What to Do When You Love Him -- but Not His Kid

woman about to step on tacks Your new romance is going super-smoothly. He makes you laugh. Isn't glued to his phone during dinner. (Thank God!) And rocks your world in bed. But there's one small thing that's throwing a very big wrench into your relationship: You kind of sort of don't like his kids.


Not liking kids, in general, is a tough confession to make. But when they're kids of someone you want to stick around in your life? Even more complicated. 

"It's hard enough to be patient and loving with your own kids 100 percent of the time," says Paul Hokemeyer, JD, PhD, a licensed marriage and family therapist who works out of Los Angeles, New York City, and Telluride, Colorado. "When you're forced to deal with a kid that's not your own and who brings out the worst in you, it's nearly impossible. But it can be done."

Here are the three steps you need to take.

1. Get real. First off, says Hokemeyer, you're going to have to decide if this man is worth the trouble. "Love involves a large degree of the unexplainable," he acknowledges, "but the one thing that's for sure is that it's a feeling state. It's something you feel rather than rationalize. It's also something that enables you to deal with a lot of imperfection."

So here's where you ask yourself: Do you really love this guy? And see a future with him? Or are you just biding time?

"If you love him, the kid thing will work out," assures Hokemeyer. "If you don't, his kids are just a distraction from the truth."

2. Learn how to manage your reptile brain. Okay, so you DO really want to make it work with this man. Awesome. But even so, "you're still going to have an emotional reaction when his kids do stuff you hate," Hokemeyer notes.

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And although you can rationalize and intellectualize all you want, your central nervous system will simply REACT. "You're going to be compulsively pulled to act out in potentially destructive ways," Hokemeyer says.

To manage these ugly reactions, know your limits. "Walk away from the situation when things get intense and you feel yourself about to explode," says Hokemeyer. "Set limits with your partner and be honest about what you can and cannot handle."

(Take another look at the image above. We're guessing that falls in the "Cannot Handle" category.)

3. Stay positive. And chillaxed -- as much as you can if you're walking on eggshells or stepping on tacks. "Acknowledge that you're in an imperfect relationship with imperfect people," says Hokemeyer. 

Yes, his kiddos may be causing you some serious angst. But you still need to look past the current tension of your relationship to the possibility of getting along. Hell, one day, you may look back at all this and laugh.

"It requires a huge amount of work, personal sacrifice, and deflation of ego," admits Hokemeyer, "but that's the nature of life that has meaning, value, and purpose."

Still not quite sure how to get from Point A (gritting your teeth and biting your tongue) to Point B (feeling lucky for every second you get to spend with him/her)? "Find yourself a good professional to talk to in both individual and couples therapy," advises Hokemeyer.

In therapy by yourself, you can get clear about your feelings toward this man and his offspring. And in couples therapy, Hokemeyer notes, "you can work together to come up with a solution to successfully integrate your family."


Image via © iStock.com/fiorigianluigi

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