Don't change the furniture! Don't even move it around. And don't throw anything away. That was the advice I read before marrying a widower with four kids. I think it served me well.
When I found myself abandoned by my first husband, a few years under 40 years old with three very young daughters, I was desperate to remarry. I wanted two things -- a committed father for my children and a relationship for me. So I looked for someone who had the ability to commit. I found a widower who had nursed his first wife at home until she died. That's commitment. I wanted to get married before 40, when many get too set in their ways to adapt themselves to a marriage.
A BLENDED MIRACLE
Many men in this day and age would not seriously date me. The kids' own father did not want the day-in, day-out responsibility of his kids, so why should anyone else? It is a miracle when a father commits to children whom he did not create. A miracle that must be appreciated and re-appreciated every day.
My new husband came with four grown up kids -- two at home and two already married. They were happy to see him get married again after being distraught for four long years over the death of his first wife.
But they were also happy to know that their lives would continue as they had been. They would stay in the same house, the same rooms, and have as much or more freedom as before.
It sounds like a silly thing, but I have talked to 50-year-olds who remember how their new step-mother threw away all the furniture they grew up with and changed their house around so that they felt they were strangers in a strange land. For them, furniture symbolized love, stability and a feeling of comfort.
Does this sound over-simplified? Don't think that if you leave all the furniture where it is, you will be able to marry a man with four children without complications!
It is not an easy thing to move into someone else's castle and adjust to it. But if both of you move into a new house, none of the kids get to stay in their own place and everyone loses. Where to live is not an easy decision, but probably the one that will determine the happiness of the first year(s).
REMEMBER THE BIG PICTURE
Other than where you live, the most important advice that the books will tell you is to keep in mind why you are there. A big part of why you are there is that you wanted a FAMILY! A mother and a father for your kids. So when the honeymoon is over, keep your eye on the ball -- the kids have stability! That's what you wanted. And now, your spouse is there for them, too.
When I asked my oldest what she liked about our blended family, she said she liked that it was no longer a matriarchy. She likes that my word is not the last word written in stone. There is more than one authority in the house and she can go with the more lenient one if she chooses. She also has siblings who share things with her and teach her things. They are friends who live in the same house.
I feel it is the couple who sacrifice the most. They are newly in love, yet the marriage is weighed down with responsibility of blending children and new homes and new schools and new relationships with children. Few can parcel out their time in such a way as to also have energy for the relationship between husband and wife. If you can, CONGRATULATIONS! You are doing it right!
With all the challenges and difficulties, it pays to remember that second (third, fourth) marriages are miracles in themselves. The blended family is a miracle. So if the primary relationship is heavy with sacrifice, that is to be expected. To build a blended family may take all the energy in the beginning (middle, end)!
Congratulate yourselves! You have made a miracle!