I am a twenty-nine-year-old man. Two years ago, I met a single mother (with one daughter) who was twenty-five. We were in a romantic relationship for nine months, but since my family was against it, I broke it up after nine months. She was devastated, and I had no contact with her for the next year and a half.

I couldn’t stop thinking about her, however, so I contacted her again and she happily agreed to resume our relationship. We have never lived together. We are planning to get married, but I keep feeling fearful about it because I don’t know how to be a stepfather and don’t want to toy with her feelings.

Dear Friend,

Assuming that your parents are two of the members of your family that disapproved of your relationship, you honored them by ending it a year and a half ago. It was wise to pay attention to their advice, as parents sometimes can sense potential problems that their children are not aware of.

However, it is also true that some parents and relatives have other motives in addition to their need to protect their family. Some have financial reasons for objecting to their relative’s marriage, and others are self-centered and emotionally needy. Still others have personal prejudices that cloud their judgment.

We don’t know your relatives’ intentions or motivations, but whatever the case, you did pay attention to their concerns for a considerable amount of time. You did honor them, as God would expect you to. However, honoring does not mean that an adult child has to obey his parents and, even less, other relatives. Every adult has the freedom and responsibility to make his own decisions, whether or not his parents agree.

You also honored God in your refusal to live together with your girlfriend before marriage. Waiting until you are married is the best way to prevent a number of potential complications.

You are right to anticipate that a stepfather faces many challenges. The circumstances of your girlfriend’s situation are important, and those circumstances make a difference in our counsel to you. What type of relationship does your girlfriend have with her daughter’s biological father? If the father is still living, was he responsible for the breakup of the relationship? Was he unfaithful? Is he involved in the child’s life? Does he have shared custody? Does he pay for support of the child? Without knowing the answers to these questions, we cannot advise you whether or not it would be wise to marry your girlfriend.

The age of the child is also very important. A young child may adjust quite well to a loving stepparent. However, it is not usually advisable for the parent of an older child or adolescent to get married. For the sake of the child, the parent of an adolescent should wait until the child is eighteen before considering a romantic relationship. Otherwise, it is probable that the teenager will subconsciously or consciously consider the new spouse as a threat and will do everything possible to harm the relationship between the spouses. The biological parent is then put into the no-win situation of having to constantly mediate or even choose between the child and the spouse. This puts an enormous amount of strain on the marriage.

Read Case 99 to find out how I felt about having a stepfather, and Case 520 to learn more about living with children who are not related to you biologically or by adoption.

We wish you the best,