A peep into life in Africa, through the eyes of an African Reformed Baptist pastor.

Water, water, water, everywhere. What else do you expect? I am a Baptist, and I live in the land of the mighty Victoria Falls!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Why should I not get married to someone who already has children?

[Disclaimer: This blog post is for young adults asking themselves this question. It is meant to give them a peep into the minds of their parents to understand why they give a vehement “No!” when they announce to them that they would like to get married to someone who has children. It is not meant to justify the reasons. It was written because of a query that I received from a young person in Zambia.]

QUESTION: Morning pastor. I have a growing concern that I seek clarity on. If possible, please answer it through your blog. I would like to find out: Is it right to get into courtship with a man/woman who has a child with a different person? They could be living with the child or not but you are well aware of this child's existence. I would like to know the pros and cons of this.

It is something that we youths would want to hide from parents and friends for fear of how we will be judged. Please, shed more light on this. How are we supposed to inform loved ones—assuming that courting someone with a child is right—without them having to second guess our decision? I await your response.

ANSWER: One of the hardest pills to swallow by parents is when their child comes home with the news that he or she is in love with someone who already has children. Of course, this is usually only the case if their child is a young adult who has never had any children.

This is why many men who have children outside marriage will hide them when they start courting a new suitor. They fear that once the new girl finds out she will break the relationship. Hence, these children tend to only come out of the woodworks after the wedding day.

Of course, there is no chapter or verse in the Bible that states that a person without children should never get married to one who already has children. However, there are a number of human reasons why most parents will do everything to stop this from happening.

Reasons for parental reluctance
All parents dream that their children will arrive on their wedding day as virgins and will get married to individuals who themselves are also in the same state. A suitor who already has children outside marriage says to the would-be-parents-in-law that they were already “sleeping around”.

This feeling is exaggerated in parents when it is a son who wants to marry a girl who already has children. Since a man is a proposer, they often wonder how their son could have bypassed all the virgins in town and ended up choosing a “used” woman. Was he given love portions? Hence, it often takes a very long time for the man’s parents to stop visibly resenting their daughter-in-law if the marriage still goes ahead.

What if the children were born when that person was in a previous marriage? Is that okay? Most parents still worry because they realise that their child is getting married to someone who is coming into the marriage with extra baggage. This brings some challenges with it.

Let me explain. If the person is a divorcee, their child will have to reckon with the on going presence of their in-law’s previous lover. The other parent of the children will often want to see the children or buy them things, which will always be seen as a threatening intrusion.

Even where the marriage ended with the demise of the other parent, the challenge often due to the different levels of attachment to the children. The biological parent is often more attached to the children than the one who inherited them as part of the marriage package.

It is not uncommon in such marriages to find situations where the biological parent is accusing the other one of lack of love for the children or the one who inherited the children through marriage accusing the biological parent of spoiling the children too much at his/her expense.

These accusations of bias tend to be worse when other children are born into this marriage. The victim of these accusations, rightly or wrongly, is the parent to whom some of the children were inherited through marriage. It is hard raising kids who are not your own!

Children also feel as if the person their parent has now fallen in love with is an intruder who has come to take away the attention and love they were enjoying from their parent. They tend to resent this. It takes quite some time and tact to change this strong negative emotion.

This only gets worse when children enter their teenage years. They seem to realise that this is a trump card they can use to get what they want from their biological parent. Hence, when their inherited parent denies them what they want, they scowl at him/her, and out comes this card!

Sometimes the victim is not the parent but the siblings who are half-brothers or half-sisters. Remember how King David’s family fell apart in 2 Samuel 13 when Amnon raped his half-sister Tamar, and later Absalom the full-brother to Tamar murdered him? Things like that can happen.

It is because parents know all this, either from their own experience or from the experience of others whom they have related to (see some of it here), that they kick and scream when their child tells them that they have a suitor but that suitor already has children. It is far from good news to them.

So, these are some of the reasons—whether spoken or not—that cause parents to dig in their heels and say to their child, “What on earth has gotten into you? Is this the only person you can marry? Be patient. God will bring the right person along without all this baggage.”

What should your response be?
How should young adults respond when they meet with this blockade? To begin with, they need to sympathise with their parents rather than immediately get into counter-attack mode. This was not their parents’ dream. In fact, it was probably one of their nightmares.

Young people should give their parents time to digest all this. Once tempers and emotions have cooled down, they should get back to their parents with tangible assurances that will show them that they respect them, and are going into this marriage with both eyes wide open. Saying, “But we are in love!” is not enough. Talk about how you feel God has prepared you for the complications ahead.

It is often wise to bring in other elderly people in the wider family and in the church who can listen to the anxieties of the parents with true understanding but who can vouch for the character of the father/mother of the children and testify to how the children have already emotionally bonded with the person who may soon be their step-parent. This goes a long way to calm parental fears.

The two individuals planning to get married should also take time to talk with older couples that entered into marriage in similar circumstances, especially if they are Christians. They need to hear what challenges they should expect—and how they can best overcome them. The person inheriting children through marriage must face the fact that there will be times of serious friction ahead.

Finally, the two individuals must hand over this matter to God in prayer, asking that his will should be done. It is rarely ever wise to go against parental guidance. Where parents continue to adamantly refuse to bless your marriage plans, the wiser route is that of waiting in prayer.

Often in the waiting, the Lord finally opens a door that you least expected. I wish I could say that he finally causes your parents to let you go ahead, but that is not always the case. However, the Lord finally gives you a sense of peace about what you must do.

1 comment:

  1. Powerful..really powerful counsel. I always wonder what challenges Mary the mother of Jesus and her husband Joseph had when placed into the situation where they had to 'make up' a family in circumstances that were completely out of Jewish culture.. Would this be a lesson we need to consider? I know there are no absolutes... but?

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