I posted the following on the BB recently…and as our EOWE comes upon us, I can’t help but think on this more and more. Can you offer some of your wisdom? Thanks so much!!
There is very little relationship between myself and DH’s children. In the beginning I tried SO HARD to be a positive role model in their lives…but through many trials and many different heartaches, I have since pulled back.
I am a worrier by nature…and in that I have found myself thinking of the future. I love my DH to pieces, that man is my end all. No one would ever compare to him and the adoration and pure love I feel when I think about him. So, needless to say, he isn’t going anywhere.
That means, graduations, weddings, grandkids, and all of the other things that come with watching children grow up. I don’t want to be on the outside of that with his kids at all. I want to be able to celebrate their accomplishments, I want to be able to commiserate on their hurts, I want to be a caring adult figure in their lives.
I do not want to, however, open myself up to the pain that has been a constant. With DH’s family, his ex etc. I know that it isn’t the kids fault, but that is the package the pain always comes in.
So, how do I move forward? I went from being all in, to being all out of their lives. I remove myself from the house when the kids are here just to protect from the goings on that make it so difficult to be a part of the “family”.
I know my #1 priority is my marriage…and lord knows that is the BEST part
So, how do I become the “friend” I want to the kids without allowing the outside forces to cause me distress? Because they will try.
I really feel like I understand your desire to be safe AND connected the the children of your Beloved and after learning more about your situation (via email) I am so pleased to learn that your stepkids are 13 and 6 and that your husband is very supportive of you being unstressed and feeling safe, whatever it takes.
As I see it you’re looking to reconnect with your stepkids in a new way AND in a way that doesn’t make you vulnerable to being hurt. Look at this as a process and use your feelings as a gage of how and when to move another step forward. Seems there are a couple things to consider:
1. I think an important actions step is to regain your “power” to be in your own home whenever you want to be. I think this would be a good place to start. Perhaps the next time they come over you are busy in some place in the house and exchange “Hellos” as you pass by or go for a drink of water or bathroom. See how that feels. Sometimes it will bring up fear (from the actual past) so just getting used to being in the same space, without any negative experiences would be progress.
2. Perhaps you could join your hubby, the next time he goes to watch them doing something where you could begin to get comfortable being your hubby’s companion while enjoying skid school and sports activites. It would be helpful if he would agree to also be your protector should anyone approach you in a threatening or scary way. He probably knows who to be concerned about and if he is willing to stand at your side, that might be a way for your stepkids to begin seeing you as part of your Dad’s life and theirs. Again, one step at a time.
3.At their ages, there are still activities that could help their curiosity and interest overcome any awkwardness around you. Can you think of any of your hobbies that may interest either of them? Can you and your hubby start a project at home that is already started when they come over so it’s natural to invite them to participate? Is there a new ritual that you and your husband can invent that includes JUST the 4 of you that is so fun-they can’t resist? (We started a night before school starts ritual of going to a BeniHana type restaurant with my ss when he started 1st grade.) Can you think of a “doing” like a movie or ballgame where everyone was together but face to face contact wasn’t required. If you check out my Smommentary about ways to connect with your Stepkids you may get some ideas to try or they may trigger new ideas. Trust your gut about what you think may work. It would be great to share the ideas with your hubby as I’ll hope that he will love (and be encouraging) that you are wanting to connect with them in a new way.
4.Can you begin to interact with them one at a time? Maybe a note with a book for one of them, something you think they would like? What about doing or talking about doing something with them from the happy part of your past? Maybe even popping in with a photo to show them and reminiscing about a good memory, if you offer it and then require no response from them (unless they offer one) it could give them the clear message that you “come back in Peace”?
5. I’m unsure of what they have been told as to why you have stepped out of the picture. Depending on what they know, can your hubby talk with them about your sincere wishes and ask them how they feel about it? Maybe the three of them could create a list of 10 things that they would all think would be fun to do as a family of 4? Giving them a voice in the plans can be an important part of the new relationship. You could model a new relationship with them-one where they have a voice and a choice. This is a big deal for children of divorce. On that note: could you give each of them a chance to pick their favorite dinner one night a month and then you all fix it together? Can you and your hubby give them a “family activity” coupon, where once a month they get to choose the movie or game or playtime, or evening snack for the night? Any time we give kids a choice, it’s important to make sure the boundaries are clear so they can have what they choose-meaning a night in Las Vegas isn’t an option for the 13 year old. LOL
6.How about creating an “If/Then” plan with your hubby. This would mean you start by making a list of all the things you fear may happen and then together you agree on the response plan for each possibility. A random example: IF the 4 of you have plans for the afternoon and bio-mom calls to ask for help asap…THEN, your hubby agrees not to change your plans but will accommodate her request (or not) at another time-giving you the security that your plans will not be usurped by bio-mom. You mentioned you’ve been hurt and are a worrier, the IF/THEN list will be time and energy well spent. So often we fear things that may or may not happen but cause us real angst every day. If we know we have a plan, we’ll fear it less and not have to live with the impact of worry. Make sense?
7. Has enough time passed, since you stepped back, to give you some insights on how YOU can be less impacted by the words and actions of others? This is the other side of re-connecting. Learning how to respond differently when others do the same things they always did. “The Four Agreements” is helpful here. The Author talks about how we get hooked and hurt by others touching on wounds that we already have. Are you able to see what “wounds” you may still have that could be healed and strengthened? This is a good use of your time as well. As you get more healed and stronger and feel more empowered in your home and world, it will give you a new (maybe less scary) outlook on things that hurt you in the past. If you want more help on specific issues, you can post them on the BB and PM me so I will be sure to see it so we all can offer ideas for you.
8.If I were talking to your hubby, I would also ask him if he can see new ways that, going forward, he could be more supportive and helpful to you.
NOTE: whenever we ask for a new behavior from someone, it’s good to start out by saying, “In the future” or “going forward” or “for future reference.” If I had remembered this I could have handled my re-entry to the BB this way, it would have been much better received and caused less upset to sister SMOMS. I’m glad to be reminded of this tact-going forward. FYI-The reason this is effective is that people can’t undo what they already did and will sometimes feel embarrassed, guilty, ashamed or defensive about something they can’t do anything about-it’s an uncomfortable feeling. But when you use the phrases above, everyone has a clean slate going forward and they CAN do it differently in the future and avoid all kinds of uncomfortable mishaps. Does this make sense?
What do you think? Anything here you can use? I wish you all kinds of inspiration and creative ideas as you and your hubby design a plan for your re-connection with your stepkids. Whatever the time frame, I encourage you to always trust yourself and your feelings.
Best Wishes, CathrynReturn to The List