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Happy New Year to all of the BFSO readers and your families! Let’s all thank God for carrying us through 2008. I certainly know that I could not have made it without Him!
We wish you happiness, good health, prosperity and peace in the upcoming year. A new year means a fresh start, and I hope that all of you take advantage of this fresh start. It’s a chance to do things differently; whether it be bury hatchets, react differently or simply decide to choose peace in the midst of your current circumstances. Remember, all of our feelings and beliefs are truly based on our internal thoughts and conversations with ourselves. WE ARE IN CONTROL whether we know it or not. If you are feeling overwhelmed about any aspect of your blended family, the first step to changing your attitude is changing that inner conversation. 2009 is your fresh start!
Also in 2009, BFSO promises to bring you more insightful posts, guest bloggers in the areas of relationship coaching, family law, tips on how to teach all of my blended family wives how to keep it spicy (use your imagination) and much more. In 2009, we are focusing on the entire family; from how to keep it spicy in the bedroom, to how to decorate your favorite room. From how to deal with the ex-spouse in your life, to how to maintain peace in what some perceive as an insane existence. We want you to know that your blended families’ problems DO NOT define your families. The operative word in blended family is family, and in 2009 BFSO will show you how to keep the focus on your family!
Lastly, I want to sincerely thank all of my readers! Thank you for taking the time to read this blog, which just started out as my way to vent my frustrations. I never expected it to be as helpful to others as it has been. Nor, did I ever expect to learn so much from all of you, too!
And so, let’s gear up for a fabulous 2009! No more looking back as the best is yet to come.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
From the Blended Family Soap Opera Family
The topic of insecurities has been directly or indirectly mentioned in several posts and comments, that I felt the need to thoroughly address it. It is no secret that discord in a blended family can stem from insecurities from either the ex or current wife or both. And, as we all know, the blended family functions much better when the ex and current wife are working together and getting along. The questions that still remain, however, are; 1) Why can’t women seem to get along? 2) Why are we so vicious to one another??
It sickens me to believe that long ago, the women before us were able to collaboratively strive for success in the arenas of political activism and social justice. When they told us we couldn’t vote we banned together. We also banned together to demand our respect amongst our male counterparts in corporate America. Yet, when it comes to what should be most important to us, our blended families, we just can’t seem to work together, or just refrain from trying to tear each other completely down.
Jealously is a common factor in competition among women and insecurities grab hold of many of us. We want what she [current wife] has. We want the attention she is getting. We may feel like we deserve it more than she does. We feel the need to fight to prove that we are better. By that same token, women feel the need to fight to hold on to what she has. We throw it in the faces of the other woman [ex-wife] that we have what she couldn’t hold on to.
With that said, fear on the ex-wife’s behalf can also create an enormous amount of tension within the blended family. The confusion and fear usually displays itself in the form of insecurities which sometimes causes the ex-wife to act out. Through my posts about my ex I have been more than honest about feeling hurt once he remarried. It wasn’t because I wanted him back because I had also moved on. It was because for so many years he was all I had known. We spent years together even before we had our son. We had a child together, and we had planned to spend the rest of our lives together. I didn’t plan on having to deal with all of the issues that a blended family faces. I didn’t want my son’s family to be broken.The mere idea of starting over was enough to make me want to run back to a relationship that I knew wasn’t good for either of us. It was scary! And, if we are all honest with ourselves, many of us have had these feelings when it comes to the demise of our relationships with men that we have children with. This is why I often say I can relate to the feelings that an ex-wife feels when she’s finally faced with the fact that she’ll never have her family together again. What I don’t condone, however, is acting on those impulses.
All of my second moms have a few insecurities that they often deal with, too. For some, it’s hard to see their husband have to what they perceive as catering to another woman, his ex-wife. Some can’t even deal with it when he’s friendly towards her and performs simple gestures such as an innocent hug. It symbolizes that he once loved this other woman (who is also the mother of his child(ren) that they will all be forever connected to. Of course we know that our husbands had a past before us, but let’s be honest, it’s much easier to deal with when you aren’t confronted with that past on a regular basis.
I want to acknowledge both the ex and current wife’s insecurities by affirming that they are completely normal. It doesn’t mean that you are an overall insecure woman; you’re just human. Dealing with a failed relationship is like grieving the loss of an entire life that you once knew, but will never have again. That’s hard to deal with. Additionally, feeling like you have to fight to hold on to a family that you love so dearly due to the insecurities and issues of an ex-wife, is also alot to deal with. Once you accept these feelings as normal you won’t feel like you have to defend your position.
So, I encourage both my current and ex-wives to acknowledge their own fears. Why do you feel threatened or upset with the current wife? If you are blaming her for the demise of your marriage, realize in most cases (except for adulturous situations) your marriage was over before she came along. And realistically, you had to have known that your ex-husband wasn’t going to be single forever or even just until you found someone. And for my second wives, why might you feel threatned or upset with the ex-wife? Understand that the prior relationship did not succeed and, therefore, is not a threat to your current relationship. You should rely on your husband (and hold him responsible) to honor and protect your marriage, even where the ex-wife is concerned; instead of focusing on what she might be doing to tear it apart.
“There are many things that we would throw away if we weren’t so afraid that others might pick them up.” ~Oscar Wilde
Traveling and chauffeuring back and forth between homes, complicated visitation schedules and combining blended family traditions can make it darn near impossible to focus on the true meaning of Christmas in the blended family. In addition to the ‘traditional’ stresses of the holiday season, blended families have to deal with the stress of ex-spouses, multiple sets of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins and children who have to bounce back and forth like ping pong balls usually during Christmas Eve and Christmas day. In my own family most of our time is spent just figuring out and arguing (with my husband’s ex-wife) about the logistics than it is actually enjoying the holiday with each other.
In an ideal world, Christmas in the blended family would consist of bringing the entire family together, on one accord, just for one day. Ex-spouses, grandparents, children, aunts, uncles would embrace each other and our children would see all of their parents together, not just getting along, but celebrating an important holiday together. Unfortunately, our world is far from perfect, but in some blended families the above-mentioned might be an optimal solution.
In my case, holidays are very complicated, to say the least. My son’s bio-dad is often times working, out of the country, and his wife, son and our son are left behind. As a result, I don’t mind including his wife and son in our plans. For example, I called to invite them to spend Thanksgiving with us, this year. She also makes every effort to include me in certain activities as well. She threw a big Halloween party and not only invited my son, but me as well. It works for us because there is no tension between us. There are no unresolved feelings. There is no emotional baggage that spills over into our family. On the other side of my blended family (my husband’s ex-wife, her current husband and stepson), however, this would never work. Whenever we’re all in one room the tension is so oppressive that the kids leave debating how much we hate each other, and this is when we’re all on our best behavior. As such, I realize that each family has to do what works for them, keeping in mind that whatever solution you come up with shouldn’t negatively affect the children.
The holiday season should be the one time of the year when children shouldn’t have to feel as if they have to divide their loyalties, and parents, like any other day of the year, should work especially hard to make their children feel at ease during this time of the year. Additionally, parents should avoid dealing with their own emotional issues concerning the holiday. Children will use how the parents handle the blended family stress of the holiday as an example of how they should handle it. Remember, that holiday traditions are often tied into people’s core identities. If your children do have to divide their time, be sure to communicate with them, in advance, what time and for how long, they will be with each parent. Avoid arguing about it and use basic courtesy and thoughtfulness, especially during this time of year. Each parent should keep in mind that the other parent is also going to want their child with them and their family during this special time. As such, both parties should be flexible to make certain that the child has ample time to spend with both families. Arrange a pick up and drop off time that isn’t too far out of the way for either party so that the majority of the time isn’t spent just traveling back and forth.
Presents used to produce an enormous amount of tension between my husband and I. Christmas became a competition of which one of our children would receive more or making sure they received the exact same amount of gifts on Christmas day. As you can imagine, even without us directly telling them, this is what Christmas was about for our children as well. We both had good intentions as we didn’t want either child to feel bad because they didn’t get as much as the other. But, we handled it the wrong way, and were beginning to create some very selfish, spoiled kids in the process. After many discussions we realized that something had to change. The true meaning of Christmas, for us, wasn’t about how many presents our children got, and we didn’t want them to think of Christmas in this way either. We decided that we would just communicate with our children. The truth was that since my ex is usually out of the country during Christmas he sends all of his gifts to my house so that our son can open them up. As such, he doesn’t go over there to open up gifts. But, my stepson does go somewhere else to open up his gifts. In actuality, they probably get around the same amount of gifts, but my son opens them up in one locations, and my stepson opens his up in two locations. As a result, my husband would always try to match what my son got from his biological dad. It was way too stressful!! So one day we just sat the kids down and explained the situation, and they both said that they were aware of the situation (meaning they knew that K went somewhere else to open up gifts and M opened the majority of his gifts at our house). It was so silly how we were acting because we thought the kids would feel a certain way, yet they were much more aware of their reality than we gave them credit for.
Many people also question whether or not it’s appropriate to get the ex-spouses gifts. I say, why not? It’s the one time of year that difference should be put aside in order to focus on the true meaning of the holiday – giving. I always remember my ex and his family at Christmas time. And one year, I even bought my husband’s ex-wife a gift. If you’ve read this blog, you know that was a huge step for me. Often times this is an issue for women rather than men. For me, it boils down to an issue of insecurity. Why should it bother me that we get a gift for my husband’s ex-wife or my ex’s son, etc.? Isn’t that what Christmas is supposed to be about? Having said that, I will have to admit that it is difficult to do when you’re in constant conflict with an ex-spouse, be it yours or your current spouse’s.
All in all, the holidays are about spending time together, enjoying good food, creating memorable traditions for the family, and giving back. Things like competitive gift giving, complicated visitation schedules and arguments with ex-spouses shouldn’t interfere with the meaning behind the holiday. If divorced parents would use a little thoughtfulness and common courtesy and remarried couples would communicate with their children and each other, it could help minimize the stress and maximize the enjoyment of the holiday.
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.