A Gulf News Reader, who has asked to stay anonymous, has two children from her previous marriage and is now married to a partner with two kids. The reader wonders if they are any moral obligation to include the step kids in their will. Here’s what Jyotika Aggarwal, Clinical Psychologist at The German Neuroscience Center, had to say:
Many of us have the fortune of finding love in life after our first marriage did not go as planned. It is possible in such cases that there are stepchildren involved. Restarting our lives with a new person can be a beautiful process; however, it also requires serious decisions such as whether you would like to include stepchildren in your will. No one can answer this question for you, except you.
Before you have this conversation with your partner, it is necessary to look within. Reflect on how your relationship is with them, see how close and loving the bond between you and your stepchildren has become and most importantly, what your own values are. When we accept another partner, we accept them whole-heartedly. When we decide to take that relationship to the emotional intimacy of marriage, it usually means that this individual has had the strength to heal your broken heart, help you through your insecurities of the first broken marriage and succeeded in making you believe in love and the institution of marriage again.
If you are sure that you do not and will not include your partner’s kids in your will, then it is important for you to have this discussion before marriage.
This is a powerful bond in all aspects. When they have accepted us completely and wholly, why would we not, even if this includes stepchildren. In a second marriage, most people show respect to their partner’s parents and family, why not the stepchildren? It may not be a truly healthy relationship, if one believes that they have a relationship only with their partner and do not try to include their kids in the relationship. In taking on the responsibility of becoming a husband or wife, you are also implicitly fulfilling the void that your partner’s kids may feel. In this space, if you reject them or are unable to develop a caring bond with them, you could be hurting them, reducing their trust in you and possibly affecting your marriage negatively. It’s important to remember to always treat all kids the way you would like for your kids to be treated. Take a minute to reflect on how you would feel if your own children were distanced in matters of money by your partner.
However, if you are sure that you do not and will not include your partner’s kids in your will, then it is important for you to have this discussion before marriage. The way each human has the right to be treated with respect, each partner has the right to protect their child, their own flesh and blood from rejection.
A healthy way to address this topic would be to start by asking your partner what their financial plans for their kids are. Understand what part they expect you to play in this. Try to gauge your own boundaries and willingness with their plan. If you do not agree with them, gently yet honestly communicate your boundaries on this matter. Let them know where you stand, yet, if possible, offer them your support in finding other solutions that may help their children.
Do not stop your partner from making their own arrangements to support their children in their will. You can decide for yourself, but do not try and decide for your partner, how they should treat their own kids. If your partner understands your rationality behind the decision, you may not have much to worry about, if not, it would be a warm and loving gesture to explain your motives, and give them the respect of space to process this information while being available when the partner needs you.