Strings Attached

by: Cynthia MacGregor

Even if you swore off men (or swore off marriage) after your divorce, chances are that after some time passed your attitude mellowed—or, if that hasn’t happened yet, it will.

You started dating again, and while there were times you thought you were scraping the bottom of the pickle jar, eventually you met a winner. If this were a fairy tale, you and your new prince would ride happily off into the sunset together to begin a new life of joy. But hey—guess what? This is reality! And when it comes to reality, there are always a few hitches. Some are surmountable. And some…well, some aren’t.

Let’s talk about one that might not be: his kids. If your new Prince Charming was formerly married (and perhaps even if he wasn’t), there’s a good chance he has kids. And if he’s the kind of involved parent you want him to be, chances are he spends as much time with those kids as the courts and/or his ex-wife will allow. He may even have custody of them. So it’s likely that your romance is a package deal—Prince Charming and his junior princes and/or princesses, who spend anywhere from every weekend to half the week to full-time with their dad.

The first question is, how do you and your dream man’s kids get along? The second question: How do his kids get along with your kids? This isn’t an à la carte menu. You can’t ask for “one serving of dream man, but hold the kids.” It’s a package deal. Be aware, though, that initial friction is not necessarily a precursor of a continuing stormy relationship. Mr. Wonderful’s kids may resent you for—at least in their eyes—trying to take their mother’s place. They also may resent you because they harbor fantasies that their father and mother will get back together, but clearly if Dad marries you, that wished-for eventuality is totally precluded from happening. With time, such resentments are likely to fade.

They may also resent your kids because of the attention Dad is giving them. Again, this is a situation that time is likely to smooth over. On the other hand, one or more of them might just be the kind of kids who, to use the old expression, “only a mother could love.” Or a father, in this case. They may be spoiled, nasty, mean, bratty, selfish, self-centered, ill-tempered, or any of a number of other unappealing adjectives. And they also might make life a living hell for your kids. In that case, you may have to give up on your dream man. The price you’d have to pay to marry him—spending serious unpleasant time with his brats and/or subjecting your kids to their torments—is just too high. Don’t give up too quickly, but don’t hang on for too long if the situation is impossible. Try to make a fair assessment of whether the kids are inherently too unkind or unmanageable to live with or if they’re just going through a period of adjustment.

Decide before you marry Mr. Wonderful and before you get in any deeper. Then, if you have to, run, don’t walk, to the nearest exit. No matter how wonderful the man is, he isn’t worth the price you—and your kids—would have to pay.


Cynthia MacGregor is a multi-published author with over 100 books to her credit, of which roughly half were published conventionally and the remainder as e-books. They include After Your Divorce, Divorce Helpbook for Kids, Divorce Helpbook for Teens, Solo Parenting, "Step" This Way, and others. Forthcoming books include The One-Parent Family, Why Are Mommy and Daddy Getting Divorced, and Daddy Doesn't Live Here Anymore. She does write on other subjects besides divorce! To see the full range of her books, please For nearly two years she hosted and produced the TV show Solo Parenting, which was broadcast in South Florida over WHDT. Her column "Solo Parenting" appeared on out of business) and writing books, Cynthia is available for freelance writing assignments of most types as well as freelance editing. She has edited books, magazines, web copy, business materials, and more. She has also ghostwritten books for others. Cynthia has had nearly a dozen one-act plays staged, most notably by the Palm Springs Players, a community theatre group in Palm Springs FL. One of her shows, King Theo, written for a family audience, was produced in New York in the ’90s. Her song "America Again" (she wrote the lyrics) can be heard at You can contact Cynthia with inquiries about her books, about writing or editing assignments, or on other matters Cynthia is a contributing expert at,, and