Thanks for visiting Stepdad by Design. Let me describe a little bit of my personal story and explain how I came to be a stepdad.
The First Marriage
Like most stepdads, my story involves a failed first marriage. Mine began in 2006 and ended with a separation in 2011. Legal divorce followed in 2013. That marriage produced no children, and although we parted on amicable terms, we were practically and legally free of each other.
Although I was shaken and discouraged by the disaster of my first marriage, it didn’t take me long to determine that I wanted to remarry. In 2013 I slowly re-entered the dating scene, posting profiles on a couple of dating sites.
It was in that summer of 2013 that I took a long road trip with my brother. He and his wife had two children of their own at the time, and they told me they were considering adoption of a third child. My response was skeptical. As the miles rolled by, I remember unpacking my best arguments against adoption. Right near the top of the list I helpfully informed my brother that he was sure to hear “You’re not my real dad!” thrown spitefully in his face at some point in his adoption adventure. But in general, I didn’t like the sound or taste of the arguments I heard myself spinning. Unknown to me, a work was beginning to take place in my heart.
Back at home, I plugged deeper into the online dating situation. I was making connections here and there, going for dates but not really finding the sort of woman I was looking for. Like most divorcees, I was now crystal clear on what I didn’t want and would not tolerate in a marriage. I also had a more clearly defined wish list. “Have children” wasn’t on the list, and my search parameters shut out anyone with kids. Since I wasn’t bringing any of my own into the mix, it seemed reasonable that my future mate meet me on the same footing. Or so my thinking went.
Rethinking the Stepdad Thing
Fast forward to April 2014, when I received a friendly message from an attractive woman on a dating site. Immediately, I could see that she had two young boys in tow. But I could also see that she was beautiful, and her bio was definitely intriguing. I couldn’t ignore her. Our interests and core values seemed very much in common. All the biggies appeared to line up: Religion, Money, Sex, and In-Laws. We began cautious online communication which quickly became 1-2 hours of fun conversation every day.
Neither of us were interested in recreational dating. This would be no Tinder romance. If we were going to pursue this, it would be with an eye toward marriage. That meant that from those very first messages, I had to begin addressing the enormous prospect of stepfatherhood. My heart pounded just thinking about it.
Finally, after a full month of intense online communication, we started to date in person. We fell quickly in love. After a few weeks of successful dates, she cautiously introduced me to her boys (both under the age of 11 ). It was a surreal experience to meet these two youngsters for the first time, very aware that as I considered marrying their mother I was also considering becoming their stepdad.
Both divorced, my then-girlfriend and I were absolutely determined to do this second marriage right. We saw multiple counselors (both secular and faith-based), asking each one to expose our blind spots and challenging them to find the problem issue that might break us up. We read available stepfamily literature and listened to blended family e-books. We ran each other by our own protective families who had each seen firsthand the pain of our first failed marriages. Everything was checking out and looking good. We felt supremely happy with each other. The boys appeared to accept me.
Making it Official: Stepdad for Life
In late 2014 I proposed, and I officially became a stepdad in March of 2015. Of course the relationship-building process between me and the boys had begun long before the wedding, but it was not until after the wedding that I actually moved in to live with them and their mother. The transition went about as smoothly as we could have hoped. After a full summer of camping and hiking adventures together, we bought our first home in late August. We were well on our way to finding our new stepfamily identity.
Being a stepdad hasn’t always been easy. It’s definitely been a character-shaping experience. But overall, becoming a stepdad has been incredibly rewarding. Every day, I’m given the opportunity to invest attention, energy, and time into two young guys who didn’t know of my existence just a short time ago. Every day, I’m given the opportunity to grow, to make better decisions, to model what it means to be a man. Every day, I’m given the opportunity to make these two guys feel accepted, loved, and safe. Every day, I’m given the opportunity to become a stepdad by design.