I am pregnant with my first child. I will soon be married to a guy who was with a woman for 7 years. His “son” is 6 and my fiance wants this kid to come to our wedding ceremony.
I said no. He was never married to the boy’s mother and to continue to be involved on that level will just complicate our life. This is our day.
My fiance is furious and suggested I write to you. Once and for all, what’s good ex-etiquette?
The reason your fiance wanted you to write to me is because he probably knows what I am going to say. He takes his responsibility as a parent seriously, and since the primary rule to Good Ex-etiquette for Parents is, “Put the children first,” you have a winner there. I’m not so sure he’s that lucky.
In your defense, your attitude — “My child is or will be more important because we are married” — is not foreign to me. Even though just about as many choose not to marry as marry when having children today, some still hold the more conventional attitude that first-time marriages are the “real” relationship no matter where they fall in someone’s life scenario.
For the record, almost half of the children currently born in the United States (more than 40 percent) — and an even higher percentage in Europe — are born to unmarried parents. That means there is a good chance someone marrying for the first time already has a child. The rules have changed.
You have chosen a man who had a child before you came into the picture. It sounds as if he takes his responsibility as “dad” seriously. Based on that, know this:
The child he has with you will not be more important to him than the child he already has.
He will look for endless ways to integrate his first child into your life together.
He will most likely refer to his first child as your child’s brother — because he is.
He will not stop talking to his first child’s mother because he is now married to you. He has a responsibility to talk to her because they co-parent their child.
For whatever reason, your fiance is no longer with the mother of his first child. This implies that this child has witnessed conflict and the breakup of his parents first hand.
You have the opportunity to demonstrate how to live in a strong positive loving union, offering both the children in your life additional security and a role model to look up to. Or, you can fuel the fire and be witness to perpetual chaos ultimately damaging these children’s emotional and mental well-being. That’s not much of a choice, really.
Proper ex-etiquette would be to include the child in the ceremony, signifying love, acceptance and unity, but since it appears you have no relationship with him that would seem phony and may confuse him. Before you go any further, it sounds like you need to educate yourself on the responsibilities associated with marrying a man with children.
This is not a frivolous undertaking. The Bonus Families or Ex-etiquette websites are a great place to start. That’s good ex-etiquette.