New Podcast: Peggy Nolan of The Stepmom’s Tool Box

27 09 2009

stepmomcircles3This week’s episode of the Stepmom Circles podcast is ready to download. My guest is Peggy Nolan, a stepmom blogger whose blog The Stepmom’s Tool Box is a place you’re going to want to hang out during the month of October. Peggy is hosting authors on her blog all month who will be available to answer your questions and who will be giving away copies of their books and other fun prizes. (Yes, I’ll be one of the authors!) For a full schedule of who will be stopping by Peggy’s blog this month, listen in to today’s show or visit or blog.

Peggy is a mom of two and stepmom of four children. As you’ll hear most of the kids did just fine when Peggy and her husband got together three and a half years ago. However, Peggy’s youngest stepson has proven to be a challenge mostly because he is a special needs child.

Not long ago I received a letter from a reader who is a stepmother of a special needs kid and I thought it would be useful to my listeners to discuss this topic because if your partner has a special needs child or you do yourself, then the issues that are common in stepfamilies are made even more complicated. Even if you aren’t dealing with a special needs child, this show will give you some fantastic tools to help you develop  a stronger relationship with your partner and deal with the challenges that sometimes come with stepchildren.

The Stepmom Circles podcast is in an mp3 format. You can listen to it online or download it to your computer or mp3 player.

Do you have something you want to hear about on a future episode of Stepmom Circles? Join the Stepmom Circles group on FaceBook or leave a comment here.

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Need Stepfamilies to Interview

27 09 2009

The respected journalist and author Maggie Scarf is looking for stepfamilies to interview for a new book she’s working on. Maggie Scarf is the author of many books including September Songs: The Good News About Marriage in the Later Years and Intimate Worlds: How Families Thrive and Why They Fail. Contact her at maggie@maggiescarf.com if you’re interested in participating. PLEASE NOTE: Maggye says she is looking for families in the New York-New Haven-Boston area. That includes Westchester County. Since she does her interviews face-to-face, the location of the stepmom and her spouse is vitally important.





Your Questions Answered: Weddings

27 09 2009

Hi, I am getting married next April to a man that has a six-year-old daughter. We are all excited about the trip we are going to be taking, except I am feeling disappointed with some thoughts I have been having about a few things for the trip.

First, I’m not a bridezilla at all, in fact I am very laid back. But the few things I do care about are the things that I can not change. For one, my fiance and I obviously won’t be able to have our own room during the trip. I’m sure his daughter will be able to stay with Grandma and Grandpa for a couple nights but mostly she will be sleeping with us….in our bed. That is one other problem we have been having, co-sleeping, which is a different topic all together. Anyway, I don’t feel like this wedding is as romantic as I’d like it to be due to that, which I see as a problem. I want this one time to be about us because we are always sharing everything with his daughter, which is fine and fun but, just not the bed.

Second, I feel that the time will be a little more stressful for me since I have a much harder time relaxing when she is with us. Whenever I do anything, she must do the same. I see this as a huge compliment but at the same time a burden. I can’t get away with anything, not even putting make up on without her wanting the same. Most times I don’t have a problem with it but it’s when I do have to say no, she thinks I am being mean and pulls out the “not very nice” card tricks. I feel that there will be many times like this during the wedding since there will be a lot of things that are special and different for a wedding and she might not be able to have every thing I have done. She’s an only child and is used to getting everything and she’s learning how to play it up too! 😀

How do I make us all feel together without having to feel mean during this happy time?! But how do I still make this feel special for my fiance and me and enjoy the one and only time something is about us!?

Can you please send me some thoughts on how to not feel like I’m the child during this whole process and enjoy our wedding day/trip?! I want a healthy and happy relationship with my stepdaughter, which I have most of the time, but I also want a relationship with my soon-to-be husband too! Thank you so much!

Dear Reader,

What you’re describing here are feelings many, many women who are joining a stepfamily have around the wedding. When you don’t have kids of your own the emotions that having to share your wedding day with a stepchild are even more challenging. So thank you for writing in! There are several things you can do to make this easier.

Create time together.
The first thing you need to do is sit down with your husband-to-be to discuss how you and he will create the time alone together that you need during this trip. Because it is your wedding day, it is important that you feel connected to him on that day. Ask your fiance to enlist the grandparents or another trusted family member to watch his daughter the entire day of your wedding and your wedding night. Yes, stepmothers do have to compromise when stepchildren are in the picture, but it is critical that you at least have the day of and your wedding night.

Start setting boundaries now.
The co-sleeping issue is a common one. Setting a boundary around your bedroom is not unreasonable when there is a new stepparent but it is challenging for biological parents and kids, especially if your partner and his daughter were on their own for awhile. Start transitioning your stepdaughter out of your bed now by having your husband take her back to her own bed and reading her a story there or snuggling with her for a few minutes before he returns to his own bed. That way you will reduce the chance of a meltdown on your wedding night.

Imagine her feelings.
No matter how well you get along, your stepdaughter is likely going to have some tough feelings on your wedding day. At the same time that your dreams are beginning, hers are coming to an end. Research tells us that most children harbor fantasies that Mom and Dad will get back together. But on your wedding day, that all comes to a crashing end. Don’t be surprised if she acts out on that day. Even if Mom has passed on and getting back together is not an option, your stepdaughter might feel she is losing her father to you and that you will be replacing her in his affection.

Do your homework now.
The transition into new stepfamily life has wonderful moments and challenging ones. If you know what is normal when stepfamilies get together then you won’t beat yourself up as much or think that a child is being outrageous when really it’s just part of the  development cycle of stepfamilies. Make sure you read up on what happens in the first few years of new stepfamily life. A Career Girl’s Guide to Becoming a Stepmomtalks specifically about this transition and gives information that is specific to single gals turned stepmoms. Books such as The Enlightened Stepmother and Stepmotherhood also do a great job of describing what life as a stepmother is like.





Know any good books for kids?

15 09 2009

Readers: I got this letter from a dad who is looking for help. Read on and if you know of any books, let us know by commenting on this post!

I’m having trouble trying to find something for my wife (a fantastic stepmom), and am hoping you can help me.

As I expect you’re aware, most children’s books portray stepmothers negatively (not even as ‘stepmoms’, etc.). I’ve been scouring the internet trying to find ones that portray stepmoms in a positive way (how I found your website) to expand our home library. So far the only thing I’ve found is one that does so but in the midst of a divorce situation. Since our daughter has never known her mother and I to be together (left her before pregnancy was known), I’m afraid it will introduce other issues.

We love reading together, and my wife & daughter have an excellent relationship, I can just see that it bothers her every time Cinderella comes off the shelf… Any help would be appreciated.





A Poll: Want to help other stepmothers?

15 09 2009

Ladies:

Since a few of you have asked, I am considering putting together an educational program called Becoming a Stepmom based on my award-winning book A Career Girl’s Guide to Becoming a Stepmom. If you are someone who likes to teach, coach, or counsel other people this might be something you’re interested in. I have plans to develop a teach-out-of-the-box program that you could offer in your town to as many groups of stepmothers as you can. That means you can make money teaching classes to stepmothers using this educational kit. My book has the full support of the National Stepfamily Resource Center (NSRC) and the foreword was written by Francesca Adler-Baeder, the head of the NSRC.

The kit would include:

  • Teaching materials and workbook
  • DVD with powerpoint presentations for each class
  • Audio recordings from me introducing the class that you can play to your students
  • A signed copy of my book
  • A CD of meditations for stepmoms
  • Designed print and web ads you can use to announce the classes you’re teaching to your community
  • Publicity for your classes on my websites

I’ve decided that in order to take the time to create the Becoming a Stepmom educational program, I need to know that there are at least ten people who would be interested in becoming teachers. If you’d like to learn more about this opportunity to help stepmothers in your area and make a little cash at the same time, you can comment on this post or send me an email at becomingastepmom@gmail.com.

With more than 1,300 new stepfamilies forming every single day, there are lots of women out there looking for help! Thanks for reading this and please pass this information along to anyone you think might be interested.

Best wishes,

Jacque





New Podcast: Infidelity Prevention and Recovery

15 09 2009

stepmomcircles3Whether you have experienced infidelity in your partnership or not you can benefit from listening to this episode of my free Stepmom Circles Podcast. The reason I decided to do this show is because I received a letter from a reader in which she revealed her husband cheated on her with his ex-wife. You can read the letter at the end of this post. Instead of responding to her letter myself, I decided to consult two experts in the field of infidelity prevention and recovery.

My guest on this week’s show is Dave Carder, the author of Close Calls: What Adulterers Want You to Know about Potecting your Marriage and Torn Asunder: Recovering from Extramarital Affairs. Dave currently serves as the Pastor responsible for Counseling Ministries at the First Evangelical Free Church of Fullerton in California. He’s a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and runs premarital education classes for stepfamilies.

I also consulted Peggy Vaughan of the Extramarital Affairs Resource Center for this show. She generously agreed to write an article for us called When Your Husband Has an Affair with His Ex Wife. Visit her website to read about infidelity issues or to check out her book The Monogamy Myth and the upcoming To Have and To Hold: A Personal Handbook for Building a Strong Marriage and Preventing Affairs, which will be published in February 2010.

Here is the letter from my reader:

I need some advice and you were the first person I could think to get in contact with. I’ve caught my husband red handed having an affair with his ex – he’s totally admitted it and taken full responsibility – and shown proof, in black and white in his sent and received items of facebook. She on the other hand denies she’s having an affair and there must be a case of misidentity. I did a very malicious thing and sent the proof via email/facebook and registered post to her husband along with a letter explaining what he’s seeing in his hands. I think he and I deserve better. All that she’s ever done in the 5 years my husband and I have been together is make my life a living hell – i was never brave enough to put a stop to it, it’s bloody 7 years my junior for goodness sake, why am I so darn scared of her?

She’s been to my home and shouted I’m a homewrecker rather loudly and clearly (not that I care what my neighbours think!) and generally shown herself up to be the one hurt in all of this – I’m breaking up a home and marriage and I should be sectioned on mental health grounds because I’m a malicious and devious person. I truely believe I’ve shown her that she has no power over me anymore, and I am strong enough to fight when she’s once again pulled my world around my ankles!

My husband is not off the hook – oh very far from it! I’m forcing a lot of thinking on his part – what does she have over you? Why do you keep going back to a person who refuses to give your son your surname, refuses to allow any decisions to be made by you about your son, and generally thinks she’s oh so powerful!

The reason I’ve come to you is, I’m not outwardly showing any emotion to this situation at all… I normally have a pretty fiery temper, but at the moment I’m so calm it actually scares me! What will happen with this damn breaks? I’m finding all the malicious things I did to hurt her and my husband is giving me a buzz that I’m feeding off…

I’m so confused, don’t know who to turn to for good sensible advice and essentially my petrified of what my reaction is going to be when the calm wears off!

Could you help?

The Stepmom Circles shows are available as mp3 files. You can listen to the show right on your computer or download them to listen to on your mp3 player.





When your Husband has an Affair with his Ex-wife

15 09 2009

Visit Peggy Vaughan’s website Extramarital Affairs Resource Center at www.dearpeggy.com or check out her book The Monogamy Myth and To Have and To Hold: A Personal Handbook for Building a Strong Marriage and Preventing Affairs, which will be published in February 2010.

By Peggy Vaughan

This can be a crazy-making situation as you try to comprehend why your husband would have an affair with his ex-wife? Maybe you could comprehend an attraction/temptation to someone ‘new-and-exciting.’ But what in the world would make him turn to the woman he divorced – when there must have been problems and/or hard feelings toward her at that point. What changed?

Well, there’s no ‘rational’ explanation – because this is not a rational action. But there are ways to gain some understanding of how/why it may have happened. While this naturally feels very ‘personal,’ his actions do not necessarily have anything to do with you or the state of your marriage. So the first step is to avoid ‘comparing’ yourself to the ‘ex.’

One way to think about this is to realize that what happened is based more on the difference between the role of being the ex-wife and the role of being the spouse – not about the particular people who fill those roles. For instance, if you had been the ex-wife and she had been the current spouse, he would likely have wanted to have an affair with you.

Understanding some of the factors that may contribute to this happening.

Their shared history:

Regardless of the feelings between your husband and his ex-wife at the time of their divorce, there was once a time when they loved each other. And as time passes, the ‘bad times’ may begin to recede, leaving them to recall the ‘good times’ when they were in love. (This is somewhat like the way we revise our thinking about a person who dies. Even though we may have become quite removed or even bitter about them when they were alive, after they die we’re more likely to recall the ‘good things’ about them.)

Also, most of us tend to always think ‘the grass may be greener’ in whatever alternative scenario might be in our heads. For instance, when you make a certain choice (like marrying the first time), you’re likely to gradually become more focused on the problems in the relationship and see some alternative as more desirable. Then if/when you make a different choice (like getting a divorce), you’re likely to gradually become focused on the loss you feel about being alone, leading you to fall in love with someone new and get married again.

As this pattern continues, the next step is that after some period of time in the new marriage, you again begin to be more focused on the (natural, inevitable) problems that develop in marriages over time – leading you to consider alternatives (one of which is recalling the ‘good times’ in the first marriage and feeling more open to the first wife. And for the ex-wife, it can be heady to see your ex-husband seeing you in this new, more favorable light. So (without rational considerations) both people can get caught up in the relationship that once was.

Their children:

Having children from the earlier marriage automatically means he will have a life-long relationship of some sort with his ex-wife. While that can be a difficult fact to swallow, it IS a fact. So the challenge is not how to avoid the contact, but how to manage it.

This means avoiding a situation where he ‘lives in two worlds,’ functioning as a father to his children from the earlier marriage completely on his own (as a separate world) from the one with you. Regardless of your feelings about his ongoing relationship with the children, they are the innocent victims of this situation. So it calls for treating them with kindness and compassion – both to their face and behind their back when talking to your husband about them. (As you know, all children can be ‘difficult’ at times, but the normal issues with children become greater when they’re dealing with the fallout from their parents’ divorce.)

But more directly to the point of not leaving your husband to lead two separate lives… the degree of ‘closeness’ between your husband and his ex-wife is affected by how much of their joint parenting is done separately from you. For instance, discussions about the children’s activities or issues involves all three of you, so (for the sake of the children as well as for maintaining the integrity of your marriage), you need to be involved in all of it. Granted, dealing with his ex-wife can be problematic under any circumstances, but especially once there has been an affair. But being ‘civil’ and ‘adult’ in dealing with her is still your best path to maintaining and rebuilding your marriage.

Important Note:

While in most instances, an important part of recovering is severing all contact with the third party, this is not a reasonable option when children are involved. This continuing contact does create a greater challenge for rebuilding the marriage; however it CAN be done. I’ve seen it happen many times – even when the child/children are conceived during the current marriage. I’ve been greatly impressed and inspired by the women who have successfully managed this kind of difficult situation.

As strange as it may seem, this focus on the child and the situation as a whole can sometimes lift people out of a very narrow focus only on their own personal pain. Also, perhaps surprisingly, it can become the “glue” that holds the couple together in their effort to recover and rebuild. This effort by both the husband and the wife in trying to deal with this enormous challenge can serve to draw them together. In fact, the most critical element in the recovery may be the degree to which the husband and wife can make a joint effort to face this challenge together and shift their focus to the future rather than dwelling on the past.

This doesn’t mean ignoring or denying the reality of what has happened. It just means following the guidelines that are generally helpful in recovery from affairs.

Here are some Key Steps Involved in Recovering:

(Each of these points is discussed at length in my book, The Monogamy Myth.)

—Accepting the fact that it happened (no more “if only…” or “why me?”)

—Understanding the complex reasons for affairs (not just “personal failure”).

—Deliberately focusing on dealing with it and talking openly about what happened.

—Allowing time to heal.

—Believing it’s possible to recover.

What about the Future?

A good marriage is a great blessing, not to be taken lightly or put at risk without a lot of patience and commitment to working through problems as they arise – even problems as difficult as this one. Life has many twists and turns, and the older we get, the more we realize that it’s more important to protect and preserve what’s good about the present.

It’s always a little dangerous to suggest that a marriage can actually become stronger after an affair—because some people will use this as a way of “justifying” an affair, saying that it “helped” the marriage. I have NEVER seen an affair “help” a marriage. What does sometimes happen (as happened with us) is that the work we did together—and the rock-bottom commitment to honesty that we made together—did force a stronger bond than we had had before. It wasn’t the affairs that helped our marriage—(they could just as easily have destroyed it)—it was the way we dealt with this crisis that made it possible for us to grow stronger as a couple.

This is true of any life crisis. It can destroy you or it can strengthen you. (Christopher Reeves, just one of many examples, comes to mind.) So it is with a marital crisis like affairs. It, too, can destroy your relationship—or it can lead to actions that wind up strengthening it.

When someone is in the early stages of dealing with the devastating emotional impact of a partner’s affair, it’s difficult to hear that it’s possible (with lots of time and effort by both people) to eventually come through this with a stronger marriage. On the other hand, it can be helpful to understand that it’s possible for this to happen. Recovery doesn’t have to mean simply “surviving;” it can actually mean “thriving.”

Once we worked through my husband’s affairs (a process that took 2 to 3 years), we developed a relationship that was stronger than it had ever been before the affairs—and probably stronger than it ever would been without having faced this and dealing with it together. This is NOT to say I would have voluntarily gone through this experience in order to have the relationship that we developed, but it certainly helps to put the whole experience in perspective.