What is it like when you get together as a long-term single with a man with a child. Plus: Parent and relationship coach Sandra Teml-Jetter answers the most important questions.
So far, my single life has been like this: I ate when and where I wanted. Preferably on the couch at Netflix. And: I mainly ate what I wanted. Lots of chocolate, sushi and sometimes cold Margeritha - for breakfast. With prosecco. I went to sleep whenever I wanted. Sometimes at 9 p.m., sometimes at 2 a.m. Times at 3 p.m. on Sunday. I cursed without pardon, tidied up when I felt like it and when I didn't feel like it, the laundry basket passed over and so did my armchairs. I didn't remove my make-up when I was too tired and I usually woke up in the morning with my eyes covered with mascara. The greatest responsibility I've had for a long time: looking after my plants. Incidentally, I only recently had to dispose of half of them because I drowned them. After I didn't water them enough before.
And now he's here: a man in his mid-thirties. A great man. Intelligent, sporty, handsome, humorous, generous, attentive, down-to-earth. And he has a child. A four-year-old daughter from whose mother he has been separated for two years.
Granted, I kept the kid out for a while. If he sent photos, I just ignored them. When I told you about them, I answered “Okay” or “Oh, how nice!”. Being a couple was enough for me for now. Except for a couple of miserably failed attempts at relationships, I've been solo for the past few years. A new person in my life was enough action and took some adjustment. I wanted to be in love, carefree, hold hands, have sex several times a day. Don't talk about pot success, digestive problems and Paw Patrol. The only thing is that a child cannot be ignored in the long run.
So the day came when I met her. I felt sick, nervous and got lost on the way. Unintentionally, intentionally. Then I stood in front of the door and she in the door frame. A little three-cheesecake with brown curls, an orange dress and she held out a doll to me: "Come play!" She grinned, I wanted to cry. With happiness because she made it so easy for me to get started. And from being ashamed because I still couldn't really do anything with the whole situation. So now I was right in the middle of family life and even more questions opened up …
More and more women are confronted with the life of their new life partner from the bygone days. Patchwork has become everyday life for all of us. So I wanted to know from relationship coach Sandra Teml-Jetter how it could work best …
Sandra Teml-Jetter is a psychological consultant, individual and couple coach and parenting consultant in the "appreciation zone".
WOMAN: Does the connection between me and the child have to be there immediately?
Teml-Jetter: No. It can of course be 'love at first sight', the spark can jump over immediately, but does not have to be. Basically it is like every first encounter and the question arises: What is the chemistry like? Unfortunately, you just don't know that beforehand.
How much will I be able to love it someday?
Teml-Jetter: From my point of view, that's a decision. When, as a woman, I say yes to a man who brings a child into the relationship, then that's a high level of commitment that needs to be carefully considered. It's not a chilled role to be a stepmother. And I choose the term consciously because I neither want to belittle nor gloss over the role. It is sometimes not easy to be a projection screen. Often they get something negative that doesn't belong to them at all. The children's frustration with their own father is taken out on the stepmother. There love is put to the test.
Who am I? Girlfriend, bonus mom, fifth wheel on the car? How do I find my role?
Teml-Jetter: This path arises while walking and depends very much on the age of the child and the accompanying circumstances. About how present - in this case - the mother is. It is a different role when the mother has passed away, for example, or when there is a 50:50 rule, than one in which the father is an 'every other weekend dad'.
"It's not a chilled role to be a stepmother."
How can I get involved in upbringing? And from when?
Teml-Jetter: If education = relationship, then always. Because it's about shaping the way we live together: How do we two, how do we three with each other? It's a daily process for everyone involved.
WOMAN: How selfish can I continue to be?
Teml-Jetter: If selfishness is understood to mean self-care and acting with integrity, then that is more than desirable. I encourage all adults in a family to listen to themselves again and again and ask themselves whether the decision I'm making is right or whether I am giving myself away. We must constantly search for our yes and no with all our hearts and find the courage to stand by it. Otherwise everything we live and shape together is half-hearted.
Which tasks do I definitely not have to take on?
"Here, too, the circumstances play a big role - and your own limits. You don't have to change diapers. You don't have to take the girl to the pediatrician. You don't have to do homework, tidy up the room, listen to the first lovesickness, emotional lightning rod. Maybe but do you want to be it - because it has become part of your life, your everyday life and you have made a heartfelt decision for it. As I said, it is a great commitment that I have honest respect for."
WOMAN: What are the biggest stumbling blocks for couples where one has a child and the other doesn't?
Teml-Jetter: For those without children, this infinite emotional bond and love for their own child is often strange and difficult to understand. It is easier to give good advice or to see clearly from an emotional distance ("Don't make every wish come true!"). If used well, this can of course also have advantages.
"If the adults have the best interests of the child in mind, they will try to find a respectful way of dealing with one another."
How petty can I be financially? Or do I have to bear all expenses for the child?
Teml-Jetter: There is no 'I have to' here either. The adults have to come to terms with each other. I know models in which it is simply divided into thirds: The new childless man lives with the mother and child and takes on his part, his third. I also know infinitely generous stepfathers for whom there is absolutely no question of assuming the larger financial share and thus making something possible for everyone that would otherwise not be possible. It is and will remain a very personal decision.
What about the child's mother? How much do I have to do with her? And: do I have to like them?
Teml-Jetter: If the separation is really complete and there are no bad entanglements, everyone lives his / her life, then this relationship will also work out well. There will be encounters - and the more mature the adults, the less complicated they will look. If the adults have the best interests of the child in mind, they will endeavor to find respect for one another.
And how much can my partner have to do with her?
Teml-Jetter: It depends on the context: not how much, but in what form, with what intention, with what goal. As already said, if there is a clear separation, good agreements, a good understanding, then the question of 'may' does not arise. If, as a new partner, I still ask myself this question, then I am also allowed to ask myself whether 'something is really in the bush', there are disagreements in the air, or whether my own fears are possibly getting in the way.