Stepmothers: Forgiveness

9 02 2011

Yesterday afternoon I watched Oprah. It was a heart-stopping show about three young girls who suffered sexual abuse at the hands of their father and older brothers. At the end of the show Oprah passed along advice to them that she received from one of her mentors. She didn’t mention who it was but it took my breath away so I wanted to share it here. She said, “Forgiveness is letting go of the hope that the past could have been different.” Whoa. It’s not about condoning anyone’s behavior or inviting them back into your life or even wishing them love and peace.

Does that resonate or what?

Forgiveness is letting go of the hope that the past could have been different.

For us stepmothers perhaps one place to focus this powerful thought is on our husbands. (Do you secretly wish he’d never been with another woman or had children with anyone else?) Another place: Our exes. Another place: Our own childhoods.

This week I’m meditating on that phrase: Forgiveness is letting go of the hope that the past could have been different.

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Group Coaching Class: Winter Session Starts Soon!

2 02 2011

Looking to connect with other stepmothers and find out concrete things you can do help yourself and your family?

The winter Stepmom Circles Group Coaching session starts in two weeks!

“It was such a positive experience! I carry with me Jacque’s fun loving, caring and supportive voice. It’s a voice I will carry with me for a long time.” –Stepmom of 2

The Stepmom Circles group meets for an hour and a half each week for six weeks over the telephone. We discuss stepfamily challenges based on your needs. (Creating a strong partnership with your spouse, dealing with the ex, bonding with the stepkids, handling your negative feelings, identifying common stepfamily mistakes, discovering what successful stepfamilies know). Each woman in the group is given the chance to ask questions, share challenges, and receive guidance.

Dates
Wednesday evenings, February 16 to March 23.

Time
6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Central Standard Time

Cost
The cost of a six-week session is $197. The conference call each week is long-distance so you will be charged your regular long-distance charges by your phone carrier. If you have a digital plan with free long distance then the call is free. Payment can be made via Paypal or by check.

As a member of a Stepmom Circles coaching group you’ll receive

  • a FREE half-hour, get-to-know you consultation with stepfamily expert Jacquelyn Fletcher over the phone before the class begins
  • email access to me between group coaching sessions so you can ask questions that come up during the week
  • an autographed copy of my book A Career Girl’s Guide to Becoming a Stepmom

Email becomingastepmom (@) gmail (dot) com for more information or to reserve your spot in the upcoming session. Space is limited.

“Thank you again for such an enlightening 6 weeks! So much insight and shifts in my thinking…I really needed that. I look forward to the day when I can look back on these tough times and laugh. Thanks for the inspiration! You truly made me think in ways that were outside my comfort zone. I look forward to the continuation of my journey, and hope to get to that place of peace that you talk about. I hope that someday I can inspire other stepmoms as you have inspired me. Thank you for your words of wisdom.” – Stepmom of 3





Your Questions Answered: It Feels Like My Husband Has 2 Wives

2 02 2011

Dear Jacque,

I have been reading your blog for a while now and I must say, it has really helped. I was hoping you could give me some ex advice.   My husband’s ex has many great qualities, but she is not exactly an independent person, which makes her quite needy to my husband for things that it seems any grown woman should be capable of doing on her own. Of course, in order to get my husband to do whatever it is she doesn’t feel like doing she always throws in the classic, “I’m busy raising our girls”,  or ” It’s for the girls”  something, anything related to the girls.  My husband is a good man and this always works.  This has become tiresome for me at times because I feel like my husband has 2 wives.   Otherwise our situation is quite good. How do we fix this? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Dear Stepmom: So many stepmothers have been in your shoes! This is especially true in the first few years of a new marriage but it can be ongoing for some women. You mentioned that other than this neediness, your situation is good. And I don’t know how old the girls are though I would assume they’re still in the house.

A few questions for you, then. The happiest stepmothers I know are the most secure in their relationships with their husbands. Do you feel loved and appreciated by your spouse? Does he honor you in front of the children and defend you to them? Does he give you authority in the house as another adult? Those are all wonderful signs that he is firmly in your court. Because men with children from a previous marriage have children and an ex demanding attention, stepmothers often feel on rocky ground. Women sometimes have a secret fear that they are expendable to their husbands and if it really came down it they would choose to keep the peace with an ex or a kid before they’d draw a line in the sand and stand with by their side. This is CHALLENGING.

The first thing I would ask you to do is to really look at what is working well for you and your family. Those are strengths you can build on. Then perhaps you and your husband could sit down and make a list of all the things he is willing to do for his ex and those he’s not. The two of you could have a discussion about what you think is appropriate. Then he can slowly begin to remove himself from her life. You didn’t mention what kind of chores he does for her, but here are a few ideas for you.

Be honest. Setting boundaries with an ex wife is a critical developmental stage in stepfamilies. (Listen to the Stepmom Circles Podcast I did with Dave Carder for more information about this.) It can be very confusing for kids if Dad is still coming over to the house to help Mom program the TIVO or shovel the driveway. Kids hold on to the fantasy that their parents are really going to get back together much longer. Honesty is always the best place to start if your spouse feels like he can have an open discussion about this with his ex. If straightforward communication doesn’t work, try these boundary setting strategies along with the honesty:

Be busy. Take a class, go on long walks together, visit friends, join a club, get out of the house. If you’re not home or not available, she’ll have to find other solutions to her problems.

Don’t pick up the phone or answer emails or texts right away. Your husband has responded to his ex’s calls for help up until this point so she has come to expect him to jump when she calls. He’s going to have to re-train her. He can try taking a little bit longer to respond every time.

Send her some names of a few handymen. One of my mentors, the amazing and lovely Gay Hendricks, gave me the best advice I’ve ever heard: Empower others to help themselves.

Pray that she meets someone else or set her up on a date. This sounds crass, I know. But the truth is, if the ex remarries, life becomes MUCH easier for stepmoms and ex-husbands. She’ll have someone else who can come to her rescue. Before I dated my husband I met a woman who wanted to set me up with her husband for the same reason! She wanted him off her back and she wanted him and their son to be with someone she liked. Hilarious.

Protect your marriage. You don’t have to let this get in between you and your husband. We all make choices about how we will react in any given situation. He might decide that until his daughters are out of school he is going to be his ex’s handyman because he feels guilty and he’s a nice guy. If that’s the decision he makes then you’ll have to decide how you will respond to it from now on. You can either decide to allow it to make you feel insecure or angry or annoyed OR you can deny the ex that power over you. You can choose a different reaction. Instead of feeling the rush of stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline, you can take deep breaths (count four on the way in and five on the way out) and let your body calm down. You can choose to leave his past up to him to deal with. You can decide to be FREE of the feelings she inspires in you. To start this process you’re going to need some distractions! A trip to the gym, a lunch out with friends, a good book, a movie in the middle of the day, removing yourself from the room when she calls, etc. etc.

I hope some of this helps! For more free information you can browse the free articles on this site or listen to my Stepmom Circles Podcast. My book A Career Girl’s Guide to Becoming a Stepmom has tons of information that’s suitable for all stepmothers or check out coaching with me if you want more in-depth and personalized help. I wish you and your family peace! Be well.

 

 





New Podcast: Stepmoms and the Dance of Anger

25 01 2011

This is the first Stepmom Circles Podcast of 2011! And my guest is a woman I have long admired: Dr. Harriet Lerner. She’s a clinical psychologist and the author of the classic book The Dance of Anger. If you don’t have this book on your shelf, you should. It is one of the most empowering books I’ve ever read about dealing with unhealthy patterns in relationships. Having constant fights with your partner? Read it. Engaged in a battle with the ex? Read it right now.

Have an idea for a future podcast? Shoot me an email at becomingastepmom (at) gmail (dot) com.

How Do I Listen? Click on the links to the show above or visit HERE to browse all of the Stepmom Circles shows. You can listen to it online or download it the show to your mp3 player. It’s free. Enjoy!





Are You Willing to Be the Bad Guy?

20 01 2011

You guys have probably heard the joke stepmothers whisper to each other about how we all have scars on our tongues from biting them so often, right? Let’s admit it: Sometimes we can’t keep our mouths shut. And what’s more, sometimes we shouldnt. As all things are in life and in stepfamilies, it’s a balancing act. Here are the criteria I try to use while helping to raise my three stepchildren, ages 15, 13, and 10.

Am I willing to be the bad guy?

Sometimes it’s impossible to consult your spouse or the ex before you speak. Sometimes women see things that men simply don’t. Sometimes you believe so strongly in something that you simply must speak. That’s life. So are you willing to be the bad guy? Because stepparents who speak up become targets for anger from the kids and exes and sometimes our spouses, too. If you are willing, then speak your truth. Sometimes truth is more important than getting along with everyone.

Can I live with my choice to remain silent?

I typically stepparent from the back seat as most stepfamily professionals advise. But sometimes I simply can’t because I feel that if I don’t speak up I will not be able to live with that choice. As you all know, a stepmother’s greatest skill is learning how to let things go. (Your stepchild was allowed to do something by her mother that you disagree with? Oh well. ) Only you know which values you can remain silent about and which ones you can’t.

What are you concerned/angry about?

A warning from someone who has been there: If you do speak up to a stepchild about a behavior or issue you feel strongly about, then work to keep it just about that one thing. For instance, if a stepchild sasses you in a nasty teen tone and you have had it up to here with the disrespect, keep your words calm and focused on the issue at hand. Because stepmothers often stuff so many things to keep the peace, if you open your mouth, your response can be totally out of proportion to the issue because you’re bundling all your feelings of anger from past hurts and injustices into the current issue. If you can’t keep calm and blow your lid instead, try to have a conversation after everyone has cooled off to talk about why you reacted the way you did.

If I stuff my feelings will I carry this with me forever?

I want my stepchildren to like me. Sure, I do. But I also don’t want to have a heart attack any time soon. (Ever read the book Anger Kills? Scary!!) I’m only willing to stuff so much to make the peace. If I am not myself then I have done my entire family a disservice. I wrote my book A Career Girl’s Guide to Becoming a Stepmom because I did an interview with a veteran stepmother for an article I was working on. She’d been in her stepfamily for more than two decades. After I asked her a few questions, she let go a torrent of anger she’d been holding in and building on for a quarter of a century!! If you choose to remain silent, please, please, please, do not carry that anger with you for the rest of your life.

So. Are you willing to be the bad guy? About what issues?





Stepmothers: Getting to Yes

30 11 2010

I saw this today and thought of stepmothering. William Ury is the author of Getting to Yes and has helped navigate some of the most difficult conversations happening in our world today. His advice is something that we can use in our homes, my ladies! Conflict in your home? With a stepchild? An ex? Your partner? Then watch this. Ury believes the secret peace is to take the third side. Love it.

“In the last 35 years as I have worked in some of the most dangerous, difficult, and intractable conflicts around the planet, I have yet to see one conflict that I felt could not be transformed. It is not easy,  of course, but it is possible.” –William Ury

Stepmoms: Have you transformed conflict in your home? Share with us!





Are You Addicted to Suffering? Stepmothers and Ex-Wives

17 11 2010

In the past month I’ve had several conversations with stepmothers who think about their partner’s ex constantly. They just can’t seem to stop obsessing about her. Please raise your hand if you’ve ever spiraled into negative thoughts about the ex that just won’t quit. Is everyone’s hand raised?

I always pay attention when I have the same conversation with more than one stepmom. And lately there’s been a lot of talking about the concept that we’re addicted to suffering. Having a challenging ex to deal with for some couples can feel like you’re charging into battle with your mate, ready to fight side-by-side. it makes you feel closer to your spouse. It can make you feel needed and give you a sense of control. But that is not a solid foundation to build a marriage on, my friends.

How many of you read every email the ex sends or talk to your husband about every conversation he has with her? I have two challenges for you this week.

#1. Take a week off having to know everything. Let your partner deal with the ex. If her emails make your blood boil because you’re so hacked off at her treatment of your spouse, I’m talking to you. Don’t read them for one week. You don’t have to read them. In fact, you’ll probably be happier if you don’t. And you can still support your partner emotionally as he deals with her challenging emails.

#2. Turn her into a human being instead of a monster. I wrote about this in my book, but it’s worth repeating a million times. We stepmoms often build up the ex (living or dead) into this monster or mythic being that has superpowers to make our lives hell. But the truth is, she’s just a regular old human being just like you. There could be many reasons for her behavior: fear, sadness, loneliness, etc. How can you turn her into a human being? Write her a letter? Imagine how she would describe her life to her best friend?

Rumination is something that I often struggle with. My thoughts get snagged on something and off I go down into the pit until I’ve made myself even angrier than I was to begin with. There is a part of me that is addicted to suffering, because the truth is, I could STOP those thoughts at any time. If you’ve read my book or listened to my Stepmom Circles podcasts you’ve heard my pineapple exercise. It works. I still use it sometimes.

What do you use to help you stop negative thoughts and end your suffering? The ex-wife is not ours to control, but our thoughts about her are!