seven key insights to keep in mind when difficult stepchildren are in the picture:
1. Sitting together at Starbucks, you and your intended assure each other, “Ours is the rare later-in-life fairy tale. There surely will be no problems as our children have already left the nest we are considering cohabiting. They have their own lives.” However, grown children—though possessing scattered gray hairs and facial wrinkles—do not ensure familial bliss. In fact, the mind games played at this level can be more honed and devious.
2. Although you feel your love life has been perfected, any Victoria’s Secret stash bought prior to your debut as the latest delightful debutante deliberately deceiving their dad will be scrutinized. Any clothing left at his house regardless of its nature will only induce further distrust of your intentions. While residing in his abode, it’s better to keep your corset in a closed closet and your weekend wear no where to be known. Lavender-scented shelf liner will assure later laughs as you pull out your personal affects.
3. Stepmothers should take their responsibilities seriously. No flirty or flimsy frocks should be donned during his family dinners. Instead, wear armor in case arrows are flung your way. Your décolletage should go undetected and your cleavage always covered. Instead, acceptable stepmother assets include extra body inches anywhere and a flaccid mid section.
4. If their mother, his Ex, was a whiz in the kitchen, or could barely boil water, stay clear. Even if you graduated from Le Cordon Blue school in Paris, and Julia Chiles studied with your grandmother personally, be prepared to be ballyhooed if you attempt the casserole you so carefully cooked during your courtship. You’ll never be up to par with his prior partner so don’t try. And God knows, if anyone on his side pays you a paltry compliment, say thank you in a meek and modest manner. Be thankful for any small scraps.
5. It’s a fact, no one, you included, can come close to Her Sainthood. Never try to traverse the holy waters. Instead of Mother Theresa, consider yourself akin to the Mother of the Groom at a society wedding. Shut up, sit a lot, smile a lot, and shake your head up and down a lot regardless of the stab wounds sticking in your settee.
6. If you bring your own progeny into his protected turf, it can really get tricky. It’s important to have discussed the likely scenarios before everyone assembles. Rest assured, his kids will be wary and your kids should be warned. Your brood should never finger the food first at the new family affair; they must talk in soft, kind tones to each other, and pay his heirs high compliments on everything imaginable. Never should there be anything discussed that might pose a disagreement. Just as Emily Post advices, never discuss money, politics, or religion. Tell your darlings to daintily dance around any differences at that first meeting.
7. Competition between the bloodlines is to be minimized. Badminton, board games and karaoke are not allowed. It’s easy to let this get out of hand. Yes, decades of tennis lessons could pay off handsomely as your son aces another serve against his overmatched oaf. But, any quick win will be overshadowed by long losses. You’ll likely lose your lover and your loved ones will lament, “another one bites the dust.”
It is true, dating or marrying a man with older children can come with unexpected complications. But take heart, a balanced sense of humor, some sweatpants, and a practiced smile and nod need to be part of your repertoire. Don’t expect instant acceptance from stepchildren; instead be patient and continue your search for a balanced and budding relationship.
Donna Arp Weitzman is a Dallas-based wife, mother, businesswoman and author of the new book, Cinderella Has Cellulite: And Other Musings from a Last Wife. For more information, please visit www.donnaarpweitzman.com.