Even first time marriages are filled with tiny little land mines that detonate when you least expect them; things you don’t think of when you are in love and swept along with it all. Second marriages bring added opportunities for confusion and you are well advised to “Check the small print” before diving in as our Post-40 Bloggers Unsigned correspondent has discovered this week. Lara, Unsigned Ed

Always read the small print, isn’t that what they say? And I wonder how many of us do it? All those adverts on the radio that gabble out the Terms & Conditions at a million miles an hour – does anyone actually know what they’re saying? Doubtful. Obviously they’re important or they wouldn’t bother with them, but we never think they’ll actually apply to us. We all have the same attitude…what could possibly go wrong?

I, along with hundreds of other women- and men- have fallen into a small print trap. You know the one I’m talking about – The Marriage Contract. Did any of you read the small print? And now you’re stuck with it, come hell or high water; from tetchy teenager to manic mother-in-law; for better for worse. If they actually read out all the terms and conditions you’d need at least an extra three hours for every wedding ceremony. Forget a piece of A4, you’d need something the size of the Magna Carta to convey every aspect of married life that might affect your sanity, before you sign it away in a flurry of confetti.

Let’s start with the Integration Of Two Families Clause shall we? I know we’re not alone in attempting to successfully combine two families into one, which in the rosy afterglow of our honeymoon suntans seemed a doddle, but in reality turned into guerrilla warfare of the highest order.

For example, you think your own teenage daughters’ constant bickering, screaming and door slamming was bad until you throw a third, previously unrelated bag of hormones into the balance, light the blue touch paper and stand well back to witness a pyromania display of epic proportions over a borrowed bottle of shampoo or a missing eyeliner.

Had we read the small print, we would have understood the need to provide all female members of the family aged between 13 and 18 with private bathing facilities, lockable bedroom doors and a sharpie to label every single one of their belongings. Note: the ‘Love Thy Stepdaughter Like She Is Your Own Provided She Doesn’t Borrow Any Of Your Stuff’ clause should be carefully adhered to at all times.

We didn’t do too badly on the boy front, realising that there was safety in numbers as far as they were concerned and bunging them all into one big room equipped with bunks and a single bed, a dartboard, X-Box and a plug-in air freshener. Although here I have to mention the dartboard was removed after a suspected woodworm infestation in the pine chest of drawers which turned out to be the result of a boredom-busting blindfold darts competition one evening.

The downside to the shared room technique was the realisation that your eldest stepson has smuggled his girlfriend into his bed one night and your innocent ten year old has woken up to a semi naked sixteen year old young lady in the top bunk. Here, the section entitled ‘All houseguests must be previously approved by someone over the age of 40’ would probably have proved useful.

The ‘What’s Mine is Mine and What’s Yours is Mine Too’ clause (with further small print along the lines of ‘and I can do whatever I like with it’) extends way beyond teenage possessions to anything located in or around the residential property. I now refer you to Exhibit ‘A’: the battered green Peugeot. The cheapest option for all concerned once driving tests were passed was to insure each new driver as a named driver on my own policy. The car was then at their disposal provided that they paid for their own fuel. What I didn’t bank on was the systematic dismantling of said car.

Getting in one morning to find the side panel from the rear door lying across the back seat following an altercation between your stepson and a mini roundabout was a particular highlight, as was having to open the passenger door by opening the window and pulling the exterior handle after the interior handle mysteriously appeared in the glove box.

Driving away one morning to the sound of the front spoiler dragging along the tarmac was also a memorable moment.

Wading through the entire contents of a McDonalds bin in the footwell courtesy of the hormonal cravings of your step-daughter was considered de rigeur, as was the delicate scent of the boys’ rotting sports kit emanating from the boot.

Your dearly beloved husband’s comments of, ‘It doesn’t matter, it’s only an old Peugeot’ doesn’t help one little bit when it’s YOUR old Peugeot. The teeny weeny print would no doubt have said ‘Hide your car keys along with all your other belongings.’

And lastly but by no means least is the ‘Thou Shalt Cherish Thine In-Laws’ clause.

My own dear MIL has been a constant source of, erm, amusement, throughout our marriage; being known to phone us up at 4am on a Saturday morning to tell us she’s ready to be taken shopping now, or by rocking up for Sunday dinner at 9am. She has also provided us with a regular source of nutritional morsels such as the bag of Aunt Bessie’s which had blue fur growing on them, and innumerable out of date packets of sandwiches and sponge cakes.

There is, however, an optional clause in the small print under ‘Get Your Own Back’, which has currently been deployed by moving my own Aged Parents into the neighbourhood and giving them my better half’s mobile phone number on speed dial.

After all, they do say all’s fair in love and marriage. Just make sure you read the small print. All of it.

Unsigned