What a thoughtfully written and insightful post! I admire your honesty on the topic and I'm sorry you had to go through those hard times, but you seem to have become stronger for having lived it!The divorce rate for second marriages with children involved is about 70%. This is because children complicate everything.
First off, you have no way of knowing that this marriage will work out any better than the one with your ex. Did you go into that marriage expecting it to fail? Hardly.
From what I have read, the biggest problems that eventually break up the new marriage are the husband's children. There is apparently a dynamic that the husband's children feel that they are higher in the family pecking order than the new wife and her children. And te husband generally reinforces this by putting his children above the wife and her children.
One thing couple forget to consider when then remarry with his/her’s children is that the parents are getting married, not the children. Children generally do not like their step parent. They often also do not bond well to their step-siblings. They are drug into the situation not really wanting to do this. They have already had their family of origin fall apart. Why would they expect anything more from this marriage to a stranger that their parent has brought into their lives?
I realize that some step families work. But most don’t.
I married a man with primary custody of 2 children D10 and S12 in 2000. The two step kids ganged up on my son (S10) and made his life miserable for years. Today, they are all in there 20’s and they all care about each other and the step kids would defend my son to the death. But it was a hard road getting here.
My step children did not want their father to remarry. They wanted ther parents back together. But they were too afraid at the time to come out and say it. Instead they acted excited publically and scemed to ruin our marriage.
My son did not want the marriage to go through either. He kept his dislike for his step father secret until after the marriage... in retrospect he was right.
My step children also made my life miserable. They admit now that their goal was to get their dad to realize that I’m a ***** and divorce me. They tried to get me arrested by making false physical abuse charges against me to school counselors. They told awful stories about me and even my son to their mother and her side of the family. Their mother encouraged them in this. She even coached them in what to say. This is the woman who abandoned them and would not call for 6 months to check on her children. But she enjoyed the game of proving that they loved her better.
Remember that while you might be marrying her, you are also brining her ex and your ex into the equation.
Today my step children admit that they love me. Their friends say that they tell everyone about me, brag about me, etc. They now realize that I am the only parent they ever had that has stood by them. Yep their father did not either… I’m divorced from him now.
But the road getting here was 12 years long and it has taken its toll on every one. To be honest, if I had a chance to change things I would not marry him again. I would not have been the step parent to his children.
Date, go slowly. Date for 3-5 years and get the children very used to each other and to your gf. Do not disrupt the lives of all these children with a situation that could end very badly for everyone. Do a lot of reading about how to step-parent. Talk to a lot of step parents. Learn from their experience.