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Hi Ladies, This is a post that touches on many issues. It is also about looking at things from a couple angles. Over the years, "Emmie" and I have realized we come from different perspectives. We have grown to respect each other's viewpoint and both did what we could to help this SMOM in a situation of forgiveness, change, insight with the man she loves.

Forgiving someone we love is a very different situation from forgiving someone who we don't love, who doesn't ask for forgiveness and is not interested in being different in the future. PLEASE know that I'm not suggesting the following process unless you love the one you're having forgiveness issues with. I got a few PM's that this was helpful-that's why it's here for others to read.

Thanks LaughOften and Emmie for being part of this post. Cathryn

ORIGINAL POST FROM LAUGHOFTEN

I am so confused!!! I have been with DH to be for two and a half years. He broke off our engagement on St. Patty's Day (will never forget that) because of a misunderstanding thinking I did not love his 3 girls. He tried to patch things up, but I have been very bitter and unable to forget. I know I should let go, but don't know how. I have not told anybody about this. He basically took away the electricity that flows through your body every time you touch and I haven't been able to get it back. It comes and goes but not 100%.

We are getting married in a month and we just can't see eye to eye. I know he is my soulmate, but I am still feeling betrayed by him choosing his girls first. His ex also is a tasmanian devil! I have suffered through her ridiculousness and feel like my family and friends have no clue.
Now when he wants them over more than our schedule, I get angry and hate them being here. I feel like he ruined the agape love that we had. He is typically very calm, giving, loving, but when it comes to the girls, sometimes I feel like I will never be first again. I also have 2DDs and before all the BS, he was extremely loving to them and now he is pulling away.

I don't want to get married in the middle of chaos, but know that he is the man for me. I miss what we had so much and fear that I have ruined us too because I have not been able to talk to anybody or forgive him completely. Any advice? Also, just wanting to have a place to discuss my feelings. Thanks so much.

EMMIE REPLIES:

My response is going to sound harsh, but you cannot put love in order. You can have priorities, but it isn't a first and second place thing.

I love my husband and 99% of the time, our marriage is my (and his) #1 priority. We truly believe one of the best gifts we can give our blended family is our happy marriage because it does make us better parents. But that is each of our own choices to put the in place. We would never ask the other person to put us before the kids. It has to be a personal choice. But we also both realize there will be times that our focus has to be kids. They will need to come first occasionally. But it has to be each person's choice to make those priorities. It can't be forced upon them.

You feel him pulling away from your children, but aren't you doing the same to his? How would you feel if he didn't want your girls to be there as much as they are?

You didn't say, but I am assuming you are a CP to your girls and he is a NCP. That is hard. Especially if you want him to keep a schedule that keeps his children from being an equal part to the family that your girls are.

I don't feel like my DH is first before my kids. Truthfully, he isn't. If there was a fire, I would go for my kids first and I would expect the same for him. I love my husband and I make my marriage my priority and that works. But when you start drawing lines and demanding priority, it will create a wall. I expect him to show up everyday in our marriage and work. I expect him to be a team. But it isn't a competition for who comes first.

Do you put your kids second to him?

If he is your soulmate, stop worrying about the lineup. Instead, put that energy in making your marriage a success. Don't expect anything from him that you can't do yourself. Would you send your kids away or have them less for him? I know I wouldn't. You have to allow him to be the same and equal parent to his kids that you are to yours, including the amount of time they spend in your home. You wouldn't want to marry him if he didn't want you to be the best and most active parent in your kids lives you could be, right?

CATHRYN REPLIES:

Dear LaughOften,

I'm so sorry for the heartbreak and pain you are clearly experiencing. As Emmie offered you a lot of things to think about from her experiences and I'd like to offer you my perspective on your situation. ( I have no bio-kids so it's great that others with bio-kids, like Emmie can weigh in as having children adds a whole other dimension to the situation.)

I've copied your post so I can comment. My thoughts are in ALL CAPS but I'm not yelling, just wanting to make it easier to find them, OK? OK!

LAUGHOFTEN'S original post:
I am so confused!!! I have been with DH to be for two and a half years. He broke off our engagement on St. Patty's Day (will never forget that) because of a misunderstanding thinking I did not love his 3 girls. He tried to patch things up, but I have been very bitter and unable to forget. I know I should let go, but don't know how. I have not told anybody about this. He basically took away the electricity that flows through your body every time you touch and I haven't been able to get it back. It comes and goes but not 100%.

CATHRYN WRITES: SOMETIMES WHEN WE ARE TRAUMATIZED WE CAN'T GET PAST IT BECAUSE IT HAS NOT BEEN FULLY "DIGESTED" YET. MEANING, THAT THERE IS STILL SOME HURT AND/OR ANGER THAN HASN'T REALLY BEEN HONORED OR OWNED OR HEALED YET. YOUR INABILITY TO "LET GO" AND MOVE ON TELLS ME THAT THERE ARE STILL SOME HURT FEELINGS THAT NEED ATTENTION AS WELL. DOES THIS FEEL RIGHT FOR YOU?

WHEN WE'VE FELT BETRAYED, REJECTED, ABANDONED THERE'S ALSO A SORT OF PROTECTIVE SHIELD THAT WE PUT UP, EVEN IF WE DON'T WANT TO. THIS SHIELD IS ABOUT TRUST. IN SIMPLE TERMS LOVE BOUNCES WHEN DROPPED BUT TRUST CAN SHATTER ON IMPACT AND IS NOT EASILY RE-ASSEMBLED. COULD IT BE THAT SOME PART OF YOU FEELS IT CAN'T TOTALLY TRUST THE LOVE IN THE WAY YOU ONCE DID AND THAT IS THE ISSUE STANDING BETWEEN YOU?

IT WOULD BE A CHALLENGING RELATIONSHIP WOUND TO HEAL IF THERE WERE NO CHILDREN AROUND AND THE BETRAYAL WAS ABOUT SOMETHING ELSE. BUT ADD TO THIS THE ISSUE (OR SUBJECT) OF THIS EMOTIONAL SHOCK BEING HIS CHILDREN AND THAT MAKES THIS MORE COMPLEX. SOMETIMES THERE IS AN EMOTIONAL TANGLE THAT MAKES IT HARD TO KNOW WHAT TO DO OR HOW TO PROCEED. I UNDERSTAND YOUR CONFUSION AND PAIN-AND I ONLY KNOW WHAT YOU WROTE IN THE POST. I'M SURE THERE'S MORE TO IT, THERE ALWAYS IS.

LAUGHOFTEN CONTINUES: We are getting married in a month and we just can't see eye to eye.

CATHRYN REPLIES: IS THE DATE SOMETHING THAT IS UNMOVABLE? WITH YOU BOTH BEING AWARE OF THIS MAJOR, UNHEALED, UNRESOLVED WEDGE BETWEEN YOU, IS IT AN OPTION TO DELAY THE WEDDING UNTIL YOU TWO ARE BOTH CLEAR AND EXCITED ABOUT YOUR NEW FUTURE TOGETHER. I ASK, EVEN IF YOU DON'T WANT TO DELAY IT SO YOU'LL BE AWARE THAT YOU DO HAVE CHOICES HERE. EVEN IF WE DONM'T LIKE THE CHOICES, THE MORE CHOICES WE HAVE THE MORE EMPOWERED (AND LESS AT THE MERCY) WE TEND TO FEEL.

LAUGHOFTEN CONTINUES:I know he is my soulmate, but I am still feeling betrayed by him choosing his girls first.

CATHRYN REPLIES: FEELING BETRAYED OFTEN MEANS THAT WE THOUGHT THE SITUATION WAS ONE WAY, COUNTED ON IT BEING ONE WAY AND THEN LEARN THAT IT IS NOT THAT WAY. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT HOW HE ACTUALLY BETRAYED WHATEVER AGREEMENT OR BELIEF YOU FELT YOU TWO HAD? I CERTAINLY CAN UNDERSTAND THAT A SHOCKING BREAK-UP OF MARRIAGE PLANS COULD JOLT A PERSON NO MATTER WHAT THE REASON. SO I WAS WONDERING IF YOU TWO ARE CLEAR ABOUT WHAT HE DID TO BETRAY YOU. THIS IS ALSO HELPFUL TO BE CLEAR ABOUT BECAUSE IT GIVES YOU BOTH THE ABILITY TO ASSURE EACH OTHER THAT IT WON'T HAPPEN AGAIN.

IT SOUNDS TO ME THAT, UP UNTIL THAT POINT, YOU FELT THAT YOU AND HIS KIDS WERE ABLE TO BOTH BE MOST IMPORTANT TO HIM. CLEARLY WHATEVER YOU EXPERIENCED FROM HIM BEFORE THE TEMPORARY BREAK-UP WAS OK WITH YOU. IS THAT TRUE?

EMMIE GAVE YOU SO MANY GOOD THINGS TO THINK ABOUT RELATIVE TO THE WAY YOU TWO COULD/CAN SET UP A NEW UNDERSTANDING BETWEEN YOU ABOUT THE CHILDREN. IN ORDER TO DO THAT, YOU BOTH HAVE TO BE WILLING TO MOVE FORWARD IN A "NOBODY'S RIGHT/ NOBODY'S WRONG" APPROACH AND SEE IF YOU CAN AGREE ON A NEW LOVING, EQUALLY SUPPORTIVE AND NURTURING STRATEGY RELATIVE TO YOUR LIVES TOGETHER AND WITH THE KIDS/SKIDS.

SINCE EMMIE ADDRESSED POSSIBLE NEW VIEWS ABOUT THE CHILDREN INVOLVED, LET ME FOCUS ON THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN YOU AND YOUR BELOVED. HERE ARE SOME QUESTIONS TO PONDER:

1. WHAT DO YOU NEED FROM HIM THAT HE'S NOT GIVING YOU RIGHT NOW? (MORE ATTENTION, MORE ACKNOWLEDGMENT, MORE SOMETHING-WHAT WOULD BE HIS IDEAL REACTION TO YOU AT THIS TIME?) ONCE YOU GET A SENSE OF THIS, COULD YOU TALK TO HIM ABOUT IT AND SEE IF HE'S WILLING TO GIVE YOU WHAT YOU NEED. ARE YOU WILLING TO ASK HIM WHAT HE NEEDS AND GIVE IT TO HIM?

2. DO YOU FEEL HE UNDERSTANDS THE PAIN YOU EXPERIENCED AND HAS MADE AMENDS SO IT WILL NOT HAPPEN AGAIN BETWEEN YOU? SOMETIMES THE PERPETRATOR WANTS EVERYONE TO MOVE ON, GET OVER IT TOO QUICKLY JUST BECAUSE IT IS TOO HARD FOR THEM TO LIVE INT HE REMORSE OF SOMETHING THEY DID THAT THEY CAN'T UN-DO. HURT TAKES TIME TO HEAL. WHATEVER HE DID MAY HAVE ALSO BEEN PAINFUL FOR HIM (HAVING TO CHOOSE BETWEEN HIS LOVER AND HIS KIDS) ARE YOU GIVING HIM ENOUGH ATTENTION FOR THE PAIN HE EXPERIENCED. AGAIN, I'M COMING FROM A "NOBODY'S RIGHT/NOBODY'S WRONG" APPROACH.

3. DO YOU BOTH FEEL LIKE YOU LEARNED FROM WHATEVER HAPPENED? HIS PULLING AWAY FROM YOUR KIDS FEELS LIKE A "GET EVEN" KIND OF THING. AS EMMIE MENTIONED, IT COULD BE PURE JEALOUS/ENVY THAT YOU GET TO BE AROUND YOUR KIDS MORE THAN HE DOES. OFTEN THESE THINGS AREN'T CONSCIOUS (OR EVEN LOGICAL) BUT THEY DO INTERFERE WITH THE CLOSENESS BETWEEN PEOPLE. THIS IS PART OF THE UNTANGLING PROCESS. IT IS A BIT LIKE BECOMING AN EMOTIONAL DETECTIVE TO GET TO ALL THE BITS AND PIECES OF A SITUATION.

LAUGHOFTEN CONTINUES: His ex also is a tasmanian devil! I have suffered through her ridiculousness and feel like my family and friends have no clue.

CATHRYN CONTINUES: THIS TELLS ME THAT YOU HAVE SOME UN-PROCESSED ANGER, HURT, RAGE, ETC AND THAT IS SOMETHING YOU CAN DO SOMETHING ABOUT. GET THAT ANGER OUT OF YOUR SYSTEM. IT IS IMPORTANT THAT YOU ARE REALIZING THAT YOU HAVE THIS UNPROCESSED EMOTION AND YET SOMETIMES THESE FEELINGS THAT SEEM LIKE EMOTIONAL AMMUNITION TO SUPPORT OUR "DEFENSE FOR BEING DISCONNECTED" DOES THAT MAKE SENSE TO YOU? WHATEVER HAS HAPPENED BETWEEN YOU AND HIS EX., CAN YOU EITHER PROCESS IT OR PUT IT ASIDE OR, IS IT ANOTHER AREA WHERE YOU DO NOT FEEL THAT YOU ARE A HIGH ENOUGH PRIORITY FOR YOUR HUSBAND. I KNOW AT ONE TIME IS MY MARRIAGE, I FELT LIKE I WAS 4TH, AFTER WORK, HIS SON AND HIS EX. THAT'S A HORRIBLY PAINFUL FEELING. JUST WANT YOU TO CHECK IN WITH YOURSELF TO SEE IF THERE IS ANYTHING THERE THAT NEEDS YOUR ATTENTION OR IF YOU CAN PUT THAT ASIDE IN THIS ISSUE.

LAUGHOFTEN CONTINUES:Now when he wants them over more than our schedule, I get angry and hate them being here.

CATHRYN REPLIES: THESE FEELINGS WILL BE PALPABLE FOR YOU ALL AND ARE NOT GOING TO HELP THE SITUATION. SADLY, THE SKIDS AND YOUR KIDS WILL FEEL THIS AND WITHOUT WRODS, EVERYONE WILL INTERPRET YOUR MOOD IN THEIR OWN WAY. ONE THING I'VE NOTICED IS THAT OUR SKIDS CAN ACTIVATE ANY 9AND ALL) OF OUR UNHEALED CHILDHOOD WOUNDS. IF YOU LOOKED AT YOUR PAST, WAS THERE EVER A TIME WHEN ANOTHER MAN YOU LOVED, FATHER OR GRANDFATHER, UNCLE.ETC REJECTED YOU? SOMETIMES OUR FEELINGS ABOT THE SKIDS ARE REALLY OUR OWN UNHEALED PAIN COMING TO THE SURFACE BECAUSE THE CIRCUMSTANCES ARE SIMILAR ENOUGH. AGAIN, IT IS NOT A CONSCIOUS THING BUT IT IS VERY REAL.

I LIKED WHAT EMMIE SAID ABOUT HELPING YOU LOOK AT THE SITUATION FROM YOUR ADULT PARENT SELF, REVERSING IT TO SEE HOW YOU WOULD FEEL. HOWEVER, SOMETIMES (OFTEN) THE FEELINGS WE ARE FEELING ARE NOT FEELINGS FROM OUR ADULT SELF, THEY ARE FEELINGS THAT SPIRE UP FROM OUR UNCONSCIOUS. THEY ARE ASKING TO BE HONORED, TO BE HEARD, TO BE ACKNOWLEDGED. IT IS NOT, REPEAT, NOT YOUR BELOVED JOB TO MAKE UP FOR ANY PAIN FROM YOU PAST (AND VICE VERSA) HOWEVER, HE COULD LOVE YOU AND HELP YOU HEAL IF HER COULD UNDERSTAND MORE ABOUT YOUR PAST AND SEE WHY YOU MAY HAVE REACTED SO STRONGLY AS YOU DID.

SO OFTEN WE SMOMS WILL REACT TO SOMETHING OUR SKIDS OR HOSTILE BIO-MOM DOES IN SUCH A STRONG, SEEMINGLY OVERREACTIVE WAY. THIS IS ONE OF THOSE TIME WHEN WE CAN LEARN SO MUCH ABOUT OURSELVES IF WE CAN STOP REACTING OUTWARDLY AND TAKE THE TIME TO LOOK INWARD AND ASK, "WHAT IS THIS TRIGGERING FOR ME?" WITHOUT BELABORING THIS-AS IT IS A BIG TOPIC, I JUST ASK YOU TO REFLECT ON YOUR PAST AND IF YOU BEGIN TO FEEL AND REMEMBER FEELINGS FROM THE PAST, THAT THIS HAS TRIGGERED, SHARING IT WITH HIM, WHEN HE IS IN THE MOOD TO LOVE YOU, WOUDL BE VERY HEALING. AND, IT WOULD ALLOW YOU TO BE ABLE TO FEEL MORE LIKE THE ADULT, IN THE PRESENCE OF HIS KIDS, INSTEAD OF IN SOME KIND OF COMPETITION WITH THEM. ANY OF THIS RINGING TRUE FOR YOU?

LAUGHOFTEN CONTINUES:I feel like he ruined the agape love that we had. He is typically very calm, giving, loving, but when it comes to the girls, sometimes I feel like I will never be first again.

CATHRYN CONTINUES:IDEALLY YOU WILL BE LOVED BY HIM IN A WAY THAT IS NOT ABOUT FIRST OR SECOND BUT ABOUT BEING IN HIS HEART IN THE SPECIAL PALCE RESERVED FOR ROMANTIC LOVE, WHILE HIS KIDS (AND HOPEFULLY ONE DAY YOURS) ARE IN THE PLACE IN HIS HEART THAT IS FOR LOVING CHILDREN. MAN AND WOMAN ARE BUILT TO BE ABLE TO LOVE IN MANY WAYS. MAKING IT A COMPETITION IS NEVER GOING TO BRING YOU THE PEACE AND JOY YOU WANT AND DESERVE. CAN YOU FIND A NEW WAY OF LOVING EACH OTHER AND YOUR CHILDREN? SOMETIMES GOING OVER CERTAIN BEHAVIORS IS A PRACTICAL WAY TO FIGURE OUT SOMETHINGS. IN THE MEANTIME, IF YOU ARE WILLING TO CHANGE YOUR APPROACH, YOUR GOAL, IS BRING YOU MUCH, MUCH MORE HAPPINESS. (LOOK AT YOUR PAST FOR TIMES WHEN YOU DIDN'T FEEL LIKE YOU WERE IMPORTANT ENOUGH AND GIVE THAT CHILD YOU USED TO BE LOTS OF LOVE AND COMPASSION. "DRAMA OF THE GIFTED CHILD" BY DR. ALICE MILLER IS A LIFE CHANGING BOOK ABOUT THIS TOPIC. ALSO, IF THERE ARE ANY OLD, OUTSTANDING GRIPES BETWEEN THE TWO OF YOU, YOU MAY WANT TO READING MY RELATIONSHIP ARTICLE,"ARE YOU LEDGE-KEEPING?" FOR IDEAS THAT WILL HELP YOU BOTH GET PAST THIS EXPERIENCE, STRONGER THAN BEFORE, NOT LESS CONNECTED.

LAUGHOFTEN CONTINUES:I also have 2DDs and before all the BS, he was extremely loving to them and now he is pulling away.

CATHRYN REPLIES: I MENTIONED THIS COULD BE HIS WAY OF TRYING TO "EQUALIZE THINGS." NOT BAD OR WRONG, JUST HUMAN AND YOU TWO CAN TALK ABOUT THIS. IT MAY GO AWAY AS HE SEES YOU OPEN YOUR HEART AGAIN TO HIS KIDS. YOU WILL KNOW WHAT TO DO.

CATHRYN CONTINUES:I don't want to get married in the middle of chaos, I DONM'T BLAME YOU. but know that he is the man for me. I miss what we had so much and fear that I have ruined us too because I have not been able to talk to anybody or forgive him completely.

CATHRYN REPLIES: WELL, YOU HAVE PEOPLE TO TALK TO NOW AND ALREADY HAVE TWO OPINIONS. CAN YOU LOOK AT IT AS A CHANCE TO HEAL SOME THINGS THAT WERE IN NEED OF HEALING AND NOT THAT ANYONE WAS WRONG? CAN YOU LOOK FOR THE WAYS THIS EXPERIENCE WILL HELP YOU TWO STRAIGHTEN OUT SOME OLD WOUNDS, SOME UN-DISCUSSED THINGS SO YOU CAN GO INTO YOUR FUTURE STRONGER, MORE CONNECTED AND TRUSTING EACH OTHER EVEN MORE? CAN YOU TURN THIS PAINFUL EXPERIENCE INTO A WONDERFUL BLESSING IN DISGUISE THAT YOU TWO DECIDED TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF? I SURE HOPE SO.

LAUGHOFTEN CONTINUES:Any advice? Also, just wanting to have a place to discuss my feelings.

CATHRYN REPLIES: IF YOU DON'T WANT TO WORK WITH ME AND PREFER A THERAPIST, I KNOW A WONDERFUL THERAPIST (AND STEPMOM) WHO IS VERY, VERY TALENTED IN THESE BLENDED FAMILY RELATIONSHIP ISSUES. SHE HAS SAVED OUR MARRIAGE AND OUR LIVES WITH HER INSIGHTS. SHE WORKS ON THE PHONE ONE-ON-ONE OR TOGETHER AS A COUPLE. IF YOU WANT HER NAME PRIVATE EMAIL ME (PM FEATURE) AND I'LL JOYFULLY SHARE HER CONTACT DETAILS.

LAUGHOFTEN CONTINUES:Thanks so much.

CATHRYN CONTINUES: YOU'RE VERY WELCOME AND I HOPE THIS HAS BEEN HELPFUL TO YOU. GET CURIOUS! BE BRUTALLY HONEST WITH YOURSELF. YOU CAN FIGURE THIS OUT. I BET EMMIE WILL BE WILLING TO OFFER MORE HELP AS YOU BEGIN TO THINK ABOUT HOW IT CAN WORK WITH THE CHILDREN. I'M HERE ALSO.

TAKE A DEEP BREATH. I WISH YOU ALL KINDS OF MIRACLES, REVELATIONS AND GOOD CONVERSATION WITH YOUR PARTNER.

CATHRYN

LAUGHOFTEN REPLY TO EMMIE AND CATHRYN:

Cathryn & Emmie,

I put this out of my head for a couple days and just read these.
Thank you so much! I am always open to looking within. I know I have faults and cannot move forward without this process. It did remind me that my first husband would threaten divorce all the time and my feelings were, if you don't truly want it, don't threaten. He passed away due to alcohol and the last two years of our marriage were abusive. My DH knows these stories and I guess it was difficult for me to be hurt that way.

My first husband was my rock, because my parents never were. They were wonderful parents, but my mom is very negative. Then my best friend was my rock, then she got divorced and her personality changed. When my DH became my rock through all of the craziness, I was shattered when he took that away. I am a very independent person, so I don't need someone to be my rock, but it is nice to trust someone in that way.

I'm not an angel. I'm sure I do things and say things I shouldn't, but I am also very loving and patient. I consider myself a good person with morals and very loyal and there is a list of close people that I have not been able to lean on. I don't want to put a wall up, but realize that was probably what happened.

Also, I know the being first thing sounds silly. I said it that way because my DH always says, GOD, spouse, children and we have to be firm when it comes to his ex, but be loving to his 3 and that is a difficult juggling act. BM tells them, Daddy won't take you/give extra money cause he doesn't love you, have time, etc...and we are made out to be the bad people. She is the type where you have to follow a schedule because she is not amicable.

I appreciate all of the advice, even the harsh advice. I am a big girl and can honestly take it. I didn't want to tell anyone what happened because I was protecting my DH. When I talked about my first husband to my mom, friend, they were left with negative feelings, so I greatly appreciate this forum for that reason. I know my DH is a wonderful man and he has many struggles. He did tell me the other day that he had a nice time with my DD and it made me smile and I said I hope there are many more.
Thank you again for taking so much time to respond to my post. It was difficult to deal with a dying husband, but I didn't realize how difficult it would be to deal with another persons ex. I have forgiven my first husband, but the only thing that I still hold onto is being a family unit, without exes, step-kids. I miss that so much! There is such a negative perception of people who are divorced or a blended family. I wish people could understand or be empathetic.