I am madly in love with a man I met three months ago. The problem is he has a child from a previous relationship. Thankfully, the mom has full custody. We’re already talking marriage. We’ve discussed having children. This may sound a little bad, but I don’t really want to have to “mother” his child. The child has a mother. I want us to have our own family, and I don’t want his previous relationship and child to have just as much importance in his life as my kids. Perhaps I’m worrying in advance, but how do I let him know that the kids I have with him and me should be No. 1? I know he has to pay child support, and I’m not saying he shouldn’t have a relationship with that child, but not at the expense of our family. Any way to draw the line before we get married just so everyone is clear on the rules?

Excuse us, but we are collectively counting to 10 before we answer this one.

It sounds to us as if you’re the one who needs the rules clarified. Like many who marry people with children, you are under the impression that this man will love the kids he has with you more that the kids he has with his ex. This is doubtful. All the children will be his children.

Your children will not be more important to him. If he is like most divorced dads who remarry, he may feel quite guilty about not being able to live with the daughter from his previous relationship and look for ways to integrate her into everything you do as a family. He should do this because not only is she his daughter, she will also be your children’s sister.

You are well on your way to becoming the dreaded stepmother if you continue to harbor this attitude. If you want to make a happy life with this man, the best thing you can do is look for ways to integrate his daughter into your life together, not keep her out of it.

In response to your desire to not mother his child – you are correct; she does have a mother. But if you do marry this man, it will be your place to nurture his child when she is with you and make her feel cared for and wanted. To openly favor your children when she is around would be disastrous to her self-esteem and impede her relationship with her siblings. Although she may be an afterthought in your mind, she certainly isn’t in your husband’s. He will be looking to you for support, and so will she.

Our advice? Unless you can make the necessary changes ASAP, don’t go forward with this relationship. He’s not right for you.

Jann Blackstone-Ford, M.A., and Sharyl Jupe are co-founders of Bonus Families (www.bonusfamilies.com) and authors of “Ex-Etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After a Divorce or Separation.”

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