My husband took on a lot when he and I got together. I can remember a person that we worked with expressing that sentiment. Although I was insulted by it, I could see how it could be seen that way.
I had two beautiful, young children, but my husband hadn't had any prior to our relationship. I also had an ex who I would not wish on my worst enemy (yes, it's him, and I wouldn't wish it on him), and I had had a horrific car accident and was just beginning my recovery journey.
I can only imagine what his family thought when we announced our pending marriage. Although we'd worked together for two years, we'd only been dating for five months. I met them less than a week before the accident. He was still in the process of extracting himself from his former relationship, and pushing that age where most men have that "mid-life crisis".
And in comes me, two children and all my baggage in tow, and on top of it all, a little over 10 years younger than him. My divorce, although all the paperwork had been done, was not finalized yet. From the outside, I'm sure it looked like one of those doomed to fail relationships that you see in the movies.
But we both felt like we needed to openly suggest that we were ready to commit to each other and to building our family together. Granted, our timelines were moved up a bit by the accident - he moved in to help me out. But we were moving in that direction anyway. And we'd already talked about marriage.
My uncle, a staunch Christian, came to me after we'd announced the commitment ceremony and asked what I was teaching my children by moving in with a man without the benefit of a marriage certificate. I replied that I was teaching them that life doesn't just stop because you're getting a divorce. You have to keep moving. My marriage to their father was over long before the paperwork was filed. And more significantly, I was teaching them that their mother was worthy of being loved and moreover, that I was worthy of being respected - much more than I had ever taught them while married to their father.
When we did have our "Committment Ceremony" (prior to our actual marriage because my divorce hadn't been finalized), it was important for both of us to acknowledge the joining of our two lives actually meant the joining of four lives. We both expressed not only our commitment both to each other and also to our children (because in taking us on, they became his as much as their father's). Our self-written vows expressed our desire to hold up our partner and to support each other, to love and support our family, and to become something bigger than what we ever had been separately.
Almost three years on, our life has settled a bit. Our son was born last summer. Our children are growing and learning. We've become a true family together. My leg has recovered better than I'd thought and I'm only seeing doctors twice a month now. My ex continues to be himself, but with the help of a parenting coordinator, a lot of therapy (for me) and the steady calming influence of my husband, I'm coping better.
So now, if someone who has been divorced expresses concerns to me about the future, I tell them my story.
And while I still think that my husband took on a lot when he married me, I know that he gained a lot more.