There have been countless movies and sitcoms made in the past decade or so dealing with stepparenting and second marriages. I don't watch as many as most, but at least half a dozen must have paraded themselves before my eyes before I reached adulthood.

Most of them seemed to revolve around the same crisis: single parent meets member of the opposite sex, single parent gradually falls in love, single parent's only child becomes resentful through a combination of having their absent parent "replaced" and no longer being the center of their remaining parent's attention. Invariably, of course, the crisis is resolved within an hour or so on-screen. But anyone who's lived outside their own four walls will know that that never happens in Real Life. Sometimes, you're lucky if that kind of crisis is resolved in thirty years, let alone thirty minutes.

So I was a wee bit wary when I started dating a single mother myself. I knew how important her eleven-year-old daughter was to her from the very beginning, and I admired that. I was also aware of their love/hate relationship to the girl's father, and that he was still part of the picture for at least two weekends a month. I remembered all those sitcoms and movies, and was determined I would never become one of "those" stepfathers. I just didn't know quite how to go about it.

All I knew was that there was no way for me to have the mother in my life without the daughter. Not that I ever wanted it that way; the daughter was a sweet and caring girl, impossible not to love if you spent any amount of time with her. The two were a package deal, emotionally bound together; I'd never have one without the other.

And then I went ahead. The mother and I quickly fell in love. The daughter accepted me almost from the very beginning. And while we're still working out the kinks in our three-way relationship, none of the three of us could have been happier to see the mother and I be married just one year after we began seeing each other.

I wracked my brain to come up with ten ways to advise other people to make their relationship with their stepchildren easier. But all I could come up with was one: Your stepchildren are already part of your spouse's life. Love them just as much as you do your partner.