Her Guy Has a Kid—Help!

Q: I've been dating a guy for a few months who is great for me in every way. But he has a 10-year-old daughter. I've never been good with kids and don't have any experience with them. I don't think I want any kids of my own. His daughter seems nice enough, but he complains that her mom spoils her. But then it seems like he lets the daughter run things when we're all together. I don't know how to handle this situation. Should I get out before I get in over my head? — Kat, 36

Dr. Susan: If you don't want kids, then you have no business getting all cozy with a man who has a kid. She's only 10, so her teenage years loom ahead of all of you. If you stay together, you will be involved in helping raise his daughter. Being a stepmom is not an easy role. And it's not unusual for each parent to say the other is the one who is guilty of spoiling their shared child. And guess what? You get to be right in the middle of that turmoil.

If you really love this guy, and he really loves you, get hold of a book or two on how to be a stepfamily. If your commitment to one another has a chance of becoming permanent, the two of you ought to schedule a few sessions with a counselor who specializes in stepfamily issues. There is a lot of information available on how to take on this role, but most importantly, you have to be flexible and positive. Love alone won't get you through the next decade unless you're prepared to take on the challenge and stick with it.

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