How our blended family overcame their money problems

Tamara is 36 years old; Mark is 40 years old. They have been married for a little over five years but have been together for 13 years. The two had children from previous relationships when they met through an offline dating service called Lifemates.

Tamara: I wasn’t actually going to say yes to his profile because they said, “He’s divorced, he has three kids, and he’s a driver.” And I thought, “Oh my god, they’re trying to put me in touch with this pizza delivery guy with three kids!” It was my sister who said, “You know what? You do this partly for fun. Just to hang out and date someone.

Did you get hooked straight away?
Tamara: [Laughs.]Mark: Now, in the end, we agreed to go on another date, so …

How old were your children when you met?
Tamara: My daughter was in kindergarten, her oldest was in first grade, and her two youngest were not yet in school.

How did you find the time to spend together?
Tamara: It was largely after they had slept. “OK, she’s sleeping. You can come now !
Mark: And at the time, I had just seen my kids on the weekends, so I was alone in my apartment.

When did you decide to meet the children?
Tamara: I think it was after two months. He said, “Can I ever come to your place when the sun shines?” And from there it took off because the girls – they’re all girls – really [got along]. They were really together as sisters.

Having failed in your relationships in the past, have you entered this adventure with fear or concern that it might happen again?
Mark: My marriage, which I had my daughters with, was not a good marriage. So our first date, I was actually sitting at the bar at the front of the restaurant and sure enough not knowing what I looked like she walked past and I thought for a minute, You know what? I could just get up and go and not have to face this anymore. I could have walked and I thought, No, it’s rude. I cannot be absent.

Tell me about the proposal.
Tamara: The proposal was great. He asked me to wait in the living room, then he called me into the kitchen and said, “We have something to show you. All the girls were lined up with their backs to me and the girls turned around and they each had a piece of paper that they had drawn on and it was written “Will you marry me?” I was stunned. I was just standing there and they were pointing and he was on his knees.

Our wedding was in our garden. It was fantastic. He was about 50 [guests]. It was small; that’s what we wanted.

What was your reason for getting married? You said that you have already lived together for so long and that you are a family and you feel married. Why formalize it?
Mark: I felt she felt it wasn’t a committed thing unless there was a ring and a paper. I felt it was really important to her.
Tamara: I just wanted to get married. And then all of a sudden we were planning this wedding and I got really scared and I was like, Whoa, wait a minute. Either way, you’ll be with him. It doesn’t matter what happens. And then I was really scared. So I had to work on it. It’s so out of date, but it was all at the same time dusk books were coming out and all my daughters were like, “Read them, read them!” I read them and I’m like, He’s not like that. He doesn’t watch me sleep. He doesn’t love me enough! I don’t think I can marry her! [Laughs] But I thought to myself You know what? If he was 100 years old and didn’t have to worry about making money or eating, then he would be like this. [Laughs.]

Big surprises in your marriage so far?
Tamara: [Laughs] Our fifth little girl! She has 1.

Oh congratulations! This was not planned ?
Mark: Yes and no.
Tamara: He kept saying, “Look, we had our kids so young and we’re done and we can be free and they’ll all be moved and we can do whatever we want!” And I said, “Yeah, I know, but I haven’t finished. Sorry!”
Mark: On our first date she said, “I want more kids and if you’re not interested in more kids, go right away.” And I was so desperate to fuck, I was like, “Yeah sure! No more kids! No more kids!” [Laughs.]

Hey, he wasn’t lying. So what are the ages now?
Tamara: Twenty-one, 19, 18, 16 and 1.

What! Now are you done?
Tamara: [Long pause] We are meant to be! [Laughs.]Mark: We are meant to be.
Tamara: We thought we would be done and he was going to be 41 and I was 37, but then it’s almost like she’s being raised as an only girl and I don’t know if I want that for her. Plus, in the back of my head, something keeps saying, If you have another one, it will be a boy.
Mark: [Laughs] But I don’t do boys!

Was there something different about parenting 20 years later?
Tamara: My pregnancy. I kept saying, “It didn’t happen the last time!” and he kept saying, “Well, you weren’t 35 last time!” I was far too young; I was 16, but my body knew what to do. My body was not too young. This time everything hurt differently and I had a car accident in between as well. About three years ago I broke my back. I have two rods and 10 pins on my back.

OK, so how has your sex life changed during your marriage?
Tamara: He is going to say: “What sex?”
Mark: What gender?
Tamara: [Laughs.]

When did it start to decrease?
Tamara: Probably in the last two years.

So since I got pregnant.
Tamara: Yeah, basically.
Mark: It doesn’t help that we don’t sleep in the same bed.

Why not?
Mark: She sleeps on the couch here with the baby and I sleep in the man cave on my couch.
Tamara: With my back, it’s so much nicer on the couch. If I sleep in bed, I will have problems the next morning.
Mark: She can’t stand my TV shows and I can’t stand hers, but we both have to fall asleep watching TV, so I come downstairs to watch my shows and she stays here to watch hers and the next thing that you know we’re both asleep.

Are you worried about this setup? I am worried and I am a foreigner.
Tamara: We will eventually sleep together before this becomes a problem in our marriage. Like a real overwhelming problem.
Mark: Although this is starting to become a problem now because I want to be with her. We never have time for each other during the day at all, as I started working at 6am this morning and I go out until probably 3am. The only time I have to be with her is when we are sleeping, so there is no contact at all.

Mark, do you see a light at the end of the tunnel? Do you have a vision of when this will happen?
Mark: It probably starts right away when I tell you both this.

What has been your biggest fight since getting married?
Mark: It was money when we were a lot less wealthy.

Good to know that having more money solves this.
Tamara: It does! They say, “Money doesn’t buy happiness,” but I always say, “Money doesn’t buy happiness, but being poor almost ensures misery. [Laughs] So that took that off our plates. And we did some advice,
Mark: We did a lot of advice.

What prompted you to consult?
Mark: Constantly fighting at the throat.
Tamara: I have a lot of regrets about what we did. We were so stupid. Fight in front of children or talk about money issues.
Mark: We lived in a much smaller house at the time, so there was nowhere to go and fight, that’s no excuse. But yes, a lot of jet fights, even semi-violent, took place in front of the children.
Tamara: And then it was just like, “OK, we’ve got to control this.”

What did you compromise on in your marriage?
Tamara: We compromise on everything. Everything is compromised. “I’ll give you this if you give me that.”
Mark: She had to watch everything the Lord of the Rings and in return I had to watch everything dusk. We can’t find anything in the middle.

How did you fall in love if you had nothing in common?
Mark: Despair. [Laughs.]Tamara: [Laughs] I hate to say it, but we are very good trading partners. It sounds so horrible, but we just know how to get things done together.

Any advice for your daughters to find a partner?
Mark: For me, it would be about finding someone who is patient and not just chasing the dollar.
Tamara: Oh my God … uh … [wipes her eyes] Guess it’s clear and simple, find someone who accepts you for you …

What makes you cry?
Tamara: Just my girls growing up… and yes… it’s happy. Tears of joy.

Do you and your spouse want to tell your story? Or do you know a great couple who should tell theirs about theirs? Send an email to [email protected] to participate in this column.

The Secret Life of the Bride and Groom is a weekly series of interviews with married couples about the things no one tells you about marriage. Come back every Tuesday for a new interview. Previously: Childhood lover with a heartbreaking birth story.

Jane Marie is a writer living in Los Angeles. Follow her on Twitter.

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