THE FOLLOWING WAS A PM EXCHANGE THAT I WANTED TO SHARE WITH OTHER SMOMS. “T” WAS OPEN FOR SHARING. THANKS, T
I’m sorry for such a late response, between traveling and coming back home and grocery shopping, I’ve just found a moment today to reply to emails.
Thank you so much for your kind and well thought out response to my post. (“Need hand holding for a few weeks” posted 7.17.11) It’s hugely appreciated.
Stepkids will be here for exactly one more week. I’m hoping the time will fly quickly. Sometimes, I have decent conversations with SD19 and it feels so cozy and normal, then I imagine she talks to her BM and voila, her behavior changes, she becomes distant.
What I do mind, greatly, is the constant texting/chatting with their BM. Not so much that they communicate with the BM (this is normal obviously) but the fact that they either giggle and snicker and smirk after reading and sharing texts with each other leading me to think ‘is it about me?’ (thanks to previous experience of the same).
I AM trying to take care of myself and not make them or their behavior the focus of my days. Difficult though when these things happen in your own home. I have cold sores, ongoing period and a host of other health issues. Sigh.
I AM getting loving attention from the DH. Which is good of course.
I think what I need is advice on how to separate BM/Stepkids behaviour from my daily interaction with them. Intellectually, I do realise BM’s insecurities, lack of friends (SD said her mom has no friends at all) has NOTHING to do with me but emotionally, I feel here I am doing everything I can to maintain a peaceful home for DH, ignoring stupid behaviour from the stepkids, that someow I should deserve some…not sure what!
Thank you Cathryn, for ‘listening’ for starting this board. Truly, truly appreciate it. Now, I’m off to read ‘Comforting Ourselves’ AND the ‘Happiness Project’ (I had bought the book couple of months ago, hadn’t read it though).
Hi there, You’re very welcome. Thank you for taking the time to share some feedback with me. It’s nice to hear back.
The situation about the texting and chatting in your home bothering you….I really get how it bothers you. We used to have the same thing. We’d all be having a great time and then my stepson would want to tell his mom so he’d call her (later text) and come back in with a soured mood. It’s a great emotional challenge and although I don’t have all the answers (sometimes none of them) I’ll share what I’ve learned.
We learned, over time, with my stepson, (and boys are definitely different than girls-this is important to remember) that he felt guilty having fun with us, because he was burdened with a mom who made him feel HE was responsible for her well-being. It was cruel, and I now know a sign of narcissism. Nonetheless, his only way of dealing with the guilt, was to include her and to get sad with her, so she would feel he loved her more than the good time. She actually seemed to try to make him feel badly so he would get off the phone having her feel he’d rather be with her. It was/is despicable when a bio-parent does this…but it’s sadly quite common.
Now let’s apply this to the stepkids texting. They have had a lifetime with this woman. They’ve had to develop survival strategies for dealing with the emotional drama, anxiety, guilty, conflicting loyalties, etc with her. Add to it their adolescence which emotionally can extend into peoples 20’s, 30’s and beyond. Does this make sense?
If we add, what Anthony Wolfe says in his terrific book about teens, “Get out of my life but first can you take me and Cheryl to the Mall?” that teen girls need to be connected with their mother figure but they will do it via arguing, teasing, smirking, etc. It’s an attempt to show you (and their mom when you’re not around) “See i’m so grown up, I can argue and show you I don’t need you.” but they’re being connected while they do this? ironic huh? Good to know as it may help you see why they do what they do-and that it indeed is part of their emotional survival (way to numb their guilt) and really doesn’t have to do with you. Sadly, you are the one who’s impacted. This seems true for a lot of blended family issues, doesn’t it?
I have an idea. What if you and your DH or friend set up a situation where, the next time the stepkids are around, someone texts you and you start giggling and responding to the text, without sharing who it is or what is being said? Give them a dose of their own medicine via experience. make sure the content has nothing to do with them (so no risk if they sneak a peek–even if remote possibility). This has been very effective. Whether this impacts them or not, taking this action can give YOU a sense of “taking your power back” and YOU are our main concern right now.
Also, take a look at your own childhood and see if you can find a memory of feeling this way as a child. Were you ever left out and hurt by family, friends, teachers, parents? Was there no one to stand up for your feelings when this happened to you? Is it possible that this situation is bringing up some un-acknowledged pain from your past that you can now give attention to? If you can remember this feeling from the past, you can give the child you used to be, lots of loving attention. You can do this by reacting to the child you used to be (also referred to as your inner child), much the same way you would if your best friend was telling you about something that happened to her when she was little. Lots of TLC!
You can give this little child, or teen (younger you) your attention. I do it by closing my eyes and imagining the younger me, coming up to me, sitting by me and telling me how she feels. I give her lots of love, depending on the age, I invite her up into my lap, hold her hand, hug her and let her have her feelings –whatever they are. Since this is happening in your imagination, you can do whatever feels right to you. THIS CAN BE AMAZINGLY IMPACTFUL! (I’m not yelling, just emphasizing.)
SO many times the reason the stepkids push our buttons, is due to the unprocessed, unremembered, unhealed pains from our pasts. Because we don’t have the biological connection to them, we’re not blinded by love. This gives us a chance to see our wounds (often sooner and more clearly than bio-parents) then once aware, we can heal quickly as these wounds surface.
About your cold sores… this could be pain manifesting on the physical level, because they couldn’t get your attention on the mental or emotional plane. I wonder what Louise Hay’s book says about cold sores? Do you have the book, “You can heal your life?” She talks about the mind body connection. I have it but I’m in my office right now and it’s at home. I’ll look it up and see what it says. Please know, you haven’t done anything wrong, nothing at all. It’s just that you’re giving yourself more and more conscious support and this is going to help you in many ways. You’re waking up and this new knowledge is going to make things look differently in many ways. You may start remembering things also.
Next time the stepkids do their thing, maybe you can think, “Poor things! They THINK this behavior is going to keep them numb to their pain. Shame on their mom for that but I’m not going to give them any more of my power or attention over this issue. I’m going to go, do something for me and maybe think about what I’m feeling right now, that needs my attention.” You can also, send your friend or DH a text and begin your own happy, smirky, private texting session. No reason growth can’t have it’s fun moments either! LOL
Good Luck in your work. You’re doing good things and it’s going to get better, because you’re getting wiser, reclaiming more of your power, putting up boundaries that keep them from draining your energy and, if you choose to, helping heal the pain of your past in the process.
Please do let me know what you think of the Happiness Project. I’m eager to learn what your reaction.
Hang in there. You can do this! Heck, you ARE doing this.
My Best wishes, Cathryn
T’S REPLY TO CATHRYN:
Sometimes the English language fails me (its not my first language) but I would like to sincerely express my gratitude at your taking so much time out to write to me. In return, I can only send lots of positive vibes to you.
I had long suspected – through BM’s actions and the kids’ responses – that she does indeed make the kids feel responsible for her well being. In fact, during one of our chats, SD mentioned that “if my Mom had any friends, I wouldn’t feel so guilty about being away”. At that time, I didn’t pay much attention to it (in my quest for distancing myself from all things BM) but when you mentioned your own situation, it all became much clearer.
I realize now that THAT is her modus operandi in dealing with DH remarrying me and all that entails. She did try to make HIM feel guilty as well for treating me well, for traveling with me etc.
She hadn’t had much contact or communication with DH’s family over the time they were married but as soon as we got married and she found out how close I was getting to them, she also decided she was their best friend. Thankfully, DH saw through that one.
What you say about girls is also what I needed to hear. That my SD has had a lifetime with this woman and is also ‘used’ by BM to fight her battles with DH or just to get a message across or significantly, to be the keeper of her happiness and well being. Again, whenever SD and I chat, BM, is ALWAYS the victim or supermom. Never normal, never human, never fallible. BM’s ways are always right, her food is always excellent.
Now to SS (I realize I’m rambling and I do apologize but you have provided me with a vast open and safe space to say what I feel).
Here’s another thing: Yesterday we all went out in my car. I drove part ways and the kids while coming back (don’t ask, probably DH’s way of helping us all bond or something).
DH bought me the car so obviously they (particularly SS) didn’t like that.
Throughout I heard the following when I was driving:
‘Mom is such a good driver’
‘Wake me up when we get there’
‘Do you really have a license?’
When they were driving:
‘Mom’s car is better’
‘I really don’t like this car’
‘It has no central locking’
‘No space at all’
I can understand if it was said in a joking way. It wasn’t.
I was a bit miffed. This morning though, I realized that things are as meaningful as we give them meaning and their opinion of my car really has no relevance in my life. Or so I keep telling myself.
What you say about unprocessed, unhealed childhood wounds is very interesting. I will have to have a good, long think about that one. Obviously, I do have my own issues from my childhood, from my relationship with my parents, from relationships with men before I married DH. It’s a whole lot of baggage. I’m sure I can link some of that to why I let these kids get to me so much.
I wish DH would cooperate with the phone texting thing. He is just grateful that the kids are visiting and everything is ‘peaceful’ on the surface that he refuses to see the problem. Although, I get loving attention from him, I doubt he will even SEE what the smirking, mild hostility does to me.
I have stopped telling DH things as he is either defending or explaining BM’s behavior OR telling me I need to ‘lighten up’ regarding the stepkids.
You’re right. My growth should and must definitely have fun moments. I am going to try and go out on my own. At least get a massage or waxing or something good done. And count the days….This time next week, I can relax.
Cathryn, again, many, many thanks. I too wish we lived closer so we could have met for coffee ￼
Your time and kindness is SO hugely appreciated. Thank you for letting me lean on you during this time. I will ‘pay’ back by hopefully, being able to be there for another sister Smom one day.
CATHRYN’S REPLY TO T
Hi T, Good to hear from you. I’m so glad that you’ve found some value and support in my comments. I have lots of energy to help those willing and open to learn and grow. You are doing a GREAT job. This is a process so remember to be patient and loving to yourself while you are learning, OK?
I looked up cold sores in Louise Hay’s Book, “You can heal your life.” here’s what she says about cold sores:
Probably Cause “Festering angry words and fear of expressing them.”
New Affirmation, “I only create peaceful experiences because I love myself. All is well.” (Repeat lots of times to self)
That kind of makes sense, HUh?
What the stepkids said in the car is a terrific example of what you can work with. Look at all those examples and see how you can reply in ways that help them feel emotional ease. (That is, if you’re in a gracious healing mood).
I started a new Private message and don’t know how to go back to copy the messages but from memory, here’s what I mean:
When the stepkids say, “Mom’s car is better” You can say, “Wow, she is so fortunate isn’t she?”
“There’s no central locking in this car.” You could cheerfully say, “Central locking is cool isn’t it? That’s a great feature!”
They will not know what to say AND you’ll feel powerful and terrific!!!
Way back in the beginning we had a reply to the “You’re not my Mom” comment and it may show you what I’m talking about here. We taught SMOMS to reply to the “You’re not my Mom” By saying, with good cheer, “You’re absolutely right!” Then to smile and be quiet. It’s almost hard to keep a straight face (not laugh) as they are left with no reaction to feed off of. It is YOU taking your power back and saying to yourself, “I’m going to reply to these kids like they’re a couple of orphans I met on a bus ride (when in the car) or who stop in from an orphanage. If that were the case you’d naturally be very supportive of their self-esteem. It would be easy because they have no history with you. AND, you will have ready access to your very powerful wise strong loving self. Can you try that?
It’s really going to make you feel so much better. They’re going to be unsure how to handle and at some point, their need for the cheerful endorsements (good things) you’re offering will often over-ride their need to make sure they help their mother “measure up” to you.
Make sense? It’s going to transform the dynamic between you all and most importantly, give you a chance to reclaim your power!!!
Hang in there. Go out there and make these last few days super powerful!
Your Sister SMOM, Cathryn
T’s REPLY TO CATHRYN
Again, sending you gratitude and lots of happy thoughts.
I have started to SLOWLY take my power back. Like when SS doesn’t greet me, I greet him first. LOUDLY. Before, I used to complain about it, now I take the lead.
Interesting about the cold sores huh? I do have lots of ‘angry words’ that need expressing.
Oh, I also took a couple of hours and went to get waxing done. Felt great and definitely added to my quest of feeling good about myself.
Anyway, Just wanted to quickly let you know that it was fine to use my questions and responses to help others.
Hugs! Love and gratitude, T
PART TWO OF THE PM EXCHANGE:
T WRITES TO CATHRYN:
I do apologize for leaning on you but I do feel quite enmeshed in emotions at the moment and need some clarity.
I have started to SLOWLY take my power back. Like when SS doesn’t greet me, I greet him first. LOUDLY. Before, I used to complain about it, now I take the lead.
I remember we had a brief discussion in one or more of our private messages about how BMs manipulate or use their kids as crutches to make themselves feel better and/or to portray themselves as victims.
I have always suspected this of the BM in my life but this is what happened yesterday.
We had been invited to dinner at a friend of DH/BM and their other friends who were also going to be there. SD19 refused to go at first because she claimed ‘these women trash talk about my mom’ etc. DH said she will go and be polite so she had to.
Anyway, once there, after the initial holding back, I found SD19 chatting away to these very women she was so against. She was making polite conversation, laughing at their jokes.
Now either she is a very good actress or, what I suspect, because these women really haven’t done anything to HER (in fact she knows them since she was a toddler) she has no real negative emotions OF HER OWN to deal with and was feeling comfortable enough to be having normal conversations with them.
Once in the car though, she said ‘My goodness I couldn’t believe the level of hypocrisy in there! They are so envious and jealous of my Mom. If I had wanted to, I could have said so much!’
Again, she was back to feeling like she had to protect/look after her mother. As soon as we were back home, she was online talking to her Mom and telling her all about it. When I went to say goodnight, she just gave me a dirty look and grunted.
The reality is that these couples – or the women of these couples – really haven’t DONE anything or said anything. These are highly educated, well qualified women who are really busy leading their own lives.I very much doubt any of them would be jealous or envious of BM. BM just feels the need to be the victim and has lost the title of being Mrs So and So as well as being the only woman from their group of friends to be divorced.
At one point during the conversation at dinner they were discussing envy and jealousy in the context of the various religions of the world, and I did say, well ‘I think when you envy someone, you’re really being ungrateful to your God and you are not happy with what you have been given’ so I am also wondering if SD’s comments were directed at me!?! Or perhaps SMOMing has just made me paranoid? TWO MORE DAYS.
With gratitude and love,
HI, Just saw your message and wanted to give you a quick reply. More to follow. Short answer is I don’t think your SD comments had anything to do with you personally, just positionally. You are the woman who is standing in the place her mother used to stand.
Teens see everything in absolutes, black/white, good/bad, right/wrong, yes/no, up/down. Right now, they can’t hold that things could be related or that there could be anything gray/middle/both/AND in any situation.
I think she relaxed had a good time with the women she’s known, felt comfortable being there and then felt guilty as she realized she was going to have to tell her mother (who’s asking her to prove her love by having a bad time whenever she’s in your presence) what kind of time she had. She had to Find something to be upset about because part of her KNEW she couldn’t tell her Mom she’d had a great time. DO you see?
She is being forced to manipulate her own feelings in order to survive her mother’s reaction and stay connected. It is very cruel what her mother is doing, narcissistic and cruel.
Please take a look at my relationship article about “Testing and proving love.” While it is using an example about a couple, it can be applied to parent child. I think it will explain the dynamic is a better way.
T, can you severe the emotional connection you have with these stepkids (in your imagination) and start fresh each moment you see them? I know their visit is just about over. When we feel anger or hurt by someone we are also staying connected to them in ways that feel unpleasant but at least give us a sense of connection. Could it be that in your childhood, you had to stay connected, even if it was unpleasant, just to feel connected? Just a thought.
I know I stayed angry at my SS for a long time after we agreed to ignore each other. One day, while working with my therapist, she pointed out that staying angry numbs and delays the “acceptance” process. Accepting what? I asked her, sort of knowing the answer but being nervous about it. She said, accepting that he has rejected you. I burst into tears, deep sobs of pain for she was right. As long as I was angry or thinking about him and how to fix the situation, I was not having to let in his rejection (and his Mothers’ rejection) of me.
I felt the pain and hurt and after a while realized that I had the ability to heal from this and that I could survive his rejection and be very happy and loved by my hubby and friends.
It didn’t take long to realize that much of the pain I was feeling at my ss’s rejection was covering the pain of being emotionally rejected by my own father. Oh he was a good care taker and provider but had no interest in me as a little girl, young girl, teen or woman. I’m 55 years old and finally realizing that the dad I idealized kept me at arms length and offered no tenderness, nurturing or caring about me…my whole life.
This is an example of how stepkids and their bio-mom can bring childhood wounds to the surface so they can be healed. This is an intense path to personal transformation and healing IF you are interested and/or willing to take this opportunity.
I hope this is helpful. I must go but will hope to check back in before my afternoon appointments which will keep me busy into the evening.
Keep your thoughts in a circle around YOU. What do you need? What would you like to do today. Draw an imaginary circle of power around yourself and when your thoughts go outside the circle, gently, lovingly bring them back inside and focus on you and your needs. Can you try that? Love to you, Cathryn
T WROTE TO CATHRYN:
What you wrote yesterday hit a nerve and something went ‘click’. I thought whoa! It’s so true. I have suffered from my Mom’s lack of complete acceptance of me as a child (she was and is overly critical about EVERYTHING: from my looks to the way I AM. She had a over critical mother so I don’t really blame her) as a result, I sought approval from very unsuitable (and frankly unwilling to give me validation/approval) men throughout my adult life (I am not proud of this and have always been in denial) which of course resulted in even lower self esteem.
I am assuming that wanting the stepkids to like me and trying so hard was just another source of needing approval/validation from an unwilling source. And also, to be able to present to my Mom a happy family. ‘Look Ma, everyone likes me!’ Talk about complicated.
Once I realized this, I started dealing with the stepkids in this context. I am married to their Dad, they don’t like me, so be it. I have done everything, tried everything and now I owe it to myself to be happy with the cards I have been dealt with: a Loving (if blind to his kids behavior) spouse, good friends,loving parents (my Mom DOES love me, despite everything) and fairly decent relationship with the in-laws (despite minor frustrations with MIL).
Of course this is ongoing work, to make all this sink. Nobody likes to be NOT liked, especially a people pleaser like myself. I repeat this now, like a mantra.
This morning then, I didn’t care if the stepkids said “good morning” or not. I am not expecting anything. This makes me feel stronger and free-er. Don’t get me wrong, I am still waiting for tomorrow (when they leave) I don’t like having my home and routine taken over (I wanted to do the laundry this morning, only to find the washing machine full of SD’s wet clothes). Id rather have loving, happy people – who enjoy being with me and I with – them in my home obviously.
But I do see the stepkids for what they are: hurt and small and incapable of giving because of their own issues and complications. And of course, teenagers.
I’m not saying I’ve seen the light fully, as these processes are emotional and back and forth always but its good to have a starting point.
So Cathryn, from the depths, THANK YOU. I do feel slightly liberated.
Hi T, What a great, life changing job you did in your processing and exploration these past couple of weeks. Really good work! As you’ve started the train of self-growth and revelation it makes sense that the insights are going to continue for awhile! You set yourself in motion and the momentum is carrying you forward in such a good way.
Gaining perspective, as you are, with the BM is a tremendous “re-claiming” of your own personal power. (I’m composing something about that now.) Your world, as you knew it has changed…because you have changed and that’s very empowering!
I don’t think your silly about feeling the stepkids energy. I used to “smudge” the house with a sage stick after my ss would leave-if we’d had a tough time- so I totally understand wanting to get their energy out of the house. Asking Angels, Archangels and Guides to help with that is also something to consider. It’s very real from my experience.
Also, I agree that your body can finally “let down” release and detox from all the stress of their visit and the impact of all that you’ve done. It could also be the release of some of the past stress as well as the inner work stirring up some stuff because of your willingness to look into your past. Please take care of yourself and tend to yourself as you would a dear friend recovering from a trauma. I look forward to hearing about your review of the Alice Miller book, whenever you decide to read that.
It’s wonderful that you and your husband can get away together. Have a great time. What a wonderful celebration of all you’ve done together.
T WROTE TO CATHRYN:
Sorry for the delay, as soon as the stepkids left, I came down with the chills, fever, dry cough the works ￼ I think perhaps my body was holding on to stress and was releasing it?!
I will look for the book you suggested ‘The Drama of a Gifted Child’.
I’m fine with your sharing my posts with others, I think it would be my way of saying ‘thank you’ – to you, for your time, your kindness and for this board. ￼
The great relief I felt and feel post the stepkids departure is immense; I’ve been cleaning and rearranging and practically redesigning the house! I think there is a lot to be said for the energies people carry with them. I hope I don’t sound like a typical evil SMOM when I say I feel so much ‘lighter’ in spirit.
My husband and I are going to Turkey at the end of the month. Truly looking forward to it. I think the next time we see the stepkids will be in December but this will be in South Africa. I hope.
On an aside, at an another dinner party last night, a lady (and she really is a lady) came up to me and said she was puzzled because BM has been emailing her and accusing her of talking about her and spreading rumors.
These women were all BM’s ‘friends’ and they socialized as families until BM had to move to another country, post divorce. Now she keeps emailing them accusing them (ALL of them, I kid you not) of talking about her and spreading rumors about her.
I didn’t react either way but I know this woman quite well and she really isn’t a gossip or the kind to spread rumors about anyone. She has four kids and is quite active in her community – I don’t think she has the time for anything like that at all.
I don’t want to sound like I’m BM bashing but I think I see a pattern. She does seem to be suffering from some sort of delusion. I think how she is with the kids, asking them to prove their love and loyalty in the way she does, she has been with DH. According to my MIL, she had alienated DH from his own family for a long, long time. She had told him that all his family/cousins (they’re a huge bunch) were not very friendly. When I came along and got along quite happily with everyone (at that point I didn’t know the history) DH woke up and realized how wrongly he had been lead to believe about his relatives.
The point of all this is that all this time I had been comparing and agonizing and creating a lot of stress for myself because DH didn’t do the things he did for her for me (bought her a BMW, diamonds, etc) then I realized (this week has been full of realizations!) that I don’t NEED to compete because she conducted her relationship and her marriage HER way and her way is not MY way. Not sure if this makes sense? ￼
I told DH, he said she has a ‘victim mentality’ I think it goes beyond that. Anyway not my problem on one level.
Thank you Cathryn for all your help. I’m going to look for the book you suggested and find some practical ways to self care and keep up the momentum of discovery and healing and recovery.
Love and gratitude, T