Your Questions Answered: First Family Blues

1 12 2009

My divorce is 15 years old. I’m on my second marriage since my divorce and I’m still not over #1. It’s more the first family ideal. I’m still jealous when the kids see him, and they do. My children are adults!!!!! I’m happily married, but still in mourning. Does anyone else have this problem?????? No one would guess, I’m a professional woman and appear to have it all together. YIKES!!!! I’m just sick of the pain!

Dear Reader:

Thank you for your honesty! This is a tough question because it’s about some deep rooted fantasies we all have. No one dreams of having a stepfamily or a second marriage when they are young. Society and our emotions tell us that we are supposed to want the perfect first family. Man and wife. Children. Until death do us part. The reality, of course, is FAR different than the fantasy. Very often we have a scenario in our minds that we wish could be. For remarried stepmoms like this brave reader, it can be the secret mourning of her first marriage. For stepmoms with no children of their own, it can be the secret mourning of the fact that they fell in love with a man who has kids. What you’re feeling is not unusual. You’re not a freak. You’re not alone. So then what, right? Here are a couple of ideas for you (and everyone reading this!)

Have a holiday plan.
This time of year is particularly hard on our fantasies. The holidays are when we’re supposed to celebrate our beloveds. We gather with our families and create traditions that give our family a sense of identity. These are the times when loving memories are made. It’s a lot harder to create loving memories when you’re schlepping kids all over town from one house to the other. And it can be pretty darn emotional to watch your children walk away from you and into their other parent’s house for the holiday. So have a holiday plan that will help you feel as supported and loved and yes, busy, as possible. Distract yourself. Instead of crying about what was, write a letter to each of your children (or stepchildren) about what they mean to you. Tell them what you’ve learned from them and what you hope your relationships will be.

Acknowledge your feelings and say goodbye.
Find some alone time and write down all the reasons that you wish your first family was back together. Then build a fire in your backyard or in the fireplace and say goodbye to that fantasy. Then make a list of all the reasons you love your current husband and your life together. Make a list of all the gifts your children have been given because they’re in stepfamilies. (Yes, there are gifts, too, m’ladies! As an adult child of divorce, I can attest to this fact.)

Create a behavior modification plan.
In my mid-twenties I lost 100 pounds. Yes, you read that right. When my parents divorced I turned to food, but when I hit my 20s I was able to turn things around for myself. (Read my book for more on that story). Even though most of my readers have not had to lose 100 pounds, I’m betting most of you have been on at least one diet in your lifetime. When you diet, you have to modify your behavior slowly but surely. Every time you want chocolate, you substitute something else to satisfy the craving. So. Every time you have thoughts of longing for your first family, jump on the treadmill and listen to REALLY LOUD music or call up a friend and go to a movie or organize your closet. If you fall off the wagon, don’t beat yourself up, just keep at it and eventually you will change your thought patterns.

Spend lots of time with your current husband.
Plan things to look forward to with your current partner. For instance, plan a trip together that you both are excited about. Volunteer together at a local charity that makes you feel good. Take a class together so you both learn something new. The best antidote for holding on to the past is enjoying your present.

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