Posted to General BB June 7,11
I’ve been at the smom thing for almost five years now, and using these bulletin boards for a few of those years. I have a ss9, who I guess is a pretty typical boy with a pretty big attitude. Lately it just seems like things get worse instead of better. Communication between us all sucks, even though my DH and I try really hard to improve things. I seems like my DH and I are always complaining about each others behavior and arguing.
I can’t help thinking maybe this isn’t working. Ive gone as far as looking at apartments online for myself, although just to check out prices… Nothing serious yet. I really want to make it work but Im so discouraged and cry (or feel like crying) multiple times per week.
It seems like most of us have a hard time. Is this just life or are my standards too low? Will I look back in ten years and feel glad that I stuck it out, or will I wish that I didn’t waste so much time trying to make a bad situation better?
I just don’t know.
Hello, Your question is a good one and it’s heart-breaking even to be thinking about this possibility isn’t it? We start our new lives with the men we love and adore, willing to love his kids and with such joy and hope and enthusiasm that “Love will keep us together.” When those around us (Ex-wife, stepkids, in-laws, friends) don’t cooperate or worse plot against our mission for the “Happy Blended Family Fantasy”, it can bring previously unfathomable jolts of pain, rage and suffering as the actions of others cause trouble in our relationship with the men we love. It’s not something most of us can even imagine before it happens to us. How many of us would go forward with our relationships if we KNEW what was going to happen? That’s the question you are facing now and that many of us have pondered over the course of our marriages.
When I started this organization, in March 2000, I was where you are now in many respects. I’d been fighting the Stepmom battle alone for 4 years and was losing it. When I became a Stepmom in 1996 I was full of that joy and vigor I mentioned earlier. Within a year, I was already jolted, knocked around and the target of an angry bio-mom who was not shy about her bark or her bite and I was losing my sense of optimism in ways I’d never imagined. The rage, anger and pain I experienced in those first few years was unlike anything I had ever experienced in my whole life. I had to do something. We all know that feeling of believing that we just have to “Do” something to make a painful situation better. For many, the doings we have come up with over the years have helped. Many things we’ve learned, shared and tried have given us changes, improvements, strength. A key factor I over-looked was trying to create a happy blended family with people who didn’t want to happily blend with me! How do we create something with people who often make it their goal to prevent us from succeeding? How much emotional pain can we take before we begin to lose ourselves? What happens if we stop trying to create the happy family? What gaol can we have when the hostile ex or the stepkids aren’t willing to be happy with us?
These are all important questions.
Over the next month or two I’m going to be posting new Smommentaries for your review. (Those are essays, like editorials) I’m going to be talking about what has happened to me over the past 4 years since I have been away from the board. I’ve wrestled with the same question myself and have come out of the tussle with a clear cut path for myself. I want to give you the insights of my experience so you can sift and sort through them, in case anything makes sense for you and your personal situation and it might give you some things to think about in your process. Please stay tuned.
ADVANCE INSIGHT: One thing I would like to say, so as not to keep you in suspense, is that I did decided to stay with my husband. We were able to find our way through the nightmare. His near fatal illness in April, 09 cracked us wide open and thankfully, we were able to untangle the knot of misunderstandings, unresolved angers and hurts. We’ve both learned so much and I will share more with you in the future. But maybe this one thing will give you some food for thought.
If I had the chance to go back and could do ONE thing differently in those first 14 years, what I would do is this…I would make my relationship with my husband THE NUMBER 1 priority over everything else in my world. Now, mind you I don’t have any of my own children and for SMOMS with bio-kids, hear me, I am not suggesting how you handle that priority. Only you can decide, given your situations, who gets your attention, when and how. Please temper what I am saying for your situation. But you Mothers by marriage, please consider the following.
If I could do it all over again:
1. I would make staying emotionally connected to my husband THE most important thing. More important than skid’s manners, visitation schedules, school rules, clothes going back and forth (or not), etc.
2. I would stop standing up for justice and I would stand by my husband. I would give up the unofficial job of trying to get my husband to stand up for what I believe is “The right thing” even when he was too afraid, too beaten down, too guilty, too timid or just too tired to fight his ex or his kids. I would become his greatest groupie, fan and supporter and become the Guardian of our Love. (May sound corny but I am corny sometimes. )
3. I would look for another role for (and another use of) the tremendous emotional energy that being a Stepmom in a hostile situation generates and give up on trying to “Win” any battle with the ex or stepkids. Instead, I would judge how we (husband and I) were doing based on how well we handled the “in-coming” stress as a team and how many nights we snuggled closer and tighter to each other in bed each night.
4. I would give trying to be accepted by the ex-wife and stepkids and make it top priority to be the amazing woman my husband fell in love with.
5. I would accept that the way the bio-mom treated me in the first few months of knowing her as the way she is always going to be. Here comes a biggee…I would give up on trying to win her over or get her to see that I am a good person worthy of looking after her bio-kids and accept her stance/position as permanent. Then, I would not give it any more of my time, attention or energy. HUGE HUGE!!!
With all the things I tried (and like many SMOMS, I tried a LOT of things) I allowed myself to be pulled way off course by issues of “Right and Wrong.” I made winning (when we were wronged), standing up for our rights, fairness, lack of consequences for ex-wife and stepkids not doing what they said AND trying to give and get the stepkids whatever they needed TOO important. I made all those outside events more important than supporting, respecting, honoring and patiently, compassionately loving the man of my dreams. He came with some pretty intense, cruel and angry baggage and I thought I could change all that. I thought I could make everyone see how fun it was going to be to all get along and make us a happy blended family. I was wrong and my dream for a happy family died in April, 09 (more about that to come.)
Since you’ve been on the BB for a while, you’ve probably heard us write about “Divorce guilt” and the debilitating impact it can have on a father/the man we love. If I had to do it all over again, I would help my husband deal with those feelings (Instead of judging him as weak for not being able to stand up to her.) I had a huge reserve of powerful energy to stand up to injustice and I didn’t understand the deep wounds ex.s and stepkids can inflict on a man. How cruel I was to him with my judgments, without realizing what I was doing. Fear, guilt, pain affect all of us in so many ways that often can’t be articulated or understood. I made the mistake of thinking he just needed to be tougher and now I see that what I did was weaken him with my pressure and my judgments. Looking back, there are soooooo many times I got angry at my husband (causing emotional dis-connect…and pain for us both) , because I felt he should “do” something he didn’t want to do or I felt he should be upset about something he wasn’t upset about. I so so focused on the goal, I looked at getting hurt or facing fears as the price we needed to pay for the prize. (My upbringing) Now I see how blinded I was by the goal of being happy and feeling valued and I left a trail of hurt feelings and loneliness for us both. (Read my Smommentary,”Do we want to be right or happy?” for more on this topic. NOTE: I wrote that years ago-but I just got it deeply when I realized the price we pay for rightness. Sometimes it is not worth it. Especially in our situations, where many of us have hostile bio-moms who don’t play by the rules, have to have the last word and care not about their impact on others.)
Over these past 4 years, I’ve realized that I did so many things because I so desperately wanted to be included and that was the one thing that his ex-wife wasn’t going to allow to happen, still won’t let it happen. I used to get upset about so many things because it gave me a sense of purpose, a role in our drama, pointing out all the things that we could do differently. We missed out on so much precious time together. My husband and I lost many, many, many weekends and weeks of lost time being disconnected (unhappy, not in a state of joy and happiness) because he and I couldn’t agree on what was the most important thing and/or what our action plan was for this or that event.
Now, everyone’s life situation is complex and unique. The last 4 years have been an intense time of brutally honest self-reflection, emotional healing and growth, much of which has to do with my experiences as a Stepmom and as the wife of a divorced father with a hostile ex-wife. I’ll be sharing much of this with you all over the next few months. I write to you now, with the hope of giving you the chance to look at your situation from a new angle. Not that it will give you the same results that I got but with the hope it will help you think and feel your way to a loving path that feels right for you.
What else can you do? Well, take a look at the things that are important to you and give them a priority. Yep, write them do and make some choices. Talk with your husband and ask him what he needs from you (as if his Fairy God mother would grant his wish). When time permits take a look at a couple of my articles/columns. Check out, “Are you ledger-keeping?” and “Testing and Proving Love” to see what you can learn about your issues and needs. Tell your husband what you need from him and I don’t mean, “Make sure you tell your ex. or kids blah, blah, blah.”
As I look back, I can see how an angry skid, a hostile ex-wife and an oblivious school system invaded our sacred relationship and we didn’t know how to face the incoming terrorism as a strong, cohesive team. We got blindsided so many times. We didn’t know how to use our varied and valuable skill sets to our advantage, instead we allowed ourselves to be divided and almost conquered. My stepson’s almost 20 now. We’ll never go through the same issues again but maybe others can benefit from what I’ve learned the hard way and save themselves years and years of painful moments. Maybe some things I’ve shared will help you today.
I know this is a long answer. I want you to feel supported in your place of uncertainty and perhaps give you a few new things to focus on. When we are in pain, it’s human nature to shut down, circle the wagons, narrow the focus (tunnel vision). When we are conscious of our process, we can open up, look outside ourselves and see what strikes us as valuable. The more we can look at what is happening to us, finding the lessons, the wounds to be healed and the love to be nurtured, the less impact outside events will have on us and the harder it will be for others to break through the ever strengthening, sacred space of love we share with our husbands.
Please take care of yourself. May you find daily comfort from those who love you. My Best Wishes, Cathryn