I am so grateful to have discovered a site like this. After reading some pretty terrible, damaging blogs where new stepmothers sought help for their feelings and in turn, received mostly comments like “Well, you should have thought of that before getting involved with a man that had children,” I did not think I would ever find such a “friendly” community like this.
I am very new to the experience of blended families. I grew up in a 2-parent home as did my significant other. He has a daughter from a prior marriage. We are fortunate in that there isn’t much drama with the ex or extended family. My struggles are mostly within myself – I’ve recently developed an inability to sleep at all on the nights when she is in the house. I feel terribly guilty about feeling that things just are more stressful when she comes. She’s a pretty good kid, and at a pretty good age for this kind of transition (not yet a teen, for instance). But I find myself feeling jealous when the two of them spend time together or when it seems like most of his decisions are tied to her happiness rather than incorporating all of our mutual interests.
I’m usually comfortable with speaking up to him when unhappy but I struggle with feeling I am simply imposing on an already existing family, and I have considered leaving the relationship rather than risk doing harm, or risk taking away her dad-time, which I always feel I am doing with being there. I also catch myself worrying about things that have never happened or even come close to happening – irrational things, like that she will decide to play with candles and set the house on fire while we sleep. I’d lived alone for several years before this transition so it’s all very new to me.
I’ve seen you recommend specific books and resources in other letters – Do you suggest any in particular for managing jealousy and irrational fears?
Thank you so much!
Your feelings are so very understandable. There’s nothing bad or wrong about what you’re feeling. While it is easy, often a reflex to believe the problem lies with us, I’ve learned that every feeling we have has value to us, no matter how silly or irrational we may judge it. Feeling uncomfortable feelings is part of what I believe being a Stepmom does for us…it gives us a chance to uncover, heal and grow wiser from every limiting belief and emotional wound we got from our childhood. Yep, while this can be daunting…it is also a tremendous opportunity when we can consciously embrace this challenge as a loving exploration. Too often it becomes a blame-fest that shreds the love we have for our partner and sucks the joy out of our daily lives.
As far as your fears…you call the irrational AND I would like to say that there’s always value in all our feelings. Labeling them may just be your way to try to categorize a feeling that you don’t know how else to describe. What if you didn’t label it and just called it “emotional discomfort that is keeping you awake at this time”?
I hope you will become a Guest Member (Free, no credit cards or names required) so you can read many of the “members-only” articles on the site. There is a lot here and you have 30-days to check out the site before having to make a “pay for a membership or not” decision.
Below is an excerpt from a long article I wrote one day. I call this kind of writing spontaneous essays because they just flow out of me sometimes. It’s an attempt to explain how we ALL (every human being) bring our own emotional wounds, limiting beliefs and childhood survival strategies into our loving relationships. Until we become conscious of them, they run our lives behind the scenes and this account for most of the emotional stress between couples.
SMOM/DH couples have stepkids and bio-moms, along with Society’s judgements to act as grist in our relationship mills and when we become conscious of this dynamic…our ability to see things expands and suddenly there is so much possibility. This can replace the rage, the exhaustion from all the trying to get our DH (partner) to change, the isolation, self-judgment and despair that can overwhelm so man hard-working, creative loving women in the role of Stepmom.
Here’s the first part of the article. You can add the word Jealousy into many of the lists I state. Jealousy is the feeling that we are deprived of something we want because the other has it. There is much to honor about how you are feeling and if you join our group (so you can read and “chat” with other members on the site, I believe you were realize the source of this uncomfortable feeling. Becoming more awake (more conscious) give us more personal power, more ability to choose our beliefs, our actions & our boundaries. It’s a good thing and it’s our “Mission” to help all Stepmoms find their power, heal their wounds and reconnect with our partners in that wonderfully deep loving way we felt when we fell in love.
You asked about books to recommend…They are all on the list on the public part of the site. Nothing comes to mind now so I’m going to trust that perhaps reading this material will give you what you want right now.
Feel free to ask for clarification. I will post both your follow up and mine to add to this letter for the benefit of others as well.
If you resonate with what you read, please check us out as a Guest Member. You can register as a free Guest by clicking the Forums and you’ll see “Register” on the far left, about 1/3 down. It’s easy and I activate new members about twice a week.
The following is an excerpt from my article presently posted in the Members Forums.
The Article is entitled. “My Attempt to explain our journey to empowerment-10,00Ft viewpoint.”
This topic of finding our power in the pain, fears & rages triggered in the role of Stepmom is exactly the kind of work that we’ve been doing in the workshops & thehi Subscribing Forum. There’s tremendous power to be reclaimed and emotional wounds to be healed as you go on this path of discovery. My fingers flew as I wrote this post. Not my best literary piece but I only had a couple of hours…
I’m now going to try to do the impossible.
I’m going to try to summarize the why’s of our feelings, the fundamentals of our healing in hopes it gives you hope.
Here goes…this is how I see it…I’m going to number the points to make it easier to reference and because I don’t have enough time to compose this as a properly written article.
1. Every child comes into this world and experiences disempowerment. The degree of disempowerment is inversely determined by the amount of value, attention and respect that the caregivers offer to the child & her feelings.
2. ALL children experience rage. Even though we’re all capable of feelings long before we can talk, most parents treat little ones like they aren’t able or capable of having feelings about things they can’t talk about. Silly but universally true. Big people force us to do things, “For our own good” without regard for our feelings. Why? Because that’s what their parents did TO them.
3. As we grow up, we all experience rage, fear, abuse, neglect, disregard, pain and many other things that we realize we have no control over. Why do we feel this way? Because it’s TRUE!
4. Because we know we don’t have the ability to help ourselves, we ingeniously use whatever we have available to us to endure the circumstances as best we can. As babies, it’s only the ability to turn towards or away from something. It’s the ability to cry, to scream, to smile, to do nothing. As we grow in capabilities, we find ways to help ourselves as best we can.
5. When we’re children, our sweet vulnerable baby/child self feels all these feelings but we don’t have the ability to help ourselves as we would like to. This leads to more rage. Rage = the sudden sense of powerlessness or valuelessness.
6. The pain & fear can be so excruciating that some wise part of our psyche knows that we can’t deal with it, so it shoves those feelings into our Unconscious Minds where they stay there safely, until we get wise enough to handle it & conscious enough to know it’s there to be handled.
7. During these painful, scary, enraging lonely moments as youngsters, in order to survive, we search for ways to handle things so we can endure them. This is the place where we create beliefs about how things are, how things are supposed to be, why people do as they do and beliefs about who we are and how we think about ourselves.
8. Children almost always start out by making themselves the problem because our little minds and hearts literally CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH that the ones we depend on for life, aren’t very loving, kind, respectful or even want us there at all. It’s too much for a little one, so we make up stories, watch those around us and come up with a childhood survival strategy. Every human being does this. Thankfully most of us DO survive into becoming a grown-up.
9. Think about it. A 3 year old can’t “let in” that their mom or dad don’t care enough to look after them with lovingkindness. At some wise level she also knows that she can’t get away and she can’t survive without these big powerful people so she has to find ways to get their attention and to be seen to the best of her ability so she won’t die. (That right there is a huge cause of fears and anxiety.)
10. She also MUST decide to believe that SHE’s at fault. She’s the reason they act as they do. She’s the reason they ignore her. She’s got to believe she’s not lovable to explain the reasons her parents don’t take good care of her. As she grows, she begins to realize that she has more abilities to do the things that may get her seen, fed, noticed, looked at, touched, talked to and so she tries them…so she can survive emotionally.
11. As she finds some success with her varying tacitcs, she forgets that she’s carrying the belief that she’s unlovable and she focuses on doing more and more of the things that seem to be working for her. Oddly reinforcing the original false belief & strengthening her belief in her strategy.
12. By the way, That belief “I’m not lovable” or “I can only get attention if I serve others.” Or “I have to give others what they want or I’ll be rejected” are all FALSE but she’s so busy trying to feed her emotionally starved psyche, that she forgets it’s a belief from her childhood. As we grow up we forget that we can change our beliefs anytime.
13. As children we’re all doing our best to survive. We’re making decisions as 2,4,6,8,10 year olds. We craft strategies that allow us to make sense of the way we’re raised & treated. We’re told by our churches, our parents, our cultures, our schools and society, how we are supposed to be, feel & accept certain things. It’s what happens to all of us.
Our childhood survival strategies were very successful. We all made it to being a grown-up. The thing is, unless & until we wake up and realize that we’re being driven by our childhood survival strategies, we’re going to keeping making decisions and reacting to stressful situations in the same way we did as a child…just with more talented bodies and minds.
14. Sadly, the strategy that allowed us to survive the many disempowering and hurtful experiences of our childhoods, become imprisoning, limiting strategies when we’re adults and stepmothers.
Fast forward to today…
The pain, rage, fear that so many of us are feeling as Stepmoms is due to many things that are built around 2 primary factors. (This is hugely condensed but hopefully makes sense.)
15. First, We find ourselves in situations of disempowerment which create feelings very similar to those we felt as babies, kids, children & teens EXCEPT that the strategies that used to work for us, right up to the time we began a Stepmom, DON’T WORK for us as Stepmoms!
16. Second, This true rage of disempowerment and/or feeling valueless goes to the heart of some very deep feelings. The feelings of hatred, rage, pain, etc become even more intense because nothing we do gets us what we want. The strategies don’t work, like they did right up until we became a Stepmoms. It’s enraging because all our defenses, all our distraction, controlling and manipulation strategies can’t overcome, stop, fix or get the stepkids, their bio-mom, our partners and/or the courts to do what we want them to do. GRRRRRR
17. This rage can feel like we’re tapping into a nuclear power plant of emotional energy. Out of nowhere, something can happen and we react as if we’re on fire or we become the incredible hulk or we break down into deep gut-wrenching sobs that wrack our bodies and can’t really figure out why. It can be very confusing as you all know.
18. Experiencing these feelings and the results of our actions can also set us up to be judged by those we love and MOST IMPORTANTLY we often ended up turning our harsh judgments onto ourselves. “How could we… Why are we so…”
19. This is where the depression can set in. (thousands of layers of little angers we don’t process that become too heavy to bear).
20 This is where anxiety can overcome us.( not knowing what or who is going to hurt us. I call this emotional terrorism)
21. This is when eating too much feels the only way to give ourselves a feel good moment.
(trying to feed our starving sense of Selves) We may choose other addictive ways to feed ourselves as well.
22. This is when doing, trying, advising, doing more, trying harder and helping again, can drive us into the ground. Why do we keep doing what isn’t working? Usually because it feels better than letting in the deep fear that if we stop we may be rejected, abandoned, disregarded or ignored…which we think is too painful to handle. (It’s too painful for the child you used to be, but it is NOT too painful for the adult, wise awake woman you are now.
23. This is when blaming, arrogance & self-pity can become a substitute for loving choices (because at some level we don’t believe we can handle our true grief, pain or sadness.)
24. This is when controlling, hostile, wicked behaviors can take over for us and harden our hearts (because we don’t know what else to do to protect our true vulnerability.)
25. This is when we may revert back to childhood tactics of isolation, withdrawal, shutdown because we don’t know what else to do. (like when we were children)
26. This is when Illness can set in (because the feelings are so back-logged, compressed, denied and can’t find any emotional avenue of expression, so they will manifest in our bodies.
These are just some of the common reactions to tapping into that unconscious warehouse of unprocessed emotions from birth when we are NOT conscious of what’s happening. When we choose to make conscious contact with our feelings and do the work to release all this backed up emotional energy, can be free to be the adult, wise, talented women we’re when this unconscious warehouse of emotions is NOT triggered.
Phew….take a breath.
Wow, I realize that this is a lot.
Yes, I’m trying to explain how this works & yet it is a huge topic.
On the chance that this resonates with any of you, I’m going to keep trying to help you see what I believe is going on. Why? Because I know when I first learned this, it gave me great hope and energy to do the work I needed to do.
What can we do about all this? Here’s a short list that can take a lifetime to practice but maybe only months or years to get good at.
27. We can learn to become conscious as the wise adult you are today. We can become mindful of how we are feeling today versus what feelings are from our past.
Clue: Most of us know that wise adult version of ourselves when we’re comforting or solving a problem with a dear friend. Many of us experience this when we’re being Mother Bear to stand up for another. We can strive to be awake as many minutes of every day as possible and when we find ourselves slipping into the past or future, we can lovingly (not harshly) bring ourselves back to the adult we are today.
End of excerpt. Copyright 2014 Cathryn Bond Doyle. All Rights Reserved.