Question 

I am engaged to a man 12 years older than me who is sensitive, caring, and hard working. We started out as friends and got to know each other better. We became close and within 3 months of dating, he popped the question. He has been married twice and has four of his own children (two are teens and two are preschoolers). I have a son who is the same age as his youngest son, so that’s not a difficult fit for me. However, the teens are a nightmare! What he described as “good kids” have turned out to be kids with arrogant and snotty attitudes. His teens don’t live with him and don’t have the same values as him. In fact, he lets them smoke and drink in front of him, even though they’re underage. Even though none of his kids live with him, he is a good dad, visits his kids regularly and pays child support. I need to have stability for my son and me. I don’t know if I can marry him. I would like to have another child, but he is already paying for 4 children. I need help or advice because I do love him, but I just think it all little too much all at once.

Answer

As difficult as this is, recognize that you’re doing exactly what dating and engaged people need to do. You’re taking a closer look at the dynamics of the family, your own reactions, and assessing whether or not this union will work long-term. As difficult as it is to slow down or end a great relationship, it’s far less painful than trying to exit the same relationship down the road.

There should never be pressure to get married. Marriage is a choice you get to make when you’re ready. It’s a choice that comes with a train of consequences for good and bad. Make sure you’re taking the time you need to feel comfortable enough to make the decision from a place of peace.

Granted, most people won’t feel ready enough to be married, especially when blending families.

However, you can reach a point where you know that you’ve given the relationship enough time and examination to identify concerns and address them thoroughly. There will always be surprises in marriage and family, so you want to make sure the person you’re committing to is someone who is willing to work with you as an involved and equal partner in working toward solutions.

You mentioned that your fiancé is a sensitive, caring, and hard-working man. Is he willing to work hard on the relationship? Is he open to feedback about his children? Is he willing to hear your concerns about his permissiveness with his teenage children? Are you willing to be flexible and accept some of the less-than-perfect conditions that come with interacting with stepchildren and ex-wives? Are you willing to understand how difficult it is for him to manage the competing needs of so many different people? These are just a few of the hard questions you can both ask one another.

If you’re worried about his ability to stay married and provide stability for you and your son, then make sure you take the time you need and ask the questions you need to ask. If he’s interested in providing stability, then taking more time shouldn’t concern him. Both of you can work to keep addressing these concerns until you both feel settled enough to move forward.

Even though you can’t anticipate what future problems may surface, you can see a few that need that need to be addressed. If you aren’t interested in working with these issues, then don’t assume that future ones will be easier. Work on these until they’re either solved or you both decide it’s not a good fit for your two families.

Gawain Wells wrote an important article in the June 1982 Ensign magazine entitled, “Breaking Up without Going to Pieces: When Dating Doesn’t End in Marriage”[i], which compassionately explores how dating couples can break up when it’s the better direction for the individuals. He teaches some powerful principles on how to honestly assess if a serious courtship should continue forward or terminate. I highly recommend you study it as you work to better understand your situation.

Remember, you’re in an evaluation stage right now that allows you to walk away if it’s not a good fit. You’re not a failure if you decide not to marry him. That may end up being the best decision, as difficult as it may be. Success is about being honest and clear about what will be best for everyone. Take advantage of this time so you can make the best decision for you and your families.

Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at geoff@lovingmarriage.com

About the Author

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in St. George, UT. He is the owner of Alliant Counseling and Education (www.alliantcounseling.com) and the founding director of LifeStar of St. George, an outpatient treatment program for couples and individuals impacted by pornography and sexual addiction (www.lifestarstgeorge.com). He is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, available at Deseret Book, and the audio series “Strengthening Recovery Through Strengthening Marriage”, available at www.marriage-recovery.com. He also writes a weekly relationship column for the St. George News (www.stgnews.com). He holds a bachelors degree from BYU in communications studies and a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from Auburn University. He served a full-time mission to the Dominican Republic and currently serves as the primary chorister. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.

You can connect with him at:

Website: www.lovingmarriage.com
Twitter: @geoffsteurer
Facebook: www.facebook.com/GeoffSteurerMFT

[i] https://www.lds.org/ensign/1982/06/breaking-up-without-going-to-pieces-when-dating-doesnt-end-in-marriage?lang=eng