Marriage: A Petri Dish for Personal Growth

2 02 2011

When you meet the love of your life, it’s freakin’ great, isn’t it? My husband and I had so much fun in those early days before the pressures on us built. Little did we know then that our relationship would lead us to the darkest places we’d ever been. And how great we’ve been able to descend to the depths of ourselves to excavate all those unhealed places!! Marriage really is a Petri dish for personal growth. As a fellow stepmom said recently, you can grow disgusting moldy junk in there or a cure. You decide.

I also write novels (to be published soon, I hope!) and while taking an amazing seminar with Robert McKee, he said, “True character is revealed under pressure.” Isn’t that true of life, too? My character has certainly been revealed to me in the past few years as life pressed. And I’m so glad.

As another fellow stepmother friend once said, “Will you become bitter or strive to be better?”

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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.

 

 





Top Blogger Award From ReMarriageWorks.com

25 01 2011

Ladies,

Check out the email I just received:

Dear Jacque,

I am pleased to inform you that your blog, “Becoming a Stepmom,” has been selected for RemarriageWorks.com’s first annual Top 10 Remarriage & Stepfamily Blogs List, recognizing your outstanding blog for the year 2010.

Our staff reviewed nearly 100 blogs about remarriage and stepfamily life, and determined that your blog is the best.  To be selected for our Top 10 Blogger List for 2010, we chose blogs that are the most informative, supportive, and inspiring for millions of remarried and stepfamilies, including our RemarriageWorks.com audience.

In our newly published article, “Top 10 Remarriage & Stepfamily Blogs for 2010,” featured on www.RemarriageWorks.com, we announce our top 10 list along with our quick assesement and rundown of what excites us most about your blog.

On behalf of millions of remarrieds and RemarriageWorks.com, thank you for producing your blog. I personally think it helps remarriages and stepfamilies succeed.

Sincerely,

Paula Bisacre
Publisher
WOW!!!! Thank you so much to Paula and her team. Another big thank you to all of my readers and to the listeners of my Stepmom Circles Podcasts. A HUGE thank you to my stepmom coaching clients. You inspire me every day with your courage and great big hearts. And of course, my husband, stepkids, and daughter deserve a big shout-out for giving me the inspiration to continue writing about stepfamily life and working with so many wonderful stepmoms all around the globe.




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: Collect Your Evidence

10 01 2011

There are stretches of time in which I notice every little thing my husband does wrong. Know what I mean? My eyes see that he has dropped his clean clothes in a pile beside the bed instead of how hot he looks in his new sweater. I see that he has left the shovels out on the front porch instead of noticing how he pulled me in for a hug while we made dinner. I begin collecting evidence about how MUCH I do and how LITTLE he does to support our household. Does this sound familiar to you?

Not a great way to build a strong partnership.

So how about if we collect evidence that our partners LOVE us and focus on that instead? Take a moment and write down all the evidence that your partner loves you. Write down all the ways in which you’re perfect for each other and the ways he supports you. Make a list of all the activities you love doing together or those small moments you spend together that you love the most.

Laminate the list and pull it out when you want to feel more lightness and love in your relationship.





Stepmom Circles Podcasts

10 01 2011

Hello Dear Stepmoms:

First, a big thank you to all the ladies who alerted me my podcast was not up! I have switched my podcast host so you can once again listen to the shows. Find them here: http://becomingastepmom.podbean.com/

I am working to get all of the old shows up. Plus I have some exciting new ones coming soon. You can listen to the shows online or download the mp3 files to listen to on your iPod or mp3 player. You can also download them to your mobile device. If you have a favorite show, you can post it on your blog to share with others.

Soon I’ll have the show back up on iTunes as well. Thanks for your patience!

Have a topic you want to hear about? Leave a comment or send me a note at becomingastepmom (at) gmail (dot) com.





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!