*This article is a work of nonfiction based on actual events recounted to me by a friend who witnessed them firsthand; used with permission
Making up your mind to propose and have a permanent relationship with the partner you've been dating for a while requires love, determination, and a lot of patience.
And when you're already a parent, you will need to be more careful while you're trying to figure out if your partner can fit in the family you want to have. Would you agree to keep your kids out of the engagement celebration or the wedding party if that's what your partner asked you to do?
Is that an indication they refuse to be a stepparent, or do they just need more time to adjust to the situation and realize your kids will always be with you?
My friend Natalie, who lives in Phoenix, Arizona, has been dating her boyfriend, Thomas, for one year. During this time, they traveled together, tried cooking classes, checked out different restaurants around Phoenix, and went to see movies at least once a week.
They don't live together since Natalie feels that's a step to take only after they get married. They also don't spend all their weekends together because Thomas is a single dad.
"We get along great, but I do understand he wants to have some time just with his daughter. That's fine with me, and I don't want to interfere with their relationship," Natalie said.
She met Lilly, Thomas's daughter, and the little girl was very friendly to her, but Natalie wasn't sure how to react to that.
"Her mom passed away, and I got the feeling she was looking up to me as if I could replace her. But I'm not sure yet if I want to have my own kids. And being a stepmom is even more difficult than that. I could handle being a friend to her, maybe, but I need time for that. It can't be just from seeing her a few times. And I need to spend time just with Thomas, too. I don't want to go everywhere with his daughter," Natalie said.
Thomas knows how Natalie feels, and he doesn't want to pressure her to be a stepmom. He's hoping that in time she will guide his daughter and that they'll get along, but for now, he's ok with them meeting in Phoenix once every two weeks and spending an afternoon together.
"It's ok if Natalie can't handle being a stepmom right now. I didn't expect that anyway. I can look after my daughter and my parents help me too. I just want to be happy with Natalie, and we'll find a way to include my daughter in it, too," Thomas said.
His parents aren't that positive about Natalie's relationship with Lilly, and they don't think she's going to get used to being a stepmom at all.
"If she didn't like it from the beginning, there's not much chance of changing her mind. I keep telling Thomas that, but he's too in love to realize it. I'm sure in a few months after they get married, we'll have Lilly living with us," Nina, Thomas's mom, said.
In the meantime, Thomas wanted to show Natalie how much he cared about their relationship, and he proposed. She was very excited to have the ring, and she said yes.
The couple also wants to celebrate getting engaged with a special party that will take place over the weekend. Thomas will cover the costs so Natalie can have all the flowers she wants, and she's chosen a unique menu and cakes for the occasion, but she does have a requirement that surprised her fiance.
Natalie doesn't want Lilly to come to the party in Phoenix, and she's already warned her fiance that he needs to find someone to look after her during their wedding.
"She won't have my daughter at the engagement party; she has to stay home during the wedding. It's ok if she doesn't come to this party, but I want her at the wedding. I think Natalie is just stressed about looking after her, but I'll handle most of it. Our wedding will be in one year, and I'm sure this time will serve to make her reconsider," Thomas said.
His mom was worried about finding out Natalie wanted to keep Lilly away from the celebrations, but Thomas reassured her. The dad has no doubt Natalie will get used to being close to his daughter and that their relationship will improve.
What do you think about this situation? Is it fair for Natalie to want to keep Lilly away from her engagement party and also to avoid her attending the wedding? Should she make an effort to have a close relationship with Lilly since they will be part of the same family soon?