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As I have said in the past, when Kela asked me to be a contributor on this blog, I promised nothing but honesty. Over the past several days, since hearing the news of the death of our blended family friend Morocco’s husband, I have been doing a lot of soul searching just as I am sure many of you are. Thinking about the choices I make and how they affect or have the possibility of affecting my blended family, I have even been doing some serious thinking about my own husband and how just the little things I may or may not do can affect him.
Over the years I’ve come to realize that we have to live with our choices and if we are “smart” or “seasoned” enough (which I am not always) to learn from them, then we are way ahead of the game. As I have stated, I too, have lost a husband in the past – the father of my 3 sons. I made mistakes in that relationship that I’ve regretted every day since the day he died. My husband’s death was the hardest thing I have ever had to trudge my way through, and the pain is something that I can sit here and honestly tell you readers that I can think about and still feel the exact pain in my heart that I felt on day one of that journey. But, the question I have been asking myself today is — Have I completely and totally learned from that experience? Do I always treat my husband the way he deserves to be treated? I have asked myself a lot of those questions over the past several days. I don’t have to relate this experience to just my life partner, but to my whole blended family. Do I always make the right choices in how I am dealing with my blended family? If I wake up tomorrow and God forbid there be something dire in the cards for one of us, have I done all I can within myself to show my appreciation and love or did I just take them for granted? Did I do the best I can to make that irritation or attitude I may have felt with my husband’s ex-wife after they’ve had an argument better? Have I always made my step-daughter feel equal? I can positively say that I believe that I am on the right track, but I know that I still make mistakes that I don’t need to be making after everything that I have learned in my life.
This is one of the reasons that I try so hard to be an intermediary between my husband and his ex-wife when they have disagreements or problems. In the back of my mind I am always thinking — what if — what if something were to happen to one of them and they said those harsh things — -I have been there. I have walked that path and it’s not an easy one so I try to get my husband to see things through a mother’s eyes so that he might have a better insight to how his ex-wife may feel and when talking with her, I try to do the same. I have made some of those same choices that she may be getting ready to make and living them as well. If we make a conscientious effort, we can choose to learn from our pasts in order for our blended families to be strong, thrive and stay together.
During the past several days, I have been also been thinking about Morocco’s husband’s ex-wife in prison. Will the death of her ex-husband and children’s father possibly make her turn over a new leaf? Will she learn from her choices or will she continue to live them? Will she realize her mistakes and CHOOSE to make better choices in the future? -I will pray that she will.
We all know that nothing in life is guaranteed. Nothing. Nothing works without hard work and appreciation. Nothing. No relationship, no job, no blended family.
Tonight, I think, I will hug my husband and my children a little tighter and a little longer.
I’ve held off on writing this post because I didn’t want it to sound like another angry post. In my effort to remain positive about my blended family situation I now TRY to avoid posts filled with anger, name-calling and just pure hate. Having said that, every now and then I just have to let out a frustrated scream…”ahhhhhhhhhh”
At the end of October me, my husband, his ex-wife and her current husband attended a family mediation session. The divorce mediator that my husband and his ex-wife were using suggested that K (their son/my stepson) see a child psychologist based on the information that she was provided with during their sessions. The child psychologist that they chose is also a family mediator as she deals with my children from divorced families. She insisted on all of us having a few sessions, prior to her seeing K, in order to get a better understanding of the issues that he might be faced with.
It was an extremely tense environment because we had not been in the same room in about 6 years! However, I entered the session with a very open mind as I was very interested in Y’s (husband’s ex-wife) viewpoints. I really wanted to know why she felt the need to alienate K from his family for the past year. I thought to myself that maybe she does have a valid reason for doing so. Maybe, just maybe we have just been misunderstanding each other this entire time. Honestly, I knew that this was far from the truth, but I was still hopeful.
At any rate, if you readers can remember some of my earlier post in which I indicated that K had done something that was very wrong and raised a lot of concern for not only M’s (my bio son) well-being, but his as well. This was the basic reason for us seeing the child psychologist. The psychologist started by asking this basic question; “What are your concerns?” Below are our answers in the order that we gave them.
Me: I’m very concerned because we ALWAYS focus on how K feels about something or Y feels about how K is going to feel that we seem to forget that there are two children in this blended family. And, I have to focus on M’s well-being as well. While I am extremely concerned about BOTH children one did something wrong (K) and one did not (M). Therefore, I have to make sure that both are okay, especially the one that I am raising full-time in my home. This not only pertains to this particular situation, but any situation in our blended family. I think that Y thinks that because she shares a child with my husband I must consider his “wants” over my child’s needs, and I just can’t do that. I want to be respected as a mother, and more importantly, I need a little understanding when it comes to us making decisions for both children.
Y: It’s not that I base my actions on lack of concern for M. I just don’t ever know what’s going on (This is such a lie). I feel so in the dark. I don’t know how M is feeling or what his needs are, but I do know my child’s needs and I have to base my decisions primarily off of that.
Her Husband: I just want to make sure K isn’t treated differently when he goes back to their house based on what he has done. He’s very sorry for what he did, and I’m confident that it will never happen again.
My Husband: No one is going to treat him any differently. My wife loves K and would never do anything to hurt him, no matter what. All of her actions up until this point have been solely based on concern for K and nothing else. I just want to know when my son can come back to see his family.
Before I go on, let me say that Y is so full of …She claims to be in the dark, but we tell her everything knowing that it ALWAYS leads to some long contentious court battle. As a matter of fact, we wouldn’t even be here (attending family mediation) had we not revealed to you what occurred in our home. It’s the reason we’ve been going through this mess for a year because we told you what had occurred. So, how do you feel in the dark? And, you say that your decisions aren’t based on lack of concern for M…please. You have directly stated that you don’t have to be concerned about M, and you’re right. But guess what, that can’t apply to me because I’m M’s mother. You also stated that you have no idea how certain things affect M because we don’t tell you..another lie. For example, remember when we told you that it was disruptive to the start of M’s school year to have K here for an entire month, at the very beginning of the school year? We said that for any child, after being out of school all summer, it takes a minute to get back into the school year routine, and having K here just hampers that. We thought that you’d understand since 3 years earlier you took my husband to court to prohibit him from making his morning phone call to K on the very basis that it disrupts his morning routine!!! Now if a two minute phone call can disrupt K’s morning routine, what in the hell do you think having K here for an entire month, at the beginning of the school year, does to M’s routine? Instead, we requested June and July, instead of June and August. You said that you didn’t care how it affected M, and you told everyone, including the Judge, that we said that K was a disruption to our lives, instead of telling them what was really said.
As you can see I was nothing short of flabbergasted and pissed when I heard what came out of her mouth. The whole point of mediation is to uncover the TRUTH so that we can all begin to work towards some sort of compromise and solution. It’s not to lie because when you do that we just end up spinning our wheels.
It’s so funny how she and her husband claim to be so very concerned about how K is going to feel or be treated when he returns to our home based on his wrong-doing. Number one, they don’t know me AT ALL. I would never stop loving either one of my sons based on a mistake that they made. Number two, K and I had a great relationship (I say had because I haven’t seen him in over a year. His mother will not allow me to have any contact with him because she thinks that my potential actions might have a detrimental effect on his mental health). Number three, my mind doesn’t operate like hers. I would never do harm or have any disregard for a child, even if he or she is not mine. Through it all, no one asked K how he felt, until yesterday. My husband had his normal 5 hour per month visit with K and asked K if he had any questions regarding what has happened. His response: “I don’t know why a Judge would say that I can’t see my family. I just don’t understand.” My husband said that the Judge based his ruling on what your mother said. K replied, “why does mom not want me to see my step mom?” My husband told him that it was her way of protecting him. K’s exact words, “That’s crazy, she (he’s talking about me) would never do anything to hurt me.”
I’m so happy that K still feels that love that I’ve instilled in him since he was 4 years old (he’ll be 12 next month). He knows that I love him, despite what his mother says or has done. He knows that I’d never hurt him or treat him differently just because he did something wrong. It just hurts me that I can’t be the one to reinforce this notion to him. More importantly, it vehemently disgusts me that Y is alienating K from his family just because she can’t get her way. But, there really is nothing I can do about that. All I can do is continue to love him the way I know how. My husband and I will continue to negate whatever his mother says via our actions. And, we will continue to pray that God grants her some sort of peace so that we all can be free of this unnecessary stress.
As I sat down to write this post all I could think of was 3 things: 1) My heart completely aches for fellow blogger and second mom, Morocco. 2) Tomorrow is never promised. 3) Most importantly, what else can I do to help blended families peacefully coexist by respecting each others’ roles? Life truly is too short to waste time battling over the insignificant. Time is much better spent by loving your spouse and children, cooperating with your ex-spouse in order to co-parent effectively and overall, creating a family unit that your children can not only thrive in, but be proud of as well.
A few days ago I posted an entry just to notify you [readers] that I hadn’t fallen off of the face of the earth. I wanted to assure you that I am doing everything that I can to be a better advocate for our type of family, and the children that exist within it. Before logging off I decided to do my routine blog favorites (I have them listed on the left) check. The first one I checked was Full Moon, and as soon as the page popped up my mouth hit the floor and my heart immediately followed. It read, “Say a prayer for Morocco and her family. Morocco lost her husband last night…”
“WHAT,” I screamed! I couldn’t believe what I was reading. So many thoughts ran threw my head. I wish I could help her was my immediate thought. Just through this blogsphere, I feel like I’ve grown to know her and her family. I’ve appreciated her insight. I’ve admired her patience and strength that she displays when dealing with the ex-wife in her life. I’ve hoped that her situation would get better, and that she and her husband would finally begin to live in peace. I can relate to her. As such, I am deeply and genuinely sorry for her loss.
My next thought was my husband. I ran to give him a hug and expressed how much I truly love him and my family. My final thought…my husband’s ex-wife and my ex’s new wife! I thought about how they would feel if anything like this ever happened in our family. I thought about how much we would still need each other! My stepson would still need me to remain connected to his father; to help keep his memory alive. We’ve been a family since he was 4. He has spent summers with us; gone on vacation with us and has created holiday memories with us. It would be traumatic to just act like this part of his world doesn’t exist if we ever lost my husband. The same holds true for my ex, if we were ever to lose him. I would need his wife to keep his memory alive for my son. I wouldn’t want to pretend like his second mom and little brother never existed and would be absolutely devastated if they wanted no part of him if his father were to pass on. All of these thoughts, as incoherent as they may seem, really did drive home a central point; the blended is truly a family that is made up of not only our immediate family units, but the extended portion as well. Ex-spouses, new spouses, children (both bio and step), grandparents, step-grandparents…are ALL apart of our unique family. It is a family with a synergistic foundation; a bunch of parts that can function alone and those parts’ respective functions are very important, but it works a lot better when all of those parts work together. Think of it in terms of our bodies. The heart does its’ job; the lungs do theirs; the liver has an important function and so on. But, the heart never tries to eliminate waste from your body, like the liver. Yet, the liver can not function without the heart. All the organs must work together in order to give you life. If one organ fails, you die, unless you get a new one. But, it’s pretty hard to find a replacement. Our children are our bodies and we [parents] are their organs. We have to all respect each others’ roles, never trivializing each others’ important functions and work together to give our children life! We need each other more than we think, and it’s crucial that we realize that.
BFSO readers, this is your wake up call! What will you do with your time? Will you spend it arguing with the ex in your life; be it your ex-spouse or your husband’s new wife? Will you spend it arguing with your current spouse about his or her ex-spouse? Will you spend it arguing over things that really don’t matter? Or, will you direct your energy towards making it better? It will not only improve the quality of life for your children, but it will improve your quality of life as well.
And so, here’s the BFSO Call to Action: I want all of my blended family friends to spend at least one day, November 21, 2008, being positive about whoever you’re in conflict with within your blended family unit. Think of at least one positive thing to say or write about them, and either send it or say it to them or just send it to me, if you can’t make that step yet. You can email it to email@example.com or leave it in the comments section. This will do two things; it will force you to view your situation in a more positive light and it will hopefully throw up that truce flag between you and the person you’re in conflict with. Remember, tomorrow is not promised, and it’s up to you to determine whether or not you’ll live in turmoil or peace. What will you do with your time???
BFSO would like to extend our deepest sympathy to Morocco and her family during their time of need. Morocco, please know that you are in our prayers. We pray for your strength. We pray for your peace and we KNOW that God will carry you through.
Peace and Blessings,
Kela Price and the Blended Family Soap Opera Family
I pray that you’ve all been well and your families are still intact! I’ve been busy trying to be a better advocate for this cause that I unknowingly got myself into…the blended family. I’ve been researching, talking to other blended family members, psychologists and attorneys, and preparing for classes to become a certified blended family counselor. As such, BFSO will be flooded with more posts on how we can either better our blended families, or just accept our current reality while not allowing it to tamper with our immediate families. Until then, since BFSO is only 5 posts away from our 50th post (YAY), I wanted to leave you with 50 things about me. I got this idea from another blog that I frequently visit called A Stepmother’s Say, by the way. At any rate, I have certainly appreciated all the insight, advice, general comments and overall dialogue from all of you readers since starting this blog. It is a response that I never expected, but it has literally been lifechanging! Don’t forget to keep dialoguing about this topic as it is the only way that we can attempt to understand the complex dynamics of the blended family. Dialogue Promotes Change!
- I voted for Barack Obama.
- I have one bio son and one stepson.
- I have a pretty good relationship with my ex’s new wife.
- I love my husband dearly.
- My bio son is a straight A student!
- I have a bachelor’s degree in communication studies.
- I’m obtaining a Master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy.
- I used to work as a Senior Manager of a marketing firm.
- I write for local publications on the topic of blended families.
- I am a five time pageant winner.
- My favorite color is green.
- I don’t have any girls so I spoil my two beautiful nieces, rotten.
- I’m a pretty laid back, nonchalant individual.
- I have a pretty good relationship with my ex, although it hasn’t always been that way.
- I went to law school.
- I didn’t like it!
- I want a vacation home in Mexico.
- My husband and I were married in Mexico.
- I LOVE to see ex and second wives work out their differences or at least attempt to.
- Still, I am realistic and know that it isn’t always possible.
- My husband and I don’t have any children together, yet.
- I love to read.
- I love to write.
- I love to help others.
- I have NO problem embracing my ex’s new son. After all, he’s my son’s little brother.
- I am so not a jealous person, almost to a fault.
- I’m a jeans and tee shirt kind of girl.
- I’m 5’7 and about 122 pounds.
- I LOVE reading the comments from BFSO readers; both good and bad.
- I have one brother.
- My father is deceased, but he was a WONDERFUL father!
- My mother is a very strong woman.
- I love sushi.
- I love fruit, especially apples and peanut butter…yum yum.
- I can’t escape basketball.
- My ex is an overseas professional basketball player.
- My husband played high school and college basketball.
- My father -in-law is a former NBA basketball player.
- I grew up in a two parent household.
- I like to skate.
- I like pilates.
- I have a huge sweet tooth.
- Chocolate cake is one of my favorites.
- I’m learning how to cook.
- I have a beautiful black labrador retriever named Zane.
- My parents were married nearly 30 years before my father’s death.
- I love turkey burgers!
- I try to make it to church every Sunday.
- I don’t get easily frustrated.
- I believe in telling the truth…no sugarcoating!
Maintaining Your Blended Family Marriage
Did you know that the divorce rate among second marriages is higher than that among first marriages? One would assume that if a person has a second chance, he or she would be sure not to mess it up. However, there are some second marriages that breakdown under financial strain; second marriages that are torn apart by children; and second marriages that never had a chance to begin with. Then, there are those that actually do survive and eventually thrive despite the chaotic world of the blended family. These couples work through their communication issues in order to create a marriage that is more solid than their first.
In order for your second marriage to work I believe it’s essential to consider what went wrong in your first. Many times divorcees will get on their “high horse” by insisting that their marital problems were soley their ex’s fault. However, there is hardly a divorce where fault falls exclusively on one person. Because far more challenges will present themselves in your second marriage (children, unresolved feelings, bitter ex’s, etc.), it is necessary to examine your own mistakes in the past so that you are less likely to repeat them in the future.
Nurturing Your Second Marriage
It is so very important to nurture your second marriage!!! Often times remarried couples make themselves the LAST priority by putting the problems with their respective children, exes, finances…first. Remarried couples need to spend time nurturing and building their relationship together just as any “traditional” marriage, without children, would. Schedule date nights together, and take vacations without the children, sometimes. Take every moment that you can to remember and remind each other of why you fell in love in the first place. Remember, that when the children are grown and gone, and there are no more exes to fight with, you will be left with each other. You can not grow old with your children or problems with your former spouse. As such, you shouldn’t spend ALL of your time in these areas. Of course, you have to raise, love and nurture your children. And, you have to work on resolving your issues with your former spouse so that you can co-parent effectively. But, these areas can’t take priority over your marriage. Any good marriage needs to be nurtured and loved if it’s expected to survive. Besides, taking these actions will only benefit your children because you will be building a strong, stable, loving environment in the process.
My husband and I made the mistake of putting everything before our marriage, and honestly, it almost FAILED!! At several points in our relationship we were both ready to throw in the towel. The stress of both of our children not immediately adjusting (this is a unrealistic expectation that most remarried couples have) along with dealing with the exes, almost tore our marriage apart. All of our communication, and I mean literally ALL of it, centered around the kids, his ex or my ex. Naturally, it just wasn’t good for our relationship. We didn’t put as much effort or time into our relationship as we did those other things, and it showed. We realized this one day on a rare occasion when both of our children were gone. Not only did we not know what to do with ourselves, but we began talking about…problems with the children and/or the exes. It wasn’t until my husband said, “We spend way too much time talking about our problems, let’s talk about something else.” The only problem was that we literally did not know what else to talk about. At that point, we had our light bulb moment…ding, ding, ding…WE HAD BEEN SERIOUSLY NEGLECTING OUR MARRIAGE AND THAT’S WHY WE HAD BEEN HAVING SO MANY PROBLEMS, duh!! From then on, we decided to rediscover why we fell in the love in the first place. We scheduled date nights together, even if the kids were in the house. They were not allowed to bother us during our special time. We created a standing rule that we would only talk about our problems with the exes and children if absolutely necessary. We decided that WE are the king and queen of our household, and we would ALWAYS respect each other as such; even when it came to our respective exes. Once we set this foundation our communication issues were a lot smaller than they really were.
Second time newlyweds often bring their own financial resources and obligations into their second marriages; making finances a touchy subject in second marriages. Ideally, it is always best if the couple combines everything together instead of creating the definitive boundaries of yours, mine and ours. Once you do that, you begin to see everything as yours, mine and ours; your children vs. my children; your money vs. my money; I’ll pay for this for my children vs. you pay for this for your children, and we’ll pay for this for our children. As you can see, it becomes way too complicated. As such, it is always best if you view your newly made family as a whole instead of in parts. Having said that, when it comes to each child’s respective child support; that money should be earmarked for that child, alone. For example, we do not use M’s child support money on K. M’s child support money is for taking care of his needs. Just like M never uses K’s child support money. But, the money that my husband and I make is for taking care of everybody in our household. So, when we go on vacation I don’t only pay for my child and my husband only pays for his. It is the same when we go out to dinner or buy Christmas gifts, etc.
It is important to remember that whenever one marries or remarries he or she does so in entirety, not in parts. As such, whenever possible, the remarried couple should view themselves and their family as a single unit instead of divided. It should never be a yours, mine and ours…just ours; our marriage, our children, our money, our family.