Your Questions Answered

27 10 2008

My biggest challenge has been managing my husband’s ideals and expectations. We recently came back from a weekend trip to Denver. En route to our house from the airport, he asked me if I even missed the kids. Well, how could I answer that? I really didn’t but I knew that if I spoke the truth, he’d be devastated. So, I said, “I don’t miss them like you do.” If you have any advice on this topic, I’m all ears!!

This is such a common problem for stepmoms. Of course, I always advocate having an honest discussion with your husband about your feelings and how they differ from his. I think the way you started the conversation is fantastic because you were honest without hurting his feelings. You could have a talk about how you do care for the children, but you could never possibly feel about them the way that he does because you’re not their biological mother. It’s not fair to you or the kids for him to have the hope that somehow you’ll all be a first family. That would be denying the reality of his life. He’s in a stepfamily. Stepfamilies are different. If he can accept and honor those differences, really wonderful relationships can grow. You can prove your dedication to the family and to the kids simply with your actions. That will have to be enough for him. Otherwise, he’s setting up your relationship for failure by avoiding a real, honest connection in favor of one built on fantasies. Sometimes it takes an outsider to help a dad see what he’s doing to his second family. (Divorce rates for remarriages are higher than first marriages.) Perhaps it’s time to show him this response, find a counselor, or pick up an educational DVD – such as the series produced by Elizabeth Einstein for stepfamilies – to see if you can help him let go of his unrealistic expectations. Find the DVDs at www.stepfamilyliving.com.

I’m a grown woman. But my stepdaughter can hurt my feelings so easily when she ignores me or does something inconsiderate. For instance, she called for a ride home from school and I told her I would pick her up. I did not tell her that picking her up would make me late for a work appointment. When I got to school, she wasn’t there. I called her cell phone and she said she’d gone home with a friend! I was so mad that I started crying and cried all the way home. How can I learn not to be so sensitive? I told her father and he made her apologize to me, but I feel like I want to talk to her about it myself. What do you think?

Your stepdaughter was inconsiderate. She was a selfish kid. I assume she’s in the 13-15 age range by your description: that stage of girlhood is hard to go through for nearly all parents, step or biological. Kids at that age are complete narcissists. They are full of hormones, and all they can think about is themselves. That said, it is a parent’s job to teach a kid what is acceptable and what is not. There need to be consequences for bad behaviors. Talk to your husband about what he thinks would be appropriate, such as revoking her cell phone use for a few days. Dad is the one who needs to dish out any punishments or reprimands, but you can also let her know that you were late to your appointment because of your effort to accommodate her need for a ride. Of course you were mad. That this girl can hurt your feelings doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you. Realizing she’s in a particular stage of development (the belligerent, selfish one!) can help you not take her actions so personally.

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